Interview with Wedding Expert Joyce Scardina Becker

Deb Ng
Groom showing good etiquette. Photo by Atherton Photography courtesy Events of Distinction.

Joyce Scardina Becker, Wedding Designer, President of Events of Distinction and author of "Countdown To Your Perfect Wedding", was kind enough to sit down and talk with us about the importance of wedding etiquette.

What is wedding etiquette?

Some couples think of wedding etiquette as an old-fashioned subject, and it's certainly true that some rules of etiquette have become out dated. Wedding etiquette today is what it has always been, a code of behavior based on thoughtfulness and considering the needs of your guests.

Why is it important?

This is the chance to make a good first impression as a married couple. Whether you're planning a traditional or nontraditional wedding, your "good manners" sets the tone and forms an impression on your guests, and will continue to do so long after you are married.

What are some common faux pas made by couples?

A common faux pas is feeling obligated to invite people they are not close to. A wedding is no place for mere acquaintances. You should invite your parents, siblings and their spouses, grandparents, aunts, uncles and first cousins you see frequently and dearest friends whom you see regularly. Do not feel obligated to invite distant relatives; coworkers, neighbors and old friends you see infrequently.

Another common faux pas is to use the announcement registry cards that retailers provide to brides, suggesting they insert them into their invitations. Especially verboten is the notion of listing on your invitation where you're registered. It has always been considered socially unacceptable to inform guests about your registry locations unless they specifically ask you. Otherwise, you would be considered a "gift grubber". Instead, appoint your parents and attendants to serve as "surrogate gift grubbers" and spread the word on your behalf.

With a personal wedding website, you can provide your registry information to your guests directly but tactfully. I am certainly not suggesting that the home page of your "wed-site" have flashing dollar signs and arrows pointing to large neon-colored wording that says, TO BUY US A GIFT NOW, CLICK HERE." The registry information can be placed in a discreet location or on a separate page.

What is a couple to do if one of their wedding guests has had a little too much to drink?

Photo by Sherman chu, Courtesy Events of Distinction

There are a number of steps for serving alcoholic beverages responsibly at your wedding and therefore reducing the chances of any legal problems.

  • Speak to the owner of the catering company or director of catering to ensure all waitstaff serving alcohol are briefed on sensible alcohol serving procedures.
  • Do not serve alcohol to minors or to anyone that appears intoxicated.
  • Do not pour shooters, slammers or double-shot drinks.
  • Do not give bottles of wine, champagne or liquor to guests. Pour dinner wines rather than leaving them on the table.
  • Close the bar 30 minutes before the wedding is over and serve milk shooters with chocolate chip cookies, or gourmet teas and cappuccino.
  • Intoxicated guests should be asked to leave the premises by the catering manager and the support of the wedding host, with supervised transportation arranged.

If both sets of parents have divorced and remarried, how should they be seated at the wedding reception?

If both sets of parents have divorced and remarried, but have remained on friendly terms seating at the "parents' table" is perfectly acceptable. If there is any sign of bitterness, than divorced parents should never be seated together, create separate "family tables".

What is the proper etiquette regarding small children at weddings?

Basically, you have three choices:

  • You can welcome children with open arms;
  • You can decide to have an "Adults Only" wedding
  • You can hire a child care service to provide "Wedding

Day-Care" for the kids.

Photo by Wendy Maclaurin Richardson, courtesy Events of Distinction

For once and for all, is it proper to wear white to a wedding?

Colors are preferable to white, so you're not mistaken for the bride. What is considered proper is to be dressed appropriately:

  • Cocktail dress and dark suits for most formal daytime
  • A long or short dressy dress for most formal evenings. If women wear long dresses, tuxedos for men, otherwise dark suits.
  • For an informal or casual daytime wedding, afternoon dresses for women and sports jacket and slacks for men.

What about black?

Wearing black is perfectly acceptable. At many "black-tie" weddings women are especially bedecked and bedazzled in black sequins and jewels.

Is the cost of a wedding gift really supposed to be equivalent to the "per head" cost of the reception? Why do so many believe this to be true?

Whether you sent your acceptance to attend the wedding or your regrets not to attend the wedding, you are never obligated to send a wedding gift. It is certainly a lovely gesture and most appreciated by the bride and groom, but it is not obligatory. However, if you chose not to give a gift, don't expect to receive a "warm" reception yourself when you see each other again. With that being said, you are free to spend as much or as little as you want on the wedding gift. The closer you are to the bride and groom, the greater amount you will likely spend on a wedding gift. If you believe in the wedding gift being equivalent to the "per head" cost of the reception, then be prepared to spend between $300 - $600 on your gift.

What can one do to be a good wedding guest?

  • Respond to a wedding invitation promptly and before the RSVP due date
  • If your children are invited, it's your responsibility to look after them.
  • Arrive early to the ceremony - preferably 30 minutes prior to the start time indicated on the invitation.
  • Send gifts to the bride in advance of the wedding or soon after the wedding. DO NOT bring gifts to the wedding
  • Don't overindulge on alcoholic beverages - this is not a fraternity party. If you're had too much to drink, leave early and don't drive.

Are there any etiquette tips you'd like to share to those of our readers who will either be getting married or attending a wedding?

  • Etiquette tip for attending a wedding: Don't ever bring a guest to the ceremony and reception if you are NOT invited to bring a guest.
  • Etiquette tip for getting married: Remember that you set the tone on your wedding day. Your guests will follow your lead throughout the day, so if you're relaxed and having a fabulous time at your wedding, so will everyone else.
Interview with Wedding Expert Joyce Scardina Becker