Planning a wedding is stressful because there are always a million things to do and not enough time to do them. Add that to Murphy’s law — anything that can go wrong, will — and you could end up with a wedding nightmare. We asked Karen Cleveland, an etiquette expert and author of the Finishing School column, to offer tips to help tackle even the most stressful wedding nightmares..
Nightmare 1: You receive an invitation in the mail. A close friend or family member has invited you to attend their wedding . You’re excited, until you notice the date. They have scheduled their wedding very close to your own nuptials.
How to handle it: Cleveland’s advice is simple — leave it alone. “Inevitably, family members are going talk. You want to be the person they speak about, who took the high road,” she says. “Is it awful? Absolutely. Can anything be gained from being catty? Absolutely not.” She does recommend being considerate of your mutual guests, considering now they have to attend two of every event leading up to and including both weddings.
Nightmare 2: Someone is angry or upset that they weren’t asked to be in your wedding party.
How to handle it: Cleveland admits bridal parties are tricky. “I liken it to a high school popularity contest, because in what other situation in adult life do you have prioritize your friends?” she says.
Avoid drama by having a private conversation with anyone you think might be unhappy with your decision. Cleveland says there are no rules with wedding parties (other than needing two witnesses to sign your marriage license). If you were a bridesmaid at a friends wedding, you’re not obligated to ask them. You don’t have to have a ring bearer, flower girl or even an equal number of bridesmaids and groomsmen. “The decision should be heartfelt and sincere, rather than couched in any sort of obligation,” she says.
Nightmare 3: Your venue or budget (or both) can’t accommodate everyone you and your spouse-to-be want to invite. The trick is agreeing on who gets cut.
How to handle it: Cleveland suggests some smart measures for cutting guests fairly, such as only inviting someone if you see them often or making the wedding for adults only. Also consider whether or not potential guests know your future spouse. “Do you really want to introduce someone to your new husband or wife on the most intimate day of your life,” Cleveland asks?. “There’s no tried and true method but there are some smart ways to objectively and fairly condense a guest list.”
Nightmare 4: You’re worried some of your guests might be a little too indulgent at your reception and get rowdy.
How to handle it: “Every guest deserves your best hosting prowess, even if that means gritting your teeth through their indiscretions,” Cleveland says. “The true test of good manners is pleasantly dealing with bad ones.”
For someone in the bridal party who might be making a speech, have an amiable chat with them beforehand. “Mention that you will be emotional on your wedding day and ask for their support, especially during toasts,” she says. You should have better things to think about on your wedding day than rowdy guests, so let family members take care of the situation.
Nightmare 5: You’re blissfully married and finally getting around to opening your wedding gifts. You come across something that costs far less than you would expect, and is, in your opinion, not an appropriate wedding gift.
How to handle it: Be grateful that they were thoughtful enough to get you something and move on. Cleveland is clear on her feelings about gift expectations: “Anyone who feels like the gift they received is inappropriate has a brazen sense of entitlement and should carefully evaluate why they’re having a wedding,” she says. “The idea that a gift has to offset the cost of your wedding is ridiculous. You’re not running a small business — it’s your wedding!”
Nightmare 6: While planning your dream destination wedding, a few of your guests complain they can’t afford to go or get time off from work.
How to handle it: Cleveland says that’s part of the deal with destination weddings and “the reality is that not everyone will be able to come.” While there’s no blanket solution here, evaluate the situation based on your relationship to the guests and decide whether or not you’ll miss their presence.
Nightmare 7: A service provider for your wedding (flowers, cake, decorations etc.) has failed to do a competent job or complete the job on time.
How to handle it: Cleveland says it’s completely valid to politely let them know you’re unhappy with their work and ask if they’re willing to discount your invoice. However, Cleveland suggests examining your intentions before writing any negative reviews online. “Is this a situation that you want to correct and warn other brides about or are you being a bit catty because you’re trying to haggle a lower rate?”
She adds that when it comes to favours from friends or work you’re not paying for — simply be grateful for the help.
(Originally published on Canadian Living, August 2013)