Philip Galanes Answers Your Wedding Etiquette Questions

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Summer is wedding season, and along with celebration can come some pretty tricky situations for wedding guests and the happy couple. Philip Galanes is here to help! He's the New York Times Social Q’s columnist and author of Social Q's: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today.

Share your wedding etiquette questions!


Philip Galanes

Comments [55]

Doreen Sintich from NW Indiana

My daughter told me to be at the chapel at 2:00 to help her into her dress. That I helped her shop for and bought. We were together all morning as she was getting her hair done. I was happy to paid for her hair and nails and we discussed in detail what time everything was to happen.

I don't see her often because I don't live close by. She's in TN and I'm by Chicago. The last time we were together was in September when I treated her to a all paid for mother daughter cruise. When my husband and I visit her we stay in a hotel and pay for all the meals. We are happy to treat them when we can. Christmas she and her boyfriend were sent nice gifts and my husband and I didn't even get a card.

I waited outside the chapel until my 2:00 time. She told me she wanted time to rehears going up the aisle with her dad before I got there and I wanted to honor her wishes. I was there at 2:00, but to my surprise when I went to the bridal dressing room she was already dresses. One of the ladies that worked at the chapel told me she was very sorry that they just found out that it was just my ex-husbands girlfriend that dressed my daughter. My ex has had other live in girls and this one had lived there only for 4 to 6 months. I never went back to the bridal dressing room again. I felt that this is my daughters wedding and if she chooses to have this women take my place that is her wish. All my daughter had to do was tell her that she was waiting for her mother that would be there at 2:00. My daughter is 33 years old and not that young that she would not no better.

I paid for my half of the wedding and had one last gift to give her when I was dressing her. I wanted to take care of the something old, something new, and something blue. The dress was new, the hair clip was old. And I had taken a small picture of my blue vw convertible her wants and folded it small to fit in her shoe. The title I had in a wedding card. But that opportunity had been taken from me.

My friend say they feel this was a setup between my daughter, ex and girlfriend. My husband and I were left to feel as if we were unwanted guess and this was done to humiliate us in front of everyone. The ex's girlfriend laid all over my ex husband in front of the wedding guess and family members. None of them were related to the girlfriend. I could not have cared less but we are 60+ years old and this seemed very undignified to act like this in front of these new family's that were getting joined by marriage. This is just not the place. I dated my husband for 5 years and we have been married for 10 years, so he is not a new addition to the family. My daughter has done these things in the passed but now that she is older I thought she would grow out of this. Can you tell me what you think and what does this really mean.

Jan. 11 2014 09:15 PM
Ladybug from NJ

I agree with Lexi - Weddings have gotten out of hand. A family member had an engagement party, shower and grandiose wedding - then got divorced. Now she's getting married a 2nd time. Common sense and good manners would indicate to keep it subdued but no - this time it's grander than before and she still has the nerve to be registered online for gifts. The 1st wedding cost me a fortune and I feel it is very unfair to expect people to go thru the expense of another big event for the 2nd time around. And it's not just the younger women. A 50+ yr old friend got married, quickly divorced and remarried - both times with a wedding gown and big wedding party. It is unfortunate that there is so little consideration for others in this "me-me-me" society.
As for my family member, I won't be attending...or sending gifts or even a card.

Oct. 02 2013 03:16 PM
Lexi from Brooklyn

I don't understand when marriage became all about making people feel obligated to spend a ton of money and waste their precious free time doing wedding-related activities that no one wants to do. Does anyone really enjoy bridal showers? At this point I see them as a shameless ploy to get gifts. My husband and I got married at city hall and told everyone about it afterward because we thought they deserved to be spared the gift-giving and time-wasting obligation that is inherent in modern American weddings. Too bad that few couples realize that their 'magical day' is a pain in the ass for everyone else.

Jun. 05 2013 09:44 PM
Oala from Georgia

So I am going to this couple friends' wedding in L.A. from all the way across the country. They are friends that I known through a very good friend of mine. The girl is one of my girl friend's best friends. We are friends, and we always enjoy each other's company. However, we are not close friends. So how much should I give the couple on their wedding? I believe it is a afternoon-to-night wedding.

