Sticky situation: I found your column online and I need guidance. I really hope that you're still answering questions from the universe.
I'm 30 years old and getting married for the first time this holiday season. I've supported myself since I was 18 years old and have lived with my fiancé for the past three years. My parents are unable to help financially. My future husband and I are paying for the ceremony and reception ourselves.
Traditionally fathers walk their daughters down the aisle, but my father and I aren't close. I also feel too old and independent for the ritual. We didn't have a falling out and my parents are still married, so there's no step dad drama.
I don't want to crush my father, but we've never had a "heart to heart" talk. If I ask his opinion, I don't think that he would tell me his real feelings -- that he would be hurt. He doesn't like the spotlight, anyway. He's a stay at home, quiet man who keeps to himself. We're not a hugging, affectionate family.
Tradition has never been my style. Should I just swallow my pride to save wedding stress and plan to let him do as society expects? Or, is it OK to explain how I feel and let him walk my mom to the front so there's still the special acknowledgement of them giving me life without an artificial expression of closeness?
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!
It seems to me that you have solved your own wedding Sticky Situation. Your suggestion of your parents, together, walking down the aisle ahead of you, is perfectly acceptable, especially under the circumstances that you describe.
The proper role of a father is to be happy and rejoice on his daughter's wedding day. Although your father will not be 'giving you away' in the traditional custom, you may still wish to consider him for: the toast to the couple, an early dance with you, and you could even include him in the receiving line along with your mother.
In whatever role you wish to include your father, I recommend that you speak to him one on one as soon as possible. Given that you have never really done this before, I recognize that this may be difficult for you and for him. If you prefer, you could include your mother in the conversation. Depending on your family and your couple's dynamics, your mate may also be present. Openly and frankly discuss your father's role in your wedding, as you wish it to be.
Keep in mind that etiquette exists to make things easier but there is nothing more important than respecting others and their feelings. Think of the future and the impact this decision may have on your family. Go with your heart. That is what a wedding is all about, making memories of love.
May you live happily ever after.
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With more couples marrying later in life when they're financially established, the rules concerning who pays for their weddings have changed. "Now, couples paying for most or all of their weddings is more the norm than brides' families paying," says Peggy Post. Even when parents are writing the checks, they no longer have to follow strict guidelines about which family handles what (i.e., the bride's pays for the reception and the groom's pays for the alcohol). Instead, couples who accept their parents' financial help should decide "what items are their highest priority, as in the things they want to pay for and have more control over, and the items that are less important, that they would be okay with parents paying for and controlling," says <a href="http://www.sharonnaylor.net/" target="_hplink">Sharon Naylor</a>, best-selling author of "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Wedding-Etiquette-Sharon-Naylor/dp/1402205120" target="_hplink">The Essential Guide to Wedding Etiquette</a>."
White is no longer just for virginal, first-time brides, nor do brides have to wear it at all. "Really, a bride may wear any color she desires on her wedding day," says Washington, D.C.-based wedding planner and etiquette expert <a href="http://www.claudialutmanevents.com/" target="_hplink">Claudia Lutman</a>. "Before Queen Victoria, who is solely credited as establishing the tradition of the white bridal gown, brides wore their best dresses, despite the color." (Dresses pictured, from left to right: <a href="http://www.bhldn.com/shop-the-bride-wedding-dresses/crashing-waves-gown" target="_hplink">Crashing Waves Gown</a>, <a href="http://www.bhldn.com/shop-the-bride-wedding-dresses/trumpeted-pavot-gown" target="_hplink">Trumpeted Pavot Gown</a>, <a href="http://www.bhldn.com/shop-the-bride-wedding-dresses/sweet-tea-gown" target="_hplink">Sweet Tea Gown</a>, <a href="http://www.bhldn.com/shop-the-bride-wedding-dresses/frondescence-gown" target="_hplink">Frondescence Gown</a>)
While white is typically "reserved for the bride," according to nationally recognized etiquette expert <a href="http://www.dianegottsman.com/" target="_hplink">Diane Gottsman</a>, other experts see the tides changing on this rule. "As long as guests do not upstage the bride or appear to be in competition with her, a winter white or summer cream dress is now considered okay," says Lutman. As Post <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/fashion/weddings/wedding-qa.html?_r=4" target="_hplink">advised <em>New York Times</em> readers in March</a>, what matters most is making sure you're not "unintentionally calling attention" or "causing offense to the bride." She said that guests should avoid wearing <em>any</em> outfit -- regardless of color -- if they doubt its appropriateness for the occasion. (Dresses pictured, from left to right: <a href="http://www.bhldn.com/shop-bridesmaids-partygoers-dresses/creme-fraiche-dress" target="_hplink">Crème Fraiche Dress</a>, <a href="http://www.bhldn.com/shop-bridesmaids-partygoers-dresses/persephone-shift" target="_hplink">Persephone Shift</a>)
Etiquette rules used to dictate that a bride's immediate family, particularly her mother, couldn't throw her bridal shower. "It was taboo because it was thought as being self-serving or raking in the gifts, but that's changed immensely," Post says. In fact, as more couples plan their own weddings, brides' mothers tend to feel left out as far as orchestrating the festivities goes, Naylor explains. Because of this, she says it is more than acceptable for a mother to "join in with the bridesmaids to <em>co-host </em>the shower, which skirts the etiquette 'don't.'" She adds that having mom's help can also ease the strain on bridesmaids who might be overwhelmed by the money they're spending on dresses, travel and other pre-wedding costs.
