Here comes the bride – and a whole slew of faux pas that those in the wedding industry notice these days, especially during these busy summer months.
Some of the missteps of the prime-marrying-age generation make wedding planner Ashley Moore feel old – and she’s only 30.
Here are some of the major offenses against wedding etiquette:
“One of the biggest things is the issue of RSVPing,” said Moore, who owns Events by Ashley. “It is extremely difficult to get people to RSVP even though it takes a few seconds. It’s one of the things we struggle with. This generation has difficulty making a decision of what they’re going to do, or won’t take the few seconds to do it.”
It may be more than a generational thing. Kitchel Woods has been wedding coordinator at Plymouth Congregational Church, a popular wedding venue, for 21 years, and she says that Wichitans have always been “terrible about RSVPing. They either say they’re coming and they don’t, or they don’t RSVP.” Because some people will attend just the wedding and not the reception or vice versa, she recommends that couples have separate RSVPs for each.
While young people like to RSVP online, Moore encourages couples to include a paper RSVP card with the invitation to be sure that older people who perhaps don’t have a computer can RSVP, too.
Piling on food
“This sounds really stingy and stupid, but at a lot of weddings there’s a problem with people piling their plates to the brim,” Moore said.
Couples want their guests to be happy, but “people are filling up their plates and going back for seconds before everyone’s got a chance to eat. Then they run out of food.”
Moore said she sometimes feels like the police because, as coordinator, she keeps an eye on how the food flow is going – along with everything else about the day – and will step in if necessary.
Not only does the ringing of cellphones disrupt wedding ceremonies, Moore said, but smartphones’ use as cameras does as well.
“The photographer is taking photos of people taking photos,” Moore said. “People stick their camera and their phone in the aisle. It blocks the aisle. We’ve seen that especially this last year. Phones are sticking up and above people’s heads or in the aisle.”
Moore recommends that people turn off their phones and keep them in their purses or pockets until the reception. “Let the photographer do the job they were hired to do,” she said.
Bringing the kids
Sometimes a couple is invited to a wedding but not the children. Yet sometimes the parents show up with the kids in tow anyway, Woods said. And sometimes a baby gets noisy during the wedding ceremony but is not taken out of the venue.
She remembers one wedding where “a baby talked through the entire thing. These parents did not appreciate that it was disturbing, and they didn’t take their child out, and to me that is a breach of etiquette. It echoed through the church. And you know in that video that little child is yakking away through the whole thing.”
Moore said that with her children, she’ll give them a warning after they’ve said something out loud, and if they continue to make noise, she takes them out. Another solution: She recently had three weddings where the couples offered a baby-sitting service during the ceremony at the venue.
Taking a seat
At the reception, if seating is not assigned, couples may designate a few tables for immediate family. Problem is, first cousins twice removed and their brothers-in-law tend to think that means them, and they take their seats where brothers and sisters are supposed to be sitting. Moore finds herself in the role of bouncer.
“We’ve had to ask people to move,” she said. Awkward.
So for that and other reasons – extreme family dynamics sometimes mean that estranged parents of the bride or groom don’t speak to each other, and can’t even be near each other – Moore is starting to advocate assigned seating.
“It allows you to group people who will have a good time together, and it adds another element of class to the event.”
Be on time. It seems simple, right? “People do arrive late, and they try to sneak in right as the bride is about to walk in,” Moore says. “I probably have gotten some ugly looks asking, ‘Can you wait to go in until she walks in?’ It’s very interesting.”
One time a wedding had been going on for 20 minutes when several family members showed up, Woods said. Normally they would have been seated in a reserved section at the front of the church. But Woods told the late arrivals, “You can go up in the balcony.” She had to repeat the order.
“I was not going to disturb the entire wedding trying to seat them. You should arrive in plenty of time and be respectful of that and of the rules of the church.” For example, sometimes photographs are not allowed in a particular church or other location, she said.
All dressed in white
It’s true that people are dressing less formally for weddings these days – but it’s also true that they’re not dressing as much.
“We’ve run into that quite a lot with girls in their early 20s. It’s very distracting when they’re bending over and their cheeks are hanging out,” Moore said. She’s been tempted to bring some pants along.
It might be summer, but white at weddings is a no-no. “People are starting to wear white to weddings. You don’t wear white on someone’s wedding day” unless you’re the bride or part of the bridal party, Moore said.
“I’m sort of surprised at some of the attire that guests wear,” Woods said. “Don’t you understand that a wedding is special and you don’t wear jeans?” She once saw attendants in shorts.
“I’m only 30, but I feel really old at weddings anymore,” Moore said. “I think it is a generation thing. They don’t really know how to dress.”
Plan, but be flexible
At Plymouth Congregational, Woods meets with couples three or four times in the months leading up to their wedding.
“I encourage them to be proactive and have a back-up plan” for everything, from an alternate reception site to a replacement for a groomsman who can’t make it into town for the wedding.
Moore said she also encourages couples to state their desires to their guests if there is an element of the wedding the couple feels strongly about, rather than assuming that people will know.
And couples need to realize that “they can’t make everybody happy. I try to remind them it’s their special day,” and they’re inviting other people into it, Moore said.
Beyond that, “I really encourage being flexible. Even if we have a definite plan, there’s always something that doesn’t go the way we’ve planned.” In those cases, couples need to be able to let things go, she said.