Jun. 05 2013 05:26 PM
Christine from Princeton

For the person looking for advice on how to enjoy the day of your wedding - I just got married two weeks ago, and we had the time of our lives. you have to learn to let go of any anxiety and getting everything right (something will always go wrong - it rained like crazy the entire day and part of our dinner was messed up) and just relax. Despite having pre-day jitters on things going perfect, I woke up really relaxed and calm I think because I was just sooo excited to marry my husband.

Try to say hi to everyone, but don't worry about having to hang out with anyone for a prolonged period of time. I hung out with all the different groups of people in our lives via the dancefloor and said hello to everyone at their tables during dinner. Put a couple of people in charge of like taking care of certain things so you don't haev to worry about it. I think we were also really excited to have everyone we really love and enjoy in one room and just had so much fun being with everyone and seeing that everyone was having a good time.

it goes by fast,just have to savor each moment. The day is about how you're joining another person and embarking on a new journey in life. Get a good night's sleep the night before too!!!!! That is probably the most important thing.

Jun. 05 2013 01:43 PM
Tish from Manhattan

I'm so glad we eloped!

Jun. 05 2013 12:52 PM

Ashley Norton from Chelsea, NYC

"My dear friend and I are planning our weddings somewhat concurrently this summer - she's looking at April 2014, and we are shooting for November 2013. She was incredibly upset when she found out that we are also considering the same venue as she is (Eleven Madison Park) and said she would not be ok if our weddings are at the same place, even though different people will be in attendance and the events are different in scope. How should I react?"

Dump her and reevaluate your criteria for "dear friends".

Jun. 05 2013 12:52 PM
Suzanne from manhattan

Re the son who complained that his parents did more for his sister's wedding, you seem to have forgotten that tradition dictated that the parents of the bride pay for the whole wedding and the most the groom's parents do is rehearsal dinner. I'm sure the son's parents never saved for a son's wedding and never expected it to be a major expense. This is an area that may need new thinking in light of same-sex marriage, but I understand the parents perfectly and I'm sure they did exactly what was expected of them had their son been the groom in a traditional wedding. We need a third protocol.

Jun. 05 2013 12:49 PM
Michele from NYC

I do not buy into this wedding tradition. I think it is very self centered of a
couple to think that people owe them their time and money just because they
decide to get married. I think the only way to throw a wedding party is to treat
all of your guests to travel, lodging, and victuals without expecting gifts in return.
Furthermore, no one should feel obliged to attend weddings.

Jun. 05 2013 12:49 PM

Meredith from Long Island City:

"What is the etiquette for inviting work colleagues? Also, my mother thinks that we should host a gathering of out of town guests the night before, however my fiance's parents cannot afford it. Can we host one where people pay for themselves?"

Why can't your mother/parents pay for it? Are you stuck in the ancient paridigm of the bride being owned by her parents and passing her on to a husband, and the wedding is part of the dowry?

No, you can't host a gathering where people pay for themselves. That is not a party, it's a commercial event. What ever happened to inviting people over to someone's house (except of course in the case of New York apartments, with tiny spaces and no back yard for a barbeque).

Jun. 05 2013 12:48 PM
Andrea from Philadelphia

For the woman whose daughter wants to invite relatives to her wedding that her immediate family has been on the outs with for 7 years: this happened in my family. My father and his sisters stopped speaking after their mother died. Almost 10 years had passed when my cousin invited all of us to his wedding. We went and my father and sisters mended fences and re-established a relationship.

Jun. 05 2013 12:46 PM

I really enjoy Philip Galanes's Social Qs column. His responses nearly always seem wise and thoughtful (generally some version of expressing sympathy for and understanding of the letter writer, and suggestion that the writer take the kinder, more generous line of action).

Jun. 05 2013 12:44 PM

siahro: For me it was more what was said.

Jun. 05 2013 12:41 PM
Fran from New York, NY

About the plus one: If you could afford it, my dad gave me good advice...he advised to invite my friends with a plus one because it means more people on the dance floor. Especially for friends who don't know anyone else, they're more likely to dance if they have a partner there that they know. :)

Jun. 05 2013 12:38 PM

mary said:

"Not sure woman should cook up a story when she can't attend wedding because of expense. Why not just tell the truth?"

