Wed­ding plan­ning for bet­ter or worse

Pippa Mid­dle­ton is not alone in find­ing wed­ding eti­quette a mine­field, writes David Med­dows

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER -

She is the bride we’ve all been wait­ing to see but will we ever for­give Pippa Mid­dle­ton for her de­ci­sion to ap­ply the “no ring, no bring” rule to Prince Harry’s girl­friend Meghan Markle?

The sexy Suits star may have sub­se­quently been given an all-ac­cess pass to Mid­dle­ton’s big day next Satur­day at St Mark’s Church in En­gle­field, but the rule still stands for the groom’s brother — and best man — Spencer Matthews, whose model girl­friend Vogue Wil­liams didn’t get an in­vite at all.

The ten­sions re­sult­ing from such mar­i­tal ma­noeu­vrings can make or break a big day, and if Mid­dle­ton, whose sis­ter is a Duchess and whose par­ents run a party busi­ness, can’t get it right what hope do reg­u­lar folk have of sur­viv­ing the mine­field that is mod­ern wed­ding eti­quette?

Sun­rise pre­sen­ter Ed­wina Bartholomew, who is about to ven­ture into the world of wed­ding plan­ning af­ter be­com­ing en­gaged to long-term part­ner Neil Var­coe last month, is one who thinks Markle is lucky to get an in­vite at all.

“There will be so much fo­cus on Pippa’s wed­ding and that fo­cus should re­ally be on her,” she tells In­sider.

“Harry is her sis­ter’s brother-in-law. That’s a bit dis­tant any­way. Tech­ni­cally that prob­a­bly doesn’t fall into the plus-one cat­e­gory. I think she is pretty lucky to get an in­vite!”

And as In­sider dis­cov­ered, even the ex­perts don’t al­ways agree on the other big ques­tions which arise around the wed­ding day.

Do we have to in­vite kids?

Many peo­ple are split on this de­ci­sion, but it’s a no-brainer for Bartholomew.

“We love kids and want ev­ery­one to bring them along. They of­ten steal the show dur­ing the cer­e­mony and I al­ways find that very amus­ing,” she says.

Tim­ing is a ma­jor fac­tor when de­cid­ing whether to in­vite kids, says Syd­ney wed­ding planner Kathy Apos­to­lidis, owner of Nightin­gales and who co-or­di­nated the wed­ding of singer and TV host David Camp­bell and his wife Lisa.

“With some­thing quite for­mal you don’t or­di­nar­ily bring a child. It’s not that it’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate, it’s just that it’s im­prac­ti­cal,” she tells In­sider.

“Not for evening wed­dings. As per a nor­mal work­day, kids would go to bed at a cer­tain time and I don’t be­lieve they should be up for an evening re­cep­tion.”

Phones, yes or no?

In the age of so­cial me­dia, many guests wit­ness wed­dings through the screen of their phone, des­per­ate for that money shot of the dress or first kiss that will re­ward them with end­less likes and shares.

But they must be re­minded that when a bride and groom are fork­ing out truck­loads of cash for pho­tog­ra­phers and videog­ra­phers the right to share the pho­tos of their day lies en­tirely with them.

“You should al­ways ask your­self: Whose news is this? If it’s your news then fan­tas­tic, go ahead. If it’s the bride’s news or the cou­ple’s news, then let them have their mo­ment and wait un­til they have posted it be­fore you post it,” says eti­quette ex­pert Anna Mus­son, of The Good Man­ners Com­pany.

Film­ing the wed­ding takes away from the mo­ment, is “tacky” and means the guest re­ally isn’t present in the mo­ment, Mus­son says.

Sur­pris­ingly for some­one of her pro­file, Bartholomew is all for her guests get­ting their so­cial me­dia game on at the party — with one con­di­tion.

“I love faces­talk­ing other peo­ple’s wed­dings so I’m happy to pro­vide that ser­vice to oth­ers. Our guests can post as many pho­tos as they want,” she says.

“We will be hav­ing a phone-free cer­e­mony though be­cause I hate the idea of walk­ing down the aisle and see­ing a se­ries of iPhones and your Aunt Jan’s iPad in­stead of beau­ti­ful faces.”

Should the bridal party have to pay for their out­fits?

Be­ing asked to be a mem­ber of the bridal party is al­ways nice and can be a hefty re­spon­si­bil­ity, but it can also be an ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise if the bride and groom ex­pect you to pay for the es­sen­tial gown or suit, shoes and bling — or as was re­ported of one bridezilla this week, ear­lobe surgery to ac­com­mo­date her pre­ferred choice of ear­rings.

In the hun­dreds of wed­dings she has planned since start­ing her busi­ness in 1994, Apos­to­lidis says there haven’t been many bridal par­ties who have to fork out the cash for their out­fits.

“It’s very rare that they don’t (cover the costs),” she says. “If you’re go­ing to ask some­one to be a brides­maid or a grooms­man, it’s kind of rude to then ex­pect them to pay up to $1000.”

If the cou­ple does ask the bridal party to pay, they must give them an easy op­tion to po­litely de­cline with­out feel­ing like they’ve let the pair down, Mus­son says.

“You need to be able to give

the per­son the op­por­tu­nity to gra­ciously bow out,” she says.

Who makes the cut as a plus- one?

The ques­tion of who to give a plus-one to will in­evitably come up at some stage, es­pe­cially if you are lim­ited for space or friends from work or sport­ing teams are on the guest list.

