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Guests at outdoor wedding reception
Manners are sets of acceptable social behavior – how we are expected to carry ourselves, and how we expect others to act in return. And weddings have lots of expectations – err, manners!
For guests who are not up to speed on what those are or how to read the more subtle signals, there are a few ways you can help steer them on the right path. And what happens when an attendee steps afoul of wedding-day manners? Generally, it’s rude to correct someone publicly, but sometimes the moment calls for diplomatic action.
Addressing the Dress Code
Not everyone’s interpretation of dress codes – let alone style or taste – is the same. From guest apparel that is too casual, revealing, or even over-dressed, sometimes people miss the mark. To clarify what you mean, first, make sure the style of your invitation reflects the level of formality you are planning.
Second, include mention of desired dress, but preferably on the enclosure, rather than on the invite itself. Wording can vary from the direct to the delicate: “Semi-formal attire,” “reception to be held on lawn” [read: ladies, beware of high heels!], and perhaps for a beach wedding, “flip-flops welcome.” More details can be provided on a wedding website.
Third, there is word of mouth. Even descriptors such as “semi-formal” can mean something different depending on where you are and what time of day the festivities will occur. So make sure to paint a picture for loved ones when asked – “Think day dresses for ladies and sports coats for men” or “It’s a bit dressier – most will be in cocktail dresses and suits with ties.” Examples can offer a better idea on how they can pin down the right note to hit.
In the past, I’ve talked about handling wedding guests who RSVP for – or worse, arrive with – individuals who weren’t invited. But there isn’t much you can do in the moment about someone who RSVPs and then fails to show up. It is inconsiderate, but dwelling on that faux pas won’t do anything to change it, and will take away from enjoying your day.
Don’t mention it to other attendees – it will only give more life to the situation and draw attention to it. Ask a bridesmaid, planner, or someone else close to you to alert the caterer, remove the absent guests’ name cards, and clear and rearrange the chairs at their assigned table, if there is one. This will minimize any visibility of their absence.