Absolutely. I'm surprised an etiquette guy would recomend lying. He's wrong. I learned this from Miss Manners - you simply say you will not be able to attend. No details, no excuses necessary. And if they ask, they are being rude.

Jun. 05 2013 12:38 PM
louisa waber from east village

my mother co-opted my wedding. my husband and i thought we'd get married by a rabbi, with only our immediate family in attendance. then spend a few weeks in europe. but suddenly it became about accomodating my mother's fantasy about for our wedding, her family, her friends, at a fancy reception establishment. i'm still sorry i allowed this . the marriage has been fine though.

Jun. 05 2013 12:35 PM
Maryanne from New York, NY

A friend of my fiance's is not an easy person to get along with. I'm unhappy he's coming to our wedding, but that's water under the bridge! We are now stuck between two choices: seating him with peers with whom he may fight (open bar) - or sticking him in the corner with distant relatives & likely feeling shunned. I'm leaning towards the corner option.... what's the best move?

Jun. 05 2013 12:34 PM
maria from stony brook, ny

Just got back from a backyard wedding in Maryland countryside. The bride and groom wanted a small wedding but there were 120 guests. Catered by a local restaurant, 3 waiters, bartender, and a tent with tables and chairs. Buffet of seafood on one side and ham biscuits and beef tenderloin (made by her father who loves to cook) on other side, it was delectable. One of the best weddings I've been too. No one overstayed, no drunks, just lots of fun. Groom's grandfather officiated and bride wore her aunt's dress. Her father (my brother-in-law) told me it was less than $10,000. Granted they had a nice back yard in the country (a development outside of DC).

Jun. 05 2013 12:34 PM
brooke from nyc

We are paying for our own wedding but at least one parent is insisting on paying for the rehearsal dinner but not all want to. What do we do?

Jun. 05 2013 12:34 PM
lolly from williamsburg brooklyn

I have a question about asking people to travel for my own wedding.
We have people to invite from South Carolina, Philadelpia and ny.
We'll be married abotu 2 hours from ny. I need help getting through my guilt over asking people to join me where my fiance and I want to be married.
Any advise would be great!

Thank you!


Jun. 05 2013 12:33 PM
Doug from NYC

A quick note for what my wife and i did with our 'thank you cards.'
We left for our hunnymoon directly after our wedding. We had just gone through a year of peoples weddings where we didnt see a thank you card for months on end so we decided to take one morning of our trip, buy nice post cards, write out everyones thank yous and send them from Bali. Everyone loved that we cared enough to think of them during our hunnymoon and it took very little time to do it.
Highly recommend!

Jun. 05 2013 12:32 PM

How about single friends bringing a "guest"? I'm getting married, and I have alot of friends who aren't married and aren't in serious relationships. If they all bring guests, it will double my guest list full of people I don't even know.

Jun. 05 2013 12:31 PM
lucy from Santa Monica

we are having an immediate family only wedding. How would you announce that to your friends?

Jun. 05 2013 12:31 PM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

This episode sounds like weddings for the privileged and the privileged wannabes
A year honeymoon?

Jun. 05 2013 12:29 PM
Meredith from Long Island City

What is the etiquette for inviting work colleagues? Also, my mother thinks that we should host a gathering of out of town guests the night before, however my fiance's parents cannot afford it. Can we host one where people pay for themselves?

Jun. 05 2013 12:27 PM
Ashley Norton from Chelsea, NYC

My dear friend and I are planning our weddings somewhat concurrently this summer - she's looking at April 2014, and we are shooting for November 2013. She was incredibly upset when she found out that we are also considering the same venue as she is (Eleven Madison Park) and said she would not be ok if our weddings are at the same place, even though different people will be in attendance and the events are different in scope. How should I react?

Jun. 05 2013 12:26 PM

Not sure woman should cook up a story when she can't attend wedding because of expense. Why not just tell the truth ?

Jun. 05 2013 12:24 PM
rj from prospect hts

I think presents are a matwter of finding something to honor and recognize the people of the couple, so whenever it comes, it should be welcomed. My question is: why disrespect the giver/present when it arrives ... whenever? a year later shouldn't be dissed if it's given in true love.

