Wedding Wednesday – Bridal Shower and Bachelorette Etiquette

Today’s Wedding Wednesday question comes from Pamela!

We are having a very intimate wedding ceremony with just our immediate family back in our home town and then a huge party with all of our friends in our current city. Who can I invite to the shower and bachelorette party? Just those going to the actual wedding, or can I include friends who are coming to the local party?

Hi Pamela! As small, private ceremonies and destination weddings are becoming more popular, it gets trickier to navigate the old “rules” about bridal shower etiquette. It used to be pretty straightforward–if someone wasn’t close enough to invite to the wedding, it would be impolite to invite them to the shower (where they’d feel obligated to bring a gift). But these days as the definition of weddings changes, I think so can the definition of the parties surrounding weddings.

Let’s start with the bridal shower! I think it’s perfectly acceptable to invite anyone that’s invited to the local reception to the shower. Think of your reception as a “substitute” wedding in your city since your ceremony is back home. Your friends are most likely not feeling left out that they’re not invited to the ceremony–they understand and love and support you. And therefore they won’t feel put out or weird if they’re invited to a bridal shower. They’re your friends! They want to celebrate with you!

If you’re feeling unsure about it or are worried it will look like a “gift grab,” plan to have a more casual, no-gifts shower. Like a girl’s day at the spa, a casual brunch, or even a backyard barbecue.

I will give one piece of advice–in order to avoid confusion, make sure you’ve sent out your separate wedding and reception invites before sending any shower invites. A friend who’s not up to speed on your wedding/party plans may misinterpret a shower invitation. But if everyone knows which part of your celebration they’re invited to attend before any shower invites are sent, things should go pretty smoothly.

I also think rules can be bent for showers with coworkers. A lot of times we can’t invite everyone from our workplace to our weddings, but coworkers still want to celebrate and give their good wishes. In many cases, it’s appropriate and acceptable for a close friend/coworker to throw a “work shower” in which all work friends are invited, even if the wedding can’t accommodate them all. (As long as the host makes it clear that this is a celebration in lieu of being with you on your big day!)

Bachelorette Party rules are even more flexible! Gifts aren’t typically a requirement, so parties like this seem less like an obligation and more like a super fun time! Again, I think it’s fair to invite anyone that’s also invited to the local reception. And if there are friends you’d like to join you that aren’t invited to that, it’s still possible with good communication. You can say something like, “Our venue for the reception has really strict size restrictions and we can’t invite everyone we want to. But I know you really love to party and I’d love to celebrate with you by taking some shots off random guys’ abs. Are you in?” If you know someone well enough to stumble around with her wearing a cheap sash that says “bride,” you probably know her well enough to gauge whether she’d be honored or offended.

An alternative would be to call it a “Ladies’ Night Out” instead of a bachelorette party. Just changing the wording takes the stress of wedding etiquette out of the equation and lets you focus on the fun.

The main thing to keep in mind–with this, or with any etiquette issue–is that your friends and family love and support you. They want to be involved and feel included. They want to celebrate with you! As long as you’re clear and loving in your communication with them, they’ll most likely be happy to party with you!

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Wedding Wednesday – Fresh Modern Wedding Etiquette

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about wedding planning and etiquette and I think it’s time to start up a brand new column: Wedding Wednesdays! In this series, I’ll share tips and tricks, highlight real weddings of couples I’ve worked with, and answer your burning etiquette questions.

So I can already see you rolling your eyes. Yes you, the one over there who thinks etiquette is antiquated and stuffy. I hear you mumbling “etiquette shmetiquette. It’s my wedding, I’ll do what I want.” And I say, “Yes! It IS your wedding and you should do what I want!” And I’m here to help you do that gracefully without pissing people off. I think the word “etiquette” gets a bad rap–it’s right up there with “Politically Correct” and “Salad Fork.” But etiquette isn’t just for rule followers and traditionalists. Sure, you can look to etiquette to dictate the proper placement of your water glass and napkin or to advise on the traditional way to address a wedding envelope. But I think it’s really about so much more than that.

