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Subject: soc.couples.wedding Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

This article was archived around: 25 May 2006 04:23:55 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: lifestage/wedding-faq
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Archive-name: lifestage/wedding-faq/part1 Posting-Frequency: every 2 weeks Last-modified: May 15, 2004 Version: 2.6
Written by Sonja Kueppers. Please submit comments via the web form located at: http://www.thepurplehouse.net/wedding/comments/ E-mail may be ignored due to the high volume of spam received. Topics Covered: 0) About this FAQ 0.1) Where can I find this FAQ? 0.2) What is the basis of the opinions in this FAQ? 0.3) Recent Changes 0.4) About the soc.couples.wedding WWW page 1) soc.couples.wedding 1.1) What is soc.couples.wedding? 1.2) Why is there a soc.couples.wedding? 1.3) Is commercial advertising acceptable in soc.couples.wedding? 1.4) What are these abbreviations I keep seeing? 2) Recommended Reading 2.1) For those who want to save money: 2.2) For those interested in writing their own vows/ceremony: 2.3) Cultures and Traditions 2.4) Etiquette 2.5) More on books by Denise & Alan Fields 3) Engagement 3.1) Does a woman's ring have to be a diamond? Does it have to be expensive? 3.2) Should the man pick out the ring by himself, or together with his prospective fiancee? 3.3) What about engagement rings for men? 3.4) Is it necessary to have a ring in order to propose? 3.5) Is a ring necessary at all? 4) Attendants 4.1) When should I choose my attendants? 4.2) Do my attendants have to be of my own gender? 4.3) Do I have to choose one attendant to be my honor attendant? 4.4) How many attendants do I need? 4.5) Is it necessary to have equal numbers of groomsmen and bridesmaids? 4.6) What roles can people who are not attendants play? 5) Wedding Attire 5.1) What are my options for an inexpensive wedding dress? 5.2) All of the dresses this season are way too revealing. Where can I find more modest styles? 5.3) How should the groom and groomsmen be properly dressed at various times of day? 5.4) Should the groom wear something different from the groomsmen? 5.5) Do the bridesmaids all have to wear the same dress? 6) Wedding Rings 6.1) Do I have to wear a wedding ring? 6.2) Do wedding bands need to be matching? 6.3) Does a wedding band need to be plain? 6.4) What metals can the ring be made out of? 6.5) If you have both an engagement and a wedding ring, which goes on the outside? 6.6) What do I do if the wedding ring I like doesn't work with my engagement ring? 7) People Issues 7.1) My mother is driving me crazy. She wants to control every aspect of the wedding. 7.2) Who should walk me down the aisle, my natural father or my stepfather? 7.3) My parents had a messy divorce, and they both say they won't attend the wedding if the other comes. How can I resolve this? 8) Invitations 8.1) What is the most proper way to have my invitations done? 8.2) Is it OK to send invitations to someone "and Guest"? 8.3) If I've invited guests and not invited their children, what do I do when they send a response saying their children are coming with them? 8.4) I have been invited to a wedding without my fiance. Can I get my fiance invited, or do I have to go alone? 8.5) What percentage of the people I invite can be expected to come? 8.7) Can I use my laser printer to address my invitations? 9) Photography and Video 9.1) Do I have to hire a professional photographer? 9.2) Should I have disposable cameras on the tables? 9.3) Should I have a wedding video made? 9.4) Should I hire a professional videographer? 10) Service Professionals 10.1) Do service professionals need to be fed? 11) Showers 11.1) Who can host a shower? 11.2) If the people at work give me a shower, do I have to invite them to the wedding? 11.3) Is it OK to include the bride's registry information with the shower invitation? 11.4) What are some possible shower themes? 11.5) Can I have a co-ed shower? 12) The Rehearsal Dinner 12.1) What kind of rehearsal dinner is acceptable? 12.2) Who is invited to the rehearsal dinner? 12.3) Who hosts the rehearsal dinner? 13) Gifts (advice for the bride and groom) 13.1) Should I register for gifts? 13.2) What should I register for? 13.3) How will people find out about my registry? 13.4) What do I do with gifts received before the wedding? 14) Gift-Giving 14.1) Am I required to give the bride and groom a wedding present? 14.2) Am I required to give a gift at a shower? 14.3) Am I required to choose a gift from the couple's registry? 14.4) When should I give the couple my wedding gift? 15) Officiants 15.1) Who can perform a wedding? 15.2) Universal Life Church 0) About this FAQ 0.1) Where can I find this FAQ? In addition to being posted every 2 weeks to the soc.couples.wedding newsgroup, This FAQ file, along with other wedding-related information, can be found on the World Wide Web. The URL for the soc.couples.wedding home page is: http://www.thepurplehouse.net/wedding/ It is also available in the standard archive sites for FAQ files, such as: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/ 0.2) What is the basis of the opinions in this FAQ? The opinions and views expressed in this FAQ are based on my personal knowledge and experience about wedding planning, which has been shaped by many sources, including years of reading alt.wedding and soc.couples. wedding, a lifetime of exposure to Miss Manners' etiquette books (Ok, not an entire lifetime. I did not read her first book until I was nearly 10 years old, because that is when it was first published), input from other readers of these newsgroups, and an abiding interest in the subject which has caused me to read anything that came my way on the subject and to discuss the topic frequently with anyone who was interested. When the topic in question is a matter of opinion, I have tried to show the different sides of the issue, regardless of my personal opinion. When the topic is a question of what is proper, I have tried to give the answer which reflects the correct etiquette, based on my reading of etiquette books and discussions with people whose opinions I value. Etiquette is a tool to provide solutions to common situations in order to make people feel comfortable. It can be viewed as the "generic" way to do things, when you have no particular reason for doing it another way. If you think your guests will be more comfortable with a different solution, by all means do that. This FAQ does have a strong bias toward customs in the United States. This is the culture with which I am personally most familiar. 0.3) Recent Changes *Version 1.3 +Added 0.3 - Recent Changes +Added 0.4 - About the soc.couples.wedding WWW page +Added section 9 on Service Professionals *Version 1.4 +converted to HTML format +removed complete list of WWW page contents +updated sections 6.1 and 7.3 *Version 1.5 +Added section 1.3 on abbreviations *Version 1.6 +Added section 2.4, reference to "far & away weddings" *Version 1.7 +Added section 12.3 on how people will find out about registry +Modified section 10.4 on shower themes *Version 1.8 +Added "f" for "future" to section 1.3 *Version 2.0 +Added section 6 on wedding rings +Added sections 13.4 and 13.5 on gifts +Modified section 14.1 on who can perform marriages *Version 2.1 +Added section 1.3 on commercial advertising in soc.couples.wedding *Version 2.3 +Added section 2.5 on Denise & Alan Fields' web site * Version 2.4 + Added section 2.4 on Etiquette books *Version 2.5 +Updated info for Denise & Alan Fields +Added section 14 on gift-giving *Version 2.6 +Removed outdated information +Changed contact information +Added section 5.2 on modest wedding gowns 0.4) About the soc.couples.wedding WWW page The soc.couples.wedding WWW page is found at: http://www.thepurplehouse.net/wedding/ and contains a wide variety of informational files, including information on buying diamonds and engagement rings, photography and video, music, popular readings, and lists of gifts for anniversaries. 