In the course of wedding planning, you’ll probably come across a guest or two whose inappropriate actions, odd requests or rude behavior seems appalling. Don’t be shocked—while you may know the ins and outs of wedding etiquette, some of your friends and family members may not be aware of what’s acceptable. What can you do? Be proactive. Here’s how.
What they did: Anyone who’s ever planned a wedding knows the importance of a punctual RSVP—from plotting your seating chart to giving the caterer a final head count—it’s hard to proceed without a firm grasp of who’s coming. Unfortunately, some of your guests may treat the RSVP as a novelty rather than a necessity.
How to deal: Give it a week. After that, it’s time to give them a call. Recruit your maid of honor to help you with phone duties if you’re really struggling with missing RSVPs. Or, better yet, send out a group email (use a blind CC) saying you need to know by [insert deadline] if they’re planning on attending. Keep the tone nice, but firm. Then, you only have to call those who don’t reply to the email (which really is a double-duty foul).
Stop the cycle: Make the reply-by date as early as possible, say, two weeks from the date you intend to mail the invitations. That way, when your guests see the deadline is quickly approaching, they’ll (hopefully) stick the reply card in the mail right then and there.
What they did: The good news is the guest has returned the RSVP. The bad news is she’d love to attend—with a person you never invited, maybe never even heard of. Whether she believes every invite bestows the right to bring a date, or a child, adding a name to the RSVP puts everyone in an awkward position.
How to deal: To avoid potential hurt feelings, you need to establish a no-exceptions guest list policy (significant others only if engaged; no children under 18). Then, call the misguided guest to explain the circumstances. Apologize for the misunderstanding and tell her that unfortunately the limitations (a small reception space or a tight budget) require a strict guest list. The person most likely didn’t intend to thwart your list with the addition of another guest and will gladly come to the wedding solo.
Stop the cycle: Tell your parents, wedding party, and other close relatives and friends, so they can spread the word when asked. And, of course, address your invitations in a direct manner (don’t write “Smith Family” unless they really are all invited). The earlier a guest knows who’s actually invited, the less painful the conversation will be.
What they did: As soon as they received the invite to your wedding, the phone calls began. Guests are treating you like their personal concierge, with questions about transportation, accommodations and fun things to do while they’re in town.
How to deal: Make sure every guest has all the info they need by creating a wedding website. Include a link to the hotel where you’ve reserved a block of rooms, local museums and restaurants, and driving directions. Put together a welcome basket for out-of-towners with the weekend’s itinerary, so no one feels the need to ask you about the wedding game plan.
Stop the cycle: Some technophobes might still pester you with questions. Go over the guest list with both sets of parents, and decide which key invitees, if any, are not likely to check your website. Print out a copy of the info listed on the site and mail it to them.
What they did: Some guests feel that buying a present from the registry is impersonal. Instead, they go and purchase a gift with a little more, er, imagination.
How to deal: Shopping off the registry can result in a pleasant surprise, or leave a couple cringing. But you cannot be anything but gracious for any gift you’re given. While they’re typically expected, wedding gifts are technically not required from a guest. If someone has eschewed the registry and bought you a present you know you won’t use, check whether they sent it with the receipt. If so, they may have realized their gift might not be your style, and it’s fine to return the present. Otherwise, write a thank-you note for the thoughtful gesture, and keep the gift for as long as you can stand having it around.
Stop the cycle: Register at an off-the-beaten path store, like a local museum shop or a boutique home store, that offers unique gift options. That way, the guest can get you something a bit more personal that you’ll actually love.
What they did: You know how some people show up late to movies because they know there’ll be 20 minutes of trailers? Some guests may have a similar notion for your ceremony. (We’ve all seen at least one late guest stroll in directly behind the bride walking down the aisle!)
How to deal: For those who are really late, ask an usher or your day-of coordinator to hang out near the rear of the ceremony site so they can make sure your processional goes undisturbed, and to have them help any late guest quickly and quietly find a seat.
