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Tete-a-tete: How to enjoy a wedding, even if it’s not your own

Being invited to a wedding is an honor, but attending such an event poses a unique set of challenges. Though there are all kinds of books and other resources available that deal with wedding etiquette and proper protocol, they don’t always include those hard-won insights that have been gleaned from personal experience and will truly assist in preparing you.

With the wedding frenzy that has characterized my summers and autumns for the past few years gradually subsiding into baby showers and birth announcements, I would like to share the wisdom I’ve accumulated throughout my adventures. I hope these tips will be of service whether you’re a rookie attending the first wedding within your group of friends or a seasoned veteran watching the last of your grandchildren walk down the aisle.

  • First and foremost: ladies, evening bags are a lie. Their shallow depths will accommodate – at most – a cell phone, a glasses case and a lipstick. You’re much better off with a larger purse that complements your outfit and fits everything you need to bring with you. Otherwise, you’ll be stuffing your car keys, tissues and contact lens case into the suit coat pockets of your spouse or your most obliging male relative, who then runs the risk of shedding these items all over the floor if he turns around too quickly.
  • Ladies, if you want to stand out at a wedding, refrain from choosing a black or blue dress. Though black has been traditionally frowned upon at weddings, it’s become an increasingly popular choice, as has navy and other deep shades of blue. Brown, gray, dark purple and muted tones of silver, copper and gold all make elegant statements that set you apart from the other guests without taking attention away from the bride.
  • Conversely, if your goal is to blend in and attract as little attention as possible, a black or navy dress will serve you well.
  • A final point regarding women’s attire: wear comfortable shoes. Women sometimes select shoes that look beautiful but are far from functional, with the intention of taking them off as the festivities progress and dancing in their bare feet. Though that may be considered acceptable behavior-wise, consider what unpleasantness might be on the floor due to where other people’s shoes have been. Also, if people are bringing their drinks with them on the dance floor, you could end up slipping in a puddle of spilled beer or, worse, stepping on a piece of broken glass.
  • Bring an easy-to-consume emergency snack, like a granola bar. Chances are you didn’t eat much before the wedding due to travel or the rigors of getting ready. Some weddings may have a cocktail hour with appetizers following the ceremony to take the edge off people’s appetites before the reception. However, there can still be a sizable gap between the cocktail hour and the meal portion of the reception as pictures are taken, the wedding party is introduced and the various traditional dances are danced. If you start to feel lightheaded, find an appropriate moment to excuse yourself to the restroom and eat your snack in secret. Ladies, this is another reason it’s helpful to bring a larger purse – unless your husband’s OK with you absconding to the restroom with his suit jacket.
  • Choose your bar beverage ahead of time. There’s typically no drink menu at the bar, and the busy bartenders likely will not have the time to help you decide on a cocktail. Also, the types of alcohol with which the bar is stocked often depend on what the bride and groom have chosen to pay for, so you may find that your old standby cocktail is unavailable. Unless you’re satisfied with falling back on beer, wine or the perennially popular rum and Coke, do a little research before the wedding and have a couple different cocktails in mind.
  • After you’ve finished your meal and before you sashay out to the dance floor, put your program, your name card and any other paper items you’d like to keep as souvenirs in your purse. Gentlemen, I do not recommend sticking these in your pockets, as they can easily get crushed, creased or torn. Instead, ask your wife or an obliging female relative to stow them in her purse on your behalf. If left on the table unattended, these paper items may be cleared away and disposed of as garbage by overzealous wait staff.
  • As the evening progresses and people get caught up in the festivities, be attentive to the songs that are being played by the band or the DJ. Some people may take the lyrics to some racier songs literally, which could lead to uncomfortable situations on the dance floor. This may be a good time for a bathroom break or to step outside for some fresh air.

Above all, remember to savor the experience and enjoy being part of this special celebration. Each wedding is an opportunity to make lasting memories, and you’ll be more focused on doing so if you take a few of these tips into consideration.

– Teresa Santoski

Originally published Oct. 1, 2015


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Tete-a-tete: The downside to the world’s most flattering bridesmaid dress

The world's most flattering (albeit restrictive) bridesmaid dress. From left: me, Best Friend, Sister of Best Friend and Younger Sister. Photo courtesy of Carlen Images.