“If your num­bers are re­ally that tight you should go to a dif­fer­ent venue,” Mus­son says.

“It’s al­ways nice to in­vite a cou­ple to­gether to a wed­ding, par­tic­u­larly if they are mar­ried.”

Not in­clud­ing a plus-one is ac­cept­able if you have a ta­ble of col­leagues or friends who will have no prob­lem keep­ing each other en­ter­tained, but you should give in­di­vid­u­als the op­tion of bring­ing a date, Apos­to­lidis agrees.

“I think it would be ab­so­lutely hor­rific to be in­vited (to a wed­ding) where you know no­body. In that sit­u­a­tion you will find most rea­son­able peo­ple will not want you to feel un­com­fort­able and will ask the guest if they’d like to bring some­one,” she says.

No­body will be left sit­ting

“It’s not that bring­ing kids is in­ap­pro­pri­ate, it’s just that it’s im­prac­ti­cal

“Cleav­age is out — back cleav­age, front cleav­age, butt cleav­age — any­thing that would draw at­ten­tion

alone when Bartholomew and Var­coe tie the knot, although some wed­ding match­mak­ing might be in play.

“We have waited so long to get mar­ried that all of our friends are in long-term re­la­tion­ships or al­ready mar­ried,” Bartholomew says. “We will def­i­nitely be in­clud­ing plus-ones (but) it’s al­ways good value to in­vite a few sin­gles, sit them to­gether and see how the night un­folds.”

Can white and cream ever be seen?

Bartholomew and Var­coe are very laid-back about their im­pend­ing nup­tials, of which they are keep­ing the ex­act date and lo­ca­tion un­der wraps for now. Asked if she cared if any­one turned up in white, Bartholomew says it doesn’t bother her at all.

“I wouldn’t wear white to a wed­ding but we don’t have any is­sues with other peo­ple wear­ing white to our wed­ding,” she says. “I even toyed with the idea of get­ting ev­ery­one to wear white be­cause it would look so beau­ti­ful. We de­cided that was a lit­tle over the top.”

By con­trast, Mus­son firmly be­lieves it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate to wear a colour that will de­tract from the bride on her spe­cial day.

“Do not wear white, off-white, cream or ivory and we should never have too much flesh be­cause the idea is not to draw at­ten­tion away from the bride,” she says. “Cleav­age is out — back cleav­age, front cleav­age, butt cleav­age — any­thing that would draw at­ten­tion.”

Black is also no-go, Mus­son says. “It’s bad taste to wear black. It’s some­thing that you would wear to a fu­neral, it sym­bol­ises death and a wed­ding is sup­posed to sym­bol­ise a fresh start and new be­gin­nings,” she says.

Do I have to do­nate to the wish­ing well?

Gifts are al­ways a dilemma but par­tic­u­larly so when the cou­ple lives to­gether and al­ready have ev­ery­thing they need. Of late the pop­u­lar al­ter­na­tive has been the wish­ing well, where guests are in­vited to drop a tidy sum of money (stuffed in a cheesy card) into a fancy col­lec­tion box at the re­cep­tion.

It’s a prac­tice what rubs many peo­ple the wrong way.

“Un­less giv­ing cash is part of your fam­ily’s cul­ture — such as Euro­pean or Chi­nese, or sim­i­lar, de­scent — then it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate to ask for cash as your wed­ding gift,” Mus­son says.

“I don’t want any cash that I give some­one for their wed­ding to go on their mo­bile phone bill or, worse, the credit card bill they used to pay for the wed­ding.”

Apos­to­lidis dis­agrees and be­lieves the wish­ing well, which she says is the pre­ferred gift choice at 90 per cent of the wed­dings she or­gan­ises, is ex­tremely prac­ti­cal.

“I would pre­fer to go to a wed­ding that has a wish­ing well be­cause try­ing to buy some­thing is just so dif­fi­cult,” she says, although she agrees Aus­tralians have taken their time com­ing around to the prac­tice.

Bartholomew and Var­coe aren’t fans of the wish­ing well ei­ther and are in­stead think­ing of a larger more per­sonal gift that they’ll cher­ish.

“I’m not a fan of wish­ing wells. We will have a wed­ding registry but no toast­ers, pans or bread boards. We may have the op­tion of some art or a sculp­ture that peo­ple can con­trib­ute to and we can then have forever,” Bartholomew says.

Is it rude to turn down an in­vi­ta­tion to a des­ti­na­tion wed­ding?

A des­ti­na­tion wed­ding is an ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise for ev­ery­one, but it’s as good an ex­cuse as any for that much needed hol­i­day you’ve been putting off.

But don’t feel bad if you have to de­cline the in­vi­ta­tion be­cause you sim­ply can’t af­ford to go.

“De­cid­ing to have a des­ti­na­tion wed­ding in­volves the sac­ri­fice that you’re not go­ing to have ev­ery­one you would like at­tend­ing and that’s one of the things you weigh up,” Mus­son says. “You think ‘we’re go­ing to for­feit gifts and we’re go­ing to for­feit per­haps some of our near­est and dear­est be­ing able to at­tend’.”

Bride-to-be Pippa Mid­dle­ton. Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages Ed­wina Bartholomew and fi­ance Neil Var­coe.

White is the do­main of the bride, says wed­ding plan­ner Anna Mus­son. Pic­ture: iS­tock

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