In our community we have waves of weddings, and we are learning the discipline of celebration. It takes practice to get really good at it, and God has blessed us with lots of opportunities for such practice. So from time to time I compose a few etiquette reminders for the saints.
In Moscow we have a very unique situation: we do not yet have our own church building proper, we have lots of weddings, a large Christian community, an overwhelming desire to include everyone, and very modest budgets forÂ such things. It is not uncommon for the weddings to include four hundred people, and sometimes more. So the saints here have some serious obstacles to overcome each time a wedding is planned. Where will we have it? (And if it is outside here in northern Idaho, what is the back-up plan in case of rain?) What can we feed so many people and still make it a great party on a shoestring budget? The women in our church have become very creative in planning weddings, and we all are eager to help by bringing food, etc. So bear in mind as you read these reminders, that I wrote them with our own congregation in mind.
Wedding Etiquette Reminders: A Wedding Invitation is a Beautiful Thing
With quite a few weddings filling up the calendar over the next several months, itâ€™s time for a few more etiquette reminders. Courtesy is simply love expressed in tangible ways. A lack of courtesy is a lack of love, whether intentional or not. So think of wedding courtesies as incarnational living. And these courtesies work both ways: guests to the bride and groom, and bride and groom to the guests.
The bride and groomâ€™s families are spending a good amount of time on the guest list. Due to facilities with limited seating, as well as limited budgets, itâ€™s simply impossible for the parents to invite everyone in our Christian community, even if they feel that everyone is near and dear. So donâ€™t take it personally if you are not invited. Donâ€™t ask the bride or groom if you can comeâ€¦â€¦and donâ€™t just assume you can go if you didnâ€™t get an invitation. Students, you are particularly to pay attention to this! You may not invite your friends and roommates to go with you to a wedding unless they were specifically invited. A wedding just isnâ€™t the same thing as a church potluck.
After this sometimes agonizing work, the families then spend a good bit of money on printing and mailing the invitations. So when you receive a wedding invitation in the mail, you should view it as an honor. It is a privilege to be a wedding guest, and with the privilege come some clearly defined responsibilities. Because of that, here are some suggestions on how you can be a good and grateful guest.
When you receive a wedding invitation in the mail, look carefully at the following:
Whose names are on the envelope? Pay close attention to the names written on the envelope of the invitation. Donâ€™t assume your children are invited. If they are invited, their names will be there next to yours. If their names are not on the envelope, well, they are not invited. Bear in mind, if all the children were invited, they could easily fill a hundred or more seats. So donâ€™t be offended if your children are not included. It doesnâ€™t mean they are not loved. But if they are not invited, you may not bring them anyway. If your children are invited, they are invited to participate fully, but it is assumed that they will be well supervised.
Is there an rsvp? That is code for please reply. Sometimes there will be a small return envelope, stamped and addressed for you. All you have to do is fill it out and pop it in the mail. Sometimes the guest is requested to reply via email. The secret here to being a good guest is to FOLLOW DIRECTIONS and do so by the given date. This enables the family to plan well for the number of guests. Do not ask if you can bring friends or relatives who are not on the invitation. And do not bring uninvited guests.
Save the invitation so that you can double check later if you forget the time or place. Then you donâ€™t have to call the bride to ask.And speaking of what time to ARRIVEâ€¦â€¦â€¦..it is most courteous to arrive at a wedding a good 20 minutes before the scheduled time to begin. It is inconsiderate to arrive at a wedding when the bridal party has begun to line up, or even worse, after the wedding has begun. Remember, extra time is needed to sign a guest book and ushered in, so arrive with plenty of time to be seated. If everyone arrives at the last minute, the wedding is delayed. But, horrors, if you do arrive late, wait until an appropriate time to slip in the back. Donâ€™t go barging in, even on the side aisle, while the wedding party is walking down the aisle.
Dress for the men is a tie and coat. Donâ€™t even think about jeans, not even with a dress shirt.
Dress for the ladies is dressy slacks or skirts and dresses. Not a time for being casual.
How long do you stay? It is actually important for the guests to stay until the bride and groom leave, but this can be very difficult if the party is going on too late. This is where the bride and groom can be kind to the guests by keeping the reception a reasonable length (and not leaving the guests with long periods of dead time). If it goes on too long, the only people left to send the couple off will be the bridesmaids and groomsmen.
And gifts. You can either deliver it to the brideâ€™s home before the wedding (or of course at the shower, etc.) or you can bring it to the reception. Itâ€™s best not to bring a gift to the wedding ceremony because the family will have to load them up and take them to the reception for you. Tape your card onto the gift so it isnâ€™t lost in the shuffle. And though the newly married couple has an obligation to send thank-you notes in a reasonable amount of time, donâ€™t be too hard on them if it takes a while. A number of people have told me they have never received a thank-you for many of the gifts they have given. With the number of showers/weddings in our congregations, it is really important for the brides to do their duty here. Gift-giving is an investment and commitment. Receiving thanks is not the motivation for giving, but it keeps the gift-givers going. They have spent time and money and effort on purchasing, wrapping, and delivering your gift. You really must say thank you in a timely way.
Dancing. If there is dancing, enjoy it. But donâ€™t use it for a time to show boat your own dancing talents or let your small children cut loose on the dance floor. This is a party for the bride and groom.
Sometimes we use the familiarity we have with one another as an excuse to overlook our responsibilities. We think, “Oh she wonâ€™t mind if I come, even though I didnâ€™t rsvp.” Or, “I wonâ€™t send a thank-you note. It takes too much time, and Iâ€™m sure they know I like the gift.” Nope. These are short cuts that end up being negligence of our God-given duties of charity toward one another.