1) soc.couples.wedding 1.1) What is soc.couples.wedding? Charter: This newsgroup is for discussing all aspects of wedding planning, from engagement through the honeymoon. Discussions include, but are not limited to, topics such as: purchasing engagement/wedding jewelry and gifts, announcing the engagement, setting a wedding date, hiring professionals such as caterers and photographers, renting facilities such as churches and halls, planning the ceremony, wedding-related etiquette, registering for gifts, selecting wedding attire, and dealing with relationship/family problems associated with wedding planning. soc.couples.wedding is not limited to discussions of weddings between one man and one woman. Same-sex couples and groups of more than 2 people who are planning a wedding are also welcome to participate. Discussions of wedding traditions from around the world are welcomed. There is an emphasis on politeness and tact when relating to other newsgroup participants. The group should not be used for discussions of general relationship or marriage issues, for which soc.couples is more appropriate. 1.2) Why is there a soc.couples.wedding? Soc.couples.wedding was created because the wedding-planning newsgroup alt.wedding was a member of the "alt." hierarchy. Many news administrators do not carry groups in the "alt." hierarchy, because alt newsgroups can be created fairly trivially without any kind of voting procedure, so there are many alt newsgroups of dubious merit. The "soc." hierarchy, on the other hand, is part of the "big 8" usenet hierarchies, and it is only possible to create a soc group by engaging in a 2-month-long process in which the newsgroup is proposed, discussed, and voted on by the usenet community. This leads to wider acceptance of a group by news administrators, so more sites carry soc groups and more people have access to them. Ideally, people who are currently using alt.wedding will use soc.couples.wedding instead, to avoid splitting the discussion of identical topics between the two newsgroups. 1.3) Is commercial advertising acceptable in soc.couples.wedding? Commercial advertising has not traditionally been acceptable in Usenet News. Usenet News is primarily a forum for discussion and information exchange, not advertising. Your best policy, as a commercial advertiser, is to avoid making any postings that could be construed as advertisements to soc.couples.wedding. The following guidelines illustrate a conservative approach which will serve you well. It is drawn from discussions in the newsgroup of what readers considered acceptable and unacceptable behavior. If you step outside the bounds of these guidelines, you will most likely make quite a number of readers of soc.couples.wedding very annoyed. This is not good for anyone. Not only does it make the newsgroup less friendly for everyone by spoiling the atmosphere of discussion and information exchange, but it also makes people feel negative about your business. You will notice that if you follow these guidelines, you will become a member of the soc.couples.wedding community by being a regular participant in discussions in the group. It is true that this is more time consuming than simply posting an occasional advertisement. However, if people reading the group get the feeling that they know and trust you, you'll find that they'll respond more positively to your business than if you simply did the usenet/internet equivalent of cold-calling them. Acceptable Behavior: *Including the name of your company and, if necessary, a description of the service provided in your brief signature file (signature files should not exceed 4 lines.) *Answering questions in the newsgroup, so long as your postings do not specifically mention your own products and services. (It's perfectly OK, and even encouraged, to draw upon your experiences as a professional in answering questions. What's not OK is to appear to be hawking your own products/services. If you make yourself a valuable member of the community by providing helpful information, people will have a positive view of you -- and of your company.) *Sending private e-mail to individuals who have specifically asked for pointers to people providing the service or product you provide. Unacceptable Behavior: *Posting explicit advertisements. *Using a signature file which advertises your product or service. (beyond simply giving the name, type of service provided, and contact information.) *Responding to posts in the newsgroup with postings of your own stating that you can provide a particular type of service or product. *Sending e-mail offering your product or service to individuals who have not specifically requested pointers to people who can provide it. What can be done about people who insist on advertising in soc.couples.wedding? *You can write to them, explaining that they have overstepped the bounds of acceptable behavior in the newsgroup. If you have a copy of these guidelines, send it to them. *You can write to their system administrator, explaining the problem. For everyone: general note on politeness: It is, of course, in good form for everyone, whether or not they are a wedding professional, to avoid making blanket statements about an entire industry or way of doing things. Just as it is inappropriate for a caterer to deride the idea of holding a potluck wedding reception, so it is also inappropriate for someone who is not planning to have a professional photographer to insult the entire profession. It is one thing to discuss specific positive and negative experiences you have had with a particular approach, and quite another to make blanket derogatory remarks. 1.4) What are these abbreviations I keep seeing? *SO = Significant Other *MIL = Mother-in-Law *FIL = Father-in-Law *MOH = Maid/Matron of Honor *BM = Bridesmaid or Best Man *stbmil = Soon-To-Be Mother-in-Law *fFIL, fMIL = future father-in-law, future mother-in-law 2) Recommended Reading 2.1) For those who want to save money: "Bridal Bargains", Denise and Alan Fields. Windsor Peak Press, 1996. "How to Have a Big Wedding on a Small Budget", Diane Warner. Writer's Digest Books, 1992. 2.2) For those interested in writing their own vows/ceremony: "Wedding Vows" by Peg Kehret. Meriwether, 1989. "For as Long as we Both Shall Live" by Roger Fritts. Avon, 1993. "Weddings from the Heart" by Daphne Rose Kingma. Conari press, 1991 "With these words...I thee wed", Barbara Eklof. B. Adams, 1989. "I Do" Sydney Barbara Metrick. Celestial Arts, Berkeley, 1992. ISBN 0-89087-679-7 "Wedding Readings: Centuries of Writing and Rituals for Love and Marriage" Eleanor Munro ed. Viking, 1989. 2.3) Cultures and Traditions "Jumping the broom: The African-American wedding planner" by Harriette Cole. H. Holt, 1993. "The New Jewish Wedding" by Anita Diamant. Summit Books, 1985. "The Jewish Book of Why" by Alfred J. Kolatch. J.David Publisher, 1981. 