Wedding etiquette for rule breakers

Author Elise Mac Adam who wrote Something New: Wedding Etiquette for Rule Breakers, Traditionalists, and Everyone In Between conducted the following interview with me, kindly answering my questions regarding my upcoming nuptials and general wedding pondering.

My mother feels that because our wedding is a destination wedding that all guests that are there the day before the big day should be invited to the rehearsal dinner. We’re going to do this, but it’s like a small wedding in itself. Is this common?

Traditionally, there are a few ways that rehearsal dinner guest lists break down. In one scenario, the most intimate one, the guest list only includes the immediate families of the bride and groom, the members of the wedding party (and their significant others), and the officiant and his or her spouse. Another more expansive guest list includes everyone from the most intimate group and adds all friends and relatives who are in from out-of-town. Finally, it isn't unheard of in some situations where the rehearsal dinner is informal, to just invite everyone.

Destination weddings create a different sort of situation because everyone has to travel to unfamiliar territory. Many wedding couples feel inclined to give a larger party and invite everyone because it is gracious to provide an activity for strangers in a strange place, and it can be a nice way for guests to get to know each other before the wedding. In these situations, it is helpful to think of the rehearsal dinner less as being less about the wedding ceremony and more about the community you have brought together for the wedding.

If you want to have a more inclusive rehearsal party but worry about footing the bill for a multi-course sit-down dinner, you can always have a different sort of event, a cocktail party for instance, where everyone is included and a lot of mingling can happen.

We live in a small condo and are fully furnished with limited space. We’d like to have a money tree (well an envelope box), but fear it will look tacky or seem greedy. What is the protocol?

Money is so tricky. Money trees and envelope boxes—all money strategies are very hard to pull off unless one's culture or community participate in these gambits. As a general matter, the more common these things (money tree, wishing well, cash box) are in your experience, the less uncomfortable you have to be about having them. As a general matter, the only safe way to communicate that you would prefer cash gifts is to spread your preferences via word of mouth. The thing you have to remember is that you will always run in to some guests who won't feel good unless they give you a "real" present in a box and other people who think that money is the best gift of all.

What are some new trends that you see “Rule Breakers” are doing lately?

A lot of people are walking themselves down the aisle alone, without any parents as escorts.

I hear from brides who have decided to skip the wedding party. They ask me if they can still have a bridal shower and bachelorette party even if they aren't having bridesmaids, and the answer is: "certainly."

Many, many women are deciding to wear dresses in colors other than white (red and green are the two most common alternatives people have written to me about).

A lot of people decide to elope and then have post-wedding celebrations at home, which seems to take some of the pressure off, but it all still involves a fair amount of planning.

People want to know if it is all right to register for charitable donations and I tend to tell them that they can register for presents and for charity at the I Do Foundation because they may find that some guests simply will not feel good unless they give an actual present.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give a bride on their big day?

ON the big day: Keep your eyes on the future. The wedding is only the beginning of the story, so try not to think about it as an end onto itself.

BEFORE the big day: Pick a few parts of the wedding that are most important to you and claim them as your own. You don't have to compromise on these at all. (These elements could be your dress, the wedding stationery, the menu, the venue, the music… anything.) What this means is that you will seem very accommodating as you let the families offer ideas and opinions on the other parts of the wedding, which will help them feel included and content, while you are actually ensuring that on a few key points, your word is law.

Beyond that, at the very end of the book I have a list of seven "When All Else Fails" tips that should provide relief or at least a sense of what to do in any uncomfortable situation.

Book Giveaway: You can win a copy of this book by posting a comment here with your email address (if it's not listed in your profile or on your blog) so I can contact the winner. Note that the book isn't just for brides but for wedding attendees regardign proper protocol, etc. I'll draw a winner Sunday night 6/29. Good luck!


  1. Long time no talk - congrats again on the big day. Please consider myself and, Todd. We're tying the knot in May!

  2. We're having the same problem trying to figure out what to do about the rehersal dinner. So much of my family is flying in the for the wedding, while most of his family lives within driving distance. Who to include! :) Hope all is well!

  3. We just decided this month to get married and are going to Vegas July 19th. No bridal party, no bridal showers or anything like that, it's all very untraditional and people are confused! We are still doing it up right tho, with a reception and everything.

  4. what a perfect article, it means so much more to me now and answered a few questions I had lurking. miss you, see you next weekend!!

  5. I love her advice to brides about picking a few parts of the wedding to really make her own. I think sometimes that you can get so caught up in the grand scheme of things that you forget to really appreciate the details.

  6. Great interview! I referred to it on my blog. I really like her advice to register at the I Do Foundation for gifts.

  7. after being a bridesmaid for the first time this weekend and going to another wedding this weekend, i'd say i'd definitely have some questions about weddings and wedding guest stuff, haha.

  8. Thanks for the great interview. I especially love the part about picking a few parts to really make your own. As a bride-to-be on a strict, strict, strict budget this is great advice. I'll be adding a reference to yours in my blog! Thanks again!

  9. Thanks for writing this article... its beautifully framed and the suggestions are neat... yes and i absolutely agree on the point.. where she says that the bride should keep her eyes on the future... sure this is a big day in her life and the new journey begins...