How To – Be The Best Dressed Guest!

A long time ago there was a very strict dress code for each and every event. Seriously, people got dressed up in suits to go to baseball games and ladies were in stockings and heels at the grocery store. Today, it seems, people have trouble knowing how to dress for dinner at a casual restaurant much less a wedding.  I see  people of all ages  wearing pajama pants in public and generally speaking, casual attire has gotten out of control. So when  my friend called me today and asked what she should wear to a wedding I thought it might be a good time to go over what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in wedding guest attire.

So in this day of casual wear how do you tell your wedding guests that jeans are not acceptable (even with a dinner jacket for men) and that you fully expect them to dress appropriately? It is not that hard, actually. The place to let your guests know what is expected of them is in the invitation or, even better, on your website if you have one.  I have defined some of the more common dress code terms so you can use them to let guests know what to expect.

“Casual Attire”– If you are having a destination wedding on the beach, your female guests should wear a sundress, cruise-wear, not beachwear. Espadrilles, sandals and a dressier flip flop ( if that exists) are all appropriate footwear. The beach is no place for stilettos, anyway. Men can get away with a nice shirt, maybe Tommy Bahama or a stylish Cubavera  shirt  with linen pants.

“Informal Wedding Attire” is a step up from casual. A nicer dress, made of nicer fabric – something you would wear to a college graduation or to meet the first lady. Floor length is out. Men should wear a suit but still no need to wear a tie if the shirt is nice enough. For a preppy look try a navy blazer with Khaki pants and a pastel print tie.

“Formal Attire” means men have the choice of a tuxedo or dark suit. Ladies can wear either short or long gowns but, it needs to be dressy. Break out the glam but, don’t worry if you prefer the casual side of formal. Cocktail dresses are fine.

“Black Tie” or Ultra Formal is defined as cocktail or long dresses (only)for women and tuxedos (only)for men. Break out the fine jewelry, sparkly accessories and beaded purses. Men do not have to wear a bow tie as long as they have a tuxedo or a fine suit with contrasting fabric on the lapels. Dress like you are headed for the red carpet at the Academy Awards.

If your guests do not have the good sense  to know the definition of ‘Casual Wedding Attire’ ( for example), how do you enforce the dress code? That is entirely up to you. You could either have security to make sure everyone is  up to par and those who aren’t are turned away or  tell the photographer not to take photos of anyone dressed inappropriately. Or you could just let it go.  With any luck at all, you could have someone dressed so oddly that it will entertain you for years to come. 

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Invited To A Wedding? Read This First.

Etiquette is one of those elusive things that seem to escape some people, one of those things you don’t really think about until  you’re in the “10 items or less” line behind someone with a full cart of groceries, or you are waiting (patiently) behind someone who is talking on their cell phone during a really short left arrow green light, or when someone is talking really loud in a movie. It isn’t until a social event like a wedding or funeral, where things are quiet and you have time to reflect, that these infractions of common manners become so imposing.

Cell Phones are the worst culprit in modern times. Texting, talking and (God forbid) playing games on your phone during a wedding is rude, don’t do it. Unless you are expecting an urgent call, you don’t even need your cell phone during the wedding…. leave it in the car. If you do need your cell phone with you, turn the ringer off and carry it in your pocket, when the urgent call comes through excuse yourself and go outside where you can converse without interrupting  everything. There is nothing more annoying than trying to carry on a conversation or eat dinner with someone who is glued to their cell phone.

Chewing Gum  is another no – no. Altoids, Tic-Tacs, Mentos work very well for a case of stale breath. Chewing gum in church ( or other place of worship), in the receiving line, giving a toast or dancing is tacky.  The worst part is when people forget they are chewing gum and it shows up in a picture…. YIKES!

