Monday, March 28, 2011

Will the Wedding Police Come After Me?

Through the course of planning for my daughter's wedding, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about today's prevailing American wedding etiquette. Or should I say, some people's (or region of the country, or age group's) idea of wedding etiquette. At first I was highly intimidated and sought to follow down to the letter all the "rules" as I read them on the Internet on The Knot or, or in the wedding planning advice books I was using (such as the Emily Post guide for the Mother of the Bride.)

But I eventually learned, that believe it or not, every bride's situation is different (as is her family.) And I have discovered that hard and fast rules for brides in some regions of the country are not so important in other regions. (Obviously there are differences, too, in wedding customs of different countries and faith groups, but I am just focusing here on the current prevailing American wedding etiquette.)

The major American bridal magazines are published, as most magazines are, in New York or Chicago. Their staffers are mostly 20 to 30-somethings. Obviously, there is also a great concentration of the American population living in Northern regions of this country. So my humble opinion is that the regional customs of the younger generation of the Northern part of the U.S. are what's most commonly portrayed in America as Modern Wedding Etiquette. (or MWE as I will call it from now on!)

The MWE ideas seem rather inflexible. What the young, hip, Northeast Media complex dictates is RIGHT, and everyone else must be WRONG. I currently live and am a native of Texas, with a Southern family tradition on both mine and my husband's side, so consequently many of our planning ideas have come into conflict with MWE. Because I have lived (happily I might add) in both the North and the South, perhaps I have a unique perspective and understanding of both "cultures." I have been fascinated to observe and analyze some of these differences.

What types of things am I talking about? For one example, it seems the idea of getting married in a church is turning into mostly a Southern thing. Other parts of the country seem to be opting for the all-in-one public venue. (Actually, now that I've been exposed to some of the logistics of wedding planning, I can definitely see the advantages of that!) I think some of the secular wedding trend may also reflect the influence of the younger generation -- they just don't have the church ties as in previous generations.

The serving of alcohol at weddings is a prime example of the cultural difference. In the Northeast, there had better be plenty of it, and no Cash Bar, either, thank you very much! In the South, a number of Protestant families still frown upon alcohol being served at the reception at all. (My husband and I are not total teetotalers, but my daugher and her fiance opted for a dry reception of their own accord and we respect that.)

I think the dancing ban was the first to go in the Bible Belt. What was frowned upon in Baptist circles in the South even 20 years ago, is now widely accepted at wedding receptions (just not on church property!) My daughter is getting married in a Baptist church, but then we are moving to a hotel ballroom so that she can have the DJ and dancing she requested.

I think the traditional church basement reception of cake, punch and mixed nuts may be almost a thing of the past too, except perhaps in some small towns with not many other options for a reception venue. (A church hall might be the biggest building in town!) Again, the youth culture is coming in to play here, too -- that kind of reception could honestly be pretty boring!

Another example of MWE involves the wedding invitations. Most wedding advice I've seen says it is not appropriate to put Gift Registry information anywhere on the printed materials. Even for Bridal Showers, it not considered polite to put that information on the invite itself, although they grudgingly give the OK to have a SEPARATE sheet of paper inserted with that info on it. Hello?!!...isn't that the purpose of a Bridal Shower, to "shower the couple with gifts?" And why waste another sheet of paper (and the tree it came from?) I just don't get that at all. Personally, we had no problem in just listing right on the shower invitation where the couple is registered.

Well, the Wedding Police say, the proper thing to do is for guests to just ask the bride's mother where the couple is registered! Well, in our case nearly 2/3 of the guests are college students in another town who don't know me from Adam. That rule, I think, is from bygone days when a bride gets married in the same town the family has lived in for generations, and everyone knows everybody. What we opted for is to list the couple's wedding website (powered by on an insert to the wedding invitation packet. From there, those of her generation can find out what the registries are. Those of my generation who are not computer-savvy (and who likely are relatives or family friends) will likely ask me or the groom's mother. (Naturally, I have read some opinions from some MWE purists that listing the website is viewed as a sneaky, back-handed way to give out the registry info in the invitation and it is frowned upon too. I say to that, "Take a Chill Pill!")

And then there is MWE's opinion on the Bridal Shower guest list. The Grand-Daddy Rule of them all is what I have come to call THE RULE! "It is terribly rude to invite someone to a bridal shower who is not also invited to the wedding!" OMG - I cannot believe the heated arguments and soapbox speeches some people have gone into about THE RULE on the wedding websites and message boards. Lets just say the majority of people are quite passionate about THE RULE! The gyst of the rule is this: If someone goes to the trouble and expense of buying a bridal shower gift, they should be rewarded with a wedding reception invite. Or to put it another way, they look on it as "I'm not good enough to get invited to your wedding and reception, but you still want me to buy you a shower gift? No Way!" Currently the only "acceptable" exception to THE RULE that most everyone agrees on is the Office Shower.

