Protocol Prompts: Rules of Engagement

A friend of ours (one of our photographers, actually, but more on that later!) got engaged last Saturday, and it started me thinking. There are rules for brides- and grooms-to-be, and rules for parents, and rules for wedding guests, and…you get the idea. But where, oh where are the rules for “people who know someone who just got engaged?” So I decided that today I will write my own.

1. Do NOT ask someone who has been engaged for all of 12 hours when her wedding date is. She doesn’t know. And you’ve now officially started the wedding stress ball rolling. Congratulations to you.

Yes, I absolutely know that this question is asked kindly, and for the same reason as “when are you going to have kids?” to those who are newly married — lack of anything else to say after “congratulations!” However, people who ask this question should understand that it does make the bride start feeling the weight of wedding pressure immediately. A suggestion for something else to say: “Make sure you take time to enjoy being engaged!” The bride will be eternally grateful and will remember you as the one person who didn’t add to the stress that was already mounting within the first two days of engagement!

2. Express excitement, but not expectation. Remember the first time you embarked on a new life stage, whether that was getting engaged yourself, or starting a new job, new school, or life in a new city? Remember how you were excited and starry-eyed, ready to take on the world, and thought you could do anything? Well, I’ll venture to say that’s how every woman feels right after she gets engaged. I know I did.

So when you say “That’s so great; let us know when it is so we can put it on the calendar!!” (again, a very well-meaning sentiment) she will excitedly agree. Until the reality of the guest list starts sinking, and all those conversations where she invited people off the cuff start coming back to haunt her. Most brides would love to have an unlimited budget to have the wedding/party/getaway of her dreams with every single person who’s wished her well. But the trust is, I have never met one bride who didn’t have to make some difficult decision with her wedding, and often that involves the guest list. Be excited about the wedding, but wait for an invitation, just in case the bride’s wishes and the budget reality don’t quite match up.

3. Respect the couple’s wishes. I have heard so many friends say “I really wanted x, but…” I can think of at least three friends who really, really wanted to have a small destination wedding, but ended up with a large hometown wedding because everyone expressed their disapproval of the destination idea from the get go. One friend was so terrified of being in front of people that she needed meds to get through the ceremony! You hear a lot of stories about the bride’s mother taking over the show, but negative remarks from other friends and family can have just as much of an impact on making a couple doubt their preferences (or give them up altogether because “everyone would be mad at us if…”). Let them enjoy their day the way that will make them most happy! If you don’t get to attend the wedding, you can always celebrate with them later.

4. Most of all, love, listen and support them. Wedding planning is a wonderful, fun and very stressful time. Sometimes the best thing you can do, if you know someone who is recently engaged, is to give them a hug! Offer your help. Plan a coffee outing. Brides sometimes need to be reminded that there is life outside of the wedding, especially in the early days, where everything is new and can be overwhelming. Provide that reminder.

What advice do you wish had been given to your nearest and dearest when you got engaged?

Published in: on March 20, 2009 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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