Monday, October 20, 2008

Planning for the Second Marriage

Although nobody likes to enter a marriage thinking about the potential for problems, they happen. It's a statistical probability that some marriages will fail, no matter how genuine the couple's romantic intentions. Second and third marriages are particularly prone to uncertainty, as both parties are usually older and less flexible. There are often children from previous relationships and the couple may bring considerable assets or debts into this new marriage. It is these commingled assets and liabilities that cause serious disputes when the union starts to split apart. Deciding early on what is mine, yours and ours is important, otherwise it becomes a constant source of irritation in a blended family. To deal with complex financial problems while both parties are alive is difficult; it's overwhelming to deal with family issues after a death.

While property held in joint tenancy passes to the surviving owner, any remaining assets may be up for grabs. Unless the surviving spouse has waived the statutory right to the deceased's estate, any children from an earlier marriage may be effectively disinherited. This right to disclaim effectively puts the step-parent in line for one-half of the estate, despite the late spouse's original intentions. Worse yet, the children of the surviving spouse may ultimately walk off with the bulk of both estates, leaving the first family cut out of the loop.

This unpalatable situation can be remedied with a series of trusts designed to preserve each family's original assets. Notably, the QTIP (Qualified Terminable Interest Property) or ABC Trust allows each spouse to direct how their assets will be distributed, while still providing lifetime security for the surviving marriage partner. Assets placed in a properly drafted QTIP Trust qualify for the unlimited marital deduction, and this action postpones any estate taxes normally due at the first death. The QTIP also reduces the possibility of assets passing out of the original family's control due to a future remarriage of the surviving spouse. This specialized trust is particularly useful in protecting children of a previous marriage from being disinherited by the surviving step-parent.

Less obvious problems in second marriages include being inattentive about beneficiary designations on insurance policies and retirement plans. All too often, the ex-spouse receives an unexpected windfall, while leaving estate taxes and final expenses up to the new family. Most companies will provide beneficiary change forms for insurance, annuities and qualified retirement plans, so there is no excuse for making this oversight..

Estates of married couples that are under $650,000 (including life insurance) and not likely to exceed this amount in the future use different planning techniques. While smaller estates will generally not benefit tax-wise from either the traditional Credit Shelter or QTIP Trust, a living trust and durable powers of attorney are still valuable tools. Families below the federal estate tax threshold still can unintentionally lose assets to another family, and this is a serious problem requiring good planning.

Many legal specialists recommend prenuptial agreements to minimize potential disputes and protect assets. However, some clients are uncomfortable with the complete disclosure needed to make these contracts binding. Other planners suggest the use of Family Limited Partnerships (FLP) as a way to protect assets and insulate the children of previous marriages. Assets held in these specialized partnerships allow the parent, as general partners, to still control both income and management. Children, on the other hand, as limited partners, are treated as passive investors in the family assets. Since the future heirs already have paper ownership of the family assets, there is little chance of losing them to another family. Of special interest to parents is the creditor protection provided to family business assets held by a FLP. Asset protection for limited partners is based on the inability to force a partnership to relinquish property. Although a judge may issue a charging order that allows a creditor access to the partnership distributions, the creditor only takes the place of the limited partner. However, the general partner still controls the timing of income distributions. As a result, creditors may find themselves in the unpleasant position of receiving tax liabilities from the partnership, but having no income distributed to pay the bill. Most creditors would prefer to avoid that situation, and this provides heirs with some leverage for negotiations.

For the more determined clients, an international trust may provide a mechanism to better protect and control the original family's assets. Although there are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to keep everything legal, these trusts offer many advantages for individuals with potentially big exposures. To keep from conveying property fraudulently, planning must occur before any litigation or threat of legal action occurs. The major advantage to holding assets off-shore lies in the difficulty of attaching assets in any legal action. Most judges feel that such assets are held outside of their jurisdiction and not subject to the court's control. Other asset protection features of these trusts include blocking frivolous litigation by forcing all proceedings to occur in the foreign country where the trust is located. This hurdle prevents most lawsuits from moving in directions unfavorable to the client. To evaluate the best use of asset protection strategies and integrated estate planning, experienced legal, tax and financial advisers should be consulted.

Tea for Two or Three or More?

When can a romantic evening and a marriage proposal become more than just the typical "Tea for Two"? When children are part of the package, couples find themselves with much more than just romance on their minds.

There are so many things to consider when planning a marriage and a life of sharing and this list grows very quickly as children are figured into the equation. Many couples today are beginning relationships with each other’s children as the extra challenge. Challenges can be fun and exciting, if time is spent to make good things happen for the new family and the new relationships that result.

From the very beginning of the relationship, dating can include the children. With trips to the zoo, ice-skating rink, fun parks, ballgames, movies and museums, children and adults can learn so much about each other. These activities can provide interaction and begin the understanding that is needed to form healthy, long-lasting family patterns.

When a commitment has been made and the wedding is planned, the children must be included in some way to give them the feeling of importance and belonging. The age of the child definitely determines just how much participation he or she would have in the planning and activities of the wedding. Children can have as small a part as helping pick the reception food, to actually walking down the aisle as one of the wedding party. The important thing is to make sure the children are not left out, since the wedding is a major turning point in their lives.

After the wedding and honeymoon, real life starts for the new family. Be sure to continue the patterns that formed the beginning of this relationship. Keep a night open for family time. Some families have game night, pizza night or movie night. It doesn’t matter what it is called as long all involved look forward to the evening! A little creativity will be rewarded by good family fun that lasts a lifetime. Tea for two, three or more? Sounds like a delightful adventure to share!

Q & A: baker at my reception hall is unable to make the wedding cake I requested

Q. The baker at my reception hall is unable to make the wedding cake I requested, shouldn't I be compensated by my caterer if my original contract stated wedding cake included? And by how much?

A. This is not good - and this is not the way to approach the wedding - but let's look at some possible legal ramifications and what it might take to have a true understanding among and between two people - and - realizing that this is NOT, repeat NOT, legal advice and that Da Wedding Guy is NOT, repeat NOT, an attorney nor represents himself as someone qualified to give legal advice. So - having attempted to cover myself and attempting to make very sure you understand that this is NOT legal advice but only a personal opinion I, personally feel the following: (see how this can evolve into something bigger than it should be) If your contract stated "wedding cake included" and that's about it, you could have little or NO recourse because the exact details of the cake were not in the agreement. If the agreement went further and spoke of the cake in some detail (i.e. size, style of cake, # to feed, Kosher or non-Kosher if appropriate, flavor, type of icing, type of decorations, number of layers, type of pedestal layout and so on) THEN you have a contract that is specific enough in nature to require compliance or (in my opinion) restitution. If you were very specific as to what you wanted and the caterer said yes you could have it - or - by the lack of denial or through apparent complacency failed to indicate that your request could not be filled - AND - you had someone with you who could honestly attest to this type of an event -- then -- even a verbal agreement can be considered as legal and binding as a written contract, given the proper conditions are met and can be substantiated. Now - think about this - how big was the cake supposed to be - how much would it cost you to have it made somewhere else - and (perhaps most importantly) how much hassle do you want to have for how much money you will save??? Consider asking the caterer (ask again if you have already brought this up) to do some equitable and fair thing and (if perhaps the understanding of the details to what was expected in a cake was not exactly the same by both parties) - then perhaps, "sharing the cost" of getting the "right" cake - and/or perhaps include a groom's cake and you get the cake you want - so on, and so forth, and the beat goes on... If everything lends itself to "in good faith" you told him all things necessary to make your cake the way you wanted it - and - it is in writing or spoken with a friendly and viable witness present or simply admitted to by the caterer - AND - you were given no notice of, and/or cause to believe this would not be carried out as you had SPECIFICALLY thought was agreed to - then - if the cake is worth your time, and I mean REAL time, speak with an attorney. You might find that not referring the caterer and telling your story to others would do more good. The point is - this is your wedding - a very special and happy time (though few girls REALLY know just how hectic and frantic this can all be) - do what you have to do - BUT - don't get carried away - if it's messed up FIX IT - and worry about the rest later - don't you DARE miss "da big pictcha" and let this junk rule the day when you and your finance should be ruling it.

Q & A: What type of food and drinks are appropriate for NON-ALCOHOLIC wedding reception?

Q. What type of food and drinks are appropriate for an October, Saturday 2:00, NON-ALCOHOLIC wedding reception?

A. Being in the DFW area myself I'm sure we'll come up with something GREAT - but - is it formal, semi-formal or informal? Is this a usual wedding, a western wedding, a theme wedding? Is it inside or outside - is it at the wedding location or a separate reception site - how many people - what type of people do you expect? Selecting your food requires a couple of things - 1. your likes and dislikes; 2. making your guests comfortable (psychologically) with comfortable foods; 3. doing it all in good taste. Give me some more help and we'll see what we can do.

Q & A: What are the duties of the bridesmaids?

Q. What are the duties of the bridesmaids?

A. The term "Bridesmaid" historically refers to those maids (true maids of the household) or maidens (single girl friends) who were to help the bride in accomplishing all those tasks required of the bride prior to the wedding and at the reception. Today, the term bridesmaid refers to those best of friends and family who are there to help the bride in accomplishing all those tasks required of the bride prior to the wedding and at the reception. The more things change the more they remain the same! A bridesmaid is responsible for helping the bride with organizing and finalizing all facets of the wedding process - I say process because it can start as early as when the bride asks you to be a bridesmaid and will continue strait through the reception and, on occasion through the day-after wedding brunch (though these events are becoming more and more rare). Help with planning the wedding? Help with finding the right professionals and vendors? Help in getting the invitations out? Get the idea? - This entire process is so overwhelming that many, many, many brides say "if they knew them what they know now..." and only 1 bride in 100 says she had enough help getting through this entire process!!! Beyond the help you can provide, the bridesmaids general host the shower or showers for the bride - pay for their own dresses - act as assistant wedding coordinator (unless one exists) acts as social secretary at the reception and picks up the bits and pieces all along the way. Other than that, the bridesmaids don't have much at all to do other than stand around and be pretty - right?

