Matrimony Manners

Wedding Party Woes

Q I want to have a small wedding party, but I have a lot of great girlfriends. Some of them have asked me to be a bridesmaid in the past, and I can't do the same because there are other girls that I’m closer with and would rather ask. What do I do?

A Don’t stress over it! It’s not realistic for you to ask everyone whose wedding you have been in to be a bridesmaid in your wedding. There’s no “quid pro quo” when it comes to choosing your wedding party. Many may also be happy to forgo the honor, given the expenses incurred. Focus on the girls you would like to invite, and don’t explain your choice to others unless they ask. There’s no need to let old friends know they were under consideration—and highlight they weren’t chosen—by being the one to bring up why you went in another direction.

If you think your choice of bridesmaids might be an issue with someone, get ahead of the curve and ask them to do a reading, sit at your table at the reception (if you’re not doing a bridal party table), or manage the guest book. And be sure they are invited to your shower. Remember to spend time with them throughout the wedding planning process, too, so they don’t feel altogether on the sidelines. In fact, that advice applies equally well to all of your friends, wishful bridesmaid or not.

Gift Giving Decorum

Q: I’ve been invited to a wedding that I can’t attend. I’m not incredibly close to the bride and groom, but should I still send them a gift?

A: Unless you have been completely out of touch for quite a while and truly don’t understand why you received the invitation, yes, you should send a gift. It doesn’t need to be an expensive one, but put some thought into your choice nonetheless. It’s not just close friends who receive wedding invitations. The couple may have the luxury of having a large guest list and wanted the people they know (however well) to share their wedding with them. Either way, be sure to send in your RSVP.

Dress Code Conduct

Q: My fiancé is giving me a hard time about attire. Our wedding invitations show that it’s going to be a fancy affair, but his family isn’t interested in dressing up. How do I make it clear to them that there’s a dress code without being rude?

A: You are correct that guests should take their cue for their attire from the level of formality of the wedding invitation. However, it’s not up to you to tell his family how to dress. Since you see the potential for them to be underdressed compared to other guests, the best person to talk to them is your fiancé.

Presumably you and your fiancé were on the same page when you planned a dressy wedding reception—if not, it’s more important that the two of you get on the same page now. You need to be united in your decision about how formal the wedding will be before you can ask others to comply with attire. It’s up to him to talk to his parents and siblings, explaining that he would really appreciate it if they spiffed up for his wedding. Discuss suggestions that he can give them. Lots of clothing can be rented if purchase isn’t an option, including fashionable dresses for women.  At the end of the day though, you need to take your wedding guests as they come, despite your best efforts to guide them with the style of the invitations. 

Serving Suggestions

Throughout history, wedding celebrations have included a meal. It’s traditional to offer guests the opportunity to drink to the couple’s happiness and for the couple to share their first meal together with their nearest and dearest. Wedding receptions run the gamut from breakfast to dinner, and from tea and cake to a four-course, sit-down formal meal with a multi-tiered cake and free-flowing champagne. What type of food you serve your guests depends on several factors, but the primary ones are your budget and the time of day.

Table Service

  • Creates a more upscale atmosphere, especially appropriate for formal weddings.
  • Easier to calculate the amount of food needed/portion sizes.
  • When possible, offer guests a choice of entrée. If guests included their entrée choice with their RSVP, mark their place card so that servers readily know what to serve to whom.


  • Accommodates a wide range of dietary needs and restrictions.
  • Consider using buffet line servers: guests can better manage their plates and servers keep the line moving.
  • Make clear when each table may go to the buffet.
  • Consider serving a plated salad for the first course.

Hors d’oeuvres

  • If not serving a meal, state clearly on the invitation what will be served: “Hors d’oeuvres to follow;” “Cake and champagne reception to follow.”
  • Generally not for receptions that fall during a meal hour (noon to 1 p.m., or 6:30 p.m. on).
  • • If hors d’oeuvres are the only option, serve a substantial amount and a wide variety.


Categories: Venues & Guides