Eti­quette Class

Indonesia Tatler Weddings - - ESSENTIALS - Il­lus­tra­tions an­gela ho

Fol­low­ing pro­to­col be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter your cel­e­bra­tions will en­sure you and your guests en­joy the big day, writes Elisabeth Galvin

When plan­ning your wed­ding, there’s ab­so­lutely no need to turn into a bridezilla. Rant­ing, rav­ing and gen­er­ally mis­be­hav­ing isn’t be­com­ing to any bride. Ac­cept ev­ery piece of ad­vice—no mat­ter how silly or of­fen­sive—with grace. Deal calmly with dress dis­as­ters and keep smil­ing when your fu­ture mother-in-law adds yet another ob­scure ac­quain­tance to the guest list. A bride should never let her ve­neer of poise and el­e­gance slip and spoil the day for her­self or oth­ers. “Wed­ding eti­quette is some­times fraught with mine­fields,” says Jen­nie Hal­lam-peel, chair­man of The Lon­don Sea­son and an ex­pert in the art of man­ners. In fact, af­ter re­ceiv­ing a high vol­ume of emails from around the world ask­ing for ad­vice on the sub­ject, Hal­lam-peel is host­ing a se­ries of one-day wed­ding sem­i­nars at The Ritz Lon­don as part of The Lon­don Sea­son’s se­ries of high-so­ci­ety sum­mer events. “A wed­ding cer­e­mony is a tra­di­tion that has been fol­lowed for hun­dreds of years,” says Hal­lam-peel. “The most com­mon pit­falls cou­ples fall into is when the bride and groom—and of­ten both sets of par­ents—have dif­fer­ing ideas of for­mal­ity and ac­cepted so­cial codes. It is vi­tal that there is an open dis­cus­sion of this as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter the en­gage­ment, and that a com­pro­mise is reached be­fore mat­ters be­come con­tentious. The wed­ding day should be as stress-free as pos­si­ble and ar­range­ments should be made—and agreed upon—to en­sure that ev­ery­one is able to re­lax and en­joy it.”

Be­fore the wed­ding Plan­ning and In­vi­ta­tions

These days, it should not be as­sumed that the bride’s fam­ily will take on the cost of a wed­ding. The re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and di­vi­sion of costs de­pend on the fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stances as well as the age of the cou­ple, ad­vises Bri­tish pub­lisher and trusted eti­quette source De­brett’s.

The com­pany ad­vises en­gaged cou­ples to think prac­ti­cally as well as cre­atively when plan­ning. “Cou­ples may be­come car­ried away with a par­tic­u­lar vi­sion of their wed­ding day and may not con­sider im­prac­ti­cal­i­ties that have an im­pact on guests, such as the lo­ca­tion of the venue, the dis­tance be­tween cer­e­mony and re­cep­tion, or the timetable of events,” says James Field, se­nior trainer at De­brett’s.

En­sure, within rea­son, that the event is held at a time and place that en­ables good friends and close re­la­tions to at­tend. It prob­a­bly won’t be pos­si­ble to ac­com­mo­date ev­ery­body, but do check the avail­abil­ity of mem­bers of the wed­ding party when plan­ning.

Be con­sid­er­ate when choos­ing a date. You could use the day to mark a fam­ily an­niver­sary, for ex­am­ple. Avoid bank hol­i­day week­ends or ma­jor sport­ing events such as the Rugby Sev­ens, and be aware that fam­i­lies may want to travel dur­ing school hol­i­days.

De­brett’s ad­vises that the num­ber of guests is usu­ally de­ter­mined by bud­get, and the size of the cer­e­mony and re­cep­tion venues. Early on, dis­cuss the al­lo­ca­tion of guests with both sets of par­ents. If the par­ents are bear­ing the ma­jor­ity of the wed­ding costs, they may feel they de­serve a par­tic­u­lar num­ber of in­vi­ta­tions—but this should not be at the ex­pense of other key par­ties. If ei­ther the bride or the groom has a con­sid­er­ably larger fam­ily than the other, an equal split of guests may not be pos­si­ble be­tween the two sides.

It is ac­cept­able not to in­vite part­ners of guests you don’t know very well, but both halves of an en­gaged cou­ple or those in a long-term re­la­tion­ship should be in­vited.

If an el­derly rel­a­tive is trav­el­ling on their own, you might think about invit­ing their carer or a com­pan­ion to en­sure their com­fort.

If you are con­sid­er­ing not invit­ing chil­dren, think care­fully about what im­pact this will have on your guests. You may choose to of­fer some sort of child­care so that par­ents—and their off­spring—can have a lovely day.

It is ac­cept­able to in­vite some guests to the re­cep­tion only, in a sep­a­rate in­vi­ta­tion, if the venue for the cer­e­mony is small. Some­times— along with other guests—they might be in­vited to an evening-only re­cep­tion af­ter the wed­ding break­fast and speeches.

Wed­ding sta­tionery should be care­fully cho­sen, as it sets the tone for the day. It is ad­vis­able to fol­low tra­di­tional pro­to­col for word­ing—de­brett’s has a com­pre­hen­sive guide to this avail­able online.

A postal ad­dress must be pro­vided for replies. Some cou­ples choose to in­clude an email ad­dress as well. Be metic­u­lous when record­ing RSVPS—IF you are pressed for time, you could ask your par­ents to take on this re­spon­si­bil­ity.

On the day Cer­e­mony and Re­cep­tion

Wed­ding gowns tra­di­tion­ally don’t bare the shoul­ders, es­pe­cially in church. If you’ve got your heart set on a strap­less dress, you could wear a bolero and re­move it af­ter the cer­e­mony. Too much cleav­age is frowned upon, as are very short gowns.

