For a bunch of years I was the wedding etiquette maven for Rhode Island Monthly Bride. I was lucky enough to have editors there who loved the weird, the quirky — any out-there stuff I could find. Hair-pulling, inappropriate garb, crashers — all good. They encouraged me to plumb the dark reaches of LGBT nuptial manners, putting us way ahead of the curve on that because other bride mags wouldn’t touch it. It was a fun gig.
I especially enjoyed scouring the news for wedding brawls, because they made good fodder for etiquette advice. One year there was a short item in the ProJo about a reception gone horribly wrong, with few details except that the uprising resulted in significant damage to the Elks Club and many arrests. I tracked down someone who was there (someone in the band, natch). He didn’t see much. When a chair flew past his head, he was outta there.
I called the Warwick police and asked them about it. “Yeah,” they said, “we got a detailed report.” “Can you fax it?” I asked. “Nah. But come down here and we’ll give you a copy.”
I did, and they handed me a fat pile of paper. It exceeded my wildest expectations! There was widespread inebriation. Family fights. Catfights. Girl-on-cop fights. Barrel tossing. Epithet tossing. Crazy chases. ER trips.
Fifteen people were arrested, including the bride and groom. A brick and a shoe were tagged as evidence.
It all started when the oversauced groom picked a fight with the bartender, who’d cut him off. The bride’s father intervened; one thing led to another, until everyone was going at it. A window was smashed. The groom’s father and brother punched a cop. Some guy pinned some woman against a wall and strangled her. The bride attacked her sister with a shoe.
Thirty people reportedly went mano a mano with the eight cruisers’ worth of police who came. Eyewitnesses claim up to 60 guests were actually brawling. There were beer cans and busted crap everywhere.
Fourteen revelers were hauled kicking and screaming to the pokey and booked on an assortment of assault, resistance, and obstruction charges. A fifteenth was arrested when he came to the police station to bail someone out. The arrest report described the bride as “clean shaven.”
The report was so long it took half an hour to read. I couldn’t stop laughing. My advice? Stick with Coke.
Anyway, here are some of my favorite advices for brideses.
Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved
WEDDING ETIQUETTE Q&A
Q: A long time ago, at a Suspiria concert far, far away, my fiance bonded with a wingnut named Spike. Spike’s from Bon Temps and fancies O negative (read: Mike from Buffalo hoovers Old Crow). My fiance eventually outgrew goth. Spike did not. Tragically, my fiance has invited him to our wedding — cape, fangs, party cooler, and all. Can I just stake Spike?
A: Well, no. But honestly, I’ve heard of crazier sots. At a wedding in New Hampshire, a drunken fight among the female guests spilled out of the loo and into the parking lot, resulting in widespread contusions, projectile vomiting, and a distressed bride lawsuit. It took police from 12 different departments to bust them up. So, lucky you with only one special guest to babysit! Assign a friend or relative to stick close to Spike and gently steer him away from the bar or his car trunk. If he really does bring his stupid cape, insist he park it in the coat check. (Nobody more than a foot away will notice his fangs.) If he somehow still becomes an overlubed distraction, take away his car keys and have someone escort him back to his crypt.
Q: We’re the first gay couple in our crowd to have a real wedding ceremony, complete with reception. We’re arguing about the cake. I want a big, giddy production with bows and flowers and all that. My partner wants something dignified (or as he puts it, “more manly”). Is there any middle ground on these things?
A: Why not have both? Manuela Mota, owner of Cakes of Distinction in East Providence, did just that recently for a gay wedding. “It was a marble cake with white icing, and I put some flowers on it to make it pretty. On the outside it was just like a wedding cake, but the topper was a groom and a groom.” And the inside? A deliciously dignified, chocolatey swirl.
Q: My fiance’s best man is an idiot. He can be relied upon to do all of the following, in this order: 1) skankify the bachelor party; 2) lose the ring; 3) blow the toast. My fiance refuses to ask anyone else to stand up for him. Honestly, this is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Can I do anything proactive?