To me, etiquette isn’t really about “properness” anymore. It’s not about doing what’s expected or about pure avoidance of offending people. It’s just about respect and grace. You can solve almost any etiquette question by asking yourself, “What will show my friends and family that I love and respect them?” Here are my top 3 wedding etiquette tips to help you navigate sticky situations:

  1. Put Yourself In Their Shoes – You have probably been a wedding guest at some point in your life. Have you witnessed wedding behavior that has rubbed you the wrong way? What did you most appreciate as a guest? If you’re facing an etiquette question, ask yourself, “How would I feel if I was a guest and the couple did/said/wrote this?” If you think you’d feel icky or hurt, think twice before you do it to your friends.
  2. Ask People Directly – Sometimes seemingly touchy subjects really aren’t that big of a deal. If your etiquette question only affects a handful of guests–try asking them what they’d prefer! For example, a lot of couples still address their invitations super formally, but may worry that their independent, forward-thinking cousin doesn’t really want to be addressed as “Mrs. Benjamin Johnson.” Instead of fretting about it, try calling her up and saying, “Hey! I’m addressing my wedding invites–can’t wait to see you guys–Do you mind if I address yours to Mr & Mrs Benjamin Johnson or do you prefer just Ben and Allie?” Not sure if inviting your bestie “and guest” will make her feel pressure to go out and find a date? Talk to her! You can say, “Hey, we have enough room for everyone to bring guests if they want to, and I wasn’t sure if you had someone you wanted to invite. There’s no pressure, a bunch of our friends are coming stag, I just wanted to know how I should address your invite!”
  3. When in Doubt, Love Trumps All – If you make a decision based on love and respect for your partner and for your family and friends, it is usually the right decision. And this goes both ways! If you’re worried that the etiquette police are going to be analyzing every aspect of your wedding, remember that your guests are there because they love you and want to celebrate with you. They are most likely not nit-picking every single detail of your wedding. (And if they are, are they really the people you want to spend time with?) So do your best to keep etiquette in mind, but at the end of the day, cut yourself some slack!

And for those questions that are a little trickier or more complicated–I’m here for you! Today’s world and today’s weddings are infinitely more complex than they were fifty years ago. Weddings range from casual backyard barbecues to million dollar black tie affairs, family structures have gotten more dynamic, and the “who pays for what?” rules have gotten more flexible. So sometimes the old school rules don’t make sense with your new school wedding. If you’re not finding the answers to your questions in the traditional etiquette resources that are already out there, hit me up! I’d love to answer your question in an upcoming post! You can comment below or email me at customerservice[at]freshpaperstudios.com

 

Protect Your Investment! How to make sure your invitations survive the mail and arrive looking beautiful

stamped addressed wedding invitation

You’ve spent hours flipping through magazines, poring over albums, surfing the web, and repinning pinny pins on pinterest to find your perfect wedding invitations. You’ve approved proofs, signed contracts, paid invoices, and waited for the mail carrier to knock on your door. You’ve invested time and money to ensure your invites are uniquely you and perfectly capture the spirit of your wedding.

And now they’re here! A beautiful box of invitations that practically sings when you open it is sitting on your dining room table, just waiting to be stuffed, stamped, addressed, and sent. You know that the invitations are your one chance of making impression and get guests pumped to attend your big day–and you’re prepared to make it a great one!

Now would be a really bad time to eff it all up. (No pressure or anything.)

So how do you protect your investment? How do you ensure your guests receive your invite in pristine condition so that you can make the impression you want to make? Here are a few tips to get those beauties from your hands into the hands of your guests looking as fab as the day they were printed.

1. Store them somewhere safe and dry. This may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Moisture is the enemy of paper. If you’re not going to address and send your invitations the day they arrive, put them somewhere safe. Do not keep them in the truck of your car for a month. Do not leave them spread out on the kitchen counter where your fiancé will spill coffee on them. Do not store them in a curious toddler’s room. Do not bathe with them or take them for a walk in the rain. Instead, keep them in the box and tuck them in a closet (not the closet where you keep your bowling balls and ice skates. And not high up on a shelf that you can’t reach.) If you’re a super planner and you bought your invites really early, keep everything closed up tight so it doesn’t get dusty.

2. Address them accurately and legibly. In the olden days, invitations were always addressed by professional calligraphers. And while I still love this tradition (and can recommend some phenomenal calligraphers for you), it is completely acceptable to address your own invitations (or even print addresses right on the envelopes!) I totally love the look of super creatively addressed envelopes. Big swooshy letters in gold ink on navy envelopes? Yes please! The post office, however, doesn’t love it so much. Make sure that even if you get artsy, your guest’s address is legible. If you have the handwriting of a third grader, consider hiring a calligrapher, printing the addresses, or bribing your maid of honor with wine to address them for you. (But make sure she waits to start drinking it after she’s done addressing.) The easier it is to read, the faster it will go through the mail system.

Please also triple check those addresses! Especially zip codes! And please please please put your return address on there. Of course you’re going to do everything right so that no mail gets returned, but if for some reason there is a problem with an invite–you want it to come back to you so that you can resend it (and not risk someone thinking they weren’t invited!) Otherwise it goes into a vast sea of undeliverable mail. I imagine this is also where all the socks go.

