Itís the wedding season, and one of those heavy, hand-addressed, cream-colored envelopes just arrived in my mail. Everything about that envelope screams IMPORTANT. When one of these lands in your mailbox, there are several key steps to take, steps which for any other invitation you might not attend to quite so fastidiously (although you probably should, but thatís gist for another column.)
What to do with the invitation? Answer it. The sooner the better. Knowing how many people are attending is critical to the planning of the meal, the seating, the amount of refreshments. When you donít answer, you leave the bride and groom and their families in a difficult position, so do them a favor and answer it right away.
What about a gift? Give one. Itís an obligationĖnot as a payback for the reception meal, but as a way of honoring the importance of the occasion. If you donít know what to send, find out where the couple has registered for gifts. You can ask the couple, their parents, or an attendant, or check out their wedding website if they have one. Choose a gift thatís in your price range. It shouldnít put you into debt. Are you really meant to send a gift if you arenít attending? Yes. About the only time you wouldnít is if the invitation is from an obscure person you havenít seen in years and with whom you really have no meaningful connection. Even in that case, respond and let the person know you wonít be attending.
Who can go to the wedding with you? Only the people listed on the invitation. If itís addressed just to you, then it means you alone are invited. If it says your name and ďGuest,Ē then you can bring one person with you. If itís addressed to you and ďFamily,Ē then your kids are invited, too. Under no circumstances should you ever bring a person who hasnít been invited. If five, ten, or twenty people all did that, there wouldnít be enough food, refreshments, or seats for everyone.
What do you wear? This is a really big day for the couple, so showing them a little respect by dressing up makes sense. I was at a wedding a few of years agoóa really nice event with a sit-down lunch, music, dancing, the whole nine yards. A couple of guests showed up in shorts and sneakers. They looked like they had just come in from a touch-football game. Totally inappropriate. For hints on what to wear visit the Emily Post Instituteís website.
Finally, be a good guest: Show up on time, be respectful during the ceremony, and then share in the coupleís joy and enjoy the party.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing ThroughĖA Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."