Always a Bridesmaid: Missing Manners

One of my favorite aunts is very serious about thank-you notes. Serious to the point where you’re not getting a gift next year unless you send a note. So under my aunt’s example, I’ve grown up pretty cognizant of manners.

In fact, I think I was overconfident about my knowledge until I started preparing for Wedding Bonanza 2009. Since planning began, I’ve found myself asking what I should write on the shower invitation, whether to send separate invitations to people at the same address, and whether or not phallic-shaped cupcakes are really acceptable. To my mom’s great relief, I have found a couple of sources to turn to and help reduce the number of phone calls she’s getting from me.

I recently checked out two etiquette books that my mom swears by: the classic Amy Vanderbilt and an updated version of Letitia Baldrige. I have to say, there’s a world between those pages that I haven’t exactly conquered. So I picked out a few odd and interesting highlights in regards to bridal parties and manners.

1. Bridesmaids are supposed to get gifts for the bride. Right, I knew that. They’re called shower gifts, wedding gifts, the martinis at the bachelorette party, right? No. Apparently bridesmaids have also traditionally given another nice trinket to exchange with the bride at the bridesmaid luncheon—a girly celebration separate from the actual wedding shower. I envision the luncheon as somewhere between a shower and a bachelorette party with fewer doilies and strippers. I went to a bridesmaid luncheon for another bride years ago, and she gave us gifts. Looks like I missed a step!

Don’t worry, though. Ms. Baldrige did list the bridesmaid luncheon as a tradition that often gets nixed today now that most young women keep full-time jobs. I guess it’s harder to meet for tea when we’re all working and living in various parts of the country.

2. At weddings to which VIPs will be invited, admittance cards at the door determine who may enter. I’ve never been to this kind of wedding, and I’m not sure it has anything to do with the bridal party, but I wanted an excuse to talk about this point. I’ll now be prepared to serve as a bouncer at my friends’ weddings.

Note to self: I need to do more push-ups.

3. According to etiquette rules, the best man handles the clergy fee, paying right there at the ceremony. What, no PayPal online? Seriously, I’m relieved that the men take care of that—I think it’s nerve-wracking enough to figure out where to hold a ring to hand to the bride. It’s not like bridesmaid’s dresses have pockets, and I don’t think my “hide it in my bra” bar trick is something people at a wedding want to see. Baldrige says to put the groom’s ring around your thumb, under your bouquet, as you wait to hand it to the bride.

4. Members of the bridal party may be asked to be a part of the receiving line. Really? I thought only the family made up the receiving line. I guess I’ll have to brush up on my small talk just in case. It’s probably not a good time to ask people about how work is going or if retirement is coming up soon.

Note to self: Start watching American Idol for small-talk fodder. No one wants to hear about the murderers on Criminal Minds.

5. There’s an order to toasting the married couple. I didn’t realize there was an established toasting order; it’s something I’ve never paid attention to. So it’ll be good for the best man and maid of honor to work this out with the couple’s parents ahead of time. Hopefully a DJ or band member will give cues.

6. Another tradition that bends to sequence is dancing. Traditionally, after the bride and groom dance, the bride dances with a series of other men, and the groom continuously cuts in. I don’t get it exactly but I know that the list in Amy Vanderbilt’s book takes up nearly half a page. I think as a guest I’d be frustrated having to wait that long to boogie myself. The whole thing sort of reminds me of a stuck up version of a Discovery Channel mating ritual, only rather than ripping his opponent to shreds, the lion throws down his glove to challenge the other lions to a duel.

Those are just a few of the etiquette tips I have picked up so far. Hopefully I won’t make a major faux-paus. But if I do, I’ll claim ignorance. Plus, if I’m the bouncer—what are you going to do?

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