Unattached women who dread -- or feel downright offended by -- this tradition don't have to put on a happy face and make their way to middle of the dance floor when the DJ beckons. "As a single woman, if you don't want to chase down a bouquet, it is in your right to abstain," says Gottsman. "You shouldn't be chastised into doing it." But she warns that standing off to the side with your arms crossed or shaking your head at those clamoring for the coveted bouquet will come off as rude. Just quietly slip off to the ladies' room when the time comes if you'd rather not participate.
"It used to be considered bad etiquette to spread the news of the registry any way other than by word of mouth," says Naylor. "But that rule was created when everyone going to the wedding lived a couple blocks from each other." Now, she says, guests appreciate having these details on the wedding website so they don't have go searching for where a couple is registered -- it's actually bad etiquette <em>not</em> to post this information. While this rule has changed over time, Gottsman says it is still in poor taste to put any gift-giving guidelines on your wedding invitations.
While it's common in certain cultures (like <a href="http://weddings.weddingchannel.com/wedding-planning-ideas/wedding-etiquette/articles/giving-money.aspx?MsdVisit=1" target="_hplink">Chinese and Italian</a>) to give cash as a wedding gift, this wasn't always the case for Americans -- in fact, it used to be considered rude to ask for it. But Post says that giving money is becoming more popular as couples get creative with their registries. "It used to be that you only had traditional household goods and linens on your registry," she says. "Now, they are just so much more practical -- they can be for a home-improvement store, a wine store or even a down payment for a house." That said, couples should still provide a traditional registry for more old-fashioned guests, who might want to purchase a more conventional gift or feel uncomfortable giving cash, says Naylor.
While the rehearsal-dinner tradition began as a pre-wedding meal for those just in the wedding party, it's evolved into more of a welcome dinner for the out-of-town guests. Naylor says this shift can put a huge financial burden on couples, as the rehearsal dinner becomes "almost like a second wedding." To cut costs and avoid offending anyone, she suggests giving out-of-towners a list of restaurants in the area where they can go to dinner on their own or planning an evening cocktail party in lieu of a dinner. "It will cost less, and it will still give guests something to eat and something to do," she says.
As another way to trim their wedding budgets, "many couples are not including 'plus ones' for their single guests," says Lutman. This goes against the once-standard rule that unattached guests of a certain age should be allowed to bring a date. The tricky part about breaking this rule is deciding what constitutes "single" -- for example, a couple may have guests who are unmarried but live with their significant others. Naylor advises making a rule of inviting only "the non-married couples with whom you socialize." Though some guests might be offended, "it's one of those sticky things that is necessary in today's financial era," she says.
According to Naylor, this rule dates back to the days when it was customary to include a wedding photo with your thank-you notes -- and when getting those pictures from the photographer took at least six months. Now that photos are digital and take about half that time to receive, couples should put pen to paper two to three months after they say their "I do's." In fact, Naylor adds that couples are now expected to write a personal message to guests rather than just the standard "thank you for coming," so it's best to get a jump on those notes while the details of the night are still fresh.
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