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Hello ladies and gents!  Welcome back to our next installment of Southern Etiquette!  Today’s question comes from Intern Sydney, whose cousin is planning a wedding for next year.  Here’s the problem:  Sydney’s family is… boisterous.  Not in a bad way, and not in a way that most people would consider excessive.  They love to have fun, they love to dance, and they love to drink (you know, within reason).  The fiancé’s family?  Not so much.  They’re a much more conservative bunch, and almost to the man they don’t partake in beverages of the alcoholic variety.  Sydney knows her family will be surprised, confused, and possibly even upset if they arrive to find a less than “happening” party, but her cousin also, of course, doesn’t want to make her fiancé’s family uncomfortable. 

As always, I defer to Emily Post.  Though I couldn’t find anything that exactly corresponded to this situation, I did find this:

“You will provide beverages, but you don’t have to serve alcohol if you don’t want to or you have religious or moral reasons not to  Some couples and their families don’t drink alcohol themselves but do provide alcoholic drinks for their guests.  Others restrict alcohol to wine, wine and beer, or just champagne for toasting.  Budget is always a consideration, but these days, people are also limiting or eliminating liquor for health and safety reasons.”

My two cents?  I think it’s important that the bride and groom are on the same page.  If they don’t feel comfortable explaining to the bride’s side that the groom’s side doesn’t want to drink, then I think it’s fine to say they chose to cut out alcohol because of the expense.  Either way, communication before the wedding arrives is key.

So what do you think?  Any tips for family member discussions before the big day, or for managing expectations before and at the wedding?  Is a compromise possible here, or should one family win out?  Have any of you had to deal with a similar issue?  

As always, if you have an etiquette conundrum, please send it my way!  We’d love to hash it out on the blog. That’s emily at iloveswmag dot com.

Images in header c/o Millie Holloman

Written with love by Katharine
11 Comments
  1. avatar Larry Hammack reply

    Another tough one at first glance, but you hit the nail on the head… better for them to be in agreement and not serve alcoholic beverages at the reception, citing budget. The party folks can always go on to an after party… quite a trend now for bridal receptions.

  2. avatar Christin reply

    My fiance’s family doesn’t drink, but my loud, Italian family definitely does. We are having beer and wine at our reception. My thought is that if someone doesn’t want to drink, then they shouldn’t. But if one side of the family drinks, then alcoholic beverages should be provided for those who would like to partake. Just my two cents :)

  3. avatar Mallory reply

    I think that if you spend too much time considering whether your event will upset or hurt people’s feelings, you’re never going to create a day that reflects you and your to-be-spouse or truly and fully celebrate the beginning of your married life together. That said, sheer disregard for discomfort is inconsiderate. If Sydney’s cousin is going to be embarrassed about her family in front of her fiance’s family (which is, truly, what I read from this situation), that has more to do with Sydney’s feelings/insecurities than with her family. I disagree with Larry and agree with Christin that providing the choice will allow the drinkers to do so and the non-drinkers to decline. I guarantee these adults who do not drink have been in situations before where alcohol has been available and were perfectly fine with their own choice to choose non-alcoholic beverages. I think talking about your budget and what you can and cannot afford as an explanation for what you do or do not have at your wedding is extraordinarily tacky.

  4. avatar Carmen reply

    I’m on the side of serving alcohol. Taking alcohol off the menu is merely satisfying one half of the guest list is leaving you open to negative feelings from the alcoholic drinkers. If the concern is that the alcohol consumption will result in embarrassing or uncomfortable moments, perhaps consider offering limited choices during cocktail hour and dinner, and having a cash bar for the remainder of the night. That also helps to cut back over consumption!I think it’s most important that you make choices that reflect your values so that you are happy and comfortable with everything. If that means no alcohol then that’s the right decision but if it’s merely to appease a select group of people then you are on the wrong path. Unfortunately you will never make everyone happy so focus on making sure you’re happy first and the rest should fall into place.

  5. avatar Amanda reply

    I had that problem (my side of the family isn’t big drinkers, for religious reasons, his side is) and was uncertain about what to do. I definitely didn’t want liquor there, nor did I really want the presence of a bar. However, my fiance and I both enjoy wine with dinner and know some people appreciate that as well. We decided we are serving wine with dinner, and a champagne toast with the cake cutting. That way, it is still elegant, without making the non-drinkers feel uncomfortable and there’s no risk about people getting too tipsy.

