With wedding season in full swing (we just celebrated our 4-year anniversary last week), I thought it would be fun to answer some of the most commonly asked questions I've received over the years. From awkward situations to proper protocol, here's my take on all things wedding-related.
1. Do I have to stick to the registry?
Technically no, you don't have to stick to a registry, but I highly recommend it. G and I lived together for a few years before getting married and therefore, we already had almost everything we needed. It's such a nice way to ensure you're getting the married couple something they like and not just another crystal vase that will collect dust in the closet. That being said, if you have something really special and unique (and you're kind of known for your crazy-good taste), then go for it. Our close family friends gave us a vintage floral China set and it's one of my favorite things we own.
2. Is it ever appropriate to decline being a bridesmaid?
Being asked to be a bridesmaid is such an honor...but it's also a really big responsibility. In addition to being a part of the wedding, you're usually expected to be be involved in a slew of events, from finding a dress, to engagement parties, bridal showers, and bachelorette weekends. Beyond the time commitment, it can be a financial burden to purchase a dress, multiple gifts, and any travel requirements. When I was in my 20s, I never would have considered declining a request to be someone's bridesmaid. But now that I'm older, I realize the importance of saying no when it's not the right situation. Obviously this doesn't apply to your bestie, but if the time and monetary commitment seem overwhelmingly daunting, that might indicate it's not meant to be. Politely let the bride-to-be know how flattered you are, but that you wouldn't be able to commit to being the kind of bridesmaid she deserves.
3. What's the deal with wearing white if you're a guest?
I might be a bit old fashioned with my stance on this one, but I think the bride is the only one who should be wearing any shade of white on her wedding day. If what you're wearing could even possibly be construed as white, find another option. I had a friend who attended a wedding in a beautiful, barely-there yellow dress that looked gorgeous in person. But once it was photographed, it looked indisputably white, which made for somewhat awkward pictures.
4. How do you determine what to wear based on the dress code?
There are a few tricks to deciphering a dress code on an invitation. Pay attention to the following: location (this applies to both the state and the actual venue), time of day, suggested attire, and the couple (are they a formal family friend or your buddies from college?). A black tie wedding in New York almost guarantees that every woman will be in a floor-length gown. But in California, where the vibe is inherently much more relaxed, you can probably get away with a shorter hemline. I typically think it's better to be safe than sorry, so if something is "optional" or "encouraged," then it's best to go more formal. A few other hard-to-interpret invites and suggestions on what to wear.
-"festive cocktail attire" = a short, colorful and/or patterned dress, fun updo
-"garden party" = consider wearing a hat, a romantic dress and lawn-friendly sandals
-"beach" = jeweled, flat sandals, flowy dress (watch the slits in case of wind)
5. Can you recommend a good cover-up that's not a pashmina?
The truth is, there aren't many outerwear options that work with fancy dresses. My go-to choice is a blazer that's made of a lightweight linen or crepe so it has a nice, relaxed (read: not professional) quality to it. You can throw it over your shoulders or wear it and still look put together and chic. I just bought this one to wear for a summer wedding later this year.
6. Tips for giving a great speech at a wedding?
I follow a pretty simple formula and aim to keep any speech under two minutes. Introduce yourself, talk about the person to which you're close, share a funny/sweet story about him or her, talk about when you met their significant other, why they're great together and that's it. But don't forget to toast the couple at the end! I'm always appalled at how many toasts just sort of awkwardly fade out without prompting guests to raise their glasses.
7. What should I give as a gift for an engagement party/bridal shower/bachelorette party?
While it's important to stick to the registry for the actual wedding, I do think it's fun to come up with personal gifts for other events. Even if it's something simple, like a bottle of champagne for an engagement party, bring your favorite champagne and write a sweet note about why it means something to you. Some other options: anything monogrammed with the couples' initials (towels, trays, playing cards), some sort of an experience, a set of stationery with their initials, or a monthly subscription (ie cheese, coffee or candy).
8. Who's really invited?
Unless it says otherwise on the invitation, assume that kids are not included. If you're single and not just recently out of college (ie anyone over 30), I think it's okay to ask for a plus one. Worst case scenario: the bride will let you know they're simply at capacity and it's not a big deal. One of my best friends, who was single at the time of my wedding, asked if she could bring along a guy she was casually seeing. I was happy to have her bring him, which I think she really appreciated. When you're young, the likelihood of meeting another single person is a lot higher than when you sidle up to a wedding solo in your 30s.
9. What to wear to a wedding in the middle of summer or dead of winter?
Winter weddings are notoriously tough to dress for if there's an outdoor component. You want to come prepared for the elements (ie rain, snow, etc.), but once you're inside dancing, you don't want to be wearing too many layers so you're a sweaty mess. This is where outerwear becomes a big part of the outfit. A faux fur throw, cropped jacket or stole, when paired with leather gloves, really elevates the entire look. I like opaque black tights with shoes to match: either a strappy sandal or closed-toe heel. As for summer, you want to wear a fabric that breathes and won't show sweat stains in case you're sitting in the direct sun (I learned this the hard way in a light gray dress a few years back). Opt for a sleeveless or short-sleeved dress, but make sure that it's balanced by a hemline that isn't too short. When it comes to hair and makeup, keeping it minimal is best. Think: dewy skin, waterproof makeup, stained lips and a braided updo.