Dressing appropriately is hard for some people so, this is a tricky one. I sat behind a man in a hoodie at a funeral this week and couldn’t stop staring at his bright red fleece garment the entire time, thinking to myself,  “Is that all you’ve got?” It was distracting to say the least. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it is likely that he may have slipped out of work to be at this somber event and I know deep down that he had a really good reason for being inappropriately dressed. You don’t have to wear a pricey designer suits or gowns to be well-dressed. Too much cleavage, not enough skirt, anything denim are all good indicators that you need a wardrobe intervention. If you are unsure about what to wear, take a closer look at the invitation and it should tell you everything you need to know, if you are still stuck, call a wedding professional like a photographer or florist who has been to dozens of these events and they will be able to guide you.

Gossip is also a touchy subject. Asking questions about the cost of the gown, reception, gifts or anything wedding related is tacky, speculating on whether or not the marriage will last is morbid, and the most glaring offense of all is wondering (out loud) if the bride is pregnant. Unless the couple has announced that they are expecting, leave that commentary for another time. Basically, you are there to lend your support, not to openly critique every detail of the wedding. Save that for late , or not at all.

Let’s face it – you can’t legislate good manners. You can’t expect everyone to behave, dress, speak or act properly at all times. All you can do is lead by example and cross your fingers that they all follow your lead. By the time a person is an adult, they should know these few common rules of etiquette and if they don’t – there is nothing you can do to help them. Your best bet when faced with these offenses is to smile and politely excuse yourself from the situation. You will laugh about it later…. or not.

 

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Angry Brides vs Rude Guests

Although the spelling is very close, ‘Angry Brides’ are quite different from the wingless birds of the game variety. They are both of varying sizes, they are both on a mission  to accomplish their task. Fortunately, there are no brides ( no matter how angry) that explode upon contact. So, as a guest, how can you avoid being the giant pig in a hard hat? Here are the top six things that can really get under a bride’s skin:

1) RSVP. The reply card should already have a stamp so, send it as early as possible and don’t make any changes like adding a guest when one is not invited… and don’t change it after the RSVP date or (God forbid) just show up. How hard is that? Do that for every wedding related event and you will be just fine.

2) Put a card on the gift. If the gift has no card, how is the couple supposed to know who it is from? To be safe, always enclose a small card inside the wrapped gift. If it is being sent directly from a website or store, bring a card to the reception that indicates a gift was already sent. “Best Wishes on your wedding, I (we) hope you enjoy the ________ that was sent previously from ________”. This way the bride and groom know a gift was sent, where it came from and if it didn’t arrive, they can let you know.

3) Don’t inundate the bride with tons of questions about the wedding. Cost, number of guests, what kind of flowers, location, date, ring, gown, etc. Most brides are very excited to talk about their wedding but, asking too many questions all the time may seem intrusive and is downright rude. Furthermore, the cost of things is no one’s business unless the couple  publicizes it and then it is equally tacky.

4) Don’t show up late or not at all. Whether you are a vendor, a bridesmaid or a friend; showing up late, missing important appointments and forgetting wedding related events is out of the question. If you have a problem attending, let the bride know as soon as you get the invitation, not ten minutes before. See #1.

5) Don’t ask to alter the menu. If you have severe food allergies, inform the bride right away so concessions can be made on the menu, or decline the invitation. However, be prepared with an epi-pen just in case, since no matter how hard you try, mistakes can happen. Some allergies are severe enough to be triggered by the smell of the peanuts, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Keep in mind – food allergies are a lot different from food preferences. Your preferences are not the bride’s concern but, your health should be.

6) Becoming inebriated at the reception. Have a drink or two, unwind a little, have some fun – but, end it there. If your speech is slurred, it is time to stop drinking alcohol and go home.