  6. avatar Jamie reply

    We had the similar thing happen with our upcoming wedding. Think about what you want and when you go to a wedding what you expect but most importantly how you and your fiance see your wedding and what is affordable for you. There are many options other than supplying a full bar. Just provide unlimited champagne, or a bottle or wine on each table, or have a signature drink, or host the beer and wine with a champagne toast. My fiance and I opted for the last option. Hopefully your venue will accommodate your needs and budget. Good luck!

  7. avatar Lisa Jeffries reply

    I agree with several others above saying go ahead, serve it in whatever fashion you prefer (limited offerings, full bar, whatever). To say that the side of the family who doesn’t partake has never been exposed to it, would be pretty rare. If the bride and groom are both comfortable with it, that’s what’s most important.However, I have seen two similar situations handled in equally crafty methods:1 – I have been to two country club weddings, and one restaurant reception, where the bar (that served the alcohol beverages), was a bit set apart (either in different rooms because of how the building is built, etc.). People will find it! And the ones who wanted to drink and chat instead of dance, that is a great space for them to do so without trying to talk over a DJ.2 – My best friend erred on this side because of her budget. They had an early afternoon wedding and then reserved space at a local bar (LARGE bar, because they had a huge guest list of post-partiers) and invited anyone who wanted to attend to come out after for drinks, more dancing, and post-reception shenanigans. I called ahead and worked with the bar to ensure free cover for all attendees, some VIP service and DJ recognition for the bride+groom/parents/bridal party, etc. and it was a HUGE hit. Tons of people came… drinkers and non-drinkers alike… all had a good time. Some people just stayed for a cocktail or two, some of us stayed until closing time. (This is also a good idea for a budget-conscious couple who would still like to serve a round libations for attendees at no cost to their guest. A bar or restaurant may be happy to provide say, a round of one type of drink, beer, glass of wine, or shot for 50-100-or more guests at a low, flat price that the bride+groom can arrange before hand to get tons of people in their venue at once… especially ones who might stay around and spend more money!)

  8. avatar Candice K reply

    How about a reception that almost flows backwards? Perhaps a dinner in the beginning with just your regular tea and soft drinks then a champagne toast, and then… move into the full bar and cocktails. That way, most of the non-party type people will probably be starting to pack up and head home and everyone else can get the party started without having been smashed before dinner was even served. That’s a little unconventional, but depending on your venue and the logistics, it could potentially work.

  9. avatar Sharon reply

    Although I don’t drink, I think it would be appropriate to serve alcohol at the wedding. The guests who don’t like to drink can choose not to, but if there is no alcohol, the guests who do enjoy drinking have no choice. I think it’s better to have the option than to have the choice chosen for you. Since the couple already knows that not everyone will drink, perhaps they can cut cost by choosing only to serve limited choices at the bar.

  10. avatar Kristen reply

    I think it is fine to serve alcohol at the reception. If the conservative family doesn’t want to drink, they don’t have to. They can still have just as much fun as those that are partaking in spirits. Issues only stem from one side of the family judging one another’s choices. This can be conquered by simply having the bride and groom speak to each side of the family and explaining how the other is likely to behave. People are always able to cope better when they are prepared.Plus, I’d say if the bride and groom are personally okay with drinking alcohol, then they should include it. The day is supposed to be a celebration of their love and their relationship, right? :)

  11. avatar Jenna reply

    This is exactly the situation with my upcoming June wedding. My family will drink alot, his will not. I agree with Sharon, if you choose not to drink you don’t have too but if it’s not even present at the wedding people who would enjoy a drink cannot have one. While I think it is ok to have a bar and I want all of my guests to have a great time, (not a cash bar!! I think this is very tacky and if you need to do it just limit choices to beer & wine), it is never appropriate to get smashed, even if both sides were partiers. Guests who have chosen to drink in excess should be escorted out by a sober wedding guest.

