Put those old etiquette questions to rest

By Moira Lawler
May 10, 2014

In between wedding bells and cute cake toppers, the season of love introduces a host of etiquette questions for guests. Some of the old traditions from decades ago are outdated, while others still stand. Here, we break down the confusion on how to navigate wedding-related events so you'll have less to worry about-from the engagement party to the reception dance floor.

You Can Turn Down a Bridesmaid Offer



Decline politely in advance instead of sluggishly going through the motions of bridesmaid duties. Say, "I appreciate you and want to support you in every way, but I can't give you the time and effort it requires," says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert. Offer alternative ways to help-like running errands in the days leading up to the wedding-to let her know can support her from the sidelines.

Ask for a Plus One


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Your second cousin forgot to include your boyfriend on the invite? Tactfully ask the bride or groom if it's possible to bring him along. But, be prepared for him or her to say no and don't have any hurt feelings, says Meg Keene, editor-in-chief of APracticalWedding.com. And make sure to only make the ask if its serious with your guy-every head is more dollar signs to the bride and groom.

Gift Accordingly


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With engagement parties, bachelorette nights out, and showers, weddings take a toll on your free time and your budget. If you only plan to bring a gift to one of these leading-up-to-the-big-day events, the shower is traditionally the most important, Keene says. Still unsure? Call the host of the party, Gottsman advises. Ask what she suggests and let her be your guide.

If You're Not Going, You Don't Have to Gift



If you cannot attend, simply write a short note in the corner of the RSVP card, Keene suggests. Say, "We wish we were able to attend, and we're sorry we won't be there." It leaves a better impression on the couple than a blank card simply marked, "No."

Always Attend the Ceremony



When there's a five-hour gap between the ceremony and the reception, it's tempting to ditch the former. Don't do it, or it will seem like you're only attending the couple's big day for the free meal and booze. Instead, show your support at the ceremony, find a bar in between, and stick around the reception until the cake is cut. [Tweet this tip!]

Give the Gift of Money


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According to The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, 55 percent of couples actually prefer being gifted with money. While a $100 check might seem like an impersonal birthday gift, it takes on a new level of usefulness as a wedding gift, Keene says. The couple can easily designate your contribution to a part of the wedding, like to secure zip-lining reservations on their honeymoon in Costa Rica.

Don't Wait a Year



Consider the old gifting rule officially retired. "Sooner is always better than later," Gottsman says. "It looks like it's an afterthought if you wait too long." Think ahead and purchase a gift off of the registry so you don't have to worry about carrying one the day of the wedding.

Ditch the White


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Though it seems like we should have loosened up on this one, experts agree that it's best to let the bride be the only one in white. But wearing black is a do. "It is totally, totally fine to wear black. Nobody is going to think twice about it expect maybe the bride's 90-year-old grandmother," Keene says. Dress up a chic LBD with bold jewelry and statement-making shoes. Switch up the accessories to keep it looking fresh each time you wear it.

Look for a Tip Jar



If you're at a wedding with an open bar, you can safely bet that the tip will be taken care of by the bride and groom at the end of the night. But, if it's a cash bar and you spot a tip jar, toss the bartender a few dollars to keep the champagne coming all night long.

You Don't Have to Say Good-Bye


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Once upon a time, ditching between renditions of "Love Shack" would have been unheard of. But, instead of turning the bride's night into an endless series of goodbyes, simply slip out. "Just quietly leave and send them an email the next day telling them how wonderful it was," Keene says. [Tweet this tip!]