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Etiquette when the bride and groom pay for their own wedding

Joined: 11/5/2013
Posts: 38
March came in like a lion and out pretty much the same way, with me having no good excuse for not contributing a column last month. This month of April however is a whole other matter. I am helping to coordinate a fairly large family wedding. By coordinate I mean being the etiquette cop to make sure the bridal party and invited guests get in and out of the venue in the right order, at the right time, and all smiling.

My family comprises many moving parts, as there are multiple sets of parents, stepparents, and cousins, not all of who understand clearly the rules of civility. The job of a wedding coordinator is not to repair family relationships or even referee disagreements. I will basically be a cat herder.

Family dynamics almost always play a role in most weddings. However, milestones such as weddings need to be elevated above the level of most of these dynamics, which have been developing for decades if not generations. Marriage as an institution is to be honored and revered. The bride and groom are the central figures in this ceremony, and their wishes should be respected and honored. Petty jealousies and longtime relationship challenges have no helpful role to play here.

In this wedding, the bride and groom are both responsible adults, marrying for the first time. They are both in their 30’s and are looking forward to raising a family and living healthy and fulfilling lives together. More and more couples are making the decision to marry later in life these days, and I applaud this. Furthermore, the couple will be paying for their own wedding – another increasingly common practice. As with any social occasion, how the event unfolds is the responsibility of the host and its success lies with the choices they make.

What causes unnecessary grief for the couple can be the ever-present prodding and poking that various family members find it necessary to engage in. After listening to litanies from all sides of a number of weddings, I have concluded that ground rules can be very helpful and need to be established and respected in order to preserve civility, and to ensure that this day is everything the couple wants!

If the bride and groom are both adults, and are planning and paying for their own wedding, unsolicited advice is inappropriate and unwelcome. If they want your opinion or assistance, they will ask for it.
In-laws, outlaws, mothers, grandmothers, and anyone else who feels compelled to throw in their two cents worth need to know that they are intruding personal boundaries, are unwelcome, and should keep their opinions to themselves. This realization may come as a shock to some rather persistent types who cannot release any control they think they should have.
The bride and groom need to be clear and united in expressing their wishes. These wishes must be respected, with no need of explanation.
Rules have no power unless breaking them has consequences. I know of guest lists that have been edited as the result of too much pushing.
The couple must live with the consequences of their decisions.

Because of the highly emotional content of celebrations, especially wedding ceremonies and the institution of marriage in general, anyone involved in such events should be well aware of exactly what their role is, and where their responsibilities lay, all the while keeping in mind that it is the happiness of the couple that is paramount. There are plenty of reasons why frictions can arise, but this is not necessary if people stop for a moment to remember the importance of the celebration, and to be aware of the intentions behind their actions before intruding across personal boundaries. Help make this their best day ever!
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