Wedding planning for better or worse
Pippa Middleton is not alone in finding wedding etiquette a minefield, writes David Meddows
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