CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Here are some wedding stories for the history books:
Eating for two?
The bride did not receive a return RSVP card from her invited guest. She did, however, receive a text message on her cellphone that read, "We're coming, but during the dinner reception, my date wants two entrées because he is a big man and can't decide between the steak and the chicken." The dinners were $50 to $60 a plate, and, the date was not invited!
The bride and groom watched in horror as their inebriated best man began performing a striptease on the dance floor at their wedding reception. As he approached the bride's grandmother wearing nothing but his skivvies, he was quickly escorted away.
Cut the cake
During the reception a bride and groom started to cut their beautiful, and quite expensive, wedding cake, only to find that hungry and offensively rude wedding guests had already cut rather large pieces out of the cake for themselves before the couple had arrived.
This is not funny
Shortly after the rehearsal dinner, those invited by the groom decided to throw an impromptu "last-minute fling" bachelor party. As with many bachelor parties, this one got out of hand, and the groom was so intoxicated that those attending were able to get him on a plane bound for Las Vegas with nothing but a one-way ticket (this was obviously before the increased security at airports). Keep in mind, the wedding is scheduled to take place in less than 24 hours.
This is really, really not funny
During the wedding reception, several of the guests were able to sneak away and rig the couple's getaway car so that every time the groom hit the brakes the horn would sound. However, during the "rigging," they also damaged the brake line. As the bride and groom sped away from the reception, the brakes failed and the car crashed into an embankment. Fortunately, no one was hurt in what could have been a horrible tragedy.
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Much has been written about the proper etiquette for the bridal party, but what about the manners of those they invite to share their special day? What responsibility do they have? What is the etiquette of the being a good guest?
Before the big event
RSVP! Not doing so creates utter chaos for the couple.
If a preprinted reply card is not enclosed within the invitation, then you should respond with a handwritten note. Here's an example of a proper written response:
"Mr. and Mrs. John Goolsby accept with pleasure Mr. and Mrs. Gary Good's kind invitation to their daughter's wedding Saturday, the seventeenth of November, 2012."
If you cannot attend, then write "We regret that we are unable to accept the kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Gary Good."
If a preprinted response card is enclosed, then fill in the blank, Mr. and Mrs. John Goolsby "will" or "will not" attend. Feel free to add a note of congratulations on the card if you like.
Unless the invitation specifically states that you may do so, never bring an additional guest or your children. Do not add any name to the reply card that was not on the invitation. If their name is not included, they are not invited.
The presence of very small children is up to the bridal couple; however, whining children may detract from the wedding and create an annoying experience for all. If you do bring children, be prepared to exit the ceremony immediately following the first whimper.
Most bridal registry consultants say it is best to send a gift to the bride and groom before the wedding. This way they do not have an additional burden of transporting the gift home after the reception. Sending a gift beforehand reduces the chance that it will be lost or misplaced. If you must take a gift to the reception, it is best to place the card inside the gift before it is wrapped. This helps to eliminate the risk that the card may become separated from the gift.
If the couple is registered at a particular store, it is not mandatory to choose a gift from the registry. It does, however, assure that you will purchase something that is wanted.
Etiquette dictates that the couple has up to one year after the wedding to write a thank-you note for a gift received (talk about cutting some slack!). If you haven't gotten a thank-you note within a year, then it is appropriate -- and perhaps a little uncomfortable -- to contact the couple to inquire if they have received the gift. However, if you had a gift sent directly from a store, then you might want first to contact the store to confirm that the gift was delivered.
If sending a check in lieu of a gift, be sure to make it payable to the bride and/or the groom. This way they both do not have to endorse the check. When doing this, it is best to use the bride's maiden name. It usually takes some time before her name changes (if she chooses to do so) on a bank account.
If you cannot attend a wedding or you receive an announcement that the wedding has already taken place, then it is not mandatory that you send a gift. However, you should at the very least, send a note of congratulations to the happy couple.
Unless specific attire is indicated on the invitation, use the following as a guide to what may be appropriate.
Informal wedding: nice afternoon dress
Semiformal: cocktail dress
Very formal: floor-length dress
Informal: cocktail dress
Semiformal: evening cocktail dress
Very formal: floor-length gown or evening dress
Informal/semiformal: dark suit
Very formal: very dark conservative suit (preferably three-piece)
Informal: dark suit
Semiformal: dark conservative suit
Very formal: black tuxedo (black-tie)
Get to the church on time! Try to arrive at least 15 minutes before the time indicated on the invitation. If you do arrive late, wait for the bride to walk down the aisle and arrive at the altar before you enter. Quietly seat yourself toward the back of the room. You should not be part of the processional.
The receiving line
The key here is to be brief. Do not to hold up the line. Offer your best wishes to the couple and move on. It is best to compliment the bride and to congratulate the groom. Some feel congratulating the bride appears as if you are subliminally saying, "Congratulations, you finally snagged one!" Yes, this may sound a little old-fashioned, but it is best to be safe than to offend. Make sure you address the families of bride and groom, the wedding party and other guests.
If the reception includes place cards for seating, do not move cards to suit your preference. The wedding party has given much time and thought to the seating of their guests, and moving these cards could upset them. Also, during the reception, it is your responsibility to mingle and socialize. Don't expect the bride and groom to entertain you and to introduce you to everyone; they have enough to do.
If proposing a toast to the bride and groom, then make the toast in good taste. This is not the time to bring up the good ol' frat days. Remember the three B's of making a good toast: Begin, Be brief, and Be seated. (A reminder to the bride and groom: When a toast is made in your honor, it is inappropriate to sip your drink. You should refrain from even touching your glass.)
Limit alcohol consumption. Your drunken actions may forever ruin someone else's special day.
Following the reception, do not remove flowers or centerpieces from the tables. Contrary to popular belief, these are not party favors.
Your manners contribute to the happy couple's big day. It is an honor to be invited to attend the sacred celebration between two people. You have been invited because they want you to celebrate their special day with them, not make it a disaster. Make sure your manners are in check; it's their day, not yours!
Incidentally, the groom who had the one-way ticket to Vegas did make it back in time for the wedding. And the couple lived happily ever after.
Pam Harvit, MS, is a certified corporate etiquette and protocol consultant. She is employed by Merck and Co. and lives in Charleston. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.