Morn­ing suits are the ac­cepted Bri­tish dress code for wed­dings—for both the groom and guests. A navy blue, mid-grey or char­coal grey suit is an al­ter­na­tive, as is an out­fit tra­di­tional in a par­tic­u­lar coun­try.

The groom should ar­rive 45 min­utes be­fore the start of the cer­e­mony and the bride ap­prox­i­mately five min­utes be­fore. This way, you can fol­low tra­di­tion by walk­ing up the aisle a lit­tle late, once the of­fi­cial pho­to­graphs have been taken and you’ve gath­ered your wits.

Keep your com­po­sure and avoid tears by prac­tis­ing con­trolled breath­ing ex­er­cises a few days be­fore the wed­ding, ad­vises Hal­lamPeel. “Take four or five deep breaths be­fore you walk up the aisle. A tiny drop of Bach’s Res­cue Rem­edy on the tongue calms the most anx­ious of brides,” she says.

It’s also im­por­tant to make sure you know your vows by heart and have prac­tised walk­ing up the aisle, so you can avoid nasty sur­prises such as grates, steps and un­even floor­ing.

Once you are mar­ried, the groom may now kiss the bride—but this should be brief rather than pas­sion­ate.

En­sure those all-im­por­tant fam­ily pho­to­graphs are taken to avoid hurt feel­ings af­ter­wards. Dis­cuss this com­pre­hen­sively with your pho­tog­ra­pher well in ad­vance and of­fer a list of must-haves. On the day, des­ig­nate some­one to en­sure all pic­tures on the list are taken.

At the re­cep­tion, it’s tra­di­tional to have a re­ceiv­ing line. “It en­sures that ev­ery guest is made to feel im­por­tant, and has an op­por­tu­nity of thank­ing the host per­son­ally and greet­ing the new bride and groom,” says Hal­lam-peel.

“In be­tween cour­ses, it is very nice for the bride and groom to visit each ta­ble in­for­mally” —Jen­nie Hal­lam-peel

Seat­ing plans are one of the most dif­fi­cult as­pects of a re­cep­tion to get right, so plan ahead care­fully. “Mis­man­age­ment of place­ment can cause fam­ily rifts or some­one hav­ing a per­fectly mis­er­able time,” she says. “Older rel­a­tives usu­ally feel hap­pi­est among peo­ple of their own age group. Awk­ward or shy guests are best seated be­tween two gre­gar­i­ous guests, who will en­sure that the con­ver­sa­tion is kept flow­ing on ei­ther side.” If pos­si­ble, each guest should be flanked by the op­po­site sex and know at least one other per­son on the ta­ble. Names must be spelled cor­rectly on the seat­ing plan and on ta­bles.

It’s tra­di­tional to have a top ta­ble, but this is not com­pul­sory. “In be­tween cour­ses, it is very nice for the bride and groom to visit each ta­ble in­for­mally,” says Hal­lam-peel.

A bride should never be drunk nor be seen smok­ing in her wed­ding dress. The groom and best man must be sober—at least un­til af­ter the speeches.

“It is so im­por­tant that ev­ery­one re­mem­bers the speeches favourably,” says Hal­lam-peel. “Deeply em­bar­rass­ing rec­ol­lec­tions of ei­ther the bride or groom is in­ap­pro­pri­ate—both sets of par­ents like to hear pleas­ant rec­ol­lec­tions and anec­dotes of their off­spring. It is of­fen­sive in the ex­treme to the hosts to make vul­gar com­ments or crude anec­dotes.”

It is pro­to­col to thank the wed­ding team— tra­di­tion­ally the groom buys some­thing for the best man, brides­maids, ush­ers and moth­ers.

Af­ter the wed­ding Hon­ey­moon and Thank-you Letters

“When the bride and groom leave the wed­ding, this is usu­ally the sign that the wed­ding party is com­ing to a close,” says Hal­lam-peel. “The prob­lem of guests who linger af­ter the party can be re­solved by the bride’s mother thank­ing and say­ing good­bye to the re­main­ing guests, who should re­alise that the evening is then at an end. Clos­ing the bar usu­ally helps.”

Tra­di­tion­ally, hon­ey­moons are de­cided upon by the groom and kept a se­cret. “He should choose a ro­man­tic des­ti­na­tion, one which he feels his bride would love or in­cor­po­rates a shared in­ter­est,” says Hal­lam-peel.

Ev­ery wed­ding present should be ac­knowl­edged with a thank-you card from the bride and groom. “Printed thank-you cards should be avoided,” says Hal­lam-peel. “They are deeply im­per­sonal and show no ef­fort on be­half of the sender. A few lines writ­ten in your own hand is so very ap­pre­ci­ated and is cor­rect pro­to­col.”

Like­wise, a short let­ter (rather than an email) to the church or civil cer­e­mony venue is al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated.

Re­vert­ing to nor­mal life af­ter the wed­ding and hon­ey­moon—and get­ting back into the swing of work and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties—can be dif­fi­cult, notes De­brett’s. Catch­ing up with friends and fam­ily for a re­view of the day, choos­ing wed­ding pho­to­graphs and un­pack­ing the wed­ding presents can all help ease new­ly­weds back into re­al­ity.

friendly neigh­bours Con­sider plac­ing shy guests next to more out­go­ing ones to en­sure a good flow in con­ver­sa­tion

Show of ap­pre­ci­a­tion Fol­low up with a writ­ten thank-you card for ev­ery wed­ding present

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