Stop the cycle: Give yourself a slight buffer for your friends and family who are never quite on time. If your invites say the ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m., plan on walking down the aisle about 15 minutes after that.
What they did: It doesn’t sound so bad: Someone brought a huge gift to the wedding. While you really can’t complain about receiving presents at your reception—or at all for that matter—it can be a pain to lug them home.
How to deal: Ask one of your attendants to store all the gifts in one place—preferably a locked, separate room in your reception space—so nothing gets left behind. At the end of the evening, that attendant can account for all the gifts and then take them to the most convenient location (probably someone’s home rather than your honeymoon suite).
Stop the cycle: Online registries have made it easier than ever to send gifts wherever you want. Promote this gifting tool by including links to your online registries on your wedding website.
What they did: Weddings can be emotional events, and the toasts are an opportunity for your closest friends and family members to share sentiments with the rest of your guests. Those same emotions (and maybe too much alcohol) can do funny things to an otherwise reliable guest, and some may feel compelled to grab the mic when they weren’t asked to toast. Embarrassing stories, offensive anecdotes and rambling rants have all worked their way into wedding toasts.
How to deal: Unfortunately, you need to just grin and bear it. If the toast seems like it will never end, have the best man signal the band or DJ to carefully cut in. The other guests will appreciate the gesture too.
Stop the cycle: Head off unexpected toasts by making sure the emcee of the evening (your DJ or bandleader) has a list of approved toasters. Tell them not to give the mic to anyone who’s not scheduled to speak, no matter how persistent their plea for the microphone.
What they did: You’ve worked with your band or DJ to put together the perfect soundtrack for your evening. All of a sudden, your ambiance is interrupted by the sounds of “Y.M.C.A.” and it seems that your Aunt Margie is behind it.
How to deal: Requests from your guests may be inevitable, and if your band or DJ thinks it’s appropriate for the atmosphere, they might give requested songs a play. And it might be okay—you can’t control everything about your wedding or reception. But if you’re still fuming from the faux pas, talk to the bandleader or DJ immediately afterward and tell them that you would prefer to avoid group dance songs.
Stop the cycle: To avoid any playlist pitfalls, give your band or DJ a list of songs that you absolutely don’t want to hear at the reception. If you’re worried your strictly Motown playlist will be disrupted by someone’s insistence on hearing his favorite Bon Jovi tune, it’s okay to let your band or DJ know that guests’ song requests should be politely declined.
What they did: A few too many signature cocktails turned one of your guests from the life of the party into a bit of a mess.
How to deal: While it’s not your responsibility to babysit your guests, you can’t turn a blind eye to someone who’s had way too much to drink. If there’s any risk that the guest will try to drive, ask your planner, a responsible attendant, friend or family member to call a cab, and to make sure they take the ride. It’s not much fun to send someone home early, but making sure everyone gets home safely is incredibly important.
Stop the cycle: You can’t limit the number of drinks each guest consumes, but you can grant the bartender permission to cut off anyone that’s has had one too many. Other than that, make sure there’s plenty of water on the tables and enough delicious bites to satisfy any guest—big drinker or not.
What they did: In the middle of your perfect party, you notice a few unfamiliar faces in the crowd, and wonder, “Who invited them?” Your wedding has been crashed.
How to deal: Don’t freak out! With tasty food, fun music and free drinks, it’s no wonder some fun-loving people might want to get in on the action. But as long as they’re not indulging in these perks, or causing any conflict, try to ignore them. Otherwise, have the site manager discreetly escort the crashers out.
Stop the cycle: If you’re marrying at a hotel or club that hosts multiple parties in one night, there might be wedding wanderers. Unless you hire a security guard (which is a bit extreme), there’s no way to prevent it. If you’re really worried, tell the catering manager (and the waitstaff) to keep an eye out for possible crashers.