A pro tackles your toughest questions.
This story first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in June 2018.
It’s inevitable: When planning a wedding, even the most conscientious of us will bump up against an etiquette conundrum. From choosing the wording of your invitations to awkward situations with future in-laws, your engagement is likely to see a question or two about propriety. We turned to Cathi Fallon, etiquette expert and founder of The Etiquette Institute of Ohio, for answers to some of your questions.
My parents split several years ago; they don’t speak to each other and have a hard time being in the same room. Other than making sure they’re seated at separate tables at the reception, how can I handle their contentiousness?
At the ceremony, seat your mom in the front row and your dad a row or two behind her. For the receiving line, the bride’s mom gets the first spot, followed by the groom’s parents and then the bride’s dad. Have a plan on how to handle the full-family photos; clue in your photographer ahead of time about the potential tension, so they can be more sensitive. Your parents can stand on opposite ends for group photos.
When announcing the bridal party at the reception, you can ask the emcee to leave out the parents. Consider giving each parent the opportunity to make a toast. Give each set of parents their own tables to host and fill them in with your friends who know them and/or the friends each parent invited. If there is one head table, place your parents at opposite ends. Make all your plans ahead of time, so nothing embarrassing happens at the main event.
My future in-laws very generously offered to pay for a photographer. Unfortunately, I can’t stand that photographer’s style. How can I decline their gift without hurting their feelings?
The key to gracefully handling this situation is to maintain a courteous attitude. After conveying your thanks, gently explain that you had hoped to select your own photographer for the wedding. Show them some of the photographer’s work that you are interested in hiring and explain why you like their style. Those who truly care about you will fully understand and move on.
Is there an appropriate way to request cash instead of gifts? My fiancé and I have lived together for several years and have no need for a traditional registry.
Create a digital cash registry and let your parents, close relatives and friends know that when other guests ask what you’d like as a wedding gift, they can tell them that cash would be most appreciated. A great place to convey your gift preferences is on your wedding website.
Tip for guests: Checks given before the wedding should be made out to the bride or groom (using the bride’s maiden name). After the wedding, checks should be made out to the bride and groom.
What’s the best way to approach our devout parents about the fact that we don’t want to have an overly religious ceremony? A mention of God is fine, but I don’t want a full Catholic Mass.
Begin by having a conversation with your parents about your intention to have a less religious ceremony. Do so with respect for their beliefs and feelings. If your family is contributing financially to the wedding, you might have to make some compromises. Share with them that you would like to have a ceremony that reflects your beliefs and your relationship with your partner. Explaining why your choices are meaningful to you, rather than why your family’s belief system is wrong or dumb, will keep the conversation focused.
Have a question? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could see it answered in our next issue.