A: Yes! First, keep a proxy ring on standby at the ceremony as a backup – Mom’s, perhaps. It can be your “something borrowed.” For the toast, steer Best Man to a kit of speech templates. He merely plugs in appropriate personal details and voila! – you’ve got instant heartwarming toast (instead of interminable blistering roast). A good one is available at http://www.instantweddingtoasts.com. To minimize the chances that he’ll call you by an ex-girlfriend’s name or blather your darkest secrets to an unsuspecting crowd, keep him away from the bar before the reception. As for policing that bachelor party, you’re on your own there. Good luck!
Q: I’m not very close with most of my family, and I like it that way. One exception is my cousin, whom I adore. Unfortunately, she blathered all the details of my wedding on her Facebook page. Suddenly scores of uninvited pests are RSVPing to my wedding. What now?
A: Why people we never hear from think they rate a wedding invite is perplexing. And yet, it happens with alarming regularity. Someone now must contact all these buzzkills to explain how it’s just a small affair for a few close family members and friends (even if it isn’t). If you can recruit your mother, that would be ideal. If that isn’t an option, ask your big-mouthed cousin to do the honors. Or the person who always says to you, “PLEASE let me know if there’s ANYTHING I can do!” Contact by email is preferable (to avoid begging, confrontations, sobbing, etc.)
Q: Love her to bits, but my sweet old blue-haired grandma is guaranteed to badger my wedding band mercilessly about playing maudlin show tunes. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but it’s strictly a no-Fantasticks zone. What should I do?
A: Yup, we’ve seen Gran, wedged between the other drama queens lobbying the band for dirges dedicated to someone who died and medleys of sitcom themes. “It will absolutely kill the party,” agrees G. Andrew Maness, bandleader of Four Guys in Tuxes of Newport. He suggests alerting your band about potential party poopers well in advance. In addition to discussing music his clients DO want played, Maness offers them a firewall he jokingly calls “Two Categories of Loathing”: Category 1 is tunes you’ll allow the band to play only if asked, and Category 2 comprises the ones you ban outright. Maness says he then can tell hosers, “‘Thank you for your request, but we’ve been prohibited from performing that tune. If you can get [client’s name here] to tell us it’s okay, we’ll be happy to play it.’ Usually people are fine with that.”
Q: My partner and I are pulling out all the stops for our wedding – big dresses, big crowd, big band, the works. The only hitch is that our mothers don’t want to dance with either of us. We kid them about it, of course, but really, what’s the workaround for the special dance lineup?
A: Barry Herman, owner of Barry Herman Entertainment, said, “We’ve done a number of same-sex ceremonies where they skipped the parent dances altogether.” After the first dance, it’s okay to just forget doing the parent/bride dances and move right along to parents-dancing-together and attendants-dancing-together.
Q: I allowed my bridesmaids to choose their own dresses. As long as they’re dark blue, I told them, pick any style you like. Big mistake! They’re attending my wedding as Can-Can Barbie, Tank Girl, and Amy Winehouse (complete with prison rosary, at my synagogue ceremony — nice!). How can I fix this mess without insulting them?
A: The heck with hurt feelings. Obviously, they weren’t worried about crushing YOURS. Frogmarch the whole gang into a specialty or department store, quickly, and get them dressed properly. Annmarie Tharriault at Couture Bridal Events and Designs in Coventry recently ran interference on just such a disaster. The problem was the hemlines, which were way too short. Said Tharriault, “The dresses were ordered online. The women looked like they belonged on a street corner. We ordered a whole new set of dresses for them.” (Bonus: they felt so guilty, no scolding was required!) “There were rush fees, of course. But they arrived in a couple of weeks.” Whew!
Q: Our wedding will be very traditional except for one thing, and we’re totally stumped about how to handle it. Both sets of parents will attend. Everybody gets along. Sounds perfect, right? Wait for it: One parent recently underwent gender reassignment. Are there any special accommodations we should make?