I would not recommend that the woman lie to her stepfather and stepbrother--those kinds of lies are difficult to remember and maintain and unworthy. The warm, heartfelt note is appropriate, about how happy she is for them and hopes for their future etc., but, sadly, she won't be able to make it. Period. Explanation not needed. Pressure may ensue, but staying with her need is more important, so variations on, I'm really sorry, but it's not possible ... without details, is fine. Defending herself should not be necessary, especially with lies that diminish her and, from her response, make her uncomfortable.

Jun. 05 2013 12:24 PM
Mollie from Brooklyn

Why do I have to buy a wedding present AND a bridal shower gift off the registry? Suddenly, every wedding you have to go to as a woman (if you're a friend of the bride) requires you to buy twice as many gifts as everyone else. I thought showers were supposed to be small, personal gifts specifically for the bride. Now, I'm directed to the registry for the shower as well as for the wedding. It's extremely obnoxious.

Jun. 05 2013 12:24 PM

Kat - I don't think that is rude at all. Expecting people to pay to hundreds of dollars on travel and accommodations and then expecting a gift is actually the rude part...

I feel like people are so entitled nowadays just for simply getting married.

Jun. 05 2013 12:24 PM
Cara from LES

Please discuss what an appropriate wedding gift amount would be. I have heard you're expected to "pay for your plate" the past it has caused me a great deal of anxiety. I don't make a lot of money but I don't want to come off as cheap. Are there any guidelines?

Jun. 05 2013 12:23 PM

If you don't go to a wedding do you have to send a gift?

Jun. 05 2013 12:22 PM
Kat Dugan from nyc

My child was married out of state. It did entail that people travel by plane. I understand that it was a great expense. However, before the event my "in-law" told me that his presence was my child's present. Rude or what?

Jun. 05 2013 12:20 PM
Mike from Forest Hills

When the couple requests "No Gifts", they mean it! We were suprised and shocked that some guest arrived to the wedding with gifts, thus disappointing us and creating confusion for the guests who respected our wishes.

Jun. 05 2013 12:20 PM
Linda from LES

I gave a donation the charity that the bride and groom listed on their registry. The digital registry at Amazon failed to note it and they were not informed. How do you politely tell someone you gave them a present?

Jun. 05 2013 12:19 PM
Fifi from Texas

I received an invitation that stated "no box gifts please." Apparently they want money - isn't this incredibly rude???

Jun. 05 2013 12:19 PM
Sandra Jordan

The bride who wants to dictate how the names should appear should get over herself. Actually, if I were the groom I'd look twice at a woman who is willing to say my mother should use a married name on an invitation when she doesn't use it in life. There is trouble in store making a life relationship with a personality like this. Run now.

Jun. 05 2013 12:17 PM
Margaret M. from Brooklyn, NY

Do you have any advice for the actual wedding day? Everyone says to enjoy it, since it goes by so fast. But how can you make the most of the day?

Jun. 05 2013 12:15 PM
Patti from NJ

When my only sibling was married he and his wife had all of her siblings in the wedding party (4 siblings) plus her friend and her friend's husband. I was excluded. To this day I am hurt. Silly?

Jun. 05 2013 12:15 PM
Sara from Bushwick

To Dan,
One of the best and most fun weddings I ever attended was a backyard potluck - go for it!

Jun. 05 2013 12:14 PM

Does one need to bring a gift to a wedding where both the bride and groom are getting married for the third time? He is in his mid-sixties and she in her mid-fifties.

Jun. 05 2013 12:12 PM
Julie from Long island

Many of our guest did not make out wedding due to the hurricane. Should they have sent us a gift?

Jun. 05 2013 12:11 PM
BOB from bronx

if you are having a separate ceremony and party many hours apart, with additional guests invited to the party only, when is an appropriate time to send out the party invite to the additional guests? 2 weeks? 3 weeks? 4 weeks? those invited to both will receive save the dates and invites 2 months prior.

Jun. 05 2013 12:05 PM
Luisa from Washington Heights

Hi, I'm Luisa, from Washington Heights.

