Etiquette Be Damned

by clumsylawyer

If there’s one wedding-related thing which is almost guaranteed to get me really (and I’ll admit it, unreasonably) riled up, then it’s reading wedding forums’ etiquette boards.  As the forum I’m most involved with is Weddingbee, that’s the one which most frequently feels my wrath, but UKBride and TheKnot haven’t been immune.  Nor have wedding magazines, blogs and anywhere else I might find some ridiculously archaic “rule” of etiquette with which I simply do not agree.

I like some traditions.  For example, I couldn’t imagine Dad not walking me up the aisle, because it’s a way of acknowledging his importance in my upbringing, and in my life today.  I realise that the roots of this tradition come from the ‘property transaction’ of marriage, but the symbolism has (for me at least) evolved into something far more special and poignant.

Steve Martin as George Banks walks Annie up the aisle in Father of the Bride (1991). Image from

WARNING!  Sarcasm and strong opinions to follow!  Please don’t take anything I say as seriously as I make it sound.  I’m ranting more than anything.

However, doing things for the sake of doing things, just because “that’s how it’s done” makes no sense to me!  And quite often the proponents of the “one way” are pretty condescending towards anyone with an alternative point of view.  The thing that gets me the most is that (and this will have a lot to do with the fact that Weddingbee is a US website) it tends to be that the American way is the only way.  I get really frustrated, because it feels like the big boy in the playground bullying all the little kids around him.

For example, I’ve said before that A Man and I won’t be creating any kind of gift registry because it’s just not practical for us, so we will instead be asking for money towards a house deposit.  This decision has been met with outrage and downright rudeness across forum boards, because you cannot possibly ask for money as a wedding gift – that’s not what people do!  However, neither (as I discussed in that same post) are you apparently allowed to include any kind of reference to a gift list with your invitations – then it sounds like you’re demanding presents, and that’s crass and tacky (this coming from the same nation where brides will have endless bridal showers/lunches/engagement parties, the whole purpose of which is to receive gifts).  The reason for this is again that this just not what people do.  This assertion is put forward, regardless of where the couple hails from, who their guest list will be, what is typical amongst their circle or any other factors which you might think would make a difference as to how you’d behave.

The whole asking for money thing on a Wedding Invitation is an Etiquette Faux Pas, no matter where you are from, or what your background.”

Gee, thanks for having such extensive knowledge of all global cultures, traditions and practices…

The same arguments rage on for all sorts of issues of ‘etiquette’ which I have come across on the wedding blogosphere.  I have only ever been to one wedding where there was an open bar.  Who knew that to have a cash bar was so offensive?

“I think cash bar is rather tacky, it’s like inviting people to your house then charging them for drinks. ( I don’t mean to offend anybody, but even worse is to give your guests drink tickets. Feels like rations in 3rd world country).

I think limited bar, aka wine and beer or full open bar for cocktail hour then wine/beer option is happy compromise.”

Wow!  ‘rations in a third world country’?!  There are countless boards across the internet warning people that you absolutely, under no circumstances must force your guests to pay for any of their drinks.  And hell, if an open bar isn’t in your budget then you’re obviously not prioritising properly – either take out a loan or cut back on other less important things.  It doesn’t matter if you’re feeding your guests a plate of crap for $6 per head, as long as you ply them with endless alcohol all night.

My latest peeve regarded whether you’d be offended by someone addressing a wedding invitation to “Mr and Mrs John Doe” (i.e. using the husband’s first and surname, and referring to his wife only as “Mrs”).  I answered with an emphatic yes.  I probably will be changing my surname to A Man’s, but that doesn’t mean I will cease to be a person in my own right.  Would I refuse to attend the wedding on this basis?  No, of course not.  Depending on the person sending the invitation, I might mention the fact that being “Mrs John Doe” frustrates me to him or her, but otherwise I’d seethe silently for a minute or two and then send my RSVP.  The board exploded with self-righteous assertions that, should you choose to change your surname, you have no right to be offended about being referred to by your new husband’s first name.

“Never have understood the feelings of ladies who change their last names, but are ALSO extremely offended by being called Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. 

Name-changing is either patriarchal or it isn’t. Are you only 50% his property if you use his last name but not his first name? And that’s all right? Because you only changed part of it?”

Somewhat presumptuous to assume you know why I decide to change my name…

“…its [sic] part of the tradition of taking your husband’s last name. If you feel this strongly, there is always the hyphenation option.”

There are all sorts of reasons you might not want to hyphenate – names sound silly together, you already have a hyphenated surname, you think it sounds pretentious, etc etc.  Besides, just because something is “part of the tradition” doesn’t make it appropriate for a 21st century woman.  Times change, and traditions should evolve with them.

“It’s one thing to correct someone when they address you as Mrs HisFirst HisLast to your face, but if you can’t do a thing about it on an invite, what are you wasting your energy for?”

Thank goodness somebody’s policing which things are and aren’t appropriate to get upset and annoyed about!  Thank you for informing me that I’m wasting my energy in spreading the word that I think this archaic usage is out of touch with modern society.

I could go on and on and on and on about how much these things irk me, but I think I’ve blabbered for quite long enough.  Suffice it to conclude that I say down with etiquette!  That’s not to say that things shouldn’t be done in a polite and respectful way, but perhaps the ways in which courtesy are shown need to adapt?

Is there any particular wedding tradition which really gets your goat?