Q & A: Whose responsibility is it to pay for the bridesmaid luncheon?

Q. Whose responsibility is it to pay for the bridesmaid luncheon? My mother has already stated she will not do so and unfortunately my budget is stretched to the limit. Any recommendations?

A. The bridesmaid luncheon is an optional affair and, should someone (almost anyone) elect to hold it the payment is also a rather optional affair. At times the bridesmaids throw a luncheon for the bride - this is a bridesmaids' luncheon. At times the bride throws a luncheon for the bridesmaids - this is a bridesmaids' luncheon also. If you REALLY want to make a hit and help your bridesmaids out - choose sensible, not terribly expensive bridesmaid's gowns for the wedding - remember, the bridesmaids pay for their own gowns and by being a reasonable and caring friend to your bridesmaids can go a long, long way to offsetting the need for a bridesmaids' luncheon.

Q & A: What is the proper form of response to a formal invitation to a very small wedding

Q. What is the proper form of response to a formal invitation to a very small wedding where the reception is the featured event? The large reception invitation and smaller wedding invitation were received in the same envelope, separated by tissue paper, but only the reception invitation had "The favour of reply is requested" engraved on it. There was no customary reply envelope included.

A. Receiving the wedding and reception invitation in the same envelope is prefectly OK - an RSVP card is most often included but is not a prerequisite for asking for a response. You will seldom find that you are requested to confirm the wedding but in nearly all situations(especially if the family is wise to the cost of a reception) you will have an RSVP or "the favour of a reply is requested". When a reply card is not included with an RSVP you should either call the family or drop a note of your intention.

Q & A: Can the host/hostess of the reception ask the caterer to wrap up all the leftovers?

Q. Can the host/hostess of the reception ask the caterer to wrap up all the leftovers?

A. You better believe you can!!! After all, you paid for it - it's yours and it's a very common (and a proper occurrence). Be sure to let the caterer know ahead of time that you will want to take some leftovers so he/she can have the proper contains ready for you.

Q & A: What is the proper donation to the minister who performs a simple ceremony?

Q. What is the proper donation (tip, gift, or contribution -I'm not sure of the proper term- etc.) to give to the minister who performs a simple ceremony?

A. The proper amount to offer a minister for a wedding ceremony is an ethereal thing - depending on what part of the world you are in - depending on any pre-marriage counseling - does the minister to a rehearsal - does the minister "host" the event making sure everything is in order and running smoothly - or - does the minister show up, say some words, pronounce you man & wife and depart??? In general, the very basics go for about $100+ -- with rehearsal add $50+ -- with counseling add $50 to $100+ -- does help out = no add on - does organize and work to make sure it's all smooth and easy for you = add $50 to $100 A simply affair should be a minimum of $100 -- a more involved and special treatment (with rehearsal but no counseling) should start at $150 and go to not more than $350. Don't like these numbers - an easy solution is ask "what is your ussual fee or gratuity for performing a service like this??? This IS proper and should be done when interviewing and speaking with your minister.

Q & A: We would like to let all know where our bridal registry is

Q. My fiance and I both have large families filled with divorce and remarriage, as well as friends from all over the place. We would like to let all know where our bridal registry is, because the tradition of letting the information pass by word of mouth will probably not be sufficient. Is it absolutely inappropriate to include a note in the invitation stating where we are registered? If not, how do we get the information out? There will be no large shower or other gathering bringing everyone together before the wedding.

A. Let's start with something that very few newlyweds-to-be want to hear - "Getting married isn't about receiving gifts - it's about getting married! Getting your bridal registry "out" to friends and family is an absolute no-no (as in don't you dare). The only two traditional ways to let everyone know of your registry is at the bridal shower(s) and your "probably not sufficient" word of mouth. Guests are supposed to be smart enough to ask a friend or family "where are they registers" - however, this is not always the case and the bride and groom can lose out - But again, this is not about STUFF. Putting out "the word" in a note or included in the invitation is like saying "oh, please send money" - or other such gauche statements. Of course, word of mouth is sufficient - those who want to know will ask - those who don't want to know won't ask but will still probably (as is good etiquette) get you something. In the VERY near future look to one of our websites for a free bridal package which will give you a web page - with the couple's photo - wedding and reception information - bridal registry information - and more... all accessed through a password we give you and you give to only those you wish to view the site. This will be a "hey guys, look at me I'm Getting Married" type of site and will give you more leeway in this new turn-of-the-century etiquette we are seeing.

Q & A: How should announcements and invitations to the celebration be worded?

Q. My fiance and I are having a family wedding and a reception for those attending. He is in the military and is being sent overseas for 6 months soon after the wedding. After he returns, we plan to have a huge celebration and invite everyone we would have invited to the wedding had we had the big wedding originally planned. We are sending invitations to the wedding to family members. We are also planning to send announcements to those we plan to invite to the celebration we will have in 6 months and then send invitations to everyone as we get closer to this date. Are we doing the correct thing? Also, how should announcements and invitations to the celebration be worded?

A. With more and more couples having destination weddings or a wedding/honeymoon/reception, the break between the wedding and the "reception" party is not so unusual anymore. You will want to send out a wedding announcement "Mr. & Mrs. A. B. Name have the honor of announcing the marriage of their daughter YOUR NAME to Mr. HIS NAME, Saturday the tenth of November one thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine, Dimebox, Texas. You can be a lot less formal and a lot more informative by sending an announcement that can have the names of both sets of parents and a "notice" of future celebration --- Mr. and Mrs. Brides Family and Mr. and Mrs. Groom's Family announce the marriage of YOUR NAME and HIS NAME on THE DATE...(Then two lines down)... "A celebration of this marriage will be announced prior to HIS NAME's return from a six-month tour of duty with the military." These should be mailed the day of the wedding (after the wedding) and should not be sent to individuals who received invitations to the wedding and small family reception. A separate invitation to your belated reception should be sent about six weeks in advance and should state the following: "Mr. and Mrs. WHOEVER IS PAYING FOR THE RECEPTION (or both families if they are sharing in the cost) requests the pleasure of your company at a reception in honor of Mr. and Mrs. HIS NAME, on, at, etc., etc." - be sure to enclose a RSVP card - this way you will know how many to plan for.

Q & A: How my divorced parents should be seated at the wedding?

Q. My parents are divorced, have not spoken to each other in the last 15 years and in general do not like one another. What is your best advice as to how they should be seated at the wedding? We are catholic.

A. Your mom and current husband? (if one exists) sit on the front row right hand side with the rest of your relatives behind her in the next row or more - then your father and his current wife??? (if one exists) sits behind the rest of the family - if your dad's current wife is "no friend of the family" (meaning not appreciated or actually disliked by your mom) she sits further back in the church on your side. Let your mom help you with this - if she doesn't really care do as setout above - if she just doesn't want you dad "anywhere around" seat him alone as above - or - talk to him and see how he feels about sitting a little further back with his "current".

Q & A: Destination wedding in Jamaica

Q. I am having a destination wedding in Jamaica. There will be no traditional wedding party. When and how do we formally announce this? We have the blessing of friends and family. We will be having a party in April before our June date. Who could I contact in Atlanta (GA) that would offer advise and inform me of the protocol for this type of event? I appreciate you sharing your expertise.

A. I'm not sure I have the details right - but let me try anyway. Announcements always go out "after the fact" and usually on the same day of, or day after the wedding. You should have a close friend or a family member mail out the announcements from home. Now, according to your email you state that you will have a "party" in April prior to "our June date" which I interpret as you are planning to celebrate your wedding in April (informal reception type of affair??) prior to you going to Jamaica in June to get married??? If I am correct in what I read, then what you are actually doing has no wedding "etiquette" role - your "get together" prior to your wedding is actually a "bon voyage" and "good luck in the future" party and should be treated as such. Send our the usual party invitations - formal or informal - with an explanation of the event (so everyone is comfortable). If you want this to be more like a reception or a house warming I would suggest you try to arrange it for some period of time following your return form the honeymoon - this has become an everyday occurrence in the wedding industry. Though my daughter's wedding was in Georgia (Statesboro) I'm afraid we have no current contacts in the Atlanta area - but we are checking into it at this time.

Q & A: Correct form for listing the bride's parents who are making the wedding?

Q. I am keenly sensitive to the separate identity of women and men and find it problematic to refer to the parents of the bride on the wedding invitation as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. What is the correct form for listing the bride's parents who are making the wedding? Can one say Mr. John and Mrs. Mary Smith, or if not, what do we write?

A. Well, if you plan to print "traditional" invitations - tradition states - you will use "Mr. and Mrs. John T. Public" - BUT - take heart, has more and more weddings become less and less traditional alternatives to traditional invitations are more and more acceptable - therefore - something along these lines IS currently accepted in wedding etiquette circles: We ask that you please join us for the marriage of our daughter HER NAME to Mr.. HIS NAME on Saturday, the tenth of July at five o'clock, 101 Park Place, Anytown, Maine. We invite you to witness their vows and join us for a reception following the ceremony. Jane and John Doe RSVP How's that?

Q & A: Custom to have the groom's family pay for half the wedding?