As a guest, attendant or family member at a wedding you aren’t required to make sure every detail is executed flawlessy but, it is your job make sure your conduct is on point. Try to remember how much planning, expense and stress is involved and be mindful of your place in the wedding.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Weddings Are Not Casual Friday

The other day my son asked me why men used to wear suits to baseball games. Isn’t it interesting that even a 9 yr old noticed that people don’t dress properly anymore?  There have been those occasions when I wear pajamas to drop my kids off at school in the morning, knowing I am not getting out of the car but, if my foot steps out onto the pavement you had better believe that I am fully dressed in a (somewhat) presentable fashion.  Which is why it is so odd to me that when I go to a wedding, I always see someone underdressed. In order to help you understand how to be the perfectly dressed guest at a wedding, I have put together some guidelines: 

Daytime Casual –  does not mean wear jeans and flip-flops. Wedding casual is different from ‘running to the grocery store’ casual. Wedding Casual means you could get by with a floral dress, sweater and skirt set, or even a sundress (weather permitting). For men open necked shirts with no tie are perfectly acceptable, in fact a nicer Hawaiian shirt for a beachfront venue is striking.  Men and women both need to take note of the location of the wedding – if it is beach or grass, make sure you are wearing shoes that can handle nature without aerating the soil or sinking into the sand. For evening casual just kick it up a notch -no need to break out your finest but, perhaps a touch of sparkle wouldn’t hurt, either. Always keep the setting in mind.

 Semi- Formal – Dress as if you were headed to the theater. A flirty cocktail dress and heels, or a dressy pantsuit. You want to be comfortable, able to move easily and to dance, of course. Avoid long dresses, it is too formal. For men- your suit  doesn’t have to be  black even though it is always a safe choice. You can also wear a blazer and slacks as long as you have a tie.

Black Tie Optional – this indicates that you can go  formal if you want, but you don’t have to. Women can wear a dress that is long or short, as long as it indicates elegance. Some beads and/or sequins are acceptable. Men can wear a tuxedo or a nice dark suit.

Black Tie – this is when you can bring out your finest and not feel over-dressed. If the invitation says Black Tie – its time to bring out the beads; beaded accessories,shoes,  sparkly earrings and perhaps a long silk wrap you have tucked away in a closet somewhere. Although in the past long dresses were required, it is acceptable to wear tea-length gowns but, avoid  short cocktail gowns. Dress as if you were invited to aPresidential Inaguration Ball or the Academy Awards!  For men it simple: Wear a tuxedo. Wear the tux with studs and bow tie and don’t forget to shine your patent leather shoes since no tuxedo is really a tuxedo without the right shoes.

 If the invitation does not specify what type of event it is, look for clues so you aren’t over or (God forbid) under-dressed. The venue, the type of invitation, the time of day will all give you insight into what you should be wearing. If all else fails, call the bride or groom (if you feel comfortable) or a close member of the wedding party.

The most important thing is to feel comfortable in your choice. If you can’t move, sit or eat one bite – you will be miserable not able to enjoy this lovely event!

For more great tips and ideas on weddings, be sure to get tickets to one of our bridal shows in your area. Call 847-428-3320 for complimentary tickets to show in  your area.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

 

 

Announcing Your Engagement Tastefully

 

In today’s world of 24/7 media where everyone is plugged in, connected and online,  it seems like announcing your engagement would be a snap. However, there is some protocol involved and some surprisingly easy ways to breech etiquette.  In fact it is harder now than it was 50 years ago when the only outlet, other than word of mouth, was a formal engagement announcement in the newspaper. You know, those papers that show up on your door every day that have stories … just like the internet.

The first people you should tell are those closest to you ; your parents, siblings, grandparents and children if either of you have them. Telling them in person is nice if you’re able, otherwise a phone call is perfectly acceptable. but, it should be soon and very personal. Emailing is not personal, neither is having them find out by seeing your relationship status has changed on facebook. Make a list and keep track of who you have spoken to. Leave a message like, “I’ve got some great news” so they know that you called.

The next tier of communication goes to close friends and (non-immediate family) relatives. It is best to to call them if you can but, this may not be practical. It is perfectly acceptable to text or email but it must be a personal message and not a bulk one delivered to multiple addresses. Take the time to write each person a polite note letting them know you are engaged and you will keep them informed of further details if they wish.

