Scroll through Reddit’s r/AmItheAsshole for approximately two seconds, and you’ll discover the power of weddings to tear relationships apart. Wedding planning was fraught territory before the pandemic, and the added layer of safety protocols have only made things more tense for many betrothed. While researching this article, for instance, I spoke with a friend of a friend whose destination wedding (already a controversial move) has led to some major conflict with unvaccinated family members who likely cannot travel internationally to attend. Like I said: tense!
When you’re planning your special day, what should you keep in mind to avoid inconveniencing all your guests a million different ways? Is it possible to have your wedding cake and eat it, too? For context: I’m somewhat between worlds when it comes to wedding philosophies. My former classmates from Virginia are tying the knot in Pinterest-worthy extravaganzas, while my friends in Brooklyn refuse to put a label on a years-long dating-not-dating “thing.” To research the current state of wedding etiquette, I turned to Reddit, Twitter, and primarily my good friend Britt who threw an incredible crowd-pleaser wedding last summer.
Here’s how you can have the wedding of your dreams that isn’t at the expense of the people who care about you.
Make a wedding website
My mum is throwing her second wedding this summer, and her “save the date” letter came in the mail with a QR code that led to a website full of information about the day. Similarly, my friend Britt (of aforementioned wedding-success fame) says this is her number one tip for anyone organising a wedding these days because it’s the easiest way to answer any questions or concerns your guests may have.
Britt’s approach was to create a site “so thorough that no one would ever need to ask a question.” This included pages about dress code, gifts, and every lodging option within a 48 km radius of the venue.
Prioritise your guests’ hierarchy needs
You know Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? If you look closely, you’ll see that “enough food and drink” is always going to be more important than “floral arrangements.”
No one will appreciate the beauty of your venue if you haven’t ensured that they have comfortable seating, or if the venue is too hot or too cold, or if there isn’t a single vegetarian option. Ensure a good time by prioritising the basics before you start sweating over design details.
Short ceremony, long reception
Enough said. Of course, the length of the wedding ceremony may depend on your religion or culture. However, if you’re focused on the guest experience, try to keep the ceremony efficient so everyone can start celebrating at the reception ASAP.
Your guests will no doubt be moved to tears by your vows, but let them cry it out over a glass of wine while a cover band performs their rendition of “Brown Eyed Girl.”
Put yourself in your guests’ shoes (literally)
Consider taking a relaxed approach to dress code. This can reap rewards in terms of expenses, gender expression, and general physical comfort.
One of my Twitter mutuals Adam Campbell-Schmitt (@adamcswrites) told me that instead of requiring the bridal party to buy specific dresses, they provided a general colour scheme for everyone’s outfits. “There were no sex-based dress or suit requirements (my sister wore pants). The idea was people could wear something they felt comfortable in (and would wear again).”
Similarly, Britt provided a basket of free flip-flops in case people wanted to change out of their heels to hit the dance floor. She says “you want people to feel like you’re taking care of them.”
Consider when and where you’re having the wedding
We’re entering tricky, undisputed territory when it comes to the physical time and place of the wedding. Is it selfish to throw a wedding on a holiday? Are destination weddings romantic, or a total time and money suck? I don’t have the answers, so my advice here is to again put yourself in your guests’ shoes and wrap your head around the grand total of what you’re asking.
Add up all the details of your guest’s experience. If your venue is a mile or two from the nearest airport, you’ll need to consider the time and money costs of transportation. Britt brings up the fact that although a Friday wedding is cheaper than a Saturday, you’re requiring people to take a day or two off work. She mentions that a Sunday wedding is similarly priced to a Friday, but then people might not party as hard as you’d like.
Visualise the event as an attendee, start to finish, and try to look at the sum of all its parts. Then determine whether you’re pushing the limits of what you’re asking of your guests.
Make your expectations clear
Communication is key, unless you want passive aggressive rumbling about your special day. What is the dress code? Are you expecting gifts at your engagement party, bachelorette party, and reception? (Eek.) Can I bring my seven-year-old child?
Avoid confusion by laying out your expectations as clearly as possible. This means setting up a gift registry, having a clear child policy, and communicating all other details that you don’t want up to interpretation. In a dream world, your expectations are reasonable, and so are your guests.
Set clear COVID protocols
Similar to the above advice, but with extra emphasis on pandemic safety guidelines. Britt’s biggest challenges in planning her wedding were emblematic of the biggest challenges facing all of us the last few years: (1) COVID-19 and (2) loved ones with, well, different political views. Now, the ambiguous “end-but-not-totally-the-end” of the pandemic brings with it a new murkiness to the already murky territory of wedding etiquette.
Minimise conflict with clarity. Add a section to your website about testing sites, vaccine requirements, and all other safety measures.
Think like a host, not like a star
Most wedding horror stories boil down to someone’s unreasonable expectations. Somewhere along the line it became socially acceptable to turn a wedding into a day where you make your friends jump through financial, geographical, and emotional hoops for you. Smarter people than me have mused about why this is. For now, think about it like this: The best weddings feel like a celebration, not a one-person show.
At the end of the day, the whole reason your guests are turning out is to celebrate your love. Don’t lose the forest (your marriage) for the trees (your wedding day).