Mod­ern Man­ners

The wed­dings of to­day call for new so­cial cus­toms. Jo Bryant, a long-term con­trib­u­tor to the fa­mous De­brett’s guide to eti­quette, shares some tips for the big day

Hong Kong Tatler Weddings - - CONTENTS - Melissa Twigg BY Mags Ocampo IL­LUS­TRA­TION

The wed­dings of to­day call for new so­cial cus­toms

If Four Wed­dings and a Fu­neral taught us any­thing, it is that a day spent cel­e­brat­ing mar­riage can be filled with love, hap­pi­ness, ro­mance and… the very real and present dan­ger of of­fend­ing some­one. From paci­fy­ing the great aunt who as­sumes she will be in­vited to din­ner and danc­ing, to mak­ing a seat­ing plan that in­cludes your di­vorced par­ents, your best friend’s lat­est fling and the groom’s badly be­haved nephew, wed­ding plan­ning is a mine­field. Even more so once you throw in mod­ern add-ons such as des­ti­na­tion wed­dings, saucy hash­tags and party favours.

When it comes to eti­quette, there is no greater source than De­brett’s—an author­ity on how to be­have in po­lite so­ci­ety since 1769. Founded in Lon­don (where else?), it has spent two and a half cen­turies pro­vid­ing the peo­ple of the UK with in­valu­able ad­vice. So we asked Jo Bryant, a long-term De­brett’s con­trib­u­tor and the edi­tor of its re­cent wed­ding’s guide, for ad­vice.

“I find that brides and grooms mostly strug­gle when they’re pleasing too many peo­ple at once,” she says on the phone from Lon­don. “And that’s why, in the plan­ning stages, it’s es­sen­tial to be as clear as pos­si­ble. Firstly with your­self and your fi­ancé— work out, alone, what ex­actly it is that you want. And then bring in your par­ents and see what their vi­sion is. That’s when the art of com­pro­mise comes in.”

Bryant be­lieves that the fa­tal mis­take is be­ing too dog­matic. Whether you’re a bride de­ter­mined to get mar­ried on a dis­tant is­land, a groom who wants to in­vite ev­ery­one he ever had a beer with or a mother-in-law want­ing to recre­ate ev­ery fam­ily tra­di­tion, the best pos­si­ble move you can make is to be flex­i­ble.

“It’s es­sen­tial,” she says. “When it comes to wed­ding plan­ning, we all get caught up in what we want, and while of course you need to be happy, be­ing head­strong and re­fus­ing to com­pro­mise will lead to a very rocky ride for ev­ery­one in­volved. Be kind to your­self and re­mem­ber you’re plan­ning an enor­mous event and spend­ing a huge amount—don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the im­por­tance of mak­ing sure peo­ple are get­ting along and how much hap­pier that will make you on the big day than hav­ing the ex­act colour scheme you want.”

The guest list is fa­mously one of the eas­i­est ways to cause of­fence. Are the rules chang­ing? Once it was “No ring, no bring”—but is that ar­chaic in 2019, when peo­ple live to­gether long be­fore mar­riage? And now that cou­ples are mar­ry­ing later and pay­ing for more of the wed­ding them­selves, can they over­rule par­ents who want to in­vite a sec­ond cousin when there’s no space for their col­lege friends?

“Well, firstly you need to make sure you pri­ori­tise VIPs, the wed­ding party and close fam­ily, then good friends,” says Bryant. “If peo­ple haven’t been with part­ners very long, then you re­ally don’t need to in­vite them—just tell your friend that they can’t bring their lat­est squeeze. These days you should have an en­gaged, mar­ried or live to­gether rule—although it is very im­por­tant to have that con­ver­sa­tion with your friend be­fore the in­vi­ta­tion falls through the let­ter­box with just one name on it.”

She ad­vises a sim­i­lar ap­proach to fam­ily mem­bers you don’t feel need to be there or friends who you would love to in­vite but sim­ply can’t squeeze on the list. “Tell your par­ents why hav­ing a good school friend there would mean so much more to you than an aunt you rarely see, and call up your friends and ex­plain that you’ve cho­sen to have a small wed­ding for practical rea­sons, but that they still mean a lot to you. And if your par­ents are di­vorced, speak to them sep­a­rately about how im­por­tant it is for you to have a happy day, and then seat them as far apart from each other as pos­si­ble, but both at the top ta­ble, and pray for the best.”

It might be hard to keep the good news to your­self, but Bryant urges peo­ple to phone or meet up with fam­ily and good friends be­fore the ring photo hits so­cial me­dia

These days, we have so much more to deal with than a com­pli­cated guest list: so­cial me­dia rears its head from the day you get en­gaged. It might be hard to keep the good news to your­self, but Bryant urges peo­ple to phone or meet up with fam­ily and good friends be­fore the ring photo hits so­cial me­dia. “It should go: par­ents first, in per­son if you can, fol­lowed by sib­lings and grand­par­ents,” she says. “From there, you’ll prob­a­bly want to call your clos­est friends.” Only af­ter that can the di­a­mond en­crusted selfie be un­leashed.

Then, on the day it­self, you need to work out if you want to set In­sta­gram alight with the daz­zling im­age of you in a dress, or if you’d rather con­trol the so­cial me­dia posts your­self. “Some peo­ple love the so­cial me­dia el­e­ment and some peo­ple don’t,” says Bryant. “It’s com­pletely up to you, but you need to work that out on your own. If so, great: send out a funny hash­tag on the in­vi­ta­tion. If not, you need to be up­front and ask peo­ple not to post un­til af­ter the day.”

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