2.4) Etiquette "Miss Manners On Painfully Proper Weddings" by Judith Martin. Crown Publishers, 1995. ISBN 0-517-70187-1 "Crane's Wedding Blue Book" by Steven L. Feinberg. Simon & Schuster, 1993. ISBN 0-671-79641-0 2.5) More on books by Denise & Alan Fields Books by Denise & Alan Fields can be ordered at (800) 888-0385, or via their web site, which also contains updates to their books: http://www.windsorpeak.com/ 3) Engagement 3.1) Does a woman's ring have to be a diamond? Does it have to be expensive? No. Many women prefer colored stones, such as sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Colored stones can be set by themselves or with diamonds. Another possibility is to have a diamond or colored stone solitaire, with a wedding band that fits together with it (sometimes known as a "wrap") and contains diamonds or colored stones. A woman's engagement ring can be as expensive or inexpensive as is appropriate to the finances and wishes of the couple. Some couples elect to have a diamond-like substitute, such as a cubic zirconia. This is not inappropriate, and there is no reason why this choice should need to be public knowledge. 3.2) Should the man pick out the ring by himself, or together with his prospective fiancee? A man should endeavor to find out what his prospective fiancee prefers that he do. Some women want very much to be surprised with a ring; others feel very strongly that they wish to select their own ring. If you would like to surprise your fiancee with a ring, but also want to take her wishes into account, there are several alternatives available to you. * Go shopping with her casually, to get an idea of what she likes, but make the final decision on your own. * Make an agreement with the jeweler that you can return the ring you chose at full value for another ring if your fiancee wants to choose something else. Your fiancee will probably be hesitant to say she would rather have something other than what you picked out, so you will want to reassure her that you really do want her to pick the ring she likes best. You may also want to take her to the jeweler even if she says she doesn't want to go, to make sure she gets to see what the other choices are. This should be done very shortly after the proposal, before she has a chance to get overly attached to the ring you gave her. * Get an inexpensive ring for the proposal, and explain that it is a place holder for a ring you'll select together. 3.3) What about engagement rings for men? There are a number of options for engagement rings for men. * He can wear his wedding ring on his other hand until the wedding. This is traditional in a number of countries; for example, in Germany, this is traditional for both men and women. * He can wear a non-wedding ring on either hand; some couples choose a silver band or claddagh ring. * He can have a man's ring with a stone, which he might wear on his other hand after the wedding if it wouldn't fit together with his wedding band. * Both the man and the woman can have matching engagement/wedding ring sets. 3.4) Is it necessary to have a ring in order to propose? Only if your prospective fiancee expects you to have one. If you wish to have one, but cannot afford it, you might select an inexpensive ring or locket as a token. 3.5) Is a ring necessary at all? No. It is not necessary to have an engagement ring in order to be engaged. If you choose not to have an engagement ring, you may want to exchange other engagement gifts or tokens. Some couples exchange earrings or necklaces; others exchange gifts that are not jewelry. Some ideas: *Putting a down payment on a house as an engagement gift for each other *Nice furniture, such as a roll-top desk *a car *bicycles, skis, or other sports equipment Obviously, some of these gifts have more "lasting value" than others. Some people think it's very important that an engagement gift be of lasting value. Others don't find this important. 4) Attendants 4.1) When should I choose my attendants? It is generally not a good idea to select attendants more than a year before the wedding, because who is close to you will probably change over time. It is very difficult to back out of having asked someone to be your attendant. It is acceptable to ask several people to attend you but not choose one of them to be an honor attendant until closer to the wedding. 4.2) Do my attendants have to be of my own gender? No. There is no reason you can't have attendants of either or both genders. 4.3) Do I have to choose one attendant to be my honor attendant? No. If you care for all of the friends you've asked to stand up for you equally, there is no need to choose. You can simply divide the duties among all of them. 4.4) How many attendants do I need? This is entirely up to you, though you may want to take into account the traditions in your area. You can have none, one, six...whatever seems suitable. That said, the number of attendants does tend to increase with the formality and size of the wedding, so that some people will probably think it a bit silly to have six bridesmaids when there are only 50 guests in an afternoon garden wedding. 4.5) Is it necessary to have equal numbers of groomsmen and bridesmaids? No. It is OK to have ushers who are not groomsmen, in that they do not stand up with the groomsmen and bridesmaids. This is sometimes a solution when you need more ushers to direct the guests to their seats, but don't want to have twice as many groomsmen as bridesmaids. 4.6) What roles can people who are not attendants play? There are many possibilities for roles for people who are important to you or want to help, but who you have not selected as attendants for one reason or another. * reading or performing musically during the ceremony * guest book attendant * responsibility for gift table * responsibility for disposable cameras * "wedding-day coordinator" - someone who is familiar with the wedding and is empowered to make decisions for you, so the caterer, musicians, etc. can go to them rather than needing to talk to you. * ceremony coordinator - responsible for cueing people - the bride, the musicians, etc. 5) Wedding Attire 5.1) What are my options for an inexpensive wedding dress? You could choose to wear a dress previously worn by someone in your family such as your mother or grandmother. You could also wear a friend's dress. Another option is to buy a used dress at a consignment shop or through an advertisement in the newspaper. In some cities, there are even consignment shops that specialize in bridal gowns. Making your own dress, if you are an experienced sewer, can allow you to have a dress that would have been much more expensive if you'd bought it commercially, and will probably fit better and be better made than many commercial gowns. (Two tips: Use a dress form, and be sure to make at least the bodice in an inexpensive fabric to check the fit and construction before making it in the final fabric.) If your sewing skills aren't up to making the dress yourself, or you don't have time, hiring someone to sew it for you can still save you considerable money over buying a commercial dress, and you get the same advantages of better fit and construction. Commercial dresses can be purchased less expensively through Discount Bridal Service; their web site is located at: http://www.discountbridalservice.com/ Other possibilities are to buy a store sample, or to order at a trunk sale. Finally, you might choose a dress that isn't marketed as a bridal gown. Many lovely bridesmaids' dresses come in white or ivory, and are considerably less expensive than bridal dresses. You might also find an appropriate dress being sold in ordinary stores. It is also possible to wear something that doesn't look like a typical wedding dress, such as a lacy blouse with a long skirt, perhaps in a strong color such as royal blue or forest green. 