Q. My 44 year old brother is getting married to a 41 year old, never married woman. She is from an Italian-American family. Upon meeting my mom and dad, her parents told them it is their custom that the groom's parents pay for half of the wedding. They were very blunt and quite offensive to my parents. My brother's response was to take out a loan and he would pay the other half of the wedding expenses. The bride's father remarked, "that's a good boy". My mom and dad are considerably older. They are appalled at the behavior and insistence of the bride's parents to pay for half of the wedding. However, it doesn't seem to bother the bride! In fact, it doesn't bother her if my brother has to take out a loan to pay for the other half. My brother has purchased her engagement and wedding rings and even paid for his own ring. He will pay for the honeymoon and some of the other customary items such as her flowers. It seems my brother will have quite a bill after all this. In fact, quite a lot more than the bride's parents. And he would rather elope anyway! My parents said they will pay for the rehearsal dinner, which I think is quite generous of them since my brother has been married twice before and had the big wedding the first time around. I suggested to him that his fiance discuss the wedding budget alone with her parents. Find out what they are willing to spend and keep the wedding within that budget. I am pretty handy at decorating events and would be willing to help her keep costs down. I even thought I might surprise her and make wedding favors for the guests so she wouldn't have that to worry about. As the arrangements proceed, I've noticed the bride is planning the type of wedding and reception that her parents would have if she were marrying in her native state of New York, complete with all the expectations customary to their circle of Italian friends and family. The wedding is in Phoenix, Arizona. The bride, groom, and groom's parents all live in Arizona. The friends that will be attending will be the bride's and groom's friends that also live in locally. The bride's family will fly in for the wedding. So the only Italians attending will be the bride's family. Therefore, most likely the only guests that will stick around to dance and party away will be the bride's family. Just about everyone will be a fairly conservative Christian--except the bride's family. A reception with dancing, a disc jockey and a bar available is completely contrary to everyone's general lifestyle--everyone's except the bride's parents. I'm afraid they will be the only ones who will think the reception is great. Everyone else will be uncomfortable with the loud music, the dancing (especially those elderly Christian friends who are from the old school that thought dancing was sinful), and the sight of a bar serving alcohol. My second concern is regarding the times of the ceremony and reception. The bride has now planned the ceremony for 1:00 p.m. with a reception at another location at 4 p.m. She plans to have the bridal party go to a park to take pictures between the ceremony and the reception. The times of the ceremony and reception are of concern because of the large block of time in between that their guests will have nothing to do and wouldn't be practical to go home and change and then get dressed up again to go to the reception. I think it is impractical and inconsiderate to expect guests to be inconvenienced in this way. Also, if parents are hiring babysitters, that is also extra time they will have to pay for and be away from their children. The other concern regarding the time is that because of my parents' age, they are no longer able to drive at night. They both have serious vision problems and they would have to drive home in the dark after the reception. Not only that but they will become very tired because of the length of time from the ceremony until the reception is over. My brother has many elderly friends from his church and in all likelihood they will have the same or similar problems. Phoenix has horrible street traffic and very few freeways. If it were to rain it could likely take someone an hour or two to get home. (I lived there for 20 years--I know this all too well.) I think it is insensitive and inconsiderate to put my parents in a position that endangers their health and well-being, to say the least. However, the bride's response has been that "whoever cares enough about us will be there!" She also said "they can go to the mall and go shopping (all dressed up in their wedding attire)." Am I missing something here or what? I also mentioned to my future sister-in-law that the time would be pretty hard on our 10 year old son, whom they asked to be the ring bearer. I told her how difficult it is for kids to be patient and that he would be miserable wearing a tuxedo for what would probably extend to about 8 hours--from the time we get him dressed till the time we get home. Her response was how educational a wedding is for children. Educational? Oh, yes, she said. We can explain to our son what all the traditions mean and why certain things are the custom, etc. (as if he would really care!?!) I said that our son and nearly every child in the world would not be able to sit quietly through a wedding, have nothing to do for the next two and a half hours, then expect to be pleasant at a party for another three hours or more. She won't listen and thinks this "problem" will be exclusive to our son only! So----my mom and I were wondering what a professional in the wedding business would think about this and what you might advise.

A. Let me start by saying that we checked with our own New York Italian family - and to try and be totally fair - we checked with Italian friends in Pittsburgh and in Chicago -- here is the result: When the bride's parents told your brother that it is their custom to have the groom's family pay for half the wedding the operative words were likely "THEIR custom" and NOT the custom of the nationality. New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago families (with roots in Sicily, in Rome and in Bologna) ALL agreed that it would be an embarrassment for the bride's family (realize this is a special "Italian" embarrassment) to do anything less than pay for the entire wedding, as is tradition -- with the following exceptions: 1. When the bride's family is not well to do, quite often the groom's mother (not the father and not the groom) may ask the bride's mother if the groom's family can't help out "to make for a more perfect wedding day for their children" -- as you can tell this is a "mother" thing where the mother always wishes to look out for their children and by keeping the fathers out of this little discussion no social faux pas can exist and the "male" thing doesn't get stepped on (are you catching the drift here?) - BUT this is NOT initiated by the brides family and is NOT an expected occurrence. 2. When the bride and groom wish an unusually large and/or expensive wedding it is not uncommon for the groom's father to offer to pick up the cost of the liquor and the champagne at the reception - once again the initiative is from the groom's family and NOT the bride's. 3. When the bride and groom have grown up together, the families are close, all their lives the bride and groom were expected to marry - the brides family is poor and it is in both family interests to see the marriage through - then - with some embarrassment but with mutual admiration and love the bride's and groom's family share the cost. Do you think I've said enough about this? Next - being blunt and somewhat offensive should be left to Da Wedding Guy. Next - the words "that's a good boy" generally translates to "we're glad you are doing what we tell you to do". Next - parents being appalled is what parents do - but - in this instance I appall with them Next - the items you listed as items your brother is paying for are traditionally the items he should be paying for - with the exception of the bridal bouquet - but - if he got a great package deal for all flowers even the bouquet can be paid for by the groom. Now to the heart of the matter. I must assume your brother is of "sound mind" and having been married twice before has at least SOME inkling of what he is getting into. With this in mind if he isn't willing to speak with his bride-to-be about these expenses, if he is willing to take out a loan, do the wedding as SHE wants it and isn't complaining about his added burden - what's the rub? and why are you being the advocate? - remember, if your parents didn't want to pay for the rehearsal dinner they wouldn't - also, remember, this wedding isn't about the friends and it is only partially about the family - in reality it is about two people in love, wanting to share their lives. While I tend to agree with your position and delima, knowing only your view of the situation makes it hard to be judgmental - but - this does sound a little one-sided doesn't it? Next - about the timing - 1 o'clock ceremony should be over at 1:30 and out of the church (guests and all before 2) At the park by 2:15 photos (in the heat???). To the reception site by 3945 to 4:00. So, the timing isn't really THAT bad - but - the concept could stink. It would depend on the weather and it would depend on the guests and why everyone is going to the park. You know, a "reception" is to "receive the guests" it is the time when the families play host to the guests and cater to them - so - once the wedding is over, most of what is being done should be focussed on the guests and the guests' comforts. If your future sister-in-law seems to be totally insensitive to your comments and your thoughts for the comfort of others perhaps it is because she is - or - perhaps she feels you are meddling in her affairs. What I don't understand is if all you have said is accurate why is your brother standing by and doing nothing??? If it will be such an imposition on his personal friends and family I would suspect he would be sensitive to these conditions - can all of this revolve strictly around the bride without equal fault being placed on your brother? From what you have described there seems to be no compromise and no solution - grin and bear it comes to mind. If you are going to be a part of this wedding you should just let it happen and be over with - and - you should say no more, after all this IS his wedding. If you don't want to be a part of it then just don't - your brother should understand. While it sounds like a pretty big mess to me - the fact is, it is his mess and he must have some reason for doing whatever it is that he is doing. Even if this really is the mess you portray, I'd say you've said your piece, you've tried to help and be helpful, now - leave it alone and let it be done with - hopefully for your brother (and obviously for you and your parents) his third wedding will be his last.

Q & A: What is an acceptable donation to pastor who is marrying us?

Q. The pastor that is marrying us indicated there is no charge for him to marry us, but that a donation is acceptable to cover the cost of the custodians cleaning up, etc. What is an acceptable donation? We do not belong to this church, but we are very pleased with the pastor who is marrying us.

A. Tipping the pastor/minister/officiant is traditional - and in good taste - and varies throughout the world. In your neck of the woods, cost of the custodians cleaning up is ok - probably $50 to $100 bucks - but - it is not unusual to give a minister - pastor - et al - a $100 to $200 gratuity - do - if you give for clean up and offer the pastor something for his kindness' you should be respectfully covered at $150 to $200. These moneys should be given to the officiant by the best man with him explaining that some is custodial but the some is for the pastor. Have the best man do this prior to the service (as things can get a little hectic immediately following the service).

Q & A: Who traditionally pays for floral arrangements for the church?

Q. I saw your answer to the question about the responsibilities of the groom and his family. I have two other specific questions: 1. "Corsages for all immediate family members" - the groom's family or both families? 2. Who traditionally pays for floral arrangements for the church?

A. The GROOM is responsible for paying for the Bride's bouquet, the bride's going away corsage, corsages for the mothers and grandmothers on both sides, plus all of the boutonnieres. The bride's PARENTS are responsible for all the decorating costs (which includes the floral for the wedding PLUS bridesmaids and flower-girl bouquets.

Q & A: Wedding will not be held in a church

Q. The wedding and reception will be held in a ballroom and there will be 150 total guests. We are budgeting the whole affair somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,500-$3,500. We both are Christians but are not overconcerned about religious conflicts because the wedding will not be held in a church.

