Wedding etiquette emergencies answered (reprint)

By request, Mannersmith is happy to re-post a series of wedding articles written in 2006.

Size Does Matter

Dear Ms. Smith,
When my boyfriend asked me to marry him, he did not present a ring. He told me he wanted my input for the perfect engagement ring. We planned a special trip, and went to look at rings. We both agreed on the setting, but when it came to the diamond, the problems began. He specifically asked me which one I liked best. But then he proceeded to purchase a slightly smaller one. I am hurt that he asked for my opinion and then, while I was sitting right there, did something else. How should this have been handled?

Dear He Doesn't Listen,
It was very thoughtful of your boyfriend to want to include you in the selection process. And it was very nice of him to ask your opinion. Where he went drastically wrong was to proceed with the purchase in your presence. What was actually a shopping trip should have been a browsing trip. While browsing, he should have asked a series of questions; "Honey, what do you think of this one?" "What about this setting?" and "Sweetie, will you try this one?" Then, the browsing trip should have concluded with a lovely and romantic lunch. At some later point in time, your fiancé should have returned to purchase a stone and setting that is both to your liking as well as in his price range. Once the ring was purchased, it should be given along with a life-long promise of love. You asked how this should have been handled, which I have answered. What you did not ask was where to go from here. My suggestion is to talk to your fiancé about the bigger issue. No, not the stone, the fact that you are feeling like your opinion does not matter. Clear the air, keep the ring and enjoy planning your lives together.

But It's My Name

Dear Ms. Smith,
I am 27 years old, have a graduate degree and am established in my profession. My fiancé and I have discussed the whole last name thing. I have, with my fiancé's blessing, decided to keep my last name. How do we let people know?

Dear Keeping It,
There is a wonderful old convention known as an "At Home" card. This card is included in the wedding announcement, or may be included in the wedding invitation. The At Home card includes both of your names, your address, your phone number, and when you expect to return from your honeymoon. You can learn more about the proper wording for your names as well as the ordering of At Home cards where you purchase your invitations.

Presents for Everyone

Dear Ms. Smith,
At our last family gathering, my great aunt was wearing a beautiful brooch. When I complimented her on the piece, she told me her son and daughter-in-law had presented it to her on the occasion of their wedding. I had never heard of this practice. Is it proper for brides and grooms to give gifts to their parents for a wedding?

Dear Gift Giver,
As with any present, gifts for your parents are a lovely tradition, but not an obligation. If you are so inclined, I would strongly encourage you to do so. Whether it be as a thank you for hosting the wedding or a thank you for doing such a wonderful job raising you, a thoughtful gift is always a welcome gesture. The present may range from something small, such as a framed picture from the wedding, to something grandiose, such as fine jewelry.

We're Making A List

Dear Ms. Smith,
My fiancé and I have registered at three different stores. Each store gave us little cards to include in the invitations. My mother and I have gotten in a huge fight about whether or not it is proper to include the little cards or not. I say why would the store give them to you otherwise. My mother says if someone wants to buy a gift off the registry, they will call to ask what stores we have chosen. The invitations need to go out soon. Please help settle this matter.

Dear Shopper,
First, I highly recommend you call your mother immediately to apologize for your behavior. The fact that you thought a retail store would have your best interest at heart, but not your mother, is just horrid. The store's objective is to make money. Please keep that in mind. Your mother's objective is to raise a well-mannered daughter. Your mother is correct. The little cards from the store remain on her writing desk until a guest calls to inquire where you are registered. Then, and only then, will your mother share the information with the guest.

Picking Up The Tab

Dear Ms. Smith,
I am about to marry the man of my dreams. And I am fortunate in that I am getting great in-laws as part of the deal. My question is about who pays for what. My parents are well to do. We are planning an elaborate and elegant wedding. My fiancé's parents would very much like to pay for part of the wedding, but have rather limited means. There is no part of the wedding that they would be able to pay for that would also be within their budget. My fiancé and I have discussed this at length and want to make sure his parents feel a part of the wedding. What should we do?

Dear Parental Planning,
It warms my heart to have such a thoughtful couple write. There are many aspects of the wedding celebration which your fiancé's parents could host. Traditionally, the groom's parents host the rehearsal dinner. With careful planning of the menu and the guest list, this dinner could be well within your future in-law's means. Other ideas would be to have them host a hospitality suite at the hotel where most of the guests are staying. Or, they could host a good-bye brunch the day after the wedding. Once you and your fiancé discuss some of these possibilities, you can then approach his parents.

Very Special Vows

Dear Ms. Smith,
As part of our wedding ceremony, I would like to exchange personal vows in addition to the tradition wedding vows. I have been dreaming about my wedding since I was a little girl, and that has always included personal vows. My husband is rather shy and is nervous enough about having to say "I do" in front of all of our family and friends. I want us to start our lives together off right, what should we do?

Dear Dreaming,
Well, actually, you have a number of choices. The first is not to exchange any personal vows. But this would fall short of your ideal wedding. The second would be to insist your future husband also exchange vows at the altar. But this may cause him undue stress and anxiety during the wedding. The third would be for you, quietly to turn to him and softly whisper your vows to him while he gazed into your eyes. This would allow you to say what is in your heart, without putting your fiancé on the spot. And since you are speaking softly, you guests will never know who said what. The most important thing is for both you and your future husband to feel comfortable with the ceremony you two have planned. (Be sure to let the officiant know what vows you are planning so they can include a time for vows during the ceremony.)

Toasts vs. Drinking

Dear Ms. Smith,
Please help, my finance says when people toast us at our wedding it would be rude not to drink. I say we raise our glasses, but do not drink. Who is right?

Dear Tricky Toasts,
Actually, you are both incorrect. When someone makes a toast in your honor, you should look at him or her, nod appreciatively, and thank him or her when they are through. You should not hold, nor drink from your glass. Doing so would suggest that you concur with the praise they are bestowing on you. Though you are the guests of honor, it is better to remain humble.

And They're Off

Dear Ms. Smith,
In my parent's day, after the wedding cake, the bride and groom would change into their traveling clothes and leave for their honeymoon. Nowadays it seems that wedding festivities have extended into a full weekend of activities. My fiancé and I are beginning to discuss where we should go for our honeymoon. We need to know when we should book our travel reservations. We do not want to be rude, but we would like to begin our honeymoon as soon as possible. What is appropriate?

Dear Honeymooner,
According to the old etiquette books, the bride and groom may leave the reception after the cutting of the cake. This is considered perfectly acceptable. However, as you have noticed, nowadays wedding festivities have extended beyond the actual wedding. With friends and family traveling from near and far to attend weddings, more time is being spent enjoying each other's company. So, while you can exit after the cake, if your guests have gone to great effort and expense to attend an event in your honor, you may want to consider waiting until the next day before leaving on your honeymoon.

Advice for Planning a Perfect Wedding

Dear Ms. Smith,
Many of my friends are already married. I have received more than my fair share of advice from them on how to make my wedding "perfect." One said the band had to be the best. Another told me if the food had to be plentiful and gourmet. Another told me it is all in the seating arrangements. My head is spinning. I want a memorable wedding, what should I do?

Dear Planning,
My advice to you is easy and it is free. You want to set the right tone for your wedding. The music, the food, and the seating can all help, but there is one thing that always sets the right mood. After you and your fiancé kiss and you turn to walk back down the aisle, look at each other, smile and then smile the whole way down the aisle. The guests will take their cue from you. If you and your groom are so happy you are beaming, the guest will be happy and ready to help you celebrate. Believe it or not, this makes the difference between on OK wedding and a great wedding.