Guy’s Guide to Wedding Etiquette

The Globe and Mail has an article called “The dude’s guide to wedding season,” which has some good pointers in it. It was actually written by a dude too, and as such, I feel it is my duty to set the record straight on a few of the Dude’s rules (his are in blue) regarding wedding etiquette.

What does “formal” mean? What’s a sweet gift? Who pays for the stag? It’s all foreign territory for some young men. As summer rolls in, here’s a dude’s guide to wedding season.

“If you’re invited to the wedding, you’re obligated to send a gift even if you’re not going,” says wedding planner Leah Elliott. “That’s by-the-book.” (So you might as well go).

Leah, I assume, is not a dude. Despite her wedding planner status, I’m not sure where she came up with this rule. Sure, it’s nice to send a gift if you can, or if it’s a close friend, but a thoughtful note wishing them luck and expressing regret that you can’t join them is good enough.

Does the invitation say “and guest”? If not, don’t bring one. Your date won’t have a meal, or a place to sit.  Otherwise, single guys need not panic.“You don’t have to bring a date,” says wedding planner Candice Jones. “You can find a cute girl there.”

Weddings can be a good place to meet people, but if you don’t find any girls that tickle your fancy, that shouldn’t spoil your evening. Remember that you are attending the wedding to share in your buddy’s celebration, not to hook up with girls.

Whether or not you go, RSVP. Send the little note back in the mail, and do it right away, Ms. Elliott suggests. “Before it gets buried underneath all the other mail.”

Good rule!

The Gift

There are four trains of thought: the registry, a gift card, cash or anything else. The experts agree the registry is the safest bet, even if it means a crock pot.

OK, so you don’t think a crock pot is a good gift. But obviously, it’s something they want, since they registered for it! You might not get points for creativity, but you’ll be safe.  If it really hurts you to buy a toaster or a set of soft, fuzzy bath towels…

You can get them something cooler instead – camping gear, a TV, a vacation, or tools if they’ve bought a home. But ask the groom. Make sure the couple want it, don’t have it, and can both use it.

“Unfortunately, there’s not one great, catch-all wedding gift,” says planner Lisa Hanslip. “It’s kind of a minefield, really.”

Actually, I think there is… Cash!! Oh wait, here we go:

If you want to avoid the land of decision making altogether, give them a gift card or cash – $100 to $150. If you bring a date, double it. Otherwise, adjust for how close you are to the couple, and your financial circumstances: students less, lawyers more.

Everyone loves cash, whether it’s $15 or $150. I’d say that you should just give what you can afford. If it’s a good friend or someone special you may want to give more. For me, $100 is a pretty steep figure… especially if you have three or four or more weddings this season!

Gift cards typically reflect a little more consideration…

I hate to say this, but I really, really, really DON’T like getting gift cards. I’ll tell you why: I loose them. I forget about them. I never use them. The last time I was home, I went through some things in my desk and found no less than three gift cards, some expired already. I think one was from my Bat Mitzah!! This is why companies like to sell gift cards: They know that often people never cash them in! They win, everyone else looses. If you want to give money, cash is the safest way to go.


It all depends, really.

If it’s formal (unlikely) that means full-on tuxedo. Warning: This wedding will suck. It will be hot, traditional and way too long. Tread carefully.

So don’t go, if you think it’s going to be so dreadful. I mean, you obviously don’t care much for the people who are getting married anyway…

Most invitations won’t say what the dress code is. So if it’s in a classic setting, such as a church, assume it’s semi-formal and wear a suit. Black is safe, but the suit can be cream or lighter-coloured … Khakis may also be passable, particularly at a beach wedding. Jeans? Big no. “Unless it actually says ‘hoedown,’ jeans are not appropriate,” Ms. Elliott says.

…Oh, and black pants? Wear black socks.

The Stag

I have no experience with “Stags.” I’ll leave this up to the Dude’s expertise in this area 🙂

Groomsmen are responsible for planning the bachelor party.

It can range from a night out to a week in Vegas… This is the time to give your buddy the Callaways, hockey tickets or a PlayStation 3. It’s not required, but it’s your only chance to completely ignore the bride. Also, it’s way more acceptable to get totally canned during the stag than at the wedding. The groom’s stag costs are covered by his groomsmen. Other guys coming along might chip in by buying a round, or pitching in for dinner.

OK, is he saying you have to buy a gift to bring to the bachelor party as well as pay for dinner, lots of drinks, and a wedding gift? Oh my!

The Ceremony

Show up half an hour early – you’ll look like a tool if you’re late. Once there, it’s straightforward: The bride’s family and friends sit on the left (facing the couple), the groom’s on the right. If you’re alone or just with a date, grab a seat somewhere between the wallflowers in the back and family in the front.

Don’t whoop. Vigorous applause is fine, but cheering is tactless, Ms. Hanslip says.

Even applause sounds tacky at a wedding, in my opinion. People do it, but what are they cheering about anyway? “Whoo hoo, you guys are finally taking the plunge! We knew you could do it! You’re almost there, don’t stop now, we’re all behind you!” I mean, seriously…!

If you’re a groomsman, you pretty much just stand there. And if all else fails, consult the nearest female…. “The saving grace is really the women,” says Craig Schumacher, 25, a best-man-to-be.

Smart dude.

The Reception

Justin Pfefferle, 25, a groomsman-to-be, will be wearing a kilt at his Scottish friend’s wedding. He’ll be very, very authentic. Such are the hazards of a reception with a bar.  “How many drinks later am I going to want to demonstrate to everyone that I’m not wearing anything under my kilt?” he said.

Please do NOT attend the wedding if you think something like this may happen to you.

Impromptu speeches are a terrible idea, and you shouldn’t sneak out until after the first dance.

Sneaking out is not a great idea either. Don’t be a coward! Even if you have to leave early, it is the polite thing to thank your hosts for the evening, congratulate the newlyweds, and say good night.

And since we’ve all seen Wedding Crashers, the experts say that basic dating rules apply at a bar. The big one? Don’t hit on the married women. (In case you had to be reminded of that!) Singles are fair game. Again, just don’t get too drunk… “Most weddings are open-bar,” Ms. Elliott says. “And open-bar does not mean keg party.”

No, it certainly does not. No one wants their friends running around at their wedding making innebriated fools of themselves.

The Morning After

The next morning, there are often gift-openings for close family or goodbye luncheons for out-of-town guests. It depends on the couple, but typically family and the bridal party have to attend.  If you made an ass of yourself the night before, or got too drunk, you still have to show up.

“If you are conspicuously absent, it makes it a bigger deal,” Ms. Hanslip says. “inevitably at those things, half the people are worse for wear.”

I really don’t know what type of weddings this Dude or Ms. Hanslip regularly attend, but at the weddings I’ve been to it is totally unacceptable to get drunk. Have a great time, do the chicken dance, and enjoy that glass of champaign. But don’t you dare cross the line called “making an ass of yourself.”

But if you did, be good enough to act ashamed and offer a humble apology. If you’re charming enough, maybe you’ll be able to weasel yourself back into their good graces.

Photo of handsome man wearing dapper linen suit, being very elegant, charming, and most definitely not drunk, courtesy of huge store.