A. Guessing it is probably formal, but at least semi-formal, I would suggest having a buffet (easier to manage and usually less expensive) which can be setup in advance and hidden behind folding screens - have the actual wedding in front of the screens then plan the "after the ceremony wedding photos" in a pre-set location to the rear of the ballroom (in full view of all). Following the ceremony you and yours go to the rear of the ballroom (attention follows you) and while you are having the photos shot the screens are removed and the facility reverts from chapel to reception. Though sitting at tables for the ceremony is not the norm, there is nothing wrong with it. or You may wish to have the ceremony in another part of the facility (or outside if convenient) and then come into the ballroom. or You could arrange the ballroom much like a showcase hall, with different "stations" setup around the room. In one location you can have the "alter" for the wedding - in the next location you can have the photo sessions set up - in the next location you can have the buffet set up - in the next location you can have the DJ or Band or Entertainment and dance floor setup (this is also where you would have your head tables (with the two of you facing the rest of the guests). This is probably the most theatrical, entertaining and convenient way to handle a multi-purpose ballroom event.

Q & A: Is it improper etiquette to exclude the bridesmaids and groomsmen from riding in the limo?

Q. My fiance and I are planning a wedding in August of this year. He wants to have a limo drive us from the church to the reception and he wants only he and I to ride in the limo. Is it improper etiquette to exclude the bridesmaids and groomsmen from riding in the limo?

A. It would be improper etiquette to INCLUDE the wedding party in the limo. It should only be the two of you. Though members of the wedding party often accompany the bride and groom in less formal affairs - if this is formal you go it alone - if this is "less formal" you still should go it alone.

Q & A: I want to include my deceased father's name with my mother's name as "Parents of the Bride".

Q. I am going to have a wedding program and I want to include my deceased father's name with my mother's name as "Parents of the Bride". Is this acceptable and how would I word it?

A. If you are having a wedding program (for distribution at the church) then the "Parent of the Bride" should be your mother alone - but - at the end of the program it can have "In loving memory of ....".

Q & A: What is the proper way to cut a tiered wedding cake?

Q. What is the proper way to cut a tiered wedding cake?

A. We went to one of the very TOP wedding cake bakeries in the U.S. - cakes the White House are common from here. The shop is "Cakes of Elegance" in Dallas, Texas. Here is the "quote" for properly cutting one of their cakes (three tiers or more). This procedure will vary with how your cake is constructed and what type of base and/or bases are used. HOW TO CUT THE CAKE The top tier should be the "anniversary cake" this is removed and kept (in the freezer). Serve from the top tier down and serve only the back of each tier, this preserves the appearance of the cake for the guests. First cut the tier with a vertical cut holding knife straight up and down - make this cut about 2 inches in from the outside of the cake (as though you were cutting a circle within the cake circle (or square within the cake square) then cut 1 inch slices, the depth of the tier you are working on. Insert knife beneath the portion to release it from the tier below and place on the serving plate. Once you have cut and served the entire back side of the cake you may repeat the procedure with another concentric circle cut 2 inches in from the remaining outside (if the cake is big enough) or move down to the next tier and start over again. Have a damp napkin handy to clean your knife blade occasionally - Use a sharp knife (the heavy silver ones are pretty, but do not give you a good clean slice) - it is best is one person cuts the cake and the other handles the plates. So you really need two people to serve each cake. - occasionally place a flower, strawberry or chocolate curl on the plate with the serving as you come to them. Now if all this seems very confusing - send me your fax number and I will fax you the information page with some diagrams.

Q & A: Is it proper to give the birth mother a corsage too?

Q. I was adopted at birth and in the past 4 years have met my birth mother and other family members. They are coming down from Ohio, and my sister is one of my bridesmaids. Is it proper to give the birth mother a corsage too without hurting the feelings of my mother?

A. Don't be nervous or confused - you can give a corsage to anyone and everyone - sure it's OK - the fact is she IS a family member and your mom will likely understand - because - your birth mother is "a guest", should not participate in the wedding ceremony, nor the receiving line, nor any part of the wedding process. Ergo, your birth mother will not be taking anything away from your mom (obviously including you) - if you want your birth mother to sit "with the family members" behind your mom and dad this is also OK and your choice. Regardless of what you choose to do - get with your mom and tell her your thoughts and ideas and ask her how she feels about it all - just letting her know you care enough to want to not hurt her feelings and wanting her input should go a LONG, LONG way.

Q & A: Is the old adage that the brides parents pay for the wedding still in force?

Q. Is the old adage that the brides parents pay for the wedding still in force? Or have they changed that like they did the thing about the white wedding dress?

A. When you ask if "they" have changed this, I assume you mean "da wedding police". The concept behind the brides parents paying for the wedding is NOT an adage (which is defined as a "saying or proverb") but is in fact one of the very OLDEST and one of the very MOST followed traditions in the world of weddings - however - there IS hope - but first, about the tradition. In lesser days of lesser awareness and lesser equality (and, sorry to say, even today in less aware and liberated countries) TRADITION was based in bias and perceived NEED. It was ALWAYS wonderful to have sons - sons could work the fields or take over dad's business or profession - sons could "carry on the family tradition" - sons could provide for the parents in their old age - sons could... (got the idea?). Then there were the "daughters" - and, while they could cook and clean house, they were generally thought of as more of a present burden than current or future benefit - therefore the "dowry" was born, that marvelous thing that was an incentive to potential suitors to get that girl "out from under foot" - and - to add to the incentive, dad would even pay for the event to get the daughter legally committed to be someone else's "obligation" ... (got the idea?). Well, from those humble and rather primitive beginnings (still practiced in too many areas of the world) - came the TRADITION of the bride's family paying for the wedding. Now to your question - I've got good news... and I've got bad news! - oh yes - the tradition IS still for the bride's family to pay for the wedding and most, but not all, of the events surrounding the wedding. - oh no - this tradition IS NOT written in blood and enforced by "da wedding police" - as a matter of fact, turn-of-the-century etiquette has actually allowed for common sense to help you through this "money matter" (which, by the way, could be an early test of just how well you and yours are about to get through your first years of marriage and "money matters"). Today, more and more couples are paying for their own weddings - more and more couples are realizing the expense of the wedding NEEDS to be shared between families. This "sharing" of expenses is NOT without foundation, and depending on your ethnic and/or national heritage may already be a part of your families' backgrounds. In a number of cultures the cost of the wedding is split between a small group of family members who can best afford the expense. Further, another old "ethnic" tradition is starting to have a resurgence in this country...when it is apparent that the bride's family can not easily afford a "major wedding event" and the bride and groom acknowledge this, a groom's family who may be in an equal or better financial position may offer to "participate in the wedding" by picking up the entire tab, 1/2 the tab or a smaller portion thereof. If this "participation" is going to occur it should be initiated only after the bride and groom have agreed that this could be best - and - they each of spoken with their families (in a very private conversation) about this -- then -- if "feelings" aren't going to be hurt and if "personalities" aren't going to get in the way, the first step should be by the groom's mother speaking with the bride's mother and asking if "they couldn't help with the wedding and the wedding expenses". If both families end up paying for the wedding it is also traditional for the invitations to go out in both family's name. Good Luck

Q & A: My son wanted to have his priest perform part of the Armenian service at his fiance's church, but the Lutherans do not allow it

Q. My son is getting married in September and there is an issue about the church and the etiquette of whose church the ceremony is in. We are Armenian Orthodox and my son's fiance is Lutheran. My son wanted to have his priest perform part of the Armenian service at his fiance's church, but the Lutherans do not allow it. What now?

A. This is a problem often seen with Jewish/Christian marriages - the answer is - they choose or they have two ceremonies. Either way, mom, remember the operative word here is "THEY" and, though it may be tough, this is something that MUST be worked through by the couple without parental influences and pressures (as we tend to do). Having a strong ethnic heritage myself, I understand the desire to bring the families' way of life into the next generation - but - this is the time they need to give some serious thought to the future - if the ceremony and how it will be handled becomes "an issue" that can't be easily resolved by the couple - then - what about the lifestyles, what about how the kids will be raised - how about a dozen other things that you and I know about because we've been there and done that - but... this is why I have to say (in a very nice and caring way) you have to make sure you "butt out" of this one - it is a very important issue that may help the couple grow a little (if not a lot) and an issue that they shouldn't have to have a family "guilt trip" over. Best of Luck

Q & A: Is it acceptable to request that money be given in place of gifts for a wedding?

Q. Is it acceptable to request that money be given in place of gifts for a wedding?

A. Only if you state "in lieu of gifts please donate to ______________ charity" - otherwise - NO, NEVER, DON'T EVEN THINK OF IT, etc., etc. If you happen to be part of one of the ethnic groups that give cash at weddings that's great - but - even then YOU DON'T ASK - is it given as part of the tradition and NO ONE asks. If you need the cash and not the gifts - take the gifts back and "trade them" for things you really honestly need or register for only things you really don't want to have to pay for - are you doing a honeymoon? - register it, as many travel agencies will have "honeymoon registries" available... need clothes? - register at department stores where you can take back items you don't want and exchange for clothes... There are NOT a lot of ways around this - because asking for money is just bad taste - and - it makes people think "if they really need money how can they afford to get married" which is NOT something you want friends and family to consider.

Q & A: Reception card states "NO GIFTS PLEASE"

Q. I have been invited to a wedding and on the reception card it stated "NO GIFTS PLEASE". I feel awkward not bringing anything. I was thinking about a donation or something like that. What is the acceptable thing to do here?

A. If the invitations state "No Gifts Please - just kidding!!" maybe you should feel awkward - BUT - let's do two things here - the "NO GIFTS PLEASE" is poor etiquette, a no-no, not done. The ONLY time it is proper to have a "no gifts please" concept on an invitation is if it states "in lieu of gifts, a donation to XXX charity would be appreciated". Now - when someone goes to the trouble to "tell you like it is" you just have to take them at their word and leave it alone - it would be in just as poor taste to offer, make a donation, or bring a gift if they has specifically asked you not too - it's like flaunting it in their faces. The acceptable thing to do is go, enjoy, congratulate, send a thanks for the invite card after the fact and, with the money you've saved buy yourself something really nice for the occasion - you deserve it for being so caring!

