Wedding Etiquette – Pardon Mine
Before writing anything else, I’d like to put in a disclaimer. I am not a etiquette expert, nor am I a wedding etiquette expert. I have never claimed to be. I have a bit of a love-hate affair with wedding etiquette, and since etiquette is so closely associated with weddings, it’s only fair that I put my views on the subject in plain view for all to see. This piece is intended to clarify those views and is a result of numerous email requests asking for my take on the subject.
Having said that, I will repeat that I have a love-hate affair with etiquette. I agree with the basic premise behind wedding etiquette and believe that many aspects of wedding etiquette are useful and should be followed. My personal opinion is that etiquette should be followed if you are following it for a good reason. If you are following etiquette in order to find a way to be gracious or are following it in order to follow the basic premise behind it, then I applaud you. I believe that wedding etiquette is intended to make the majority of people comfortable in any given situation. This is what I consider to be the premise behind etiquette.
As for my hate relationship with etiquette, it becomes a bit more complex. I also find many aspects of wedding etiquette a bit uncomfortable. There are many etiquette experts, and each of them have a different opinion on any given subject. This is never more apparent than with wedding etiquette. Wedding Etiquette tends to be outdated in many cases and often does not follow societal changes as closely as it should or could. It rarely takes into account that there are situations that warrant going against the grain of etiquette. It does not differentiate between local customs and attempts to label all cultures and traditions with the same “rules” and ways of doing things. In essence, it lumps all people into one mold. As human beings we are a varied bunch, and we all have different customs, traditions and cultures.
I have to admit that many of the etiquette rules I most strongly disagree with, deal with the issue of second weddings. I have already stated this in the past and you can find my past statements in the Weddings.bz columns. To be fair, many etiquette experts disagree with many aspects of second wedding etiquette as well. Where etiquette is concerned, there is still a bit of a stigma attached to marrying more than once. No matter how much we all hope and pray that we will find the “right” person to marry the first time, the reality is that it does not always happen. It happens for various reasons, and until I can walk in someone else’s shoes I can not say that I would not have made the same choices as that person did.
The concept that a couple should not have a wedding with “all of the frills” is the one which bothers me the most. It encompasses many different rules of etiquette, but gives the impression that a person who was married before does not “deserve” to have a traditional wedding.
Unfortunately, this does not take personal situations into account and stigmatizes someone who may have found the person that they will share the rest of their life with. It is my opinion that there is no such thing as a second wedding, unless you are marrying the same person you married the first time. You and your fiance are marrying for the first time, and therefore should be entitled to the same things that other couples marrying for the first time are entitled to.
Your wedding choices should not be restricted. Some wedding etiquette experts claim such things as: second time brides should never wear white, they should never wear veils or trains, and they should not expect “all of the frills” that they experienced with their first wedding. In essence, they suggest that second time brides wear pastels or a nice conservative suit, they may wear a hat if they wish and they should have a small and intimate gathering that is understated in tone. I would like to include that I have not yet found any instance where a second time groom’s choice of clothing is restricted in any manner. Dare I say it…I find this *rather* sexist.
Since it is assumed that a person had a wedding with “all of the frills” the first time around, it isn’t deemed proper for that person to have “all of the frills” if they are a second time bride or a second time groom. In this case, etiquette simply does not take into account all situations. Just because someone has been married before, it does not automatically mean that they had “all of the frills” during that wedding. It is increasinly common to get married in a simple manner. Whether that means marrying in front of the Justice of Peace or having a small and intimate gathering the first time around, couples should not be penalized if they want the large gathering of family and friends and want to celebrate their special (and unique!) union in any manner that they see fit. Finally, first weddings are often planned by someone other than the couple. This may be the mother of the bride, an aunt or other person who happens to take complete control of the planning process. I find it perfectly appropriate for someone planning their second wedding to incorporate their own tastes and desires into the event.
Other Wedding Etiquette
I hate it when etiquette starts with the words “You should never.” Whether the end of the sentence is something like “have a cash bar” or “have a potluck” or something entirely different, it trys to fit all people into one mold. I am quite sure that many people will disagree with me on this one, but it is my opinion and I stand behind it. I have, of course, stated my opinion on different occasions. Through the Weddings.biz columns, you can find an opinion on Cash Bars and on Potluck Receptions. As I’ve stated before, I believe wedding etiquette often lumps all people into one category. These types of rules are a good example of this.
In this case, I follow the main premise of etiquette. Try to make the majority of people comfortable in any given situation. I also use “Be Gracious” as a mantra. If your culture or local custom includes the tradition of the money/apron dance, then I find nothing wrong with it…even though I personally do not like the tradition. If you know that members of your family become uncontrollable when faced with alcohol, I find it perfectly appropriate to have a cash bar or no alcohol at all at your reception. If your family is comfortable with a potluck reception then I find nothing wrong with having one. I would certainly find it uncomfortable to view someone losing control because of alcohol, as I suspect would many of your guests. If going against the grain of wedding etiquette (as it is written) will make the majority of your guests comfortable, then I believe, in these situations it is certainly warranted.
Cultural traditions and local customs also play a large role. In Chinese cultures, red is considered a sign of good luck, while white is often a funeral color. Much like white symbolizes joy in the United States and black was once thought of as a funeral color. In Scotland, kilts are worn with pride as they represent the heritage of the groom. These are but a few examples. With so many cultural differences, it is impossible to have etiquette fit all situations. Local customs vary by region and can often be different when only a few miles (or kilometers) have been travelled. For example, in the Southern United States, it is often a tradition to have a huge “cake and punch” reception. There are local customs such as “presentations” in some North Eastern areas, and in some places there are “community weddings” where an invitation is given to the community at large. There are too many variations of local customs to list here, but the point is that our localities can dictate what is proper in a given situation. Once again, one size does not fit all.
Wedding Etiquette Conclusion
“Tacky” is a word I rarely use. I may find some things distasteful and I find that many things don’t agree with my personal values, morals, upbringing, culture/s and customs. However; I realize that had these things been different, I would have grown into a different person and had different ideals. I would also view things much differently than I do. Human beings are such varied creatures. What makes us unique is all of the things that combine to make us the people that we are. I would find it truly saddening if one did not take into account all of these things when making a decision…whether that decision be based upon our cultures, our society or even our own ideals.
Wedding Etiquette has its purpose and is often useful in gauging what would make the majority of your guests feel comfortable in a given situation. It also has it’s failings. When making a decision it is perfectly acceptable, and even advised, to see what etiquette experts have to say on the subject. However, you should never feel a sense of guilt if your decision goes against the grain of etiquette. If *in your heart*, you feel that your decision is the right one, then it is…for you and for your situation. Etiquette is not set in stone, nor is it the only way of doing things. Look to your heart and you will find a solution to any decision that you need to make. Keep the premise of etiquette in mind, be gracious and try to make the majority of your guests comfortable. This, my friends is the intention of wedding etiquette as I see it.