Wedding gifts are an absolute must. But, if you’re of the belief that a present should cover the cost of your plate, it’s time to change your outlook.
“The gift should be determined according to your financial ability, simply put,” said Rosalinda Randall, an etiquette and civility expert in San Bruno, Calif.
Bear in mind that you certainly shouldn’t extend yourself beyond your means. “Nobody wants you going into debt,” said Jules Martinez Hirst, an etiquette expert in Los Angeles.
And if you haven’t heard a peep of thanks from your cousin months after you’ve ordered that espresso machine off his registry, it’s fair game to check in, if you wish.
“You can ask: ‘How did you like that? Is it working out for you? I thought of getting one for myself,’” Ms. Hirst said. “They will probably say: ‘I’m so sorry. I meant to get to you. We’re working on it.’”
While today’s messages of gratitude don’t necessarily have to arrive in an envelope, you should take the time to personally thank your guests within three months after you wed.
“A thank you text, email or a thank you while you’re on the phone with someone might be the couple considering they’ve done their job,” said Cindy Savage, a wedding planner and officiant who operates the company Aisle Less Traveled in Seattle and Portland, Ore.
Asking your surly future brother-in-law to stand by your side as a groomsman may seem less than ideal, but it most likely outweighs uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinners for the next, say, half-century.
“Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to maintain peace,” Ms. Randall said. “This is just one day. What are the consequences for the rest of your marriage?”
Kirsten Palladino, a founder and the editorial director at Equally Wed, an international online L.G.B.T.Q. wedding magazine, doesn’t believe people who are getting married need to ask their siblings to serve as honor attendants.
“You can phrase this a lot of ways with your siblings, like, ‘I want the wedding to be more enjoyable for you — I want you to have more of a guest experience than have to deal with the roles and responsibilities of being in the wedding party,’” added Ms.
Palladino, who is based in Atlanta. Perhaps this means asking a sibling to perform a reading during the ceremony, which is thoughtful yet requires minimal commitment in the run-up to the big day, she noted.
In contrast, Jung Lee, the founder of Fête, Jung Lee NY and the personalized wedding registry Slowdance, is adamant that siblings receive some sort of honor on the wedding day. “It can’t just be like they’re just a regular guest,” she said.
Ms. Savage, who describes herself as a queer feminist wedding planner, notes that for many of her L.G.B.T.Q. clients, it is friends, rather than family members, who serve as honor attendants by default.
“A lot of us — because of homophobia in our families of origin — are estranged from especially parents, but often siblings as well,” she said. “We tend to have closer what we call chosen family, which are our closest friends, and that’s typically who ends up in a wedding party.”
But regardless of to whom you feel closest, she said, keeping your inner circle at the top of mind is certainly paramount. “If you think it’s someone who’s going to feel really, really slighted that they aren’t asked to be in your wedding party,
then you probably want to have a conversation with them sooner rather than later so that they know,” she said. “It’s all about setting those boundaries and having open communication.”
Determining who will foot the bill for wedding celebrations reflects changing times. “Today, the reality is whoever has the money will pay for the wedding,” Ms. Lee said. “It’s not split in the middle.”
This may mean that either set of parents or engaged couples themselves are picking up the tab. “I have clients that are in tech or entertainment that are far wealthier than their parents; in which case, they host the wedding,” said Yifat Oren, founder of Oren Co in Los Angeles.
In instances where parents are covering costs for their children, compromise is important. “Both sides need to put their lists together and discuss,” Ms. Hirst said.
“The parents should remember this is not their wedding and treat their list as a wish list and not a ‘this is the way it is’ list. The couple needs to be thankful for the parents’ generosity but still be able to tailor the event toward their liking.”
Ms. Randall said the only surefire way for couples to have a complete say in all aspects of their wedding is to cover costs on their own.
“But if you choose to accept your parents’ generosity, I advise you to clearly set mutually agreed upon boundaries and discuss the exact amount the parents will be contributing, by holding a formal conversation,” she said.
With regard to the L.G.B.T.Q. community, Ms. Palladino said, “There are no rules on who’s paying for what.” She noted, however, that some families may be happy to attend a celebration but less eager to cover its costs.
In fact, according to a 2018 report from the L.G.B.T.Q. market research firm Community Marketing & Insights, 74 percent of L.G.B.T.Q. couples pay for their own weddings.
Itching to back out of a wedding and wondering when — if ever — doing so is acceptable? It depends on whom you ask. If you’re worried about potentially awkward run-ins with a former flame,
plan to “put your adult pants on and just go and try to make the best of it,” Ms. Lee said. “You don’t have to stay until the very end.”
Ms. Savage, however, encourages guests to prioritize their well-being no matter the situation, as long as they clearly communicate their change in plans.
“I don’t think taking care of yourself is rude,” she said. “What would be rude is not letting the couple know that you are no longer going to be coming.”
Keep in mind that timing is of the essence when altering an R.S.V.P. “Most catering companies want a final guest count somewhere in the 10 days to two weeks range, and if you’re able to change your R.S.V.P. before that time,” Ms. Savage said, the couple won’t have to pay for your food.
Revoking your attendance at the eleventh hour? According to Ms. Randall, the only suitable reasons to do so include a death or serious hospitalization, a sudden lack of child care or a flight cancellation.
On the other hand, perhaps you’re overjoyed about the prospect of watching a loved one tie the knot — so much so, that you’re inclined to ask whether your new beau can join the festivities. Is it suitable to do so? “That’s an easy no for me,” Ms. Savage said.
“I wish I could say otherwise, but making the guest list is probably the most fraught decision that couples have to make.” And, she said, “If you’re close enough to the couple that they would know you now have a significant other, then they will extend an invitation if one is available.”
Other experts express differing sentiments. “Surely, the people who are inviting you also want you to have a great time,” Ms. Lee said. “If you are really involved with somebody else, you have to just tell them.”
However, you’ll first want to do a bit of research — such as consulting your save-the-date card. “If there’s not ‘and guest,’ I would make sure that they are allowing other plus ones,” Ms. Palladino said.
Consider bringing your request to someone closely involved in the wedding planning process, Ms. Hirst said. “Put a feeler out first, because the last thing you want to do is add more stress to any couple who’s getting married.”
The maxim that wearing white to a wedding is discourteous holds true today. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re in a cream dress or a cream suit, you’re going to stand out,” said Alison Bruhn, a founder of the Style That Binds Us.
Ms. Bruhn, a personal, wedding and executive wardrobe stylist based in New York, also advises steering clear of outfits that are “super sexy or revealing” and suggests keeping a wrap handy to cover exposed shoulders in houses of worship.
With contemporary dress codes ranging from black tie to festive, deciphering the intricacies of invitations can often be challenging.
“Instead of asking everybody else … go to the source,” said Ms. Bruhn, who encourages guests to contact the couple or their event coordinator.
Ms. Savage, who agrees that wearing white is generally a faux pas, offered additional guidance. “Please don’t show up in jeans and a T-shirt. Life isn’t that casual on a wedding day.”