Wedding "Essentials" to Ignore


It isn't that I'm against very large diamonds, equisite handmade bridal gowns or luxuriously appointed venues.  It's just that you don't need any of them in order to get married.  For marriage, you need three things: two individuals and a commitment. 

Today, I want to unburden you, new brides.  There are ways, these days, in which marketing is speaking louder than tradition, making brides think they have to have x, y and z in order to have the right-kinda-fete.  And worse, it's making brides expect x, y and z from their guests.  So I'm doing you a favor too, wedding guest hopefuls.

Here are some 'traditions' that are not, in fact, traditional, and that best wedding practices would have you omit:

Engagement photos - This is an (expensive) practice made popular by wedding blogs.  Skip it.  You'll have more photos than you can possibly imagine of the two of you on your wedding day.  The only reason I can see for engagement photos is to serve as a photograph in your engagement or wedding announcement in the newspaper.

And Guest - You don't need to invite strangers to your wedding.  The only 'plus ones' that you must invite along are spouses and fiances.  There's no reason for strangers to serve as witness to your wedding.  Many wedding guests are furious about be asked to attend weddings solo.  I imagine this is because wedding guests are being financially abused - and worse! - by many modern day brides.  More on that later.

Save the Dates - I shudder with embarrassment over the save the date fiascos I've heard about lately.  Many a bride, it seems, has been sending out more save the dates than her venue can truly handle and 'uninviting' some guests later by deliberately failing to follow up with an invitation.  It makes my stomach hurt!  Save the dates should be sent to a couple's most intimate friends and family.  The types of people that you really must have present in order to celebrate properly.  Forget the $1000 letterpressed version.  Run out and purchase some Crane's stationery or use the bride's existing monogrammed paper and write a quick letter to your nearest and dearest.  "John and I will be married this May the 14th.  We'd be devastated if you weren't there.  Will you please reserve the date? Love, Katherine"  And don't go including "And guest" on your save the date envelopes.  Lots changes in a year (the typical length of an engagement these days).  Address these letters to your close friends and family (and their spouses and fiances as applicable), only.

R.s.v.p. cards - A bride's request (well, really, the request of the bride's family) to "Respondez, s'il vous plait" (abbreviated R.s.v.p., not RSVP) should be answered on a guest's own stationery.  The response should read, "Mr. and Mrs. Peter Adams accept with pleasure the kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Gareth White to the marriage of their daughter Katherine Anne to Mr. John Smith" (a declined invitation would read 'regret that they are unable to attend' and 'the very kind invitation of').  No need to add $600 to your invitation bill with a pre-printed R.s.v.p. card and a pre-stamped envelope printed with the bride's mother's return address.  

Registries - When it comes to gifts, brides must walk the fine line of knowing that every guest or nearly every guest will bring a gift, the frustration of receiving things one cannot use or store, and the proper decorum, which is to act as if one does not expect any gifts whatsoever.  The modern day registry was born from the mid-century habit of brides who chose their china and silver patterns in advance.  Today, brides are registering at bed, bath and beyond for electric toothbrushes.  Keep your registries tasteful and limited and make your thank you notes meaningful and quick.

Bachelorette Parties - Ladies, this is purely marketing.  There isn't any history to a bachelorette party whatsoever and it is often a huge financial drain on your best girlfriends.  Celebrate as you will and have fun but be mindful of others.

Destination Weddings - Brides are not to spend other people's money or designate their time.  Destination weddings do both.  If you have one (they can be very fun!!) make sure to up the ante in terms of hospitality for your guests.  You'll need to make sure to spend time with all guests in attendance, so destination weddings are best kept smallish.

White Wedding Gowns - Actually, traditionally a bride wears her "best clothes", whatever color they may be.  And she rewears her dress to formal events thereafter.  Isn't that sort of a relief to hear?  White wedding dresses are mostly marketing, but have been prevelant in the U.S. for 60 or so years.

Here are some traditions that are, in fact, traditional, and are too often ignored:

Receiving Line - A receiving line ensures that all guests are respectfully greeted by the bride, groom and the bride's parents at the conclusion of the ceremony.  The bride, groom and bride's parents are hosts and they should treat their guests with warmth and hospitality.  Sorry gals, the wedding just isn't all about the bride, much as we sometimes wish it were.

Trousseau - The tradition of receiving a particular set of wedding gifts meant to last more than a generation.  Includes white linens (often monogrammed with the bride's maiden initials) and also china and silver.

Guests, here's where you come in.  I'm going to give you the skinny on the presents you owe a new couple:

A wedding gift

A bridal shower gift (women)

Both the wedding gift and the bridal shower gift are given to the bride, not the couple.  For that reason, only a bride should ever write thank you notes for wedding and shower gifts (and promptly!).  You don't owe any other gifts than these.  Of course, if you're being hosted at a lovely event like an engagement party, I think it's lovely to bring a gift as part of the celebrations.  But a gift should not be expected or requested, registries should not be advertised and there should not be a stipulation of 'no gifts' or of a charitable donation.  Brides and Grooms: giving is a form of generosity that should be welcomed, not expected.

What do you think?  Will you skip any of these items?  Or do you consider them an essential part of the celebrations?  Let me know on twitter at @primandpretty or by email at