Of Tiffany Schutt’s 250 wedding guests, one surely stood out.
Not only was she not invited, but the young guest, a relative with whom the couple wasn’t particularly close, turned up in a white dress – and a short and sexy one at that.
In fact, she was one of five uninvited relatives whose names were added to invited guests’ response cards. Schutt, who married in Indianapolis, was flattered but also in disbelief that they so badly wanted to attend.
“We are very laid-back, thankfully, so that day I took it in stride,” she said. “It just seemed not to be the best etiquette.”
When it comes to manners, experts say wedding guests do well overall but are still causing headaches on a few fronts.
“The No. 1 thing that I hear about from frustrated brides is guests not RSVPing, not RSVPing on time or RSVPing for more than one person,” said Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-author of the upcoming new edition of “Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette” (William Morrow). “It’s all about the RSVP.”
Blame it on the relaxed culture, busy lives or the hope of a better Saturday night offer, but some people just can’t get it together to mail the response card back. And don’t get brides started on the guests who say they will attend, only to end up as no-shows.
“People have gotten casual about this,” Post said. “When it comes to the wedding they think, it’s not a big deal. I’m just one person, it’ll be fine. And it’s really not. It’s a lot of money and a lot of stress for the couple.”
Brides and grooms might want to add a cushion of a week or so before they have to give a headcount to the caterer or venue.
New York wedding planner Marcy Blum suggests adding an enclosure with the invitation listing an email address people can use to RSVP or ask questions.
Brides put thought into addressing their invitations, which spell out exactly who is invited. When guests treat the RSVP card like a write-in ballot, a phone call is in order, Post said, so they understand their date or child was not invited.
Some parents don’t like leaving their children home, but experts urge couples to resist such pressure.
“Do not cave to this, because it’s completely unfair to all the guests who do find child care and respect your wishes,” Post said.
Besides RSVPs, another etiquette trouble spot is smartphones – in particular, those guests who crowd the aisle to take pictures and then post the images online before the ceremony is even over.
“A bride is very particular about how she looks at her wedding, and she does not want the photo that isn’t the most possible flattering photo to be all over Facebook before she gets to look at her wedding shots,” Blum said.
Photos aside, phones detract from the solemnity of the ceremony.
Don’t be too informal, and avoid wearing anything that’s too sexy, too over-the-top or too white. Blum notes a resurgence of women wearing white to weddings, and says brides don’t appreciate that on their big day in white.
Some regional traditions may call for bringing the gift to the wedding, but experts say that in general they are best sent ahead of time, avoiding the possibility of theft and the hassle for the couple of hauling them home. If not, a gift should be sent within three months, Post says.
Arrive early, and stay to dance, mingle and converse at dinner. “Being social and engaged is one of the best ways to be a good guest, along with not getting too drunk, or drunk period,” Post says.
Toasts to the couples can get out of hand if guests, sometimes tipsy ones, start asking for the microphone. Proper form says guests should not speak unless they are asked or receive permission.
Despite reality shows sensationalizing crazy wedding behavior, Blum says guests do seem better behaved today as couples create their guest lists with great care.
“There’s something about a wedding that for the most part,” she says, “brings out the best in people.”