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(Image credits, clockwise from top left: Andrea Wyner, France Ruffenach, Moya Minns, Philip Galanes, Jasmine Star, Max Wanger, Deborah McLean, Tec Petaja, flickr)

Emily: Let’s start in the top left corner.  I want to continue to make my abode feel less and less like an apartment and more and more like a peaceful, happy, rejuvenating home.  The image below that represents love to me.  It’s such an important part of what my work and my life are about, and I want to make sure love remains at the center of my work and the center of my life — love for God, for my family, for my friends, for life itself, as cheesy as that sounds.  It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it?  The image next to it represents a rich inner life to me.  Since middle school, one thing that’s really defined me is the fact that I’m a poet.  My senior thesis was a 100+ page collection of poetry.  Since graduating I haven’t spent much time developing that part of me, and I miss it.  I vow to be intentional about doing something about that in 2010.  The next two images (bottom right and the one above it) represent joy and weddings to me.  I’ve always found joy in weddings, and want to make sure it stays that way even though weddings are now my profession.  The top right image represents personal growth to me.  For a while now I’ve said I want to learn how to do calligraphy, but I haven’t done anything about it.  That’s going to change this year.  And lastly, I want to make sure I bring a little happy into every day, either in my own life or the lives of those around me.  Ice cream is a good representation of that, don’t you think? P.S. If this is way too wishy-washy for you, check out my 101 in 1001 progress!  My 1001 days end on September 24, 2010.

(Image credits, clockwise from top left: 1. flickr, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9: Laurie Frankel, 4. Rebecca Thuss, 8 & 10: Google Image)

Katharine:  This year, I am making a few promises to myself; some big + and some not so big, but all integral to making me happier, healthier and awesomer (yes, I did just coin “awesomer”) in 2010.   Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Not to sound like a broken record of the Surgeon General’s warnings, but I’m actually kind of amazed at how much better I feel when I work out.  No, seriously: ever since I started sneaking into Lara’s gym after work, I’ve been walking on cloud nine.   For the past 3 weeks, I’ve dutifully hit the gym every night from 6 – 7 p.m., and I promise to make this a “must” in 2010.  Since I am someone who absolutely needs 8 (okay, 10) hours of sleep every night, I promise to follow my vigorous cardio sessions with good old-fashioned sleep.  Hanging around Emily has made me a bit more esoteric, and there’s something about that lone parasol that seems effortlessly graceful to me.  In 2010, I hope to be more graceful and centered in my daily life, a la Emily Ayer.  I also want to be more crafty and creative (see spool of yarn below), but that’s a bear I’m not sure I can tackle alone.  (Hey, Em, I’m looking at you, babe!)  And while I definitely can’t promise to cut out candy in the new year, I may consider being more adventurous with my sugar selections.   Like the girl desperately – and futilely – trying to push an oversized horse into an undersized stall, I’m going to try to let myself off the hook a little in 2010: I’ll push when I can and give up when I have to… and I’ll be okay with that.  As for my shoes (and my clothes in general), I need to start wearing them.  No, I don’t come to work nakey, but I am guilty of showing up in my sweats and PJs more often than not.  So I’m giving Whitney, our fashion guru, permission to make me wear real clothes, even if it kills me.  (You wouldn’t know it, since they rarely make an appearance, but I have a fabulous shoe collection.)  Above all, I hope my new year is filled with more books and more love, namely in the form of the playful fighting of the Ninja Bears.  (P.S. I am the small crafty one and Kyle is my partner in crime.)  I’ll see you in 2010!

(Image credits, clockwise from top left: flikr, Dewey Nicks, Aran Goya, Dewey Nicks, flikr, can’t remember, W Maldives, W Maldives, Schumacher, Schumaker)

