Ah, May. The weather’s getting warmer, the flowers are blooming, and if you’re anything like me, your calendar is chock-full of wedding invites. So how does a guest prepare for the marathon of cocktail hours and bridal showers that is wedding season? By consulting an expert, of course.
Enter: Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, probably the most famous etiquette authority around. Lizzie is The Emily Post Institute’s go-to gal for all things matrimonial, and she dispenses her affable and approachable expertise in her podcast Awesome Etiquette with her co-host and cousin Daniel Post Senning. Check out my interview with Lizzie about what makes for the best guest below!
Lizzie is wearing our office-friendly Expert in Your Zeal Top.
Let’s start with a lightening round. What are common wedding guest faux-pas you see that could be easily avoided?
- Not RSVPing! That’s the biggest faux-pas a guest could make. The bride and groom are dealing with head counts and caterers; they’re basing things on venue capacity limits, so they need to know who’s attending ahead of time.
- Bringing an extra guest when you haven’t been given one! That’s a huge one. Not RSVPing is still the worst, but if you do RSVP and bring a guest with you, or write in that you’re bringing a guest, that’s a really big faux pas that could throw off a lot of careful planning.
- Not as many people know you’re supposed to send a gift, even if you’re not attending the wedding. It can be a small gift, like salt and pepper shakers; it doesn’t have to be big, but you should send something. They are inviting you to be a part of one of the biggest days of their lives, and that deserves a little attention. Sending that gift in lieu of you being able to be there is a nice way of saying: ‘I’m still celebrating you, and I’m still congratulating you, and I’m still marking this as an important event.’
The dreaded plus one. What makes a good plus one to you?
Someone you trust! What you don’t want is a wild card who drinks too much or has some weird idea that it’d be funny to jump into the lake. I don’t want someone who’s going to showboat. It’s also important to talk to them about expenses upfront. I might say, ‘Because you don’t know the couple, I’m going to cover the gift completely and would love to sign your name to the card, but I can’t cover your travel costs.’
I’m not as worried about finding someone who knows the ‘finer points’ of everything. More so I want someone who I know I’m going to have a good time with, and that they are likely to have a good time going into a situation where they might not know anybody. I know if I leave them for a second they can have a conversation with the people around them, so I generally want someone who is confident and easygoing. Also, I like bringing someone who can dance!
Many wedding guests have the perception that your plus one should be a date. But what if you’re single, or in a really new romantic… situation? Should you ask that person anyway?
This depends, of course. Some people have only been seeing each other for a few weeks and they’re already planning vacations together. If that’s the nature of your relationship, I think it’s safe to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this fun wedding to go to, do you want to be my plus one? No sweat.’
If you’re thinking of asking someone who seems hesitant to get into anything resembling a relationship, then I would really not invite them to personal things like weddings. If you don’t know anyone and you aren’t comfortable meeting new people [in a wedding setting], then invite a best friend! If you need someone there and you want to bring a girl or guy friend, that’s fine.
It used to be that brides and grooms rarely gave out plus ones because weddings were where you met people. You were in a great circle of friends who might have a potential match for you to meet there. Regardless, I always encourage our single readers to consider the possibility of going alone! Some people might feel that because the couple is getting married, weddings are for couples, and that’s just not true. Have confidence, girls. Have confidence.
What’s your go-to styles for wedding attire, as a guest?
My wedding kit looks like two great dresses, a pashmina or shawl of some sort, my make-up bag, curling iron, Tresemmé hair spray #4, extra razors, stuff like that. I often will have a pair of flats with me. I’m aware of grass lawns; I think about my footwear. I always make sure I have two dresses just in case I haven’t decided what I’m going to wear or I need a fall back for some reason. I like a dress I can really trust.
We found this awesome quote from your great-great-grandmother Emily Post that seems like the perfect intersection between etiquette and fashion. What does it mean to you?
I think that difference Emily is referring to is truly about individuality. Allowing that little bit of you to shine through your clothes, whatever it is that makes an outfit yours… you’re going to wear it that much more confidently, and that’s when people are going to take notice of you.
What’s the most important thing to remember about being a potential wedding guest?
Your focus should be on the couple and celebrating them. That is always it. Your absolute focus, the number one thing, should be: ‘I am there to support and celebrate these two people. It doesn’t matter that my ex is here, it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing, at the end of the day, what matters is that those two people feel supported and celebrated.’
Be sure to thank your host, and if you can remember after, write a thank you note! As a bride, you throw this party hoping your guests will have an amazing time, you’ve put a year of work into it for many women; it’s incredibly meaningful to receive a note that says thanks. It’s a beautiful thing.