5.2) All of the dresses this season are way too revealing. Where can I find more modest styles? If everything this season seems to be sleeveless or backless, and that's just not your style, you may want to look at stores catering to more conservative religious groups, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Gowns meeting the modesty requirements for LDS temple weddings are available in special shops, and through Internet retailers. 5.3) How should the groom and groomsmen be properly dressed at various times of day? For a very formal wedding, men should wear morning suits if it is in the daytime, and white tie if it is in the evening. If it is less formal, men may wear strollers in the daytime and tuxedos in the evening. For even less formal weddings, men may wear ordinary suits at any time of day. To be technically proper, men should never wear tuxedos in the daytime or morning dress in the evening. That said, many people ignore these traditional dress guidelines, and wear tuxedos in the daytime. 5.4) Should the groom wear something different from the groomsmen? Not generally, since the type of suit worn by men is dictated by formality. Of course, just because the type of suit is usually going to be the same, doesn't mean that there can't be individual variation in components of the outfit. 5.5) Do the bridesmaids all have to wear the same dress? No. It is perfectly acceptable to have them wear different dresses in the same fabric, or dresses in coordinating colors. Some brides choose to have the bridesmaids each wear a dress in a different jewel or autumn color, for example. Bridesmaids should all wear dresses with approximately the same degree of formality. 6) Wedding Rings 6.1) Do I have to wear a wedding ring? No, though most women, and many men, prefer to wear one. There are two major reasons why people choose not to wear them: * Moral objection to symbol of "ownership" * Don't like wearing rings Obviously, if you've thought it through, and you have decided you don't want to wear a wedding ring because it symbolizes ownership to you, this is only a problem if your partner disagrees, and wants you to wear one. In this case, perhaps you could think about the fact that while traditionally a wedding ring might have been a symbol of ownership, today most people view them as a sign of commitment instead. However, I would never encourage someone to wear a wedding ring if it really gave them such negative feelings. If, on the other hand, your objection is that you simply don't like wearing rings, you might want to try it for a month or two and see if you still feel the same way. Many people find that while initially, the wedding ring feels awkward or uncomfortable, they rapidly become accustomed to it and like the symbolism thereafter. If you suspect you may have trouble being comfortable wearing a wedding ring, you may want to investigate "comfort-fit" wedding bands. These rings are curved on the inside (like the typical ring is on the outside) for a more comfortable fit. Once you have become accustomed to wearing the wedding band, you may well find that looking at it or fiddling with it gives you a very positive, happy feeling and directs your thoughts toward your spouse. 6.2) Do wedding bands need to be matching? Some people prefer matching wedding bands, because the symbolism of matching rings is very meaningful to them. They may feel that with identical rings, there is always some physical bond with their partner, no matter how far apart they may be physically. Others choose non-matching bands, because they think it is important for each person to have a ring that is the most comfortable for them personally. They might want a ring that matched an engagement ring for one person, for example, but which couldn't really be translated successfully into a ring the other could wear. One person might have a very physical job, which makes a plain ring the most practical, while the other might have a job where a fancier ring wouldn't be a problem. This is a personal decision, with many relevant family and regional traditions, so there is no one right answer. 6.3) Does a wedding band need to be plain? Unless you belong to a religion which demands that the ring be plain, it is fine for the ring to have any design you fancy. Even if you do belong to a religion which has requirements for the ring, you may be able to use a plain ring for the religious ceremony, but wear a different ring for everyday. However, when selecting a ring, you should carefully consider how you plan to use the ring. Do you plan to wear it every day? In that case, take its practical sturdiness and wear characteristics into account. Do you want to wear the same ring (or an identical one) for the rest of your life, or is it OK to replace it if you don't like it anymore? If it's not OK to replace it, you should consider carefully whether the style you choose today is one you think you will still like 40 or 50 years from now. If you do choose a fragile ring, you may want to get a plain one for everyday also, if it is important to you to be able to wear your ring for a wide range of activities. Some people prefer a plain ring because they feel that there is a symbolic value in having a simple ring that is only a symbol of their commitment, and has no ornamental qualities as a piece of jewelry. 6.4) What metals can the ring be made out of? Most people choose gold for their wedding rings, though platinum is also used, and some people use silver or other metals. Gold is used because it is valuable, and does not tarnish, rust, or corrode, yet is fairly easy to work with. Platinum is more valuable than gold and also does not tarnish, rust, or corrode, but is harder and thus, more difficult to work. In the United States, most people use 14K gold, which is chosen because it has a good combination of gold content and hardness. 14K gold is about 60% gold. 18K gold is also popular, and has a deeper color, but is less hard, so it deforms and scratches more easily. It is about 75% gold. Pure gold is 24K gold, and is fairly soft. 6.5) If you have both an engagement and a wedding ring, which goes on the outside? Traditionally, the engagement ring goes on the outside. The idea is that the wedding ring goes closer to the heart. Another reason for doing this is that some people never want to take their wedding ring off, while they may want to remove their engagement ring for activities where it might become damaged. During the wedding ceremony, this tradition can cause problems, and there are two main solutions. The first is to switch the rings after the ceremony, while the other is to remove the engagement ring for the ceremony, perhaps transferring it to the other hand, and then replacing it afterwards. The second is more suitable for people who prefer not to remove their wedding ring. 6.6) What do I do if the wedding ring I like doesn't work with my engagement ring? One easy solution is to wear your engagement ring on another finger after you get married. You might, for example, wear it on your other hand. If that doesn't appeal to you, consult a competent jeweler. They may be able to cut notches into the wedding ring so that it fits up against the engagement ring, or perform some other kind of modification to it. If none of this works, you might have a wedding ring custom made to fit together with your engagement ring. 7) People Issues 7.1) My mother is driving me crazy. She wants to control every aspect of the wedding. If your mother is hosting (this often translates to paying for) the wedding, you aren't really on very firm ground to insist on doing things your way. The best you can do is try to convince your mother to do things your way. It is sometimes helpful to give your mother complete "creative control" over some aspects of the wedding. If, on the other hand, you are hosting the wedding yourselves, then it is your party and you have every right to tell your mother in a polite way that you've decided to do things another way. In this situation, it's important to remember that some mothers have very firm ideas of how they wanted their daughters to get married, and they may have looked forward to planning the wedding together with their daughters for many years. 