A Wedding Invitation is a Beautiful Thing

Here is a little wedding etiquette blurb I wrote a while back for our church email list. And since it’s almost June and all, I thought I may as well post it up here.

With quite a few weddings filling up the calendar over the next several months, it’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 groom’s families are spending a good amount of time on the guest list. Due to facilities with limited seating, as well as limited budgets, it’s simply impossible for the parents to invite everyone in our Christian community, even if they feel that everyone is near and dear. So don’t take it personally if you are not invited. Don’t ask the bride or groom if you can come……and don’t just assume you can go if you didn’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 isn’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. Don’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 don’t be offended if your children are not included. It doesn’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 don’t have to call the bride to ask.

And speaking of what time to ARRIVE………..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 to be 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. Don’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. Don’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 bride’s home before the wedding (or of course at the shower, etc.) or you can bring it to the reception. It’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 isn’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, don’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 don’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 won’t mind if I come, even though I didn’t rsvp.” Or, “I won’t send a thank-you note. It takes too much time, and I’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.

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9 thoughts on “A Wedding Invitation is a Beautiful Thing

  1. What a great reminder for everyone during wedding season. Sure wish this helpful PSA had been broadcast before our wedding 4 years ago! Ah Seattle, land of the non-RSVPing, guest-bringing, jeans-clad wedding guests…

  2. What a wonderful post! I have a daughter getting married this summer, and you summed it up perfectly. We can’t invite everyone, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t love them. Thanks!

  3. Thanks much for this thoughtful, gracious, and to-the-point reminder of wedding etiquitte. My question: Just how many gifts is one obligated to give? It’s not that we don’t want to bless brides (and their grooms) with help in setting up their households, but where does one draw the line? Some of the brides in our covenant community have numerous showers (friend shower, church shower, “private” shower (read: unmentionables), and then there’s the wedding gift. Your advice please?

  4. Amen, and Amen!

    The hardest part of my past life as a wedding consultant was smoothing over the lack of protocol shown by the various parties involved, from the parents, bride and goorm, to the guests and even the vendors.

    Looking forward to the Perfect Wedding in Heaven!

  5. This advice doesn’t belong on Femina. It belongs on CNN! The front page of the New York Times!

    Lisa, Nancy’s advice will likely be better than mine, but here’s my take: unless you are a very, very close friend of the bride, choose the shower that most reflects your relationship with her, and decline invitations to all the others, obviously except for the wedding. If you’re a close friend, do the friend shower. If you are sort of a friend but mostly know her from church, do the church shower. (I have no idea what to do about the private shower, but at least people have the sense to make it private. I’ve been at some church showers where some such gifts were given, and I had no idea that such would be going on when I brought my very young daughters.) If you are a very, very close friend, just bring a small gift to each one, or go in on group gifts.

  6. Pentamom and Lisa,
    Yes, I agree. If I give a shower gift, then I usually do not give a wedding gift also, unless it is someone very near and dear.

  7. Wonderful wedding exhortation for the saints! Beautifully written, Nancy. Thank you 🙂

  8. Thank you for this post! In such a lovely,gentle way you have reminded us of all of the opportunities that summer (any time) weddings bring us to show each other love via common courtesies.

    As a past wedding planner, I have had the opportunity of witnessing many-a-marriage, and I so appreciate the spiritual beauty of Christ’s church walking toward Christ….and how we shouldn’t take this lightly but celebrate it for the beauty that it is…and all that it entails!

    Again, what a lovely reminder! Thanks!
    (Eric and Mary Stoer’s daughter)

  9. Mrs. Wilson, is it appropriate to apply this sort of etiquette to bridal and baby showers? (ie. if ladies only are invited, or 16/18 and up) I am specifically asking about invitations – is it rude not to include every lady’s daughters? We still do enjoy the traditional sit-down, play games and watch the gift opening a+nd there are gracious ladies who open their spacious homes to us. However, there are frequently 20 or more ladies attending – and we are running into having offended some because we don’t include their daughter(s) (whether 5 years old or 15) in the invitation. If we included all daughters, it could quickly become a crowd of 40+. I know this is specific, but I have run into this many times in the last 3 years (since my own first bridal shower), whether as a grateful recipient of the shower-throwing, the hostess herself, or just an attendee.

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