The world’s most flattering (albeit restrictive) bridesmaid dress. From left: me, Best Friend, Sister of Best Friend and Younger Sister. Photo courtesy of Carlen Images.

You may recall, dear readers, that I penned a column back in March about the discovery of a bridesmaid dress that was universally flattering, making every member of my best friend’s bridal party look like gorgeous Greek mermaid goddesses in spite of our varying body types.

Best Friend’s wedding took place last weekend (as of this writing), and I regret to inform you that there is a minor downside to the world’s most amazing bridesmaid dress. The downside is that this dress is strapless.

The bridesmaid dresses from another angle.

The bridesmaid dresses from another angle.

Obviously, I was aware of this when I first tried on the dress, but I had never worn a strapless dress before and I was trying on a sample dress that was a size too small anyway. Upon receiving my proper size, the dress felt comfortable, even a bit roomy, though it wouldn’t quite stay up.

The alteration process taught me that a strapless dress has to fit more tightly than a dress that does have straps because, since there aren’t any straps to hold up the dress, the only thing that can hold the dress up is the dress itself. It does this by squeezing you to such an extent that you feel like you’re wearing a full-body boa constrictor.

Best Friend, might I add, happens to be a devout Catholic. For those of you who have never attended a Catholic mass, you are constantly going back and forth between standing, sitting and kneeling. I opted to sit during the kneeling portions, as I didn’t want to detract from the ceremony by requiring assistance to get back on my feet.

Sitting was a challenge all its own, as breathing had to be done more shallowly and more frequently due to the restrictiveness of the bodice. After the ring ceremony, I noticed that Best Friend was sweetly playing with her sparkly new wedding band, turning her hand this way and that to catch the light in such a way that you might almost imagine she was waving at the priest – or maybe I was just hallucinating due to lack of oxygen. I had to stifle a laugh, and it took me several minutes to get my breath back.

Due to my lack of experience wearing strapless dresses, I initially thought I was the only one experiencing such difficulties. Perhaps I had gained a few pounds since we bought the dresses. It wasn’t until later in the evening, when the festivities had died down a bit, that I had an opportunity to compare notes with fellow bridesmaid Younger Sister and discovered that she was likewise in discomfort.

The hitherto unknown challenges of wearing a strapless dress were worth it, however, in order to be a fitting accompaniment to Best Friend on her wedding day. I like to think of the bride and her female attendants as a bouquet – the bride is the big, beautiful rose at the center, and her female attendants are the surrounding flowers that serve to enhance her loveliness.

And Best Friend was an absolutely exquisite bride. She had decided against a strapless wedding gown in favor of a dress with sheer, rhinestone-embellished straps, but her dress came with its own unexpected challenge. While we were posing for pictures outdoors, a curious fly mistook her for an actual flower and became trapped beneath the net overlay of her dress.

There were a few moments of consternation and confusion as to how to deal with the errant insect without running the risk of splatter before Sister of Best Friend, who was the maid of honor, delicately extricated the fly with her bare hand and carefully released it back into the wild. We did a thorough check of Best Friend’s dress and veil before continuing with the photos.

Wedding day fashion, however, took a backseat to the obvious joy of the couple being joined in matrimony. Best Friend was thrilled to be marrying the love of her life, and he was equally elated. For those of you who are long-time readers, Best Friend is the friend I attempted to visit when she was in the hospital – and instead passed out and ended up being admitted to the emergency room. Her husband is the boyfriend who was there for her through her whole ordeal. It was an honor to be part of their special day.

And after this wedding, I consider myself better prepared to handle the rigors of bridesmaiding at Oldest Younger Brother’s nuptials this fall. I liked the pre-altered dress for Best Friend’s wedding so much, I ordered it in burnt orange for Oldest Younger Brother’s wedding.

But this time, I will be familiar with the dos and don’ts of wedding attire: don’t kneel, abstain from strenuous laughter, sit carefully, breathe shallowly, and check the bride’s dress and veil for wayward insects before the photographer starts taking pictures.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published July 31, 2014.

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