7.2) Who should walk me down the aisle, my natural father or my stepfather? Whichever you feel closer to is the simple answer, but we all know life is not so simple. If you are unable to decide between them, or wish to honor them both, you could have one of them walk you halfway down the aisle and the other the rest of the way. You could also sidestep the entire issue by having your mother walk you down the aisle. 7.3) My parents had a messy divorce, and they both say they won't attend the wedding if the other comes. How can I resolve this? Your parents are supposedly grown adults. They are also your parents. Parents should not try to force their children into deciding between them. Adults should be able to have the minimal contact with each other that attending the same social function requires, no matter how much they hate each other. Caving in to this pressure to choose between them is probably not a good idea. Invite them both, and if they are so childish, let them both not attend. Of course you can assure them that you will make every effort to make sure they have as little contact with each other as possible. 8) Invitations 8.1) What is the most proper way to have my invitations done? The two most proper and formal kinds of invitations are hand-written or engraved invitations, done on paper that is either plain or has a simple panel. However, the vast majority of people in the US today no longer remember or care about this, so you need not feel that you are doing something horribly improper if you make some other choice. 8.2) Is it OK to send invitations to someone "and Guest"? It can cause a lot of confusion to use "and Guest". It is better to find out whether or not each guest has been dating someone they would like to bring, and invite that person specifically. Some people apparently feel obligated to find a guest to bring when they receive an "and Guest" invitation. On the other hand, others are glad to receive such an invitation. So, if you don't want to find out whether each of your guests is dating someone they want to bring, you may want to ask people in your social circle whether or not they would like to receive an invitation addressed to themselves "and Guest". 8.3) If I've invited guests and not invited their children, what do I do when they send a response saying their children are coming with them? If you don't want children at the wedding, you should call and explain that you're having an adult wedding and that their children are not invited. However, you may want to add that you are providing a baby- sitting service for the convenience of the guests. 8.4) I have been invited to a wedding without my fiance. Can I get my fiance invited, or do I have to go alone? It is a social gaffe not to invite both people in a married or engaged couple. Therefore, you are right to feel that your fiance should have been invited with you. At this point, you need to decide whether you want to go even without him, or whether you aren't willing to go if he can't come too. If you're only willing to go if your fiance can come too, then you could send back a negative RSVP, with the explanation that you can't possibly attend without your fiance. This then puts the ball back in the court of the hosts -- if they made a mistake in not inviting your fiance, hopefully they will call or write to tell you that you're both welcome to come. If, on the other hand, you want to come either way, you are on shakier ground. If you are reasonably close to the hosts/couple being married, you could call them and ask if your fiance could attend with you. Otherwise, you might consider dropping in someone's ear the intelligence that you're having trouble deciding whether or not to come because your fiance wasn't invited with you. The someone you select to share this with should be someone you think will talk to the hosts or the couple about it, who will hopefully then realize their error and invite him. There are people who have such severely limited guest lists that they are unable to invite spouses and fiances, in which case you are hopefully close enough to them (after all, with such a limited guest list, I'd hope anyone they did invite was close to them!) that you'd be able to talk to them about it and they'd feel free to explain the situation to you, rather than feeling pressured to invite your fiance when they couldn't invite the fiances of other guests. Miss Manners tells us that couples who are living together are presumed to be "secretly engaged", and therefore should also be invited together to social events. 8.5) What percentage of the people I invite can be expected to come? This varies tremendously. The best method to use is to assign a percentage chance that each person you have invited will come. If you then add up all the percentages, you will get a pretty good idea of how many guests you will have. For example: Uncle Joe .5 (50%) Aunt Susan .5 (50%) Mom 1 (100%) Dad 1 (100%) Bobby 1 (100%) Total: 4 So from this list, you would expect 4 guests. While it might not seem like it would work very well, it does. 8.7) Can I use my laser printer to address my invitations? There are two schools of thought on this: * Absolutely not. Addressing invitations by machine demonstrates a lack of personal attention and interest in whether a guest attends. This is a majority, traditional view. * Of course. The post office will have a much easier time delivering the invitations if I print the addresses. In fact, while I'm at it, I'll consult with them about bar-coding the invitations. After all, the purpose of the outer envelope is to ensure the invitations get there, not to look pretty. This is a minority view. Persons who adhere to this view do generally consider it better to print directly on the envelopes, rather than on address labels. Those who print on labels usually use clear labels. Incidentally, the original purpose of the outer envelope was to protect the invitation from the hazards of being transported by your footman to the invitees homes. The invitees' butlers would then remove the outer envelope, so that the people being invited only ever saw the inner envelope. Recently, Miss Manners seems to have grudgingly agreed with this school of thought. I read an article in Family Circle magazine on addressing Christmas cards using address labels, and Miss Manners agreed that this was acceptable as long as the inside was written by hand. There are no schools of thought that I know of that consider it acceptable to laser print the inner envelope. Everyone seems to agree that it should properly be hand written. 