Gracious Weddings


Q I know I should write thank-you notes for wedding gifts within three months, but with my job, wedding plans and pre-wedding events, I’m having a tough time keeping up with them. Do you have any ideas?

A The three-month guideline isn’t meant to add stress, it’s simply to give you breathing room to acknowledge and show appreciation to all who have sent you a wedding gift.  As a kid, I always tried to get out of writing thank-you notes. Not because I didn’t appreciate the presents, but because the writing felt like homework. Turn a chore into a pleasure. With pretty notepaper or cards, a nice pen, music and a cup of tea or glass of wine, note writing could be a relaxing part of your busy day. Then, cut the job in half. That’s right: Engage your fiancé to do his share. You can do an even split, or he can thank his relatives and friends and you thank yours. Give him a box of his very own stationery and a copy of your guest list so that he has correct names and addresses.

Ideally, a response should be written the day you receive the gift. Four notes a day adds up to 20 to 28 notes per week—double if your fiancé is doing the same. This will keep you from falling behind, and with the pleasure of opening the gift still fresh in your mind, it’s easier to convey your enthusiasm, excitement and gratitude. In a real pinch, you can email a guest that the gift has arrived and that a note will follow shortly, but you absolutely must send the note! The email is no substitute for a warm, appreciative, hand-written thank-you.



Q I’m getting married in May 2012. My brother was going to be a groomsman in our wedding, but he was killed while serving in Afghanistan. Is there a way for us to honor him?

A Please accept my condolences for your loss. Yes, it’s appropriate to honor your brother at your wedding, and there are several ways to do this so the remembrance is a part of the event but does not overshadow it. When assembling at the altar or dais, the groomsmen could leave a gap where your brother would have stood, a reference to the military “missing man” formation. You could have special flowers on the altar, or, after being pronounced “husband and wife,” light a candle in his memory and say a word or two about how you wish he could be with you. The program also is always a good place to write a short piece or dedicate a poem in honor of your brother, or to explain any remembrances like the flowers on the altar. At the reception, a small table with some framed photos or a mention in a toast are also appropriate. While there may be sadness in the happiest occasion, however you choose to honor your brother, try to keep the focus on the joy of your wedding day.



Q My mom has just offered me her bridal gown. It’s lovely, but it’s not what I’ve had my heart set on. How do I say no without hurting her feelings?

A I’m going to give you my favorite piece of advice: Love every idea for five minutes. It means giving people a chance to participate by voicing their opinions and allowing them to be considered. This includes your mom in the process by giving her the chance to enjoy discussing the idea of you wearing her dress while reminiscing about how much she loved it and what it meant to her. Even if you choose not to wear the dress, love the idea for five minutes: “OK, Mom, why don’t I go try it on with you?” She gets to see and admire you wearing her dress, while you’re still free to say, “This is so beautiful, thank you so much for offering it, but I really don’t think it’s what I had in mind.” You could also ask to use part of the dress—the veil, the train, the lace—and incorporate it into the dress you envision. The concept is a benevolent way to include others in your decision-making process without necessarily having to sacrifice your own vision. Who knows, the dress may look fabulous on you!


A Little Primer On Toasts

It’s hard to wing a good toast; better if you prepare your remarks ahead of time. You’ll never go wrong if you keep it short and sweet: the best toasts last a minute or two—three at the most—and can even be just a few lines: “I’d like to take a moment to congratulate Mike and Kathryn. Let’s raise our glasses and toast to a long life filled with happiness and love for both of them. To Kathryn and Mike!” Then practice, practice, practice! Say it out loud, get used to the sound of your own voice, and time yourself. It’s fine to use a written copy or cue cards, but you’ll sound more natural if you speak your toast instead of reading it. Finally, avoid excess drinking ahead of time. Mixing your nervousness with alcohol can be a recipe for disaster. Some subjects to avoid include: Pointless stories (either cute or embarrassing) about the couple’s childhoods—this
is a wedding, not a roast; any mention of past loves—period; references to any problems the couple might have had; and talking about yourself instead of about them. Check your ego at the door. —AP

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