High Propriety

Because good manners never go out of style.


My mother is very traditional and wants guests to throw rice at our wedding. Isn’t that really bad for birds and totally 1950s?


Rice actually isn’t dangerous to birds. But it is slippery. So to prevent any misguided PETA activists or litigious, high-heeled relatives from spoiling your getaway, have guests blow bubbles or shower you with rose petals instead. If your mom won’t let go, check with your ceremony location—many no longer allow rice to be thrown for insurance reasons and have strict rules about cleanup. »

My future in-laws came to the tasting with our caterer and loved the food—as long as the salad has green apples instead of pears, the steak comes with a different sauce, the wine is cabernet instead of merlot, etc. How much compromising must I do? They’re helping pay.

If they’re helping pay for the wedding, their financial contribution is a gift—not a bribe. When parents contribute to the overall cost of a wedding, they often have some input into the size and extravagance of the reception, as these items directly determine cost. The same goes for the rehearsal dinner, where the groom’s parents are usually the official hosts. But decisions about apples vs. pears at your reception are out of bounds, regardless of how generous their gift is. Control over wedding planning is held, in descending order, by the bride, groom, bride’s parents, and, finally, the groom’s parents. (But they’re right about the wine.)

Do I have to ask my fiance’s brother’s wife to be one of my bridesmaids? We aren’t that close, and already I have a bigger bridal party than I wanted—but she’s making me feel bad.

Your bridal party is there to support you on your big day, and should include your closest friends and family. If this were your fianc’s sister instead of his sister-in-law, etiquette would indicate (but not dictate) that you include her. Although even then, she could stand on the groom’s side of the bridal party as one of his “honor attendants,” as it’s increasingly acceptable to switch gender roles within the bridal party. (No tuxedos on the ladies, though, please). In your case, this bridesmaid wannabe is way out of line. If you don’t ask her to be in the wedding party, she should graciously accept your decision. Period. You could consider giving her some smaller part, such as lighting candles or manning the guest book, if only to avoid hearing about how she was left out at every future Thanksgiving dinner for the rest of your life.

Is it okay to send wedding announcements to a wide group of family and friends, and later send invitations to just some of them?

No. You should never send announcements before your wedding. Send them the day after your wedding to let people know the marriage took place. Announcements are a nice way to inform friends and family who cannot be included in the ceremony and reception because of financial or other limitations on the size of the wedding. Simply reverse your scenario, sending out your invitations first and later announcing the happy event to the wider group that was not invited. Keep in mind that people receiving wedding announcements are under no obligation to send a gift.

Is it still considered déclassé to ask for money instead of potholders? What if I just register for $100 American Express gift cards?

This is a wedding, not a shakedown, and you simply cannot just ask for money. And you certainly can’t specify a minimum amount for guests to spend. What they spend will depend on how close they are to you, as well as their own financial situation. That’s why it’s important to register for items in a variety of price ranges. The closest acceptable thing to cash is registering for honeymoon activities, like a couple’s massage or Jet Ski rental. Of course, some people will still give you money, regardless. Make sure you have a plan to get those extra-thick envelopes home from the reception.