Accountability: Offbeat Bride’s official stance on wedding etiquette advice

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Bride and Groom in New Jersey
Photo by Mike Allebach Photography

Not infrequently, Offbeat Bride will be criticized for supposedly telling couples to ignore certain kinds of wedding etiquette advice. Or we'll catch shit for sharing weddings where folks went way off the beaten track when it comes to what you might think of as acceptable wedding etiquette. Over the years, this has included everything from crowdsourced wedding invitations to potluck weddings to honeymoon registries.

Given that the “Offbeat Bride hates etiquette!” critique comes up repeatedly, perhaps it's worth capturing our official stance on wedding etiquette advice.

We strongly believe that couples should consider their guests' comfort, and that couples must always hold themselves accountable for their nontraditional wedding choices. This means that if you choose to do something you know isn't typical in your community, you don't then get to act mortified when your guests are surprised or even upset by your choice.

By all means: Make your own choices! But hold yourself accountable that people may not like your choices. That's their prerogative and something you cannot control.

Guest comfort and couple accountability