Q & A: Announcements for second wedding for both the bride and groom

Q. It is the second wedding for both the bride and groom. Therefore, we are having a small ceremony for immediate family. We want to send announcements out to friends and family. What is the proper etiquette for this?

A. I guess we are talking about sending out wedding announcements and I presume YOU will be sending these out (not mom or dad)??? These go out the day of or after the wedding and, in this turn-of-the-century etiquette, can be as formal or informal as you would like. As serious as you want or as funny as you want. Formally it's the "Ms (or Mrs) YOUR NAME and Mr HIS NAME announce their marriage on DAY OF THE WEEK, the NUMBER of MONTH one thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine at CITY, STATE"

Q & A: How should tables be arranged to promote conversation and have guests be comfortable?

Q. For 60 people attending the rehearsal dinner (dressy but not formal), how should the tables be arranged to promote conversation and have guests be comfortable?

A. Try nothing but 8' rounds - with yours in the very center of the all or try a couple of "U" shaped arrangements with seating on both sides of the arms of the "U" and only the outside of the base of the "U" - have a "head table" of a straight line with seating (Like on stage) only on the side facing the two or three other "U"'s - bride/groom, moms/dads, attendants at the head table (or if rounds keep the maid of honor and bestman with their "significant other" at the head table with the other attendants surrounding you). Where ever you are having this - whomever is organizing it - should have some good insight and suggestions that best suit the location - and the availability - ask! It's your money.

Q & A: How long does a bride have to send thank-you notes?

Q. How long does a bride have to send thank-you notes?

A. I hope the clock is not already ticking - the wise bride writes notes as she receives the gifts - always on note paper and always by hand - of course, usually the majority of the gifts come at the last minute and the bride often doesn't get the work completed until after the honeymoon. Convention wisdom says you have "three months" following the wedding to get this done - but - in today's world of ever quicken response times to everything else (i.e. our little chat here) - turn-of-the-century etiquette is likely to dictate a new and astounding four to six week maximum timeframe - If I were you I'd go with the 4 to 6 weeks and if you are already too late - include an apology card with the thank you card!!! This whole "thank you" thing is pretty damned important - and can set the tone and circumstance of your married life - after all - if people, any people, have the courtesy and interest enough to GIVE you something (remember, weddings are not about gifts and there is NO obligation for ANYONE to give you a gift) the least we can do is say "gosh, thanks guys". Late "thank you's" are like saying, after the fact, "oh yeah, by the way, thanks for whatever". Hopefully you are ahead of the game and not behind the eight ball.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wedding Guest Etiquette

A great read for anyone involved in a wedding, this guide provides insight into wedding ceremonies from various religions and cultures. If you've been invited to a wedding ceremony you're not familiar with, this compilation gives a basic outline for understanding the meaning of the rite, so you'll know what to expect and what's expected of you. A note to business travelers: Businesspeople in many cultures will often honor important business colleagues by inviting them to a wedding, especially if the colleague is in town at the time of the event. Don't be caught with your etiquette down: read this.

A wedding is a wonderful celebration of the union of two people and their families. As wedding guests these days, especially in North America, we may be exposed to a wide variety of cultures and religions and witness the various traditions of their ceremonies. Also, with the increasing trend toward mixed marriages, wedding celebrations often incorporate cultural and religious elements from both families. As much as it seems that the typical Western-style wedding is predominant practically everywhere throughout the world, there appears to be a renewed interest in Canada and the United States in honoring our past and heritage by reviving traditions from our own families.

Such being the case, many guests are often unsure about proper etiquette and customs when attending weddings outside of their own experience. So, here are some general guidelines. Keep in mind that in most traditions and cultures, there will be variations or different adaptations depending on local custom or personal taste. I even know of cases where although the bride and groom are from the same culture, the parents on each side will insist on "traditional" rituals that are completely foreign to the other family. I hope the following information will give you a basic understanding and a good starting point. Enjoy the ceremony.

Guide To Being An Exemplary Bridesmaid

If a bride has asked you to be a member of her bridal party, you should be honored. This invitation shows that you are an important figure in her life, that she values your friendship, and that she trusts you to be helpful and responsible during her wedding planning and on the day itself. Above all, she is asking for your love and support at this turning point in her life. Your role as a member of the bridal party is not to be taken lightly.

Bridesmaids and the maid of honor are generally expected to pay the cost of their outfits for the wedding, with the exception of any floral accessories. If you are concerned about how much it will cost, your best option is to have a straightforward conversation with the bride and find out right away what she expects you to pay for. If you are unable to afford these expenses, discuss this with the bride. Unless she can help you to pay, it might be best for you to graciously decline the invitation to be in the bridal party and offer to play some other role instead.

Duties of the maid of honor before the wedding

Before the wedding day, the honor attendant is chiefly responsible for lending the bride as much moral support as she (or he) can muster. This is often best supplied with generous offers to help in any way possible.

Here are some of the ways you can do this:

  • Help with the addressing of invitations.
  • Give a shower for the bride (optional) or co-host a "Stag and Doe" party with the best man (optional).
  • Attend all pre-wedding parties, including showers (although you are not obligated to bring a gift to more than one shower) and the rehearsal dinner, if any.
  • At showers, help to keep a record of the gifts for thank-you notes.
  • Help select the outfits for the bridal party.
  • Liaise with the bridesmaids regarding their dresses and accessories. Organize any fitting appointments and make sure the dresses are correctly tailored, that adjustments are made on time, and that the gowns are delivered to the right place(s).
  • As the wedding day draws near, make sure the bridesmaids have adequate transportation to get them to the wedding site on time.

Duties of the maid of honor on the wedding day

Your duties may include any or all of the following:

Arrive early at the bride's home (or wherever the bride is planning to dress) to help with the gown and any final packing for the honeymoon, to assist the hairstylist and/or makeup artist and the photographer, and, if things start to get out of hand, to calm nerves, direct traffic, and pour coffee. Make sure you get the groom's ring from the bride.

Since it is traditional for the bride to arrive at the wedding site with her father, the honor attendant can opt to travel alone,
or with the bridesmaids and/or the mother of the bride.

You may offer to take the bridesmaids' flowers to the wedding site and ensure that each maid receives her bouquet.

Once at the site, you can help to make final adjustments to the bride's train and veil.

During the ring exchange, the honor attendant holds the bride's bouquet and gives the groom's wedding ring to the bride. (If the bride wasn't able to choose between her two best friends and has two honor attendants, this moment is a great opportunity to get both of them involved: one may be in charge of the ring while the other holds the bride's bouquet.)

At the reception, the honor attendant stands to the left of the groom in the receiving line with a constant smile and an endless supply of upbeat comments.

You may offer a toast to the newlyweds after the dinner if you have made arrangements to do so with the master of ceremonies (usually the best man).

Once the dancing begins, the honor attendant should try to mingle among the guests and meet as many of them as possible.

You may be asked to ensure that all the guests have signed the guest book.

At a cue from the bride, you should slip away to help her change into her going-away outfit. You should then take care of the bridal gown, delivering it wherever it needs to go.

Duties of the bridesmaids

The bridesmaids' duties will probably include running errands for the bride to help her streamline her wedding plans. You might be asked to participate in work parties (addressing invitations, making decorations, etc.). On the day itself, you might be assigned a special task, such as helping to round up people for the photographer or taping the cards to the gifts on the gift table. Be willing to do whatever is required of you.

  • Assist in any way you can throughout the wedding planning process.
  • Attend all pre-wedding parties, including showers (although you are not expected to bring a gift to more than one) and the rehearsal dinner, if any.
  • Make yourself available for fittings, etc.
  • On the wedding day, arrive at the ceremony site (or wherever the bridal party has arranged to meet) on time and, for the rest of the day, follow the bride's timetable diligently, being on hand at all times so as not to hold up the photographer, the formation of the receiving line, etc.
  • Ensure before leaving for the reception that the ceremony site is clean and tidy.
  • Make sure all guests have a ride to the reception.
  • Take special care to ensure that all reception guests, especially the elderly and the disabled, are comfortable.
  • Stand in the receiving line, to the left of the maid of honor.
  • Once the reception is under way, mingle with the guests and make introductions.
  • Help to transport gifts brought to the reception to the newlyweds' home (or to the home of those parents delegated to take responsibility for them).

Guide For The Novice Master Of Ceremonies

At a wedding, a planned schedule for toasts and speeches, orchestrated by the master of ceremonies (MC or emcee), lends a certain agreeable formality to the proceedings. Contrary to what you might fear, however, the MC doesn't have to be the entertainment; he or she merely has to direct the entertainment.

Being an MC usually involves two main functions:
the first is to make sure the "formal" part of the event runs smoothly, which includes introducing each speaker; the second, especially if you are also the best man, is to give a speech.

The popular MC lives by the words "short and sweet." As a general rule, brevity and sincerity should guide the nervous or inexperienced. Most MCs take no longer than two to three minutes to introduce each part of the program.

Collect background information
The more you know in advance, the more confident you'll be. Talk to the bride, groom, their best friends, their families: they'll supply the stories you'll relate throughout the reception. Jot down any and all ideas on paper. Also find out all you can about the wedding:

The guests:
How many guests? Are they mainly students? Middle-aged business people? Seniors? Close relatives? Will children be present?

The schedule:
How many toasts will be given and when? In what order and by whom? What relationship do these people have to the bridal couple? When and for how long will you be expected to speak?