9) Photography and Video 9.1) Do I have to hire a professional photographer? This is a personal decision. There are, of course, pros and cons of hiring a professional photographer: Cons: * Cost -- It usually costs at least $300 to hire a professional photographer to come take pictures at your wedding, and the longer you need the photographer for, the more it will cost. On top of this, you have the cost of getting prints of the pictures once the wedding is over, which will probably cost more than hiring the photographer to come take the pictures. Since the price of photography varies so widely depending on where you live, it is impossible to give a listing of what you might pay for different services; the amount of photography you can get for $800 in a small town might cost $3000 in a big city. * Accessibility of negatives -- with a professional photographer, you will usually need to go back to them every time you want additional prints of your wedding pictures. Some photographers will release the negatives to you, either for an additional fee or after a certain time period. There are a very few professional photographers who will shoot your wedding in 35mm film and let you have the negatives. * Knowledge of people -- The professional photographer doesn't know your family and friends, and so will have trouble identifying who is important to you. Pros: * Skill and Experience -- A professional photographer will know how to take good pictures in various lighting conditions, have knowledge of composition, be able to work with the limitations imposed by a church, and know how to stay out of everyone's way. A professional photographer will also know about appropriateness of different kinds of film and may have access to better developing and printing techniques than the amateur. * Likelihood of getting good pictures -- This is related to skill and experience. With a professional photographer, you hire someone with a proven track record, whose style you can find out about ahead of time by looking at albums from other weddings they have done. Reputable professionals bring backup equipment in case their primary equipment fails. * Contract -- You have a contract with a professional that specifies what will happen if the photographer can't come, how long the photographer will stay, etc. (Be sure the contract specifies exactly who is going to come and take pictures, otherwise the photographer or studio might send someone other than who you thought you were getting.) * Not a guest -- A professional photographer is not a guest. Their entire reason for being at your wedding is to take pictures. * Lack of hassle -- You can hire a reputable professional, give them direction, and pay them to take care of the rest. You don't need to stress about the details, either before, during, or after the wedding. 9.2) Should I have disposable cameras on the tables? Disposable cameras can be a fun way for your guests to amuse themselves, and you may get some memorable photos out of them. They work better with brighter lighting. This is not a substitute for hiring a professional photographer or having a friend or relative with a good camera take pictures. An alternative to disposable cameras is to buy regular 35mm film and cheap 35mm cameras for people to take pictures with at the reception; this will provide better picture quality. Some people ask their guests to bring their own cameras and provide 35mm film for the guests to use. The problem with this idea is that many guests prefer to take pictures for their own use, as well as pictures for the couple to have, and asking them to use their own cameras to take pictures for you will probably deprive them of the ability to take pictures for themselves. You should appoint someone, such as a friend or relative who has asked if there's anything they can do to help, to collect the cameras at the end. 9.3) Should I have a wedding video made? This is again a personal decision. Some people really enjoy having a video of their wedding. Others find it sits on a shelf and collects dust. Only you can decide which group you fall into. People who like video often give the following arguments: * It lets you see parts of the wedding you didn't get to see because you were too busy with your responsibilities. * It captures every nuance of the ceremony, which you may not remember yourself because it was such an emotional time. Many people find it very romantic to be able to see and hear themselves saying their vows all over again.* * It gives people who weren't at the wedding a better feeling that they've really experienced it. * It can be a wonderful memory of the people who were there. You may live far away from your friends and relatives, and enjoy the chance to see them again, moving and talking, on your wedding video. As the years go by, the children will grow up, and members of your family may pass away, making the videotape even more valuable to you. People who don't like video often give these arguments: * Showing people your wedding video forces them to proceed at the pace of the video. Flipping through a photo album can be done at the viewer's own pace, and is more interactive, as you can tell stories about the pictures. * Video forces every moment to be remembered as it actually happened, rather than as you might like to remember it. * Video is a high-technology product, requiring special equipment to view. Some people also have philosophical objections to video. Some people argue that wedding video is a waste because the videotape will degrade over time. While this is true, there's no reason to think that you won't be able to transfer it to a more stable medium later. People also argue that 50 years from now, there won't be VCR's, so you won't be able to watch it. Again, if it's important to you, you can always have it transferred to the new medium when VCR's become obsolete. So, while you will have to devote a little time to preserving your video, you can expect that if it matters to you, you'll still have the recording (though probably no longer on videotape) in 50 years. The technology for creating printed pictures from video is improving all the time, making this a possible way to augment the pictures from your photographer. 9.4) Should I hire a professional videographer? Obviously, you will get much better results if you hire a competent professional than if you have Aunt Susan bring her camcorder. However, that doesn't mean you necessarily need to hire a professional. You should consider: * How important the video is to you. * Whether or not home video quality is acceptable to you. This may depend partially on what the purpose of the video is. If it's primarily to jog your own memory, amateur quality may be acceptable, while if you intend to show it to other people, you may prefer professional quality. * What budgetary trade-offs you will have to make in order to have professional video. One thing that may help you decide is to watch various wedding videos; perhaps friends and family have amateur and professional videos you could watch. The professional videographer you are considering should be able to show you some of the videos s/he has done. Some particular advantages of good professional video are greatly improved sound and lighting, as well as better overall picture quality. Competent professional videographers have better equipment than amateurs, know how to take advantage of the available light, and have experience coming up with creative solutions to eliminate intrusiveness. When evaluating video, in addition to the picture quality, pay careful attention to the sound, an aspect many people don't