A: Only if your special parent has been reassigned to an iron lung. Parents should be seated where parents traditionally sit. One of you has two mothers or two fathers now, and that’s perfectly fine. Designate a point person to handle inquiries from the clueless and give heads up to anyone who needs to know but may not — the officiant, the photographer, etc. The goal is to avoid anyone addressing the reassigned parent by their pre-operative name or gender. That’s considered very rude in today’s world. (There’s one exception: If you’ve always called your new father “Mummy,” you may continue doing so.) By and large your attendees can be expected to behave themselves, even if they’re gobsmacked. In the unlikely event some philistine makes an unseemly fuss, feel free to have them escorted out. They’ll get over it.
Q: My ceremony will be at my parents’ home. Their neighbors are interfering jerks. If this was a holiday bash, I’d just invite them and hope they get too drunk to complain. But I don’t want them at my wedding. How can I keep them from calling the National Guard?
A: First, alert the neighbors in advance. They’ll take the bad news better if it comes with cookies and a six-pack. Apologize for any inconvenience and insist they inform you if your affair’s decibel level becomes annoying. On the big day, assign someone to monitor street parking. Your neighbors’ driveways shouldn’t be blocked, and your guests shouldn’t be parking (or anything else) on their lawns. If you’re in a parking-challenged area, save the neighbors a space when they need to leave and return. And if they do crash your soiree, politely invoke the town ordinances they love so much and inform them your crowd already meets the fire limit.
Q: My intended got cold feet and split. I can’t recover my wedding deposits, and now the creep wants my engagement ring back. I told him no (among other things). Who’s right?
A: YOU are. Don’t even think of returning it (unless it’s some precious damned family heirloom, in which case offer to sell it back to him). You earned that ring. And feel free to sell it to cover your out-of-pocket expenses for the wedding you’re not having, thanks to him.
Q: I’m marrying my sister’s ex-boyfriend. My mother’s mad at him, and my sister’s mad at me. What fun — all will attend! How do I prevent World War III?
A: Well, your wedding sure won’t be boring! Wedding guests often need to be separated — first and second spouses of one parent, natural children and step-children, divorced parents. The list is endless! To avoid reprising a recent Florida etiquette disagreement that ended with the groom’s 74-year-old grandmother in a choke hold and his father’s ribs broken, follow these guidelines: Don’t ask combatants to stand together for pictures or on your receiving line. Seat them far enough apart that they can’t hear (or hit) each other, but not anywhere offensive (like next to the kitchen, or at the kiddie table). Clashing parents, for example, can be seated with their respective families at tables near yours, separated by the groom’s parents’ table. As for your sister, assign friends to keep her busy meeting guys. And make sure she catches the bouquet.
Q: Seriously — where the hell do I keep my lipstick?
A: Well, you could stuff it down your cleavage. But who knows where it’ll end up? Fortunately, designers have finally noticed that women carry phones, tissues, mirrors, combs, etc., and many wedding gowns now come with built-in pockets. Others are designed in such a way that hidden pockets can easily be incorporated, for example in a skirt seam or the chest lining of a suit jacket (no, your lipstick won’t show).
Q: I want to make my own wedding cake. Everyone’s trying to talk me out of it. Why?
A: Here’s the rule regarding nuptial crafts projects: If you’ve never done it before, DON’T DO IT FOR YOUR WEDDING! This includes baking, beer brewing, dressmaking, hair cutting/dying/perming, and facial peels. Thank me later.
Making a Toast Memorable the Right Way
• A toast needn’t be fancy or terribly original, as long as it’s heartfelt and respectful. Don’t tell the story of how the wedding couple met in a public restroom. Nobody needs to know the bride is pregnant, or the groom has a Great White tattoo.
• Funny is okay; mean is not. Study Jon Bon Jovi’s salute at his wedding: “My wife tells me that if I ever decide to leave, she is coming with me.”
• Is a funny toast about sex okay? It depends on the crowd and how you frame it. “May all your ups and downs be in bed” is fine for a small, casual celebration among close-knit attendees; at a Catholic, Muslim or orthodox Jewish wedding, not so much.
Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved
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