Lara: This year I want to experience the world with greater awareness- taking in all the colors, tastes, smells, sunsets, and people as much as possible on my many travels ahead. As you can see in the pictures I gravitated to, I want romance, adventure, travel, surprise, color, and clarity.  I’m deeming this the year I find my voice.  I vow to invest in people who will not necessarily give back to me, but give to others.  I want to start a domino effect of positivity in everything I do.  This year, I want to continue to be closer to Emily, Katharine and Whitney and to do whatever it takes to help them grow and foster growth for us as a team.  I want to hire a full-time assistant to do the tasks that keep me from doing what I love and excel at.  I want to be more creative- paint, sing, dance and write from my heart.  I want to laugh with my friends, plant my roots in a church, and read the Bible from cover to cover by December 31st, 2010. I plan to wake up earlier, workout more, get stronger and learn how to breathe more during the work day. I will find us a new, bigger office as a start.  I’m very excited to announce we’re in the process of building a brand new Southern Weddings blogsite in 2010.  It’s going to be chock-full of revolutionary new technology and features that I just can’t wait to release!  I want to sleep more and read more books at night.  Most of all, I want to love my husband and family more deeply and invest as much energy into them as I have into my work. This year, I plan to take risks and take more than one day off… with no iPhone.  2010 is the year that I make purposeful, God-filled steps. Wishing everyone a very joyful 2010 and congrats to all of our new readers who just got engaged over the holidays!

Happy 2010 y’all!  What are you most looking forward to?

lara Written with love by Lara Casey
5 Comments
  1. avatar Kristy R. reply

    Thanks for sharing ladies! Lara, just give a call whenever you might want a watercolor painting lesson – what fun that would be!

  2. avatar Jenni Bailey reply

    Thanks for all the inspiration! I think I need to make my own 2010 board now. I’m looking forward to getting my business off the ground, to immersing myself in creative awareness, to relaxing with my family, and to internalizing all of the advice and inspiration from the wonderful people in the wedding community who so graciously offer it up on a daily basis.Happy New Year, Southern Weddings!

  3. avatar Tiffany reply

    Happy New Year.

  4. avatar Michelle Guzman Photographers reply

    The little bear cubs are so cute! Love all of the photos. :)

  5. avatar wedding photographers in Orlando, Florida reply

    Great pictures, vivid colors

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Hey y’all!  We’re back with another installment of Southern Etiquette.  This time, a reader, Christina (who, by the way, LOVE LOVE LOVES SW mag – her words, not mine – yes!), sent in a conundrum that I’m guessing many of you are puzzling over.  Christina writes:

“Recently I’ve seen weddings where the couple is trying to save money and therefore if you and your significant other aren’t married, you can’t bring them as a +1.  It seems a bit awkward to have to ask, but some invites are tough to distinguish who is invited.  Any thoughts on this?”

Why yes, Christina, I do have some thoughts to share on this subject, as I’m sure our readers do, as well.  But first, as always, I defer to Ms. Post:

“The spouses, fiances/fiancees, and live-in partners of guests must be included, even if you don’t know them.  But you get to decide if you want single, unattached guests to bring dates.” (Etiquette, 17th Edition, page 572)

Well, that’s pretty clear, and I don’t think many of us would dispute her there. 

But what if your friend from college has been dating her current boyfriend (not fiancé) for a year and a half?  The more budget-minded among you might be tempted to cut said boyfriend off the list in the name of saving $$$, but I (and this is just my opinion now) would urge you not to.  Have you ever been to a wedding without a date?  I have, and it wasn’t that fun.  Since so many activities at a wedding seem to revolve around coupledom – particularly dancing – I think allowing a “plus one” for as many guests as possible (especially those who have a steady partner) is a courtesy that’s worth stretching the budget for.

But tell me – what do you all think?  Are “plus ones” a splurge-worthy necessity or an unacceptable budget buster?

Images in header c/o Millie Holloman

lara Written with love by Lara Casey
16 Comments
  1. avatar Ashley reply

    Emily, I agree with you. Even though going stag to a wedding may sometimes have its advantages (i.e. single hot groomsman), I would still feel offended if I didn’t at least get the option to bring a date.

  2. avatar Daisy reply

    When I got married this fall our guest list was tight due to space constraints. We decided that anyone who was single when the invites went out did not get invited with an "and guest" unless they were in the wedding party. We were having a destination wedding & the thought of someone feeling the pressure to try and find a friend or romantic interest to invite for a weekend away seemed like a lot to ask. We did have a few people call and ask if they could bring someone- but it turned out that both times they had a new boyfriend/girlfriend we didn’t know about, and that was fine. We were just trying to keep people from inviting the person they met at the hotel bar the night before! In the end it was great- we had a nice crowd of single friends who got to mingle, as well as some groups of friends who took the opportunity to rent some suites & have a fun weekend of catching up. Don’t feel obligated to give every person an "and guest" – but at the same time, create a bright line rule so it doesn’t look like you are trying to exclude your cousin’s annoying on-again-off-again boyfriend. For us it was that our single friends came single.

  3. avatar brooke @ claremont road reply

    I agree with you — at our wedding, anyone who was in a relationship (even if we had never met the significant other or they had only been together for a few months) got invited with their SO. However, I had a few single friends who had actually told me they’d rather come alone and have fun with friends rather than "babysit" a date, so we (and they) were okay with us not including "and guest" on their invitations.

  4. avatar Stacey reply

    I think your tip is good about a long-term boyfriend. I have been dating my boyfriend for 3 years until we got engaged this past May. I don’t like going to weddings unless he and I both could go. Also the second part to her question was how do you know who is invited to the wedding. On the outer envelope you will see one name ie. Mr. John Doe. on the inner envelope you will see the names of all the guests invited. ie. John, Jane and family or the kids names listed. If the kids aren’t invited then it will just say John and Jane. If the guest is allowed a plus 1 then it will say John and guest.

  5. avatar Jessica B. reply

    I completely agree with you, Emily! Well said. :]

  6. avatar Heather reply

    I agree with Ms. Post and Emily, if they have a significant other, the SO should be invited as well. However, to save money, like all have stated above me, it is completely fine for you to give the invitation to a single friend without a plus one. If they do call and ask you if they can bring their SO, that you may not have known about, then at least they are being polite in asking you and not just showing up with someone, as people do that, and you may want to take that into account for the budget. Going to a wedding alone is not very fun, unless there are going to be a lot of single people there. :)

  7. avatar Christina Solomon reply

    First: Thank you Emily for featuring my question.Ashley I felt like you expressed you might – offended. I had (and am still with the same guy) a serious relationship and wasn’t given the option. This has happened twice now – once to a wedding I was invited to and now to a wedding he was invited to. We have been together more than two years and live together. I understand budgets but it just doesn’t seem in the spirit of weddings. The destination wedding limitations seemed very fair and would be respected. You don’t want just randoms at the wedding but my situation isn’t that at all. I can’t wait to read the additional comments and potential experiences to help me understand.

  8. avatar Charity reply

    I agree with Emily about it being awkward to have to say no to a +1 but at the same time, that brand-new significant other to the person who changes "partners" quite frequently isn’t always welcome. I guess using your own discretion can be the key. I generally go by the invitation–look at the front–who it is addressed to is usually who is invited to the wedding.

  9. avatar Sarah reply

    I agree with you one hundred percent, Emily. In the grand scheme of things, a couple of "and guests" shouldn’t make or break a budget and/or your ability to accomodate your guests. I am getting married in May and before I booked anything, I made my guest list and gave everyone (including my uncle who has been single my entire life) the opportunity to bring a friend or significant other. I think that it is important when hosting any event to be gracious and think of your guests feelings. If budget or space is that limited, a host may need reevaluate the guest list. As a guest, I don’t think that it is appropriate to request to bring a date. It will be indicated on the invitation and at that point, ultimately, the recipiants decision whether to attend.

  10. avatar Lacey reply

    I’m so glad you brought this up! I’m currently in the middle of receiving RSVPs for my wedding (coming up in just four short weeks!) and I’m hearing a lot of buzz around this issue. I did inner/outer envelopes and took each guest into consideration when deciding whether or not to include an ‘and guest.’ We decided to include +1 guests for people who were in long term relationships, married, engaged, living together, etc. and of course a guest for each member of our wedding party if they choose to bring someone. My fiance and I both have friends who are dating around, but not seeing someone regularly, so we didn’t include a +1 for them. One friend who lives in another state called my fiance and asked if it would be ok to bring his girlfriend, which is of course completely fine! We didn’t know he was seeing someone! I would love to be able to extend the invitation for everyone to bring someone, but space keeps us from being able to do that. I don’t think somone should be excluded or taken off of the invite list because I don’t have room for them to bring a date. We’ll have lots of single people, so they’ll be able to mingle! We’re having an upbeat reception, so everyone will mostly be dancing on their own anyway, until the obligatory slow dance, but hey, we’re hoping people will partner up! The big debate for us was co-workers, co-workers of parents and their SOs. I read a ton of blogs and posts on this issue and there was no clear-cut answer one way or the other. I chose to discreetly hand-deliver (with the inner envelope addressed only to the first name) a couple of invitations to just my closests comrades, and my parents’ closest friends at work with their first name only. Those folks are also friends so I told them who else I invited from the office so they could come together. I’m now receiving RSVPs back, and rude comments from one women who works with my Mother, that they are bringing their SOs. It’s not many people, so it’s not a huge deal, but I’m just wondering what everyone here might think?

  11. avatar Stacy Reeves reply

    Personally, I would give every non-married guest a plus one. It seems unfair to invite someone to a party at which you will likely only speak to them for a few minutes, but not allow them to bring a guest to keep them company for the other three hours and fifty-five minutes. The only time where this might be okay, to me, is if I was inviting a group of single friends and intending to put them all at the same table.

  12. avatar Emily L. reply

    Hmm. I am struggling with this right now. Most of the cases are cut and dry (unlike the "inviting children" issue which has turned into a two-headed monster) but what do I do about a friend who has an on-again-off-again boyfriend (whom I really dislike) but has already mentioned bringing him to the wedding?

  13. avatar Larry Hammack reply

    Seems like Emily, Ms. Post and most of the responses are in agreement…same advice I give to our brides… the guest list is one of the biggest headaches the bride & groom will have, but ultimately, good taste must prevail. Guests with SO at time of invitations, yes they should be included….. simple as that. Happy New Year everyone!!

  14. avatar Lauren reply

    I think it definitely depends on the person/situation. I know for sure that a lot of people don’t know about proper etiquette and that the people the invitation is addressed is who is invited to the wedding. For my wedding, we invited the person’s significant other if they had been dating for a while, and if my husband or I had met said significant other. It worked out just fine…we still had a few add their own guests, but everything worked out great!

  15. avatar Lauren reply

    What a great topic! I’m also trying to consider circles of friends regarding the guest list for my upcoming wedding. For example, single friends that might not know many other people at the wedding are being given a guest, regardless of their relationship status. I’ve been to weddings when I was single at which I didn’t know many people and would have loved having a "friend date" there with me to make the experience more familiar and fun. On the other hand, single friends who would know a good deal of the other guests might not be given the And Guest option if budget/space constraints apply. Another consideration was whether or not we’d spent time with our unmarried/unengaged friends’ significant others. If our friends made the effort to allow us to spend time with their SO, we knew they were important enough to our friends (and therefore to us) to should be included. I hope this helps!

  16. avatar Katie S. reply

    Now that I am engaged and making all of these tough decisions (no more hypotheticals!), I am finding that my opinions on most matters are rather cut and dry…and controversial! It is my personal opinion that if someone is in a serious relationship (whether dating, engaged, married, etc), then their significant other should be invited. Having had this happen to me and my fiance in the past, it can be offensive to be invited to a wedding as a single person when you are, in fact, in a serious relationship. The only exception to this rule, I think, is if you are having a very small wedding and are working with a tight budget and you simply can’t afford your friends’ significant others. In this case, my opinion is that you should talk to your friend(s) one-on-one and explain how much it means to you that she attend your wedding, but that unfortunately you are having a very small and intimate affair due to cost, which is why you hope she understands that you cannot include her significant other. Just make sure you’re consistent with friends on this rule!However, I also feel very strongly that truly single people should not get a plus one. I just don’t understand the logic behind inviting a single friend with a plus one, in which case she will need to go out and find a date (a new prospect she meets at the bar a few weeks before the wedding? a friendly coworker? an old fling?) and drag this person to my wedding. Most likely, the date will have absolutely now idea who the bride and groom even are, so then my parents/we will end up paying for a person to come to the most special day of our lives that does not even know us. It seems illogical to me.While these opinions may be controversial, it’s best if everyone keeps in mind what a wedding is really about – celebrating two people’s love for each other, while being surrounded by the people that mean the most to them!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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