We had to cross this bridge in our own experience -- some of my friends from church graciously offered to give a shower for my daughter, so the question arose -- do I follow THE RULE and invite everyone who attends the shower to the wedding? This would be almost impossible, given our miniscule number of guest slots left over after the couple's friends and our families were invited! And since the wedding is not being held at our church or even in the same town, what is the likelihood that these people would even come to the wedding if they were invited?

So I started to analyze, where does THE RULE come from in the first place? In my opinion, the opposing views on THE RULE can be divided straight down the North/South line, and also reflects the younger generation's "What's in it for me?" attitude.

In my mind, what a typical Northern wedding looks like is a fairly large affair in a nice public venue, features an open bar, with usually a sit-down dinner or at least a nice buffet meal, and a band or DJ for dancing. A wedding invitation in the North is understandably a coveted thing -- it's a "free" night out including drinks, a nice meal and entertainment!

Conversely, up until recently, as I alluded to earlier, the typical Southern wedding reception was a more no-frills, cozy, intimate affair in the church basement or someone's home or backyard, with minimum refreshments served, and certainly no alcohol or dancing involved. There was usually an open invitation extended to all the "church family". So, in the South, the Bridal Shower was something given by the older church ladies for the bride; and it was understood that anyone in the church is welcome to come. If they don't get an invite to the wedding, it was no big deal --because the wedding reception itself was not that big a deal either. The church ladies just enjoyed coming to the shower for the fun and fellowship of being with other women, and to start the young couple off right with things needed for their new household. (Besides, sometimes the munchies were even better at the shower!)

When I mentioned my concerns about THE RULE to the church shower hostesses, who were also from the South and from my generation, they seemed to have no problem with the idea that not all of them would get wedding invites, and they thought my concern was kind of silly. But when I asked some of my Northern friends' opinions, they advised me not to go through with it. They wondered if we could just squeeze a few more people on the wedding guest list, or just somehow limit the shower guest list to invited wedding guests only? Or could we maybe host an after-wedding party for the couple at our church, to which the shower guests would be invited?

You see what I mean? It just boils down to a cultural and generational thing, going by what has been their experience with weddings in the past. We opted to go ahead with the "open" shower guest list, but I did give a heads up to the hostesses that not all guests would be invited to the wedding, and if they were OK with that and the guests were OK with that, well then, let's have us a Shower! We had a fine turnout. My daughter had a great time. The wedding invitations had already gone out before the bridal shower invitations did, so I figured if anyone had a problem with THE RULE they would just opt to stay home, and that was fine, too.

My take on this now is that MWE is slowly evolving into what it should be -- a more fluid set of "guidelines" rather than hard and fast rules. I am breaking some of the rules of MWE, and have even broken THE RULE, but I have relaxed because the Wedding Police are NOT going to come after me! The important thing is -- what works best for the couple, their situation, and what works best for their families who are along for the ride!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Time for DIY!

DIY = "Do It Yourself". When it comes to home-made, hand-crafted items, I am definitely no Martha Stewart. This is definitely out of my comfort zone, and I think my daughter is in the same boat. I had not planned on us doing a lot of D-I-Y projects for this wedding, but plans just sometimes take a turn in ways you don't expect.

My frugal daughter had already decided that to her groom and her, who are not big cake fans, modern wedding cakes (although beautiful) are an overpriced addition to the wedding reception. They decided to go with cupcakes, only to subsequently find out our small-town baker does not supply her own cupcake display stands and that we would need to supply these. And we are not talking the little wire cupcake racks that hold maybe 12. We are talking a stand that will hold 200-300 cupcakes. Our venue people did not seem to have anything that would work, nor did the local party rental places. Cha-Ching!!! There goes our savings to the bottom line of the cake budget.

After a quick Internet search, we found that glass or even heavy-duty plastic cupcake display stands are quite pricey. So, despite the Father of the Bride's misgivings that they look too "cheap", we have decided to use disposable, heavy duty cardboard cupcake stands, or "trees" for both our reception cupcake and cake ball displays. (The cake balls are being graciously made for us by a friend of my daughter's as a wedding gift to the couple, and they will be taking the place of the traditional southern "groom's cake" at the reception.) I ordered a large square tree (for the cupcakes) and a small round tree (for the cake balls) online from ttp:// They arrived very quickly--and they arrived unassembled. The idea is then to custom decorate them any way you like. There are decorating how-tos on the website.

There were also instructions included in the cartons for assembling these trees, but I am so challenged in areas like that, that I was intimidated from the onset! Thankfully my D is a bit better spatially and can probably figure that part out. Here is a photo of the unfinished square tree, (guaranteed to hold up to 300 cupcakes!) to give you an idea of what we are going to be working with:

My daughter also informed me that her future Mother-In-Law  is going to help her decorate the main display - which is for the cupcakes, but she will do the cake ball display at home with my help, since that is taking the place of the groom's cake and she wants him to be surprised. I was a bit disappointed at first, but it will be a nice "Bonding Opportunity" for my daughter and her future M-I-L, (and a later conversation I had with the MOG revealed that his grandmothers LOVE to do crafts and couldn't wait to help!)