The set-up:
Will you be speaking from a platform or the head table? Will you have a podium? A microphone? Where will the guests be seated?

Your speech
Begin by introducing yourself, then tell the audience the reason they are all gathered together - to celebrate a wedding, of course! - then explain that it's your job to guide them through the program. Now give the guests the information they need to feel comfortable (e.g., the bar will be open from 5:00 to 6:00, closed during the meal and presentations, then open again until midnight). If you have a lot of information to give them, intersperse illustrations and anecdotes with the dry facts.

There are three rules to remember when telling stories and jokes: timing, taste, and tact. Some embellishment is good, but a story that runs on for more than three minutes is too long. Jokes and stories must be in good taste; what the soccer team having a brew in a bar may consider acceptable might not go down so well here. (This is why it's important to know your audience.) Does your joke or story go beyond gently poking fun and end up hurting someone? An MC must be tactful.

Come the end of the proceedings, you will have the last word. This is no time to get carried away; a short story, joke, or prediction of future marital happiness followed by a thank-you works just fine.

Once you've decided what you're going to say, reduce the speech to point-form notes on cue cards. These cards will remind you of what comes when; you won't be reading aloud from your notes.

Practice your stories until you feel comfortable and confident. Aim for a conversational tone. Listen for "ums" and "aahs," replacing them with pauses which can actually add dramatic impact or signal a change to a new point. A pause can also allow you to take a deep breath and gather your thoughts.

Before you can begin to speak, you must politely interrupt the guests' conversations and prepare them to listen. Pausing when you first reach the podium is a good way to fix their attention on you. If that doesn't work, try clearing your throat or tapping your finger on the microphone.

Be personal. Your speech should sound like a relaxed conversation between friends (at a dinner party, not in the locker room). Pitch, rate, and volume are the tools that will make it come alive. Your voice should rise with questions, or bubble with laughter when you tell a funny story. Speed up your delivery to show excitement; slow down to make a more serious point. Speak quietly sometimes to make the audience listen more intently. Whatever you do, look as though you're enjoying yourself!

How to plan a successful bachelor party

There was a time when tradition held that the groom-to-be should be fêted at a black-tie dinner-party, hosted by his father or best man. This all-male gathering strictly adhered to the codes of gentlemanly behavior, the highlight of the evening being a toast to the health of the bride-to-be. Since then, the trend in bachelor parties has swung full-circle: from the black-tie dinner to the notorious, no-holds-barred stag, complete with cakes sprouting strippers, sizzling videos, and party crashers, and back to the civilized salute to the groom.

But the modern bachelor is party different from the formal festivities of the past in several important ways. The newest bachelor parties reflect the groom-to-be's interests. For instance, a party might feature the watching of a spectacular sporting event (a hockey or football game, perhaps) or participation in a sports activity, such as skiing, fishing, or camping. Or the best man, with help from the ushers, might organize an agenda of entertainment that could include roasting the groom, gambling (where portions of the winnings go the groom), or competitions (darts, bowling, snooker, etc.). The trend calls for memorable, fun, well-organized parties, planned with care and sensitivity.

Great places to hold a bachelor party

  • a cottage
  • a ski chalet
  • a hotel banquet room
  • a private room in a restaurant
  • in a private box at a stadium or arena during a favorite sporting event

A toast to the host for:

  • not scheduling the party the night before the wedding.
  • arranging several designated drivers to make sure everyone gets home safely, or alerting a taxi service to provide rides for everyone.
  • keeping the guest list manageable. Open-ended invitations, which allow guests to bring along other friends, may result in unduly boisterous activity, as well as in losing the point of the event: the sharing of a special moment in which a friend is honored.
  • not assuming the groom wants a monster bash or "female entertainment." Most modern grooms-to-be are responsible men who don't wish to do anything they wouldn't normally do at a party, or upset their fiancées.
  • taking into consideration that the bride will probably find out what happened during the party (it's almost inevitable), and organizing a party that's not going to compromise the groom's relationship with his bride-to-be.

Bachelor party toast:

"Drink, my buddies, drink with discerning, Wedlock's a lane where there is no turning; Never was owl more blind than lover; Drink and be merry, lads; and think it over."

Organizing Your Formalwear: The Anatomy Of A Tuxedo

Your fiancée is planning to wear a poufy off-the-shoulder number at your garden wedding. Or maybe she's considering a long stretch of hip-hugging satin for a candlelight ceremony. Then again, perhaps she's chosen that silk extravaganza with all the lace, a veil, and a train long enough to cover a buffet table, for your intimate 300-guest affair. So what do you wear? Simple: a tuxedo.

Where to start

Peruse a few formalwear catalogs, usually available from formalwear retailers. Formalwear can be ordered from three different kinds of retailers: bridal salons, formalwear stores, and menswear stores.

Don't get hung up on what's "correct" for the ceremony or the season. Formalwear etiquette is much more relaxed now than when you were a ringbearer for your cousin's wedding. Nowadays, a tuxedo is de rigueur for any wedding, from garden brunch to ultra-formal evening affair. Only white tie and tails should keep to after-dark hours. Nor are tuxedoes the sweat-inducing suits of armor they used to be; comfort is a top priority for leading formalwear designers these days.

Your initial visit to a formalwear outlet should be about six months before the wedding. (In a pinch, some formalwear stores can provide tuxedoes on just a few days' notice, but for your peace of mind, don't count on this.) This visit is to narrow down your choices and have your measurements taken, along with your attendants'. If any of your party is coming from out of town, have him visit an affiliated formalwear store or a professional tailor, early enough that you can include his measurements with your order. A second visit is required just one or two days prior to the wedding, at which time you will try on your suits and take them home.

Your formalwear consultant will be able to recommend styles that best suit your build. Consider tuxedoes and accessories for your groomsmen that coordinate with, rather than match, your own ensemble - a trend that is fast becoming the norm in the nineties. For instance, choose a double-breasted tuxedo for yourself and single-breasted tuxes by the same designer for your groomsmen. Or opt for white tie and tails for yourself, and black tie and tails or single-breasted tuxes for them.

When in doubt, trust your formalwear consultant to help you with your choices. You'll be confident that the fashion statement you make on your wedding day is simply elegant.

Glossary of formalwear terms

Unravelling the mysteries of formalwear is a matter of getting the terminology down. Knowing the lingo lets you, with the help of your tuxedo-rental representative, translate your personal style into sartorial elegance.

A double-knot tie with wide ends that folds over the chest and is fastened with a stick pin. Usually worn with a winged-collar tuxedo shirt to accessorize a morning suit.

This new style of tie is simply a band, usually black, worn with a stand-up-collar shirt. It may feature a decorative button cover or stud at the center.

A very small floral arrangement, usually consisting of just one or two blossoms and a few sprigs of greenery, pinned to the left lapel at the buttonhole. (Don't worry if the buttonhole is sewn closed, which is often the case. Just pin the boutonnière on top.)

The most familiar element of a formal ensemble, the bow-tie is most often obtained pre-tied with a matching length that encircles the neck. The bow-tie should match the vest and/or cummerbund; all of these accessories are available in a wide range of colors and patterns these days, from stripes to florals. The color of the groomsmen's bow-ties and cummerbunds can be, and most often is, coordinated to match the bridesmaids' dresses.

A decorative, circular ornament, resembling a cufflink or a large stud, worn over the top button of a mandarin-collar or stand-up-collar shirt, with no tie or with a band tie.

This modern alternative to the bow-tie is a band of fabric (usually black) with pointed ends that are crossed at the neck and fastened with a small stud, so that the tie lies flat at the throat. Worn with a stand-up-collar shirt.

A buckled sash fastened about the waist (always with the pleats facing up) to cover the trouser
waistband. The cummerbund should match the vest and/or bow-tie; all of these accessories are
available in a wide range of colors and patterns these days, from stripes to florals.

The term is often used interchangeably with "tuxedo jacket" to denote a formal jacket sporting either a notched or shawl collar. Some prefer, however, to call only the white or ivory tuxedo jacket a "dinner" jacket.

Worn only for a daytime wedding ceremony and reception. This ensemble features a grey suit jacket that resembles a business suit jacket. It is worn with a turned-down-collar shirt, a four-in-hand tie, a grey vest, and grey/black striped trousers.

Similar to a business tie, but made of a more formal fabric and used to accessorize a director's or a regular suit.

Also known as "tails," full dress is the ultimate in formality and worn only after 6 p.m. The ensemble consists of a winged-collar tuxedo shirt, ascot or bow-tie, vest, tuxedo trousers, and tailcoat. The full-dress ensemble can be acquired in black, midnight blue, or grey, with a white shirt and matching accessories, or all-white. (See white tie.)

A new style of formal shirt featuring a short band collar only about one inch high, specifically designed to be worn without a tie. The shirt's top button can be decorated with a button cover. Tieless formalwear ensembles could be worn to informal or formal weddings.

So named because it's only appropriate at ceremonies and receptions held before 6 p.m., the morning suit is the daytime equivalent of full dress. The ensemble consists of a cutaway jacket (a mid-thigh-length coat with single-button closure that is cut at an angle in front, from button to side seam, to expose the trousers), winged-collar shirt, striped ascot, grey vest, and grey/black striped trousers.

A style of tuxedo jacket whose hem is just below the waist, rather than below the hip. At the front opening, the hem dips into points, so that the Spencer resembles a tailcoat without the tails.

Another new formal shirt look for the tieless trend; it can also be worn with the new band tie or crossover tie. Like the mandarin collar, this collar is made of a band of fabric, though it is slightly higher and cut in a notch at the front closure. If no tie is worn, the shirt's top button can be decorated with a button cover.

They look like tiny cufflinks and replace buttons on a formal tuxedo shirt.