pay attention to until they're disappointed in the sound of their own videos. You should also know that there are big differences between the style, philosophy, and ability of different videographers. If video is important to you, it could be quite worthwhile to speak with several different videographers and see their sample videos. If you have particular concerns, you can probably find a videographer who has experience working within the constraints you have. 10) Service Professionals 10.1) Do service professionals need to be fed? If your wedding is taking place over a meal time, and you are feeding your guests, you should make sure there is some arrangement for your service professionals to eat, also. That means people like the photographer, videographer, band, etc. There are several reasons for this: * Service professionals are often working before the wedding starts and after it ends, which makes the time that they are without food even longer than it might seem. * You will get better service if you make sure the service professionals aren't feeling faint with hunger while they work. * If you don't make provision for them to eat, they might leave your reception to go get something to eat -- and might be gone for an hour or more. How should you deal with this? There are several options. Some people have a table among the guests where the service professionals eat as though they were guests. Others have the caterer provide a simple meal for the service professionals that they eat elsewhere. Another option is to provide a place for them to eat food they bring with them, and finally, you could allow them to leave to go get food. I don't really recommend the last option, because that's the one where you have the least amount of control over how long they're gone. To decide between these options, I recommend you discuss with your caterer what options they offer, and what the standard procedure is in your area. Armed with this information, you should then speak to your service providers about what they expect and/or prefer. Then, you'll be able to write some reasonable language into your contracts with these people specifying what will be done about meals. This step is highly recommended, because having it in writing gives everyone something to look at to remember what was agreed on, and if something different ends up happening, it gives you a clear, written leg to stand on if you want to pursue the matter. You should, of course, also write what is decided on into the contract with the caterer. I think it is reasonable to expect that the caterer will make proper arrangements with their own staff about meals and breaks, without your intervention. 11) Showers 11.1) Who can host a shower? Anyone who isn't the mother or sister of the bride. Because the point of a shower is to "shower" the bride with gifts, it is inappropriate for a very close relative to host it. The bridesmaids often host a shower. It is important, when inviting people to a shower, to make sure only to invite people who are also going to be invited to the wedding. Remember, the purpose of a shower is to give gifts, and it is rude to expect someone to give a gift if they aren't important enough to be invited to the wedding. 11.2) If the people at work give me a shower, do I have to invite them to the wedding? No. A work-related shower can be given by people and have guests who are not invited to the wedding. The same would be true of a shower given by members of a club the bride belongs to and other similar "special group" showers. 11.3) Is it OK to include the bride's registry information with the shower invitation? Yes, because showers exist for the purpose of giving gifts. However, common sense is a good idea here; if you're planning a shower where you expect people to bring a small gift like a rubber spatula and a recipe card, you probably don't want to include the registry information! 11.4) What are some possible shower themes? There are any number of possible shower themes. Some examples are a recipe shower, a lingerie shower, a kitchen shower, an "around the clock" shower (where each guest is told to bring a gift that could be used at a specific time of day), a bath shower, a hardware shower, and a stationery shower. It is not necessary to have a shower theme. 11.5) Can I have a co-ed shower? Yes. Some people are finding that it is more congenial to have a co-ed shower, particularly when the couple have many of the same friends of both genders. In this case, one usually invites both the bride and groom to attend (or plans it as a surprise for both the bride and groom). 12) The Rehearsal Dinner 12.1) What kind of rehearsal dinner is acceptable? You can have anything ranging from pizza or a barbeque at someone's house all the way up to a fancy dinner at a nice restaurant where everyone gets to choose anything they want from the menu. Which you choose depends on your personality and your budget. 12.2) Who is invited to the rehearsal dinner? Usually only those persons involved in the rehearsal and their spouses or partners. Many people are now choosing to invite also those out-of-town guests who have arrived by that time. 12.3) Who hosts the rehearsal dinner? Traditionally, this is the responsibility of the groom's family. 13) Gifts (advice for the bride and groom) 13.1) Should I register for gifts? Most couples do register for gifts, if only to let prospective gift-givers know what patterns of china, silver, crystal, and stainless they've selected. Registering for gifts allows couples to let people know what kinds of gifts they would like to receive. It is also possible to do this in a less specific way, by telling your parents and members of the wedding party what your general needs are. If you use a registry, these are the same people you will give the registry information to, and they will tell people when they are asked. Registering for gifts also allows you to have a better chance of not receiving duplicate gifts, because a well-run registry will keep track of what gifts have already been purchased. You can also call the store where you have registered when you receive gifts purchased elsewhere, and they will update their lists to reflect that you've received these items. However, no one should ever feel obligated to buy something that you have registered for, and if they select a different gift for you, it is not appropriate to criticize their choice of gift because it was not on your registry. There are many reasons why people choose not to use your registry; some feel that a gift is more personal if they select it themselves, others have a brilliant gift idea for you and never even think of consulting the registry, and still others simply never hear about the registry. 