Blame it on the stratospheric rise of the wedding industry, the etiquette business not keeping pace with technology or the parent as friend trend; whatever the cause there seems to be a need for modern day nuptial communication guidance.
I am not an etiquette expert. I have produced and managed copious events, attended over 30 weddings and have been touched, tickled and traumatized by nuptial communications over the years. There are many people touting newfangled etiquette advice. Yes, dear reader, I have witnessed advice that gift registry information should be front and center at all times. (Think: “letter to Santa”)
Weddings are a rite of passage fraught with meaning and sentimentality Wedding planning usually emphasizes the party aspect of the wedding. Yet, the most overlooked and defining aspect to wedding planning is communication. Technology has turned us all into photographers and web designers, but technology is only a means to the end. Even those intentionally eschewing technology and are only communicating through handcrafted invitations are well served to raise their marketing consciousness.
The number one rule to keep in mind is that an invitation is not a contract. Gifts are lovely but are never a quid pro quo for being invited. Inviting anyone to anything defines you as a host or hostess and you must behave as one.
Let’s start at the very beginning, that’s a very good place to start.
Engagement Parties are not mandatory. Their primary purpose is to introduce the two families of the intendeds to each other. Gifts are a welcome addition but by no means necessary. There should be no registry at this point. Gifts should never be opened at the party itself. An engagement party is not a child’s birthday party or a shower.
Speaking of showers….
No mention of gifts, gift registries, or web sites have any business being included with an invitation. When invited guests R.S.V.P. they can ask their host about gifts. Besides being gracious, this tactic will raise your R.S.V.P. rates!
The number one guiding factor of invitations is that they alert the guest as to the tenor of the event. An engraved, raise lettered invitation on heavy stock paper in neutral colors screams “formal.” A “cute” construction paper invitation in “cool” colors communicates “come as you are.”
The invitation package should include all relevant information for the guests. Simply putting the web site address on the invitation is lazy and a cheap ploy to link people to your gift wish list.
If you are having multiple events (i.e., rehearsal dinner, brunch, etc.) include very specific relevant information in the wedding invitation.
Communications during any and all wedding centric events is crucial as well. Remember that the most fundamental premise is to be a good host or hostess. Your job is to ensure that your guests feel welcomed and are comfortable. Part of how you address this is by communicating your intentions. Some wedding couples choose to create a program to describe the relationships of the people included in the wedding party, or to describe religious rituals that will be part of the ceremony. Other couples have the officiant describe to the guests what rituals will be performed. Unless yours is a wedding in a very closed community, do not assume that your guests are familiar with your practices and consider by what means you’d like to communicate.
Keep in mind that what is not said is as important as what is said. I have been to weddings at which the officiant used the blessed occasion to spout anti-homosexual rhetoric. Twice. And no one stopped him or corrected him. I have been to a wedding at which the priest and the rabbi went into fierce oratory competition during the ceremony, going so far as to grab the microphone from each other. Very holy.
No you can not control everyone’s behavior, but you can convey your intentions and vision to those who will be involved, prior to the event. This is true with religious or civil officiants, caterers, bakers, etc. There are those (cough: me) who gave a list to the band leader of verboten songs (i.e., chicken dance, electric slide, and yes, the horah.) If you are adult enough to get married you are adult enough to ask for what you want. Politely.
There is no question that receiving lines are awkward for everyone involved. The wedding couple does need to address each and every one of their guests however. This must be done as a couple, doing so individually does nothing to convince the guest that you two are destined for couple greatness! Simply put, your job is to thank your guest for coming. You needn’t do so with a cheap assembly line gift, simply a sincere in stereo thank you is sufficient.
Oh, if only it went with out saying that a prompt, personal, handwritten thank you note was in order. Never is anything electronic acceptable. Well, maybe if it’s a flat screen television. If I hauled myself to your event, or sent a gift, you can lift a pen and a stamp. Personal counts. This is where actually speaking to all of your guests comes in handy. “Thank you so much for coming to our wedding. It was so lovely to see you and I was so happy that husband/wife had the pleasure of meeting you. I can’t thank you enough for being part of what was such an important day for us.” or a version that also thanks for a gift, or a version that only thanks for a gift.
A note on visual communication
Photos of yourself no doubt make you happy. They are not a form of communication and should be used ever so sparingly (like your monogram.) Narcissism is a slippery slope.