Worn only for full dress or white tie, this very formal jacket is cut just below the waist in front, with "tails" at the back that are about knee-length. Standard features include non-functional buttons on both sides (a tailcoat is never closed in front) and a hem that descends into points at the front opening.

See full dress.

A formal shirt with a collar like a business shirt, accessorized with a bow-tie. This style can be worn in a tuxedo ensemble; it is less formal than a winged-collar shirt.

The suit that set James Bond apart from all the other spies, the tuxedo comes in a range of styles to suit every taste. The jacket can be single- or double-breasted, with shawl or notched lapels; a newer look, called a five-button tuxedo, features a stand-up collar and no lapels. Tuxedos are usually tailored in silk, wool, mohair, or a blend, in black, grey, white, or ivory. Textured fabrics, often sporting a woven stripe or pattern, are very popular. No matter which look is chosen, the tuxedo is always appropriate for formal weddings.

Available in either single- or double-breasted styles, a vest (also known as a waistcoat) is an optional accessory that can be worn with almost any tuxedo ensemble. Most rental vests have an open back (a band goes around the neck and another is fastened across your back); some styles are full-back. The vest usually matches the bow-tie and/or cummerbund; all of these accessories are available in a wide range of colors and patterns these days, from stripes to florals. Full-dress and white-tie ensembles and morning and director's suits require vests of a special design.

See vest.

A variation on full dress, worn only to the most formal evening weddings, white tie consists of a black tailcoat and black tuxedo trousers with a white bow-tie (of piqué rather than satin), winged-collar tuxedo shirt, and white vest.

A traditional tuxedo shirt featuring a stand-up collar with ends folded over to create "wings," usually accessorized with a bow-tie, sometimes with an ascot.

Groom's guide to wedding planning

In the not-too-distant past, grooms-to-be weren't included in the decision-making for their own weddings, often because they had no inclination to take part. Times have changed, and so have grooms. The nineties groom regards his engagement as a partnership. He is just as likely to supervise the decorating of the wedding cake as to buy the airline tickets for the honeymoon. Besides, when you're looking forward to a marriage of equality, and a celebration that you're probably helping to pay for, it makes sense that you should be involved in the wedding planning.

Start by making it known that you want to be included in decisions and work parties. Have a couple of good, long brainstorming sessions with your fiancée. Narrow down your likes and dislikes and set parameters: once the wedding planning gets into high gear, more and more compromises will blur your initial goals. If the two of you have a strong, united sense of what you want, then you'll weather these changes without regrets.

Getting started

Consult with your fiancée to organize a plan of attack and divide up responsibilities. When deciding which jobs to do, focus on your areas of expertise (culled from business or hobbies). You may even choose tasks that fall into the legendary realm of the bride, such as ordering the flowers or choosing the bonbonnières or favors. Consider yourself a blazer of trails for grooms yet to come.

Keep all notes, quotes, and receipts together. Liaising often with your fiancée is imperative in order to keep on track with deadlines and budgets. Look for leads on wedding products and services; use your network of friends, relatives, and colleagues for word-of-mouth recommendations. However, always personally check out a source: relying on someone else's opinion can be hazardous.

The invitations, flowers, wedding clothes, cake, reception menu, limousine, and keepsakes all tangibly reflect the personal style of, ideally, both the bride and the groom, so contribute as much as you can to the choice and, in some cases perhaps, the manufacture of them. Your input is equally important at the gift registry; you'll be using the tableware, appliances, and so on, for a long time, so make sure you're involved in choosing them.

Choosing your wedding party

You can have your best friend (male or female), your brother, your sister, your father, even your grandfather, as your best man (or "honor attendant," if female) if you so desire. You can even have two honor attendants, rather than one best man. This role entails a lot of responsibility, so choose someone who is reliable, hard-working, and a real swell guy (or gal). He (or she) will be a lot of help to you with some of the bigger jobs requiring a good second opinion and/or another pair of arms or set of wheels. Two-man tasks might include checking out formalwear, limousines, catering equipment, and hotel accommodations for out-of-town guests, picking up liquor orders, and helping to decorate the ceremony and/or reception sites.

The traditional rule of thumb is that there should be one usher for every 50 guests. However, it is not necessary to have an equal number of ushers and bridesmaids. Not always do good friends and honored relatives measure out equally between bride and groom. Every wedding procession can have its distinctive style. If there is one more usher than maids, for instance, perhaps one maid can precede a pair of ushers, or the ushers can both escort the maid, one on either side of her. Don't compromise your wedding party selection for the sake of symmetry.

The groom's traditional duties

Some of these may no longer be solely the groom's responsibility; for instance, the modern bride will probably want to have a say in the honeymoon plans and participate more actively in the toasts/speeches.

  • Choose your wedding party (best man and ushers)
  • Organize your family's part of the guest list.
  • Organize and pay for the marriage license.
  • Buy thank-you gifts for the best man and ushers.
  • Organize the honeymoon.
  • Make sure the best man has the checks, in envelopes, to be given to the officiator, the musicians, and anyone else rendering a service to be paid for immediately after the ceremony.
  • Get to the wedding ceremony on time.
  • In the receiving line, stand at your bride's left and accept congratulations graciously and with brevity.
  • The groom is usually the second person to propose a toast. After the master of ceremonies has toasted the bride and groom, the groom rises, thanks the MC, and then proposes a toast to his bride. He also responds to toasts to the bridal couple.
  • Cut the cake with your bride. (The groom usually holds the cake knife, with his bride's hand poised on top of his.)
  • Join your bride for the first dance, then dance with various relations: first your mother-in-law, then your mother. (After that, as you dance with the maid of honor, the best man should dance with the bride, and the ushers should join in with the bridesmaids.)

Great ways to get involved and personalize your wedding

Here are some new ideas for participating in the wedding plans and preparations, as well as some interesting digressions from tradition.

  • Draw the map (if needed) to be included with the invitation.
  • If you're a great cook, create something to enhance the menu for the reception or rehearsal dinner: platters of hors d'oeuvres, a cake for the sweet table, or a delicious punch.
  • If you're an artist (either professionally or as a hobby), consider making the cake topper, designing the cover of the wedding programme/reception menu, or drawing up personalized wine labels.
  • Build a free-standing garden lattice screen as a backdrop for the head table.
  • Wire up strings of lights with individual battery packs, or bolt garden spotlights to wooden bases, for decoratively lighting the reception room.
  • Help your parents organize and host the rehearsal dinner.
  • Write a short addition to your vows, perhaps quoting Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, scriptural verses from The Song of Songs, or even Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How do I love thee?" from Sonnets from the Portuguese.
  • Arrive at the wedding ceremony with the bride, as European grooms used to do for centuries.
  • If you're a Christian groom, you have more options than ever for making your entrance at the wedding ceremony. The conventional way is to walk in with the officiator and take your place at the top of the aisle. You may, however, opt instead to join the processional, escorted by your parents, as is done in the Jewish ceremony; or escort your bride or meet her halfway up the aisle; or escort the mother of the bride up the aisle just prior to the start of the processional music.
  • Send your own telegram to your bride to be read at the reception, declaring your love for her.
  • Give a joint toast with your bride.
  • Don't remove the bride's garter with your teeth. Nineties etiquette has the groom being handed the garter by his new wife, tossing her handkerchief instead, or dropping the ritual altogether.
  • Give your boutonnière to your grandmother before leaving for your honeymoon.
  • Write half the thank-you notes.

Coordinating the look of your bridal party: choosing the dresses, accessories, and makeup.

The women of your wedding party may all have close relationships with the bride and groom, but that may be the only thing they all have in common. When it comes to organizing a coordinated look for your bridesmaids, you'll have to consider that each woman may wear a different size and, more importantly, will have her own sense of style and beauty. Start making fashion and beauty plans well in advance to allow lots of time for experimenting, discussions, fittings, and deliveries.

As soon as you've decided on your wedding gown or the theme of your wedding, you can start seriously looking for your bridal party's outfits. As a first step, consider hosting a casual get-together so that your bridesmaids can meet each other, brainstorm about wedding ideas, and talk about dress styles. Get a general consensus of their tastes and budgets. Be up front about what you will pay for and what you expect them to cover to avoid misunderstandings or hurt feelings later on. Be prepared to compromise. If any of your bridesmaids finds the financial responsibilities too much, don't pressure her; if you can't help her with the cost, tell her that you still value her participation and give her a role to play, either in the ceremony or wedding planning, that does not require her to be a member of the wedding party.

The Dresses

Make a list of all the bridesmaids' sizes (dress and shoe sizes as well as bust, waist, and hip measurements) for your preliminary shopping trip, which, for expediency's sake, is best done without all your bridesmaids. Your bridal salon is a good place to start; the consultant will be able to help you select styles that coordinate with your gown. Bridesmaids' gowns from a salon are usually custom-ordered, just like wedding gowns, so allow plenty of time.

Once you've found a couple of styles you like, it's thoughtful to have your bridesmaids help you make the final decision, especially if they will be paying for the dresses themselves. Try to find your preliminary choices in just one salon or store for the sake of efficiency: your bridesmaids can see all the styles at once
and try them on if they want.

Bridal designers are aware that bridesmaids come in a variety of sizes, so they design styles that flatter a range of figures. A good case in point is the sheath style, often featuring princess seams, that suits small or large, short or tall women equally well. Dresses with elbow-length or long sleeves, V-necklines, basque or dropped waistlines, and full skirts are also good choices for a group of women with a range of sizes. An ensemble that features a jacket adds versatility, and is a good choice for larger sizes.

If being able to wear the outfit again is a major concern, consider a suit style (skirt, jacket, and coordinating blouse or camisole, for instance). A floor-length skirt can later be hemmed to knee-length for greater wearability.

