What’s the kindest thing you can do for someone who’s getting married? Keep your mouth shut. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. If you’re asked for advice? Give it, judiciously. If you’re not? Please, please, please for the love of cummerbunds, hold your tongue. That goes for anyone, whether we’re talking parents of the happy couple or third cousins or that drunk dude at the bar.
When Patrick and I planned our wedding, which I will always remember fondly as being one of the most stressful times in my life, we were blessed with hands-off families and beer-in-hand friends who took their roles as sounding boards very seriously. The strangers, really, were the ones who gave us the most grief — the guy at the pub who wanted to know when we were having kids, the florist who couldn’t imagine a world without corsages, the saleswoman who told me I wouldn’t feel like a princess in a tea-length wedding dress.
What I wish I’d had then, and what I’m giving y’all now, is a handy list of phrases to keep in your back pocket for those moments when you’re so floored by a suggestion or bit of (bad) advice that you’re tempted to take it just to shut someone up. They’re all wedding-focused, of course, but I like to think they’ll work for anyone on the receiving end of a busybody’s interest.
A lot of people who want to talk about your wedding are mainly interested in using it as an in to talk about their own event. “Is that how you did it at your wedding?” gives them an opportunity to brag about the petting zoo, and it takes the focus off of your own lack of connubial barnyard animals. They can get the awesomeness off their own chests, and you can pick up whatever tidbits sound reasonable along the way. Of course, this response is especially cutting if the person doling out the unwanted advice has never actually had a wedding, in which case grab a jacket, because you are in for some cold-ass shoulder.
If you have absolutely no intention, zero, nada, nil, of taking someone’s advice, about petting zoos or anything else: “Thanks, we’ll really think about that!” It’s not a lie. You can think all about how you’re not in a million freaking years going to hand-weave 20 turquoise rope vases for centerpieces, probably while you’re doing things that aren’t hand-weaving 20 turquoise rope vases for centerpieces.
“Can you email me about that? I’m pretty frazzled right now.” This, forever, to people who need something to do more than they need you to actually take their advice. This is for the meddler who has mentally plotted your seating chart or decided your officiant isn’t up to snuff. Make them do the work they’re asking you to do, and chances are you’ll never get that e-mail. If you do? It’s amazing how much gets lost in those aggressive spam filters these days.
“Why would you say that?” can work well, particularly since tone can telegraph a great deal. Put curiously, with just a hint of wonder, you’re signaling that their idea sounds kind of batshit, in your opinion, without coming out and saying so, which gives a reasonably polite person an out. Put flatly, it’s a good way to forcing someone who’s said something particularly egregious — racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic etc. — either to double down on their comment with an explanation or to shut up quickly. The downside to this one is that you have to be prepared for the true assholes who will actually double down on their comment. In which case, feel free to shorten that guest list with a clear conscience.
And finally, there’s grande dame of classy retorts to, the aforementioned assholes: Wow. Readers of Carolyn Hax’s Washington Post advice column will be familiar with this one, as it’s a beautiful all-purpose response to any overstepping of boundaries. It works whether the offending statement is “You can’t have black bridesmaids dresses in your wedding, that’s for funerals,” or “Kids are going to ruin your ceremony.” The key is not to waver on your one-syllable shutdown. “Wow” is it. Wow is the extent of your vocabulary. You just forgot literally every word in the universe besides “Wow.” Watch it work.
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