Emily Postmodern: How To Have A Wedding Without Becoming An Asshole

You’re getting married? Congratulations … oh wait, best wishes? I can never remember what you are supposed to say to the lady — let’s just go with YAY!

Hold up, you aren’t excited? You’re already stressed out by expectations and pressure from family and friends? You want to have a wedding that reflects you and your partner, celebrates the commitment you are making, and includes the people who are important to you but doesn’t cost a fortune for you or your guests?

These are totally reasonable concerns. I read recently that on average a wedding guest spends between six and seven hundred dollars to attend a wedding. I am sure that number is bumped up by the occasional destination wedding, but it is probably not too far from the combined cost of a gift, outfit, and travel for your typical out-of-town wedding, even if you aren’t a member of the wedding party.

So, how does a couple throw the perfect party for their loved ones without costing them a small fortune and coming off as completely self-involved? Issues around children’s attendance, the wedding party, and wedding related events were revealed as the most divisive by quick survey of my immediate social circle.

When it comes to including or excluding children from a wedding it is important to consider the event itself. An afternoon outdoor celebration with barbecue buffet is a bit more child-accommodating than a formal five-course meal. Will not being able to bring their children keep some of your guests from attending? Maybe. Childcare costs for an evening or a weekend away can be prohibitive. What if including children messes with your headcount? Depending on your situation and budget, consider reserving an extra hotel room and hiring your teenage neighbor to babysit for the evening. The cost of that plus a few pizzas will probably be cheaper than your per-person reception cost and will allow your guests with children to enjoy themselves as adults for the evening without having to duck out early at bedtime.

You might not want children at your wedding, but traditionally weddings are family events and many people might just assume their children are included. Providing a childcare arrangement for your guests makes you look both thoughtful and keeps little hands from testing the icing on your wedding cake. On the other hand, you might be disappointed that your friends with kids decide to leave them at home with the babysitter for the night, and while you certainly don’t want to interrupt anyone’s sleep training schedule, let your friends know if you are intentionally hosting a kid-friendly wedding.

When you are asked to be a member of someone’s wedding party it feels like both an honor and a burden. You are excited for your friend, but you can’t help but mentally start crunching numbers in the back of your mind. The most low-key event can still add up with the cost of a dress, a gift, and a pre-wedding ladies’ dinner or night out. As a bride, how do you let your wedding party know you don’t expect them to shoulder your costs for a spa day or a weekend away?

Here’s a crazy idea: Why don’t you tell them!? If you are asking someone to be your attendent at your wedding hopefully you are close enough to discuss these things, or at least deputize your maid of honor to let everyone know you plan to pay your own way. Don’t be afraid to ask your attendants what works for them and what doesn’t. Presumably these are people you like and enjoy spending time with so why not take a quick survey to see what everyone’s expects. If that weekend in Atlantic City is that important you might have to subsidize it if you want everyone to come along.

Speaking of that trip to Atlantic City, let’s talk about the activities surrounding your wedding. It is hard enough to pick a wedding date that works for all of your family and friends, but when you start trying to plan showers and parties, finding a date that works is like waiting for a rare cosmic alignment. In this situation it can be tempting to have multiple events: a bridal shower in your hometown and in the town you live in, for example. Now, you certainly can’t say no if your mom’s best friend (or your best friend’s mom) wants to host you a hometown shower, but maybe try to keep the duplicate events to a minimum. If you really want to have a stock-the-bar party, make that you engagement party or your co-ed shower for your local friends and leave the tea and petit fours to the ladies from your mom’s book club.

Basically, every time there is a party — even if you specify no gifts — people will feel obligated to bring one. The more parties had in your honor, the more gifts it looks like you are expecting. Don’t be greedy. Stay tuned for our next column on wedding gifts in an age of conspicuous consumption.

Julianna Rose Dow is a thank-you note enthusiast working in higher-ed communications and marketing in NYC. She likes puns, telling people what to wear and baking with bourbon. Got a burning etiquette question? Drop her a line here.