My wedding in August 31st.

I have an alcoholic and apparently psychotic aunt.

She answered the "save the date" email with a lengthy rant, offending myself and everyone in my family. It's not the first incident of this kind.

She apologized but of course I don't want her to go. Problem is she's married to my dad's brother who is playing it down. I thought she would have the grace of not going, but she just booked a room to go.

Now we're all scared of her antics. It's a 5-hour open bar after all! We even considered hiring a nurse to keep an eye on her.

What should I do?

Jun. 05 2013 11:59 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Most men hate the wedding planning part of the wedding, but will complain bitterly if there's something at the wedding that they hate (wrong cake flavor, table flowers that cause allergic reactions, dislike dishes on registry, etc.). How do we get the men to participate in the planning without having to drag them around?

Jun. 05 2013 11:03 AM
laura friedman

When most friends of parents and family are traveling long distance for a wedding (we are New Yorkers and most of our friends and family are coming from east coast ,daughter lives and is getting married in San Francisco), what is the proper etiquette on how much the out of towners should be "entertained" outside of the wedding. Rehearsal/out of towners dinner? brunch day after wedding, arrange tours, etc.

Jun. 05 2013 10:11 AM
Mary from Toms River NJ

Thanks for verifying we did the 'right thing'! My husband and I were not invited to the wedding of the sister of our daughter-in-law. Our son had told us when she became engaged that we would not be invited due to 'attendance limits'. We still sent an engagement gift. We also sent bride a wedding gift and best wishes for a happy day. No, we were not invited to the wedding (that had an attendance of about 200!), but at least I felt better in taking the 'high ground'; not getting an invtation was clearly 'not our problem', but the hosts ingnorance. You confirmed this last Sunday in your column. Thanks! Made me feel especially happy.

Jun. 05 2013 09:10 AM
Christine from Westchester

I've too often seen a church with about half the guests attending the real wedding but then the others (who didn't attend the wedding) all show up in time for the reception. That cannot be the right ettiquette. Isn't it unacceptable to blow off the actual ceremony only to arrive for the party?

Jun. 05 2013 08:42 AM
Tino from Queens NY

I am a wedding photographer at Tino Photography and Video. I think the brides should not try to managed everything in an attempt to make things go as smooth as possible. It never does.

The brides should also dedicate a reasonable amount of time to get formal shots. Photography is not easy. A good picture requires time and lots of planning.

Jun. 05 2013 12:11 AM
Beth from NYC

My son is getting married and we are co-hosting the wedding with the bride's parents. Since I have never referred to myself (in print or otherwise) as "Mrs. Insert Husband's Name Here" we have requested that our first and last names appear on the invitation. This request has been met with much opposition from the bride, even though her parents like the idea as well. Since it's the hosts who actually invite the guests, shouldn't their names appear the way they would like them? FYI, we have fairly commonplace names in case you were wondering.

Jun. 04 2013 07:36 PM
themrs from Brooklyn

The ex question: My understanding is that exes are generally not invited to the wedding because it creates an awkward social situation for the guests, especially family. What do we say to my fiance's ex who wants to be invited (with her new boyfriend) even though she informs us in advance that she will "politely decline" the invitation?

Jun. 04 2013 07:20 PM

What happens (or should happen) to wedding gifts when the marriage lasts a mere matter of weeks or months? This just happened at a wedding I went to, and I feel like I was cheated out of a day and a gift...

Jun. 04 2013 09:27 AM
Rhoda from Upper East Side

No one would send a birthday gift six months late. Where did the idea that sending a wedding present up to a year after the marriage is acceptable?

Jun. 04 2013 06:45 AM

When the invites says "Please no gifts, we just want your company" REALLY mean no gifts?

I'm inclined to take them for their word, but have heard whispers from the bridal party that they are still accepting gifts...

Jun. 03 2013 03:35 PM
Marlene Stewart from montgomery center, vermont

Two things I encounter a lot at weddings!

1) Its so nice you brought your father with you as your date! *my partner is 17 years older than me.
It seems like mostly older women make this "mistake." I'm a young 39, by the way.

2)So, when are you guys going to finally tie the knot?

Jun. 03 2013 03:11 PM

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