3. Affix proper postage. Your invitation is your wedding’s handshake. Its show-stopping outfit. Its winning smile. What kind of first impression are you making about your wedding when your invitation arrives (gasp!) postage due? If this has happened to you–I’m not judging! It happens! But let’s spend an extra few minutes and an extra few cents to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If your invitation (with accompanying parts) weighs more that 1 ounce, it needs extra postage. If it is square, it needs extra postage. If you’re sending a fancy envelope with a tie string and a button, it needs extra postage. If it is going across the world (or even just to Canada) it needs a bunch of extra postage. So how do you figure out how many stamps you need if you aren’t a mail ninja with your very own postal scale? Take them in to the post office. If you follow the tips 4 and 5,  you’re going to have to go anyway, so while you’re there, make sure they weigh your invites and confirm that your postage is correct!

It is also customary (aka totally mandatory) to pre-stamp the response envelope for your guests. If you want anyone to actually mail their response card back, make sure you put a stamp on there so they can do so! And unless your response card is made out of rocks (and hey! maybe it is, that would be creatively awesome), a regular stamp should be fine. You can even save a little bit by skipping the envelopes and going with response post cards.

4. Take them in to the post office. (See, told you.) I know, I know, I hate going in to the post office more than anyone. I have a toddler and the packages I send are heavy and awkward. Bad combo. And they don’t even have slightly uncomfortable seats and a take a number system like the DMV! You have to actually stand in line. So while I rarely recommend putting yourself through this type of ancient torture, this is the one time I’m going to insist. I know how tempting those big blue boxes on the corner are. I use them all the time to drop off packages! And that’s exactly why I don’t want you to put your invitations in them–people drop packages in there! Once you drop something down into that mysterious blue box, you have no idea what’s going to happen to it. People will drop their large, heavy, pointy package right on top of your invites. The mail carrier will toss everything in a large bin as s/he’s emptying it and things get stuck and bent and manhandled. What if someone mistakes it for a trash bin and throws their coffee in there? (Ok I’ve never seen that happen, but what if?) So do yourself a favor and walk those babies in to the post office and hand them to a human being. If you live in a big city and the post office is always torturous, you may be able to find a small, privately-owned post office near you! Those are great and tend to be way less crowded.

5. Consider asking for hand canceling. The machines that process mail are a little harsh. They roll and squeeze and squish and sometimes mail gets damaged. Hand canceling just means a human being stamps each invite instead of running it through the machine to get those wavy lines printed on it. So not only will you save your invites from being poked and prodded, but they’ll also look prettier with the hand-cancelled stamp. Hand canceling is especially important if there’s anything unusual about your invite that might gum up the machines. Strings tied around things, rhinestones, wax seals, anything that you wouldn’t typically see in the mail. If you’re using a dark envelope or have a dark invitation, hand canceling will help keep the color from rubbing off on other pieces. Even if your invite is pretty straightforward, I still love the look of hand canceling and everything arrives nicer.

How do you do it? You just ask. You walk up to the counter at the post office and say, “Can you please hand cancel these?” They should not charge extra for this service! If they want to charge extra, just politely say, “Oh no thank you, I’ll go somewhere else.” And take them to another post office. I suggest going during a quiet time (middle of the week, middle of the day) or to a small, quiet post office to increase your chances of this request being accepted with a smile. (I should note that your invites may still go through sorting machines on their way to their destination, but they aren’t quite as harsh as the canceling machines. If you’re concerned, speak with the post office to see if you can pay a little extra to have them entirely hand processed.)

Want to go the extra mile? Here are a few other things you can do to ensure your invitations arrive perfectly perfect!

  1. Allow plenty of time for the process. Addressing, stuffing, sealing, going to the post office–it all takes longer than you think it will. Order your invitations so that they arrive with plenty of time to complete these steps without rushing.
  2. Address the envelopes without the invitations in them. You’ll avoid getting indentations on the invite itself.
  3. Get an envelope moistener. Save your tongue from all that licking! Envelope moisteners are less than $2 and easy to use. (You can also use a small damp sponge.)
  4. Order extra invitations. If something does happen to an invite or two–either while in your care or during the mailing process, make sure you have some replacements on hand.
  5. If you have time, mail yourself an invitation to see how it arrives after going through the mail system. You’ll see if there are any potential trouble spots and can adjust accordingly!

And if this all seems a little overwhelming–don’t worry! Your guests love you and are excited for you no matter what. So kick back and have a glass of wine–just make sure you’re not anywhere near your invites when you drink it!