The wedding industry, especially the wedding etiquette industry (and yes, it’s an industry that’s in the business of making money), often times focuses on just the people involved in the wedding planning. All the rules and guides and dos and don’ts are for those who are planning the wedding, paying for the wedding or being in the wedding.
But the truth is, guests (and potential guests) are just as much a part of the process, can cause just as much stress as more “involved” parties and could use just as much guidance on what’s considered socially acceptable and what isn’t. Most recently, I’ve been hearing couples complain about the inappropriate (and sometimes downright rude) questions and comments they get from their not-so-close acquaintances. It’s easy to get wrapped up in other people’s joy, especially with something as public as a marriage (it’s a legal proceeding in most cases, after all). But there is still a line in the sand.
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Here are some guidelines on what you shouldn’t say to the next bride/groom-to-be.
Have you picked a date yet? The last thing any engaged couple wants to deal with is a bombardment of questions about how, where and when, especially if they are newly engaged. Some couples want to bask in the glow of the engagement before rushing into heavy logistics. Others may be experiencing difficulties with the logistics so it’s a sensitive subject. And still others just don’t feel comfortable discussing it.
Bottom line is, if the conversation does not come up in a natural way (usually with the engaged person broaching the subject first), you probably shouldn’t ask. Sure there are exceptions to this rule: you’re close friends or family with the couple, you’re helping pay for the wedding, etc. But if you’re on the peripheral and not sure if it’s good form to ask: it’s not. I know you care about the couple and just want to be involved in their excitement, but it truly can be a touchy subject, so sensitivity is required.
What’s your budget? Short of you being the one paying for the wedding or you are the couple’s coordinator trying to get them the best deal on vendors, this question is not appropriate. Really, not kidding, it’s an inappropriate question to ask. Because we talk about how expensive weddings are all the time, people tend to get into a rhythm thinking it’s a totally normal question to ask, when really a person’s budget for anything is just nobody’s business.
Now, personal relationships may dictate otherwise, of course. Goodness knows I was very open about my budget. But then again, I was also writing columns for the town to read about my planning experience. For most people, money is personal and private. You wouldn’t ask a couple how they budget their household finances, right? (At least, I hope you wouldn’t.) Treat their wedding budget the same.
Am I invited/in your bridal party? If you’re invited, you’ll get an invitation. If you’re in the bridal party, you’ll be asked. By asking the couple (usually way in advance) if you’re invited to the wedding or in a bridal party, you’re putting the couple in a very uncomfortable spot. Invites and bridal party members are decided by a bevy of circumstances: money, budget, relationships, familial politics, location, and the list continues for days.
If you’re really and truly concerned about your “status” at the wedding, wait until the invites and requests have been sent out. If you didn’t get one, then you can go speak with the couple about your concerns. Until then, it’s too much pressure to ask, and honestly, the couple may not know.
How much are you paying for your venue? You may as well be asking for the couple’s budget. Don’t do it. Unless you’re planning your own wedding and you and the couple have a pre-formed relationship that allows you to share those details. If you’re just being nosy, stop yourself.
You don’t want that. No one likes to be told what they want. Even if you think you know better and have more experience. Even if you are certain that the direction the couple is going in will be disastrous, don’t try to tell the couple what they do or do not want. Don’t presume that you know all the facts. If you want to give advice, do so in a non-judgemental way that offers a different perspective to the couple.
Remember, engaged couples are inundated with unsolicited advice on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. You don’t want to be lumped with the other strangers.
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