Tuesday 27 September 2016

The dos and don'ts of wedding etiquette

From gluten-free wedding cake to social media-free zones, we ask the experts about the new rules of wediquette

Published 14/05/2015 | 02:30

The new rules of wediquette. Photo: Getty Images.
The new rules of wediquette. Photo: Getty Images.
Aidan McCarthy and Ruth Mayor
Suzanne Sheridan and fiancé Jim O'Callaghan

Are you one of the thousands of people around the country who received a wedding invite in the post this morning?

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Almost eight out of 10 people will attend or have already attended one wedding so far this year, according to new research by Newbridge Silverware.

And more than two-thirds expect to channel Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell by attending up to four weddings by the end of 2015.

However, from gluten-free cake to social media-free zones, the rules of wedding-going have come a long way since the 1994 flick.

"In the past, weddings had a set of unwritten rules that everyone knew and went along with," explains Keith Malone of wedding website Mrs2Be.ie. "Just as the traditional wedding has changed though, so too has the etiquette of weddings, or 'wediquette' as it's known. Good wediquette basically comes down to good manners."

With wedding season in full swing, here the experts answer your trickiest 'wediquette' questions:

Do I have to get the couple an engagement present?

Almost half don't bother with an engagement present, the new Newbridge Silverware survey shows. But of those who do, most spend under €50. Bubbly is a safe bet, according to the experts.

Sophie Pigott, marketing manager of ­WeddingsOnline.ie, says: "People are more inclined to buy an expensive engagement gift for a family member or close friend, especially if they're part of the bridal party. However, most Irish people wouldn't feel comfortable attending an engagement party without a gift, and settle for a card and bottle or wine or bubbly, at least."

Should I pick something from the wedding list or just give cash?

Although cash is still the most popular wedding gift, almost a third of guests think it's too impersonal, and plump for a pressie. "Many guests are going back to giving a gift rather than cash as they like the idea of giving the couple something they can cherish for years to come," says a spokesperson for The Wedding Shop at Brown Thomas. "The most common items asked for include coffee machines, KitchenAid appliances and Waterford Crystal."

How much should I put in the wedding card?

Cash is still king when it comes to wedding gifts, with 40pc of guests gifting between €100-€150, according to the latest figures, and up to 32pc splashing up to €200 on the happy couple. So what's the 'going rate' these days? "We would estimate the typical wedding gift to be around €200 per couple and over €100 for a single person," says OneFabDay.com co-founder Naoise McNally.

"Financial gifts are definitely preferred these days as most couples live together before marriage and already have most of the traditional home-making gifts. If in doubt, ask the couple. Contrary to popular belief, a financial gift is usually taken as a contribution to the honeymoon - not to 'cover costs'."

Am I expected to contribute to the cost of the wedding?

Irish couple Patsy O'Connor and Radina Hadzhieva hit headlines earlier this year when they auctioned off seats for their dream Las Vegas wedding. But is crowdfunding your big day an 'I do' or an 'I don't'?

"In Ireland, many guests find it offensive to be asked to contribute financially to a wedding in lieu of gifting a traditional wedding present," says Keith Malone of Mrs2Be.ie of the controversial new online trend.

"Couples are less likely to offend if they set up a 'honeymoon fund'. It is seen as more of a present. Younger guests generally give cash anyway."

Is it OK to wear white to the wedding?

In the past, wearing white to a wedding was considered the ultimate style taboo. With more brides choosing coloured wedding dresses, however, is it all white to wear the hue of the season if you're not the one walking down the aisle?

"In today's society, I think it's perfectly acceptable to wear white or cream to someone else's wedding," says fashion blogger Naomi Clarke of TheStyleFairy.ie, "especially as white is one of the key trends for summer. Break it up by adding a splash of colour such as bright heels or a printed pashmina, and avoid teaming it with silver or gold, which tends to look more bridal."

Can I ask for a special meal?