The accessories

Identical earring-and-necklace sets are very popular gifts for bridesmaids (today's large selection of fashion jewelry makes this a very affordable option), and are the perfect finishing touch to a coordinated look. Alternatively, discuss jewelry with your bridesmaids and agree on a look that everyone can comply to.

Shoes dyed to match their dresses produce a stylishly coordinated effect. However, if the budget doesn't allow this, ask your bridesmaids to wear the same color and style of shoe (black pumps, for instance).

A nice gesture is to supply your maids with hose in the proper color; they will appreciate having one less thing to buy, and they'll all match. Buy two pairs for each woman

The makeup

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and when it comes to makeup, this is especially true. Finding a pretty beauty look for your bridesmaids can become a fun occasion if you schedule appointments for makeup consultations or makeovers at your beauty salon or your favorite beauty counter. Another option is to have a makeup artist come to your home for a makeup party. Either way, the result will be a group of woman with equally flattering looks and the same degree of intensity to their makeup. Be sure the consultant or makeup artist knows the style and color of the bridesmaids' dresses and the degree of formality of your wedding.

Q & A: Gifts from the groom to the bride, parents, bestman and ushers

As a groom, you will likely have the pleasure of receiving many gifts. Just as pleasant is the presentation of gifts to the people you wish to acknowledge at this important time in your life.

We offer here some suggestions for gifts. Please choose from the following recipients:

The bride

Possibly the oldest wedding-gift tradition, still followed by many couples, is that of the bride and groom giving gifts to each other. These gifts should reflect your commitment, and therefore be something that will last a long time. Items that can be engraved with the entwined initials of the bride and groom and/or the wedding date are especially appealing. However, it is not necessary to spend a lot of money; sometimes a heartfelt message can be delivered in the form of a sentimental, homemade token.

  • a picture frame for her office desk
  • a pledge or poem you've written yourself and framed, or written in a beautiful greeting card, or inscribed in the front of a special book
  • rubber stamps of both your initials and a collection of eco-friendly writing paper
  • a beautiful figurine (which might do double duty as the topper for the wedding cake)
  • a locket holding your engagement portrait
  • personalized stationery
  • a jewelry box
  • a tree seedling
  • a dress watch or piece if jewelry (e.g., a gold bangle) engraved with your wedding date
  • a specialty desk clock
  • a pearl necklace or earrings (pearls are a traditional gift for the bride)

The bestman and ushers

  • a crystal pen holder
  • an engraved, silverplated pen
  • a silverplated, stainless-steel, or pewter beer stein
  • a boxed set of two crystal brandy snifters
  • a silver or stainless-steel money clip
  • a silverplated letter opener
  • a silver key chain
  • an engraved, silverplated business-card case
  • a silverplated or stainless-steel coaster set
  • a silverplated corkscrew
  • a silverplated or crystal sculpted paperweight
  • a stainless-steel shaving set
  • a pocketknife
  • a silver letter-opener
  • a picture frame
  • a desk clock
  • a personalized coffee-mug or baseball cap
  • a monogrammed address book
  • silk boxer-shorts or a vest

Tradition dictates that the help given by the best man and ushers be acknowledged with gifts. These should be chosen to reflect the style of your wedding day. Though it is simpler to give all the groomsmen identical gifts, the modern groom is not bound to this rule. However, if gifts are chosen to reflect your attendants' individual interests or tastes, the value of each gift should be the same. Choose with care, keeping in mind that these mementos will be cherished for a long time. Monograms add a personal touch and enhance sentimental value.

The gift for the best man is often different from the ushers', to reflect his larger contribution to the wedding planning and the special role he plays on the day.

Though your time will be at a premium as your wedding day grows closer, do take the time to put some thought into how you will present your gifts. A thank-you gift that has been wrapped with care shows how much you value the recipient's friendship and support. Enclose a card with a short note mentioning the role the recipient is playing in your wedding and anything they did during your wedding preparations that especially touched you.

There are two occasions when presenting your attendants with their gifts is timely and thoughtful. The first is to host a party for your attendants. Whether a casual get-together at home or a formal luncheon or dinner at a restaurant, this event provides an intimate moment for you to address your sentiments and thanks to your attendants only. The other option is to choose a moment during the rehearsal dinner to present your gifts. This allows you and your fiancée to make a joint speech or toast in which you share your thanks to your attendants with your family and close friends.

Your parents

A modern trend is to give gifts to your parents. One popular option is a gift that symbolizes the ties that bind you to them even as you start your own family. Your grandparents', your parents', and your own wedding portraits, all framed together, make a gift that fits this category beautifully.

Other suggestions:

  • your engagement or wedding portrait in a silver picture frame engraved with the wedding date
  • a bouquet of flowers, perhaps an arrangement that echoes the colors and style of the bride's bouquet, to be delivered to your parents' home the morning after the wedding
  • an engravable silver tray
  • silver or crystal candlesticks
  • a figurine
  • a piece of art

Q & A: Gifts from the bride to the groom, maid of honor, flowergirl, parents

Suggestions for gifting the groom, the maid of honor and bridesmaids, the flower girl, the ring bearer, and your parents.

As a bride, you will likely have the pleasure of receiving many gifts. Just as pleasant is the presentation of gifts to the people you wish to acknowledge at this important time in your life.

We offer here some suggestions for gifts. (If you are handy at crafts, go to Made for memories for further inspiration.)

Please choose from the following recipients:

The groom

Possibly the oldest wedding-gift tradition, still followed by many couples, is that of the bride and groom giving gifts to each other. These gifts should reflect your commitment, and therefore be something that will last a long time. Items that can be engraved with the entwined initials of the bride and groom and/or the wedding date are especially appealing. However, it is not necessary to spend a lot of money; sometimes a heartfelt message can be delivered in the form of a sentimental, homemade token.

  • a handmade box to hold his jewelry or stamps and paperclips
  • a tree seedling
  • a sweater you've knitted yourself with the pledge to always keep him warm
  • a fancy one-of-a-kind or custom-made vest
  • engraved cuff-links
  • a dress watch engraved with your wedding date
  • a specialty desk clock
  • a love poem or song you've written yourself
  • a pledge of your undying love, written in a beautiful greeting card or inscribed in the front of a special book

The maid of honor and bridesmaids

  • a matching set of fashion jewelry (necklace and earrings) to wear for the wedding
  • a homemade all-season wreath
  • a crystal vanity dish
  • an engraved pen
  • a silver or crystal-handled letter-opener
  • an engraved compact
  • a cut-crystal caddy/lidded jar for the dining table or dresser
  • engraved silver heart-shaped earrings
  • a crystal perfume bottle
  • a monogrammed silver compact
  • a silverplated bracelet engraved with initials
  • a silverplated or crystal bud vase
  • a figurine
  • a crystal ring holder
  • a crystal atomizer
  • a silver or crystal short candlestick
  • a sterling-silver, silverplated, or sculpted-glass picture frame
  • a fancy clock
  • a monogrammed address book

Tradition dictates that the help given by the maid of honor and bridesmaids be acknowledged with gifts. These should be chosen to reflect the style of your wedding day. Though it is simpler to give all the bridesmaids identical gifts, the modern bride is not bound to this rule. However, if gifts are chosen to reflect your attendants' individual interests or tastes, the value of each gift should be the same. Choose with care, keeping in mind that these mementos will be cherished for a long time. Monograms add a personal touch and enhance sentimental value.

The gift for the maid of honor is often different from the bridesmaids', to reflect her larger contribution to the wedding planning and the special role she plays on the day.

Though your time will be at a premium as your wedding day grows closer, do take the time to put some thought into how you will present your gifts. A thank-you gift that has been wrapped with care shows how much you value the recipient's friendship and support. Enclose a card with a short note mentioning the role the recipient is playing in your wedding and anything they did during your wedding preparations that especially touched you.

There are two occasions when presenting your attendants with their gifts is timely and thoughtful. The first is to host a bridesmaids' party. Whether a casual get-together at home or a formal luncheon or dinner at a restaurant, this event provides an intimate moment for you to address your sentiments and thanks to your attendants only. The other option is to choose a moment during the rehearsal dinner to present your gifts. This allows you and your fiancé to make a joint speech or toast in which you share your thanks to your attendants with your family and close friends.

The flowergirl

  • a homemade teddy-bear bride
  • a faux-pearl bracelet or necklace
  • a children's figurine
  • a silver or pewter tooth-fairy box
  • a music box
  • a pretty picture frame holding a picture of the bride with the flowergirl on the wedding day
  • a personalized T-shirt (buy washable fabric-decorating supplies from a crafts store and make your own T-shirt tribute)
  • a homemade drawing kit containing crayons, paper, etc.
  • - great for keeping busy hands occupied during the reception, too.
  • a new lunch box
  • a promise to take her to a feature movie

The ring bearer

  • a silver or pewter tooth-fairy box
  • a music box
  • a personalized T-shirt (buy washable fabric-decorating supplies from a crafts store and make your own T-shirt tribute)
  • a homemade drawing kit containing crayons, paper, etc. - great for keeping busy hands occupied during the reception too.
  • a new lunch box
  • a promise to take him to a feature movie
  • a picture frame holding a picture of the bride and groom with the ringbearer on the wedding day

Your parents

A modern trend is to give gifts to your parents. One popular option is a gift that symbolizes the ties that bind you to them even as you start your own family. Your grandparents', your parents', and your own wedding portraits, all framed together, make a gift that fits this category beautifully.

Other suggestions:

  • your engagement or wedding portrait in a silver picture frame engraved with the wedding date
  • a bouquet of flowers, perhaps an arrangement that echoes the colors and style of the bride's bouquet, to be delivered to your parents' home the morning after the wedding
  • an engravable silver tray
  • silver or crystal candlesticks
  • a figurine
  • a piece of art