At least I was invited to help her select the materials to be used. (Actually, that's the part I enjoy--I would rather design things than actually carry the design out!) So on a Thursday afternoon as she came home for her Spring Break from college, I took an afternoon off from work to devote to this project. (Thinking we would do both the material selection AND the project itself.) Ha! Ha!

Well, this was an interesting shopping expedition, to say the least. We headed out to the craft store, and of course we were too impatient to look at the how-to's that provides on their website, so we had nothing pre-planned as far as what items we would use for decorating. We just sort of winged it! It would have been helpful to have an idea beforehand how many yards of ribbon, etc. we would need to purchase to cover all the tiers! As it turns out, I think we may have understimated, so we may get the extreme pleasure of trying to track all the stuff down again at some future time to purchase more of it!

Anyway, the bride and I got our exercise that day traipsing all over Hobby Lobby several times over (for those not familiar -- it is a huge big-box craft store). She decided to use her general wedding color scheme, light blue and white/ivory for the main large cupcake tree, alternating the tiers with some pretty light blue crystal beading, and white lacy ribbon. I suppose it will be glued on to the edges of the tiers somehow. We are going to leave the actual tiers alone and just use the white cardboard -- the cupcakes will be nestled in paper containers anyway. We hit upon the idea of using doilies to pretty the tiers up a bit before putting the cupcakes on them. (But that turned out to be another big goof -- I proudly found her some beautiful round white paper doilies which we purchased, only to remember later after we got home that the stand for the cupcake tree is square! Duh!!)

For the cake balls, and the smaller round cupcake tree, she chose more masculine style ribbon trim in the colors of the University of Florida Gators, (which is her groom's favorite team) -- royal blue and orange. She wanted the tiers themselves to be a chocolate brown color. For the top tier, we are thinking of ordering a team nick-nack.

What threw us for a loop is how to do the chocolate brown tiers. We vaguely rememberd seeing on the decorating how-to page on the manufacturer's website that some people just use spray-paint. So we were going in that direction, until I asked my daughter if the cake balls would be in any sort of paper wrappers. She said they would not, and the Hobby Lobby employee who opened the locked spray-paint cabinet agreed with me that its probably not a good idea to lay the cakeballs directly on top of spray paint!

We ended up finding some heavy duty posterboard in a chocolate brown color that my daughter will have to cut out and glue to the tiers. I'm still a little concerned that we are going to have butter and oil stains on the brown posterboard. Since this stand is going to be round, I thought about using the round doilies I bought by mistake, but since they are white that kind of defeats her chocolate brown idea. I guess we will cross that bridge when we get to it -- perhaps I can look for some sort of butcher paper or colored foil to lay down under the cake balls to stay with the color scheme.

Getting all these materials turned out to be fairly time-consuming, and we did not get to this project that weekend or even during her Spring Break after all. We had too much else going on (like her first Bridal Shower and getting the wedding invitations finalized). So, it was postponed to another weekend that she planned to be home.

And the costs? Well lets just say the materials cost more than I thought they would. Hobby Lobby is wonderful because it is a one-stop shop and has just about all you would need. But you may also pay a premium for that convenience.

What to take away from this? Well, first off, do the math! Is your idea really a cost-cutting measure, or in the long run, would it pay off to let the experts do their thing (in both extra costs of display/decor, and time?) And if you do decide to go the D-I-Y route, if D-I-Y is not normally your thing -- definitely do your homework and have a plan before heading out to the craft store! Find out all the materials and quantities you will be needing ahead of time, and consult the experts -- those who are comfortable with D-I-Y projects can give you some pointers, and lead you to the best vendors and resources for your particular project.

To be continued...Pictures of the final product(s) will come eventually!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Crowning Glory

Today was a fun day. My d is in town for Spring Break, and I took the afternoon off from work to go with her to take care of some wedding-related errands.

Although she found her dress early on in the process, she had never settled on a veil. We knew from trying on the Maggie Sottero Monalisa Royal ballgown at Bridal Co. in Denton,, that a cathedral length veil just looked stunning. But at the time, the store's inventory of veils was down, so she did not commit to one. They promised that as Wedding Season progressed, they would get more veils in stock.

Part of the deal with buying her dress there was a "store credit" which turned out to be somewhere around $150. (This is what the store offers as a buying incentive, since the maker of the dress does not allow discounts.)

So, 7 months or so after purchasing the dress there, we returned to Bridal Co. today to look for the veil again. The first ivory, cathedral length veil she walked up to turned out to be the one! It is so has scalloped edges with delicate crystal beading on it, and actual teardrop style crystals hanging off the edges at intervals on the veil. I have never seen anything like this veil before, and it will look awesome with the Monalisa Royale. Just the right amount of bling to accent the dress, without it being so much that it does not get lost in the elaborate train beading of the dress. (The picture to the left is not the actual veil -- but it is similar...imagine something like this in cathedral length!) We actually had a few bucks left over on the credit after selecting the veil, and she picked up a little clutch handbag with some beading to go with the dress, as well!

Our next errand did not go so quickly or so easily -- we had to go to Hobby Lobby to select the items to decorate our cupcake tree displays with. More on that later...