After you have let all of the above people know, you are finally ready to announce to the world that you are engaged! 

Newspaper- Everyone is welcome to submit an engagement announcement in the newspaper. Generally, though, this type of announcement is used when the couple is of a certain social, celebrity, economic or  political status. Your newspaper should have guidelines to follow and you can also include the (formal) engagement photo.

Party – Having an engagement party is the most fun way to let a large group of people know at the same time. There are only a couple of points to ponder: do not invite anyone to the party that will not be invited to the wedding and try not to do it at another event,  (wedding, birthday, baby shower, etc) so you will not upstage someone else.

Internet- Posting a relationship status change on facebook will definitely garner some congratulations and other well wishes. You can also create a wedding website which can include stories from loved ones, photos and even a blog. Invited guests can use this site to get updates on the wedding.

Mail- Sending formal engagement announcements through the postal mail is the most traditional way of announcing an engagement but, keep in mind that no one (NO ONE) should get an engagement announcement unless they will definitely be invited to the wedding.  You can include the wedding date on the announcement which will serve as a save-the-date card. You can NOT include any information about where you are registered for gifts.

Whether you go high-tech or old school is entirely up to you, just remember no matter how great the temptation to run in the streets screaming or shout it from the rooftops, take your time and do things right – you won’t regret it.

 

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

 

 

 

 

Reply Card Roulette

 Unlike some future grooms, my husband helped with a lot of the wedding planning. He picked the menu, the cake, the venue and he singelhandedly documented receipt of the reply cards. Every day he hurried to he mailbox to collect the replies and took great delight in making the necessary notations on the master list. I could tell when the cards began to dwindle because he started to walk a little slower to the mailbox. For us, the reply cards were an exhilarating experience, and eventually an exhausting one, since not everyone replied in a timely manner, replied appropriately or replied at all. Believe it or not, the reply card is fraught with  places for guests to make errors and faux pas and for some reason, this is where guests make the majority of blunders. Your part is simple: You address the invitation to the person(s) you are inviting and make sure that you have a place on the reply card for the number of invited guests. So, what do you do when it all goes awry despite your best plans and intentions?

-When you sent a reply card that is obviously intended for the invited guest +1 and the invited guest returns the card, adding +2 or more without having previously discussed this with you, including adding their own children without your approval or acceptance of the idea, it is time to pick up the phone. Simply tell the guest that their invitation is intended for them and one guest only and leave it at that. There are exceptions but, those exceptions are totally up to you. What if they show up with the +2 or more, anyway…? You have to be prepared how to handle this, just in case.

-When you have received no reply card and it’s one week before the wedding? Time to pick up the phone and make a call to this guest and ask if they will be attending. Be specific about the reason you are calling; so you can ensure all of your guests have a place to sit and a proper meal.

As for those who reply, “YES” and then don’t show, there must be a very good reason. Of course you don’t expect  someone with a serious illness or broken leg to jump out of a hospital bed to attend your wedding but, wait until after the wedding to then call and see if they are doing better. Don’t wait for them to call you, they won’t.  They will probably feel you are too busy to talk and will wait for action on your part. This is not a snub or lack of concern, and this is one of those tiny little things that can ruin a lifelong friendship. Pick up the phone, call and see what happened. You are the only person who can decide if their reason for being a no-show was adequate.

-What if the reply is “NO” and they show up anyway? This is tricky. Speak to someone at the venue and see if there is a place they can be seated (there is usually some wiggle room) Of course they won’t have an assigned table or a place card or a favor but, they will be able to sit and that is all that matters. If there really is no room, you will have to be the one to deliver the news as gently as possible. I know firsthand how difficult this can be, I actually had a couple show up after having replied “NO” and there were no additional seats available anywhere in the room. Our solution was to ask them to sit at the bar and we paid  ‘a la carte’ for two additional meals. Tricky but not unmanageable.

