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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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