Between gluten intolerance, vegetarianism and caveman diets, wedding menus have come a long way since the days of 'beef or salmon'. You should inform the bride and groom of any dietary requirements at least a month before the big day.

"Special dietary requests are definitely on the rise," says Takis Melitsiotis, director of operations at Conrad Dublin, a popular five-star wedding venue. "Where there are multiple requests, one month's notice is really helpful as it allows our chef to put thought into the menu. That said, we can look after most dietary requests last minute."

Can I turn down an invite?

With the total cost of ­attending a wedding spiralling to almost €500, according to one survey by voucher company One4All, it's little wonder that 41pc admitted to saying 'I don't' to an invite at least once.

"If someone decides against attending a wedding, they're not obliged to give a reason," says Mrs2Be.ie co-founder Keith Malone, "although many do out of politeness. Whether or not they should send a gift instead really depends on how well they know the couple.

"If, for some reason, guests cannot attend at the last minute, they may not want to bother the couple, but should at least contact the venue so they can alter the seating plan accordingly."

Should I bring my selfie stick or leave it at home?

While some social media-conscious couples are going so far as to hashtag their nuptials, others are banning Facebook and Twitter on their big day altogether. "Although most couples would be happy to discover a few snaps of their big day on Facebook the next day, some may be disappointed that they didn't get to share them first," says Sophie Pigott of WeddingsOnline.ie.

"We've certainly seen a rise in 'unplugged weddings' ­recently - often flagged on the invitation or even in the mass booklet. If in doubt, my advice is to wait until the couple have shared the first official photos of their wedding online before sharing your own."

Do I call the bride 'Ms' or 'Mrs'?

What's in a name? One survey of Facebook users found that a third of married women in their 20s now keep their ­maiden name. "Most of my brides still change their name," says wedding planner Judy Mullins of ­IDoWeddingsIreland.com.

"Generally, the bride and groom will be introduced as 'the new Mr and Mrs Whatever' at the reception. But you do get the odd couple who want to be introduced by their first names. Either way, it'll soon become clear by word-of-mouth whether the bride is a 'Ms' or a 'Mrs'."

'We're not doing a ­wedding list... cash is always a winner'

Special needs assistant Ruth Mayor and husband-to-be Aidan McCarthy from Dublin are to wed this August. Bride-to-be Ruth says:

"My fiancé Aidan and I are getting married in Brooklodge in Wicklow on August 9 with around 140 guests. By now, all the big things like the dress, band and cars are sorted.

After we got engaged on Christmas Day, we received a few bottles of fizz and cards from friends and family, which was a nice surprise. But we're not doing a wedding list - cash is always the winner.

Recently, I've heard of some couples crowdfunding their wedding. Personally, I'd feel a bit forward setting something like that up - people spend a lot of money attending the wedding already. Although I plan to wear a white dress, I would have no problem if someone turned up in white. Hopefully it would look more like an evening dress than a wedding dress!

Meanwhile, I haven't even thought about the whole social media issue yet. I don't think I'd mind someone posting a few photos of our big day to Facebook though."

'I'd never ask people to give money over a gift'

StartMonday.ie co-founder Suzanne Sheridan and fiancé Jim O'Callaghan from Dublin plan to tie the knot next year. Bride-to-be Suzanne says:

"My fiancé Jim and I are getting married on August 27, 2016 with around 130 guests. So far we have the church, celebrant and venue booked - and the photographer and band are next. Some wedding websites I've looked at say it's OK to tell guests that cash is preferable to a gift. But I would never ask people to give cash over a gift, or contribute to a 'honeymoon fund', and can honestly say I would appreciate a gift just as much as cash.

I've been to weddings where the guests have been discouraged from uploading photos of the couple to social media, or even bluntly instructed not to. I think it's a bit unnecessary. People love to share photos of the wedding on their Facebook page throughout the day.

As I plan to change my name, I'm perfectly happy for people to call me 'Mrs O'Callaghan' on the day!"

Irish Independent

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