There may be no single solution that works for everyone but, planning ahead will avoid hurt feelings and possible blowups. Consider posting information regarding seating on your wedding website if you have one, emailing people who you think may be having trouble with the reply card concept and possibly having specific instructions printed on the reply card. Some couples have resorted to adding “We have reserved ___ seats for you”  (or similar text) to the reply card. In my opinion, keep it simple and limit the possiblities of error. Although going above and beyond is a nice gesture,  I doubt if some people will even notice.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

 

 

 

Gift Giving Made Easy

We have all heard the old adage that is it better to give than to receive and I know from experience that there is that one occasion where you can’t wait to give someone that most special gift. The one thing they have always wanted or the one thing that will brighten their day. It could be a small kitchen appliance that they really, really want or something as large a s a bundle of cash. When giving a wedding gift (or any gift) the most important thing to remember is that ‘presentation is everything’.

Don’t re-gift. If you received a serving platter that you don’t like and you can’t return, move on. Giving it to someone else is only acceptable if they have coveted it and you have agreed they can have it. In any case you still owe them a wedding gift. The worst gift horror stories involve monogrammed items or items with the original gift card enclosed. Take some time and put some thought into a gift.

Cash is King. If you prefer to give cash as a gift, it is frowned upon to hand someone a roll of bills rolled into a ball with a rubber band wrapped around them (unless you are my father-in-law). Buy a lovely card, go to the bank and get brand new, crisp money and put it in the envelope. Checks are okay, too but the most important thing is finding a card that expresses your sentiments.

No receipt.  The most beautiful thing you have ever seen in your life may not be beautiful to someone else so, always include the receipt. Either tape it to the gift or tape to the inside of the card to make sure that it wil not get lost. Stores now give a nice receipt with no numbers, so it can be returned discreetly. Not giving them a receipt indicates that you don’t care if they like it or that you are embarrassed that you didn’t pay retail. I was given a gift one time with no receipt and the tags cut off…. not cool.

Last but, not least:

Wrap it up. If you are one of those people who thinks a gift bag with some tissue crammed into it is a substitute for wrapping a gift, it’s time to take a course in gift wrapping.  No matter how cute it is, suitable ‘wrapping’  for taking a gift to a casual birthday gathering is not suitable for a wedding. Buy some  beautiful wrapping paper, a roll of scotch tape, some nice matching fabric ribbon and wrap the gift. Wrap the gift and tie a bow (a real bow) on the gift. Don’t forget a matching gift card or gift tag with a nice handwritten note. Because, if it truly is the thought that counts, put some thought into it.

 

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

 

 

 

Good Manners For Guests

If the number one etiquette faux pas on the part of brides and grooms is being late to the ceremony, what do you suppose the number one offense is for guests? If you guessed being late, you are correct.Walking into the church or ceremony site during the ceremony itself is not only a no-no, it is disruptive. If you cannot arrive on time, wait until after the ceremony is over to enter.

Other serious infractions of good manners include:

Inappropriate Attire – Showing too much skin is in poor taste as well as not following the dress code, if one is stated on the invitation. If the bride is not dressed like a stripper – you shouldn’t be, either. If the invitation says black tie – don’t wear jeans.

Drinking – Overindulging in alcohol at the reception to the point of being out of control is unacceptable. Pace yourself.

Unplug– Texting, answering phone calls or checking your schedules on your phone during the ceremony or reception is a huge no-no. Turn your phone to vibrate or silent, especially during the ceremony. If the babysitter calls, let it go to voice mail and then step outside to call back. 

RSVP– Not sending the Reply card back and then showing up with your entire family is a guarantee that you will be welcomed with a surprised look and quite possibly not have a place to sit. If you receive a reply card with pre-paid postage, send it back and try to do it on time so the hosts have enough food and seats for everyone.

Being a good guest is easy: send in the reply card, show up on time, turn off your phone and limit your drinking. You and your host will have great memories if you obey just these few simple rules of etiquette.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago.