Q & A for Wedding Guests
by: John & Benz Rana
article originally appeared in print: 12.03.05
It's December once again and it not just time for Christmas shopping and partying, but it's also time for weddings! It's the peak season for tying-the-knot in this part of the earth. So how many wedding invites have you gotten so far?
Unless you're serial bride like J.Lo (saying Liz Taylor would have been more accurate at this point but we want to be "kewl" to relate with the Gen Y peeps!), we figured that most of us would be along the pews more often than being at THE altar. This is the reason why we dedicate this month's column to the wedding guest - the person who gets to prepare the least during the wedding. Never mind the bride! We're sure she has read countless of wedding etiquette to last 'til her unborn son finally gets married. Actually, she's got too much info that she even prepares a Miss Manners list for her groom and her entire entourage to follow.
If it's your first time attending a wedding, what follows is a simple guide of Dos & Don'ts to get through such a social event. Note that we made these questions up so allow us to be sarcastic and blunt with some of our responses to ourselves.
Questions & Answers
Q. I got an invite but have no plans of attending; should I still send a gift?
A.First thing's first. If you won't be able to attend for whatever reason, please RSVP. A big chunk of the wedding budget goes to the reception and it will be utterly inconsiderate to just give up a reserved seat without letting the couple know. Give them the chance to assign that seat to another guest in their "waitlist." Having that out of the way, let's get to your question: YES, it is customary to still send a gift.
Q. The envelope bears only my name. May I ask if I can bring a date?
A. Don't bring a date unless your invitation specifically says "and Guest." Bringing unexpected guests is very impolite. Neither should you ask the couple's permission if you may bring one or not. Don't put your friends on the spot. We Filipinos don't really like turning down people. So how would you know if their "Yes" means yes or not? Spare them that trouble.
Q. The invite says "Mr. & Mrs." Could we bring our kids?
A. Never bring the kids unless "& Family" is indicated. Soon-to-weds don't usually invite children for a good reason. Kids get bored or cranky during hour-long masses. Their tantrums might disrupt the solemnity of the ceremony. Weddings are usually formal events typically not appropriate for the little ones. To be blunt about it, inviting a child at the reception means added two mouths to feed - the kid's and the yaya's.
Follow-up Q. But my son/daughter is the bearer/flower girl. I'm sure it's understood that my other child is invited.
A. Which part of the answer above didn't you understand? Seriously, if the couple wanted to invite your other kid, they would have specified that on the envelope.
2nd follow-up Q. But I'm breastfeeding, I'm sure my friends will understand, won't they?
A. Granting that it's an infant and he or she won't eat at the reception - let's even assume that your baby won't wail at the church - the answer is still NO! Not even if you've perfected the art of being a cow in a long gown. Four words: Breast Pump and Babysitter!
Q. I don't have a clue what gift to give them. Any ideas?
A. The average Pinoy soon-to-wed would always prefer monetary gifts more than any other gift. It is the unspoken fact. We're telling you now to make it easier for them to let you know what they REALLY want; unless they indicated that already in their invites which, by the way, is a very tacky thing to do.
If you're not comfortable giving cash, you may ask the couple where they are registered (Gift / Bridal Registry) and choose from what's listed under their names in the store. You can also ask them where they're residing after the wedding and take the cue from there. If you know that they'll be migrating abroad or living with their parents for the time being, a ref or another oven toaster may not be the most practical and logical gift.
Q. I'm convinced. So how much cash should I give them? I don't want to give too little or too much.
A. That's a hard thing to answer. It's really a case-to-case thing. Try to put yourself in the couple's shoes. How much should a guest of your stature give you without being branded a cheapskate? Also consider your relationship with the couple. If you're good friends of the couple's parents, you'll probably shell-out more than if you were simply the bride's Girl Friday.
Q. Could I skip the ceremony and head straight to the reception?
A. You can. BUT you shouldn't! You are invited to THE wedding -- that's the part where they exchange their "I dos." The reception is where the Receiving Line is. You can't be 'received' if you are already seated in the hall, right? "Patay-gutom" is too harsh a word and we assure you that it's by no means what anyone would think if indeed you decide to go straight to the reception. But admit that it struck a nerve just mentioning the word in that context, isn't it?
Q. Speaking of the Receiving Line, what should be the proper greeting?
A. Here's the rule: Say "Congratulations" to the groom and "Best Wishes" to the bride. The reason behind is that "congrats" implies that someone has caught something or won a prize, and it is rather improper to imply that the bride "caught" the man who married her. If this rule gets mixed-up in your head come wedding day, just say the two phrases together and look at both of them. That usually works!
Likewise, saying "Good Luck!" no matter how pure your wishes are will also sound very inappropriate for obvious reasons.
Q. Nice try, but what if the couple makes a Grand Entrance and left the Receiving Line to their parents? What then should I tell them? Note that I don't even know which sets of parents are whose.
A. Didn't we tell you already not to skip the ceremony? The bride and groom usually walk alongside their respective parents at the very start!
Anyway, make your pleasantries short and sweet. Shake their hands and say "Hello! I'm (your name) and I went to school with (name of bride/groom) in (school's name)/an officemate of (name of bride/groom) at (name of company)." They usually respond with "Nice meeting you." Just smile, nod politely, and move on to the next person. If one replies "Hi! I've heard so much about you!", simply smile and nod just the same. No lengthy conversation; just make small talk at most. If you can't find the words to say, just smile again, nod politely, and move.
Q. During the banquet, is there anything I need to know?
A. Nowadays, the Reception Program usually have the guests on each table stand up and have their picture taken with the couple before being led to the buffet. This is done to resolve two issues of past weddings: (a) for the couple's convenience and skip the tiring Table-Hopping ritual just to have their picture taken with all their guests; and (b) for the guests' convenience so they won't have to wait very long for their turn in the buffet line.
Keep in mind that Buffet is NOT synonymous with "Eat-All-You-Can." Do not pile your plate full. Be courteous of those who have yet to be served. Don't worry. You can easily go for seconds.
Q. I'm used to a Buffet setting, but what if it's a formal Sit-Down Dinner? Which fork do I start with again?
A. You're on your own, pal. Watch "Pretty Woman" again and see how Julia Roberts nailed it!