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Southeast wedding etiquette

Posted: May 27, 2012 - 12:02am
  Melissa Griffiths
Melissa Griffiths

When I was younger, I never thought much about my mid-20s. I grew up in a family in which the mid-20s were part of the greater category of being a full-fledged grown-up. By the time my mom was my age, she had already had two kids, was married, divorced and engaged to someone else. She had been juggling working and child-rearing and trying to have a somewhat normal life. I’m part of a category for which the mid-20s are just the cusp of adulthood. Sure, some are starting to grow up, but others of us are still “finding ourselves” and, as the summer waxes, figuring out our plus-ones for the inevitable weddings and trying to decide which item on the registry least cuts into the budget already claimed by student loans, rent and bargain bottles of wine.

Summer brings tourists, occasional sunshine and weddings. So many weddings. I congratulated a friend on her impending nuptials recently and she jokingly responded, “another one bites the dust” but I swear I don’t see this vow of love as the end of individuality and fun. Love is great. I think weddings are more ominous for those of us still clinging to our sense of independence and dreaming of a vacation home in Neverland (the fictional location, not Michael Jackson’s creepy ranch).

There is a whole section in this antique Vogue guide to etiquette I found at the Friends of the Library Bookstore, and we certainly wouldn’t want to hear what Emily Post would have to say about XtraTufs at a ceremony — Juneau might call for something a little different.

RSVP

In smaller Southeast communities, weddings are often a whole community event, but Juneau is, by Alaska standards, still kind of a big city. The bride and groom are not assuming everyone will show up, so remember to RSVP. A.S.A.P. Emily Post and the Vogue book of Etiquette agree about the quick response. These days, you may not even have to stop at a mailbox — just respond via email. Or say you’re attending on the Facebook event page.

Dress

I have seen it at every wedding here so far — XtraTufs at the wedding. It’s a thing. Sometimes even the bride will lift her long white gown to show off those boots. But if it is not specifically a thing, I think people should express how special this magical, lovey occasion is by wearing shoes that aren’t swampy and horrible for dancing. For me, as a lover of shoes, it is great to attend a wedding and see the Fluevogs hit the dance floor. Emily Post has written out a table of what’s appropriate and brown, neoprene doesn’t make the list. The boots aren’t on Vogue’s approved list either.

The wedding invitation will generally hint at, if not explicitly state, the dress code. A lot of Juneau weddings tend to be a bit more on the casual side, but to be safe in any situation, gentlemen should wear some unstained, un-torn trousers, a shirt with buttons and a collar, and why not bust out that sports coat and a tie if you have it? Women have the opportunity to wear a dress and heels – cotton or linen are pretty informal, silk and chiffon, as well as some blends can be quite versatile for a semi-formal wedding, and satin or taffeta usually make for more formal dresses. I would guess a wedding in Juneau would be unlikely to require black tie attire for men and gowns for women, and that is something that would likely be explicitly mentioned. Good lengths for dresses are likely just above the knee to tea-length. Emily Post has said that hats are optional unless required. Vogue says you can wear gloves of any color. Yes, the Vogue Book of Etiquette is from 1948.

Gifts

Juneau weddings often also tend to be informal about things like gift giving. I’ve been to weddings where, in lieu of gifts, guests were asked to bring some libations to share. Often, for gifts, people will register at locations. That’s likely also something the bride and groom will tell you about in an invitation. When in doubt, include a receipt for gifts and remember that nobody ever turned a nose up to cold, hard cash. Emily Post said it’s fine to stray from the registry and that gifts should be based on one’s means and one’s relationship to the bride and groom. Vogue suggested Sarreguemines China and French pottery lamps. I think it’s safe to ignore Vogue on this one.

Ceremony

Don’t be a jerk, turn off your smart phone during the ceremony. Even the vibration of an iPhone while on silent can cause a stir during those precious moments. The general rule is likely to be respectful and, if they ask that question about speaking now or forever holding your peace, you should stay seated. Now really isn’t the time.

Reception

If you are not unlucky, the reception will follow shortly after the ceremony and there will be complimentary refreshments. By all means, have enough drinks to get you dancing, but remember that it’s not a high school house party. Barfing on the bride’s dress is frowned upon.

Some parties will provide shuttle service between the location of the ceremony and reception and the preferred hotel, but if that isn’t provided, be sure to have a designated driver or share a cab with other guests. Nothing ruins a wedding night like a tragedy.

It is traditional, during the reception, for the maid of honor and the best man to give a brief speech, maybe a parent — if the microphone is open for other guests to share words of wisdom or memories, keep it brief, coherent and devoid of anecdotes about the less savory acts the bride or groom may have at some point participated in. If you can help it, just write it all in a card. Possibly put some money in the card (I guess that’s back to gifts).

Pelting

Vogue says it is tradition in the North to pelt the bride and groom with rice. In the South, they apparently use confetti. In this day and age, most people blow bubbles or simply abstain from throwing things because, well, it’s sort of uncivilized, isn’t it?

So Alaskan

I think it is appropriate to wear DEET to a wedding. And don’t forget to have a rain jacket, just in case.

• Contact Neighbors editor Melissa Griffiths at 523-2272 or at Melissa.griffiths@juneauempire.com. She has been in at least eight weddings and attended many more. She has also consulted Emily Post (emilypost.com) and the 1948 edition of the Vogue Book of Etiquette, which may be a little outdated.

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