13.2) What should I register for? You can register for almost anything. Most people register for china, silver, crystal, and stainless, because it is traditional to receive a set of these things as wedding gifts. However, that does not mean you must register for these things, though you should be aware that some prospective gift-givers may be disappointed, because they wanted to give these things to you and can't do so if you haven't selected a pattern. It is a good idea to register for gifts in a variety of price ranges, so all guests will be able to find something they like and can afford. Some people are of the school of thought that you should only register for things you think you will actually receive. This means you would figure out how much money each of your guests was likely to spend, and register for gifts in that approximate total dollar amount. Other people believe you should register for what you really want, and expect that you will only receive some of it. These two schools of thought tend to come into conflict over decisions of whether to register for a less expensive china pattern you like, or a more expensive one you absolutely adore. You should make such a decision based on whether you would rather have a few place settings of the one you adore, or many place settings of the one you like. If you choose to register in a nontraditional place, such as a home center or hardware store, or you choose to register only for nontraditional items, you should be aware that some prospective gift-givers will be dissuaded from buying anything from your registry because they only want to give gifts of "lasting value", things that are likely to become heirlooms. It is possible to register now at your travel agent or at a bank, for money toward a house or some such. This is considered tacky by many people, just as many people consider it tacky to request money as a gift. That is not to say you shouldn't do it; merely that you should be aware of this possible reaction. 13.3) How will people find out about my registry? People will find out about your registry in one of three ways: *By asking someone, like your parents or members of the wedding party. *By receiving a shower invitation, which might include information about where you are registered. *By going to a store or website and checking to see if you are registered. It is generally considered to be inappropriate to mention your registry in your invitations, because it might imply that you were expecting to receive gifts from people you invited to your wedding. I think whether or not it would be OK to mention your registry on a WWW page you created about your wedding, or a newsletter you mailed to your guests about the wedding separately from the invitation, is a more nebulous area. If I were pressed, I would probably think it was more acceptable on a WWW page than in a newsletter, because someone has to explicitly choose to access the information on the WWW page, while if you mail it to them, it's more like you're forcing it on them. 13.4) What do I do with gifts received before the wedding? Any gifts you receive before the wedding, whether they are engagement or wedding gifts, should be opened and thank-you notes written. However, you should bear in mind that if anything should happen so that the wedding cannot take place, you are responsible for returning the gifts to the givers. Therefore, it is a bad idea to use the gifts before the wedding, and you should keep all the original packaging. Gifts of money should not be spent, but instead set aside, perhaps in your new joint bank account, until after the wedding. All checks should definitely be deposited into a bank account, because it is annoying to the giver when you wait a long time to deposit a check. 14) Gift-Giving 14.1) Am I required to give the bride and groom a wedding present? No, you are not required to give a gift to a couple who are getting married. The idea is that you give the bride and groom a gift because of your genuine fondness for the couple and desire to present them with a token of your esteem to celebrate the occasion of their marriage. People who actually attend the wedding generally do experience this outpouring of enthusiasm and joy, and therefore typically give gifts. People who decline a wedding invitation but would have liked to attend if they hadn't been out of the country (in the hospital, etc.) also generally experience this, and therefore typically give gifts. People who decline a wedding invitation because they didn't feel this level of enthusiasm for the event do not generally give gifts. Under no circumstance should people who are invited to weddings ever feel obligated to give a gift. 14.2) Am I required to give a gift at a shower? The purpose of a shower is to "shower" the bride with gifts to help her set up her new household. Therefore, you are required to give a gift if you attend a shower. This gift is generally expected to be of the smallish household variety (though this may vary in different social groups). The invitation to the shower will usually give some kind of indication of what sort of gifts are expected (this can range from a spice and a recipe that uses it up to things like mixing bowls or casual china and the like. One of the differences between typical shower gifts and typical wedding gifts is that shower gifts tend to be less "special" or "eternal"-- fine silver is not usually given at showers. 14.3) Am I required to choose a gift from the couple's registry? No. The purpose of the registry is to provide information to potential gift buyers about the couple's taste and preferences. However, you are under no obligation to purchase items from the registry when giving the couple a gift. Generally, you would want to consult the registry if you would like to purchase something such as china, silver, or crystal, in which the couple may have selected a favorite pattern. This would allow you to buy something in the pattern they have chosen. You might also consult the registry if you do not already have specific ideas about what you'd like to give them, or you would like to give them something unrelated to the registry but need to know what colors or styles they might like. 14.4) When should I give the couple my wedding gift? There are different traditions in different cultures about this. However, it is often best to send the gift by mail to the bride, either before or after the wedding, rather than bringing it to the reception. This is because it is much more convenient for the couple if they do not have to worry about cards becoming detached from gifts, transporting the gifts to their home, and so on. This is particularly important if the couple live far away from the site of the wedding. You can give a wedding gift up to 1 year after the wedding. 15) Officiants 15.1) Who can perform a wedding? This varies from place to place. In some countries, you must be legally married by the state before you may be married in your church; in the US, you can be married in your church without needing a separate legal wedding. If you don't want to be married in a church, you can get a minister to marry you elsewhere, or you can be married by other people who have legal authority to perform marriages where you live, such as judges or justices of the peace. In the USA, it is usually possible to get one of these people to marry you at the location of your choice. It may also be possible to obtain a marriage certificate that does not need to be signed by an officiant, or for the person who you want to have marry you to get a special license to marry you. Since this varies so enormously from place to place, it is vital that you discuss these issues with the office that deals with these matters where you live. You may find that the lowest hassle solution is to be legally married at the courthouse, after which you can have whatever kind of public wedding you want. 15.2) Universal Life Church Anyone can become a ULC minister. Your state may not allow a ULC minister to perform a wedding, however, because they may require that a minister performing weddings also fulfill some other requirements, such as having a congregation. Be sure to check on this. Becoming a ULC minister is free, though small donations are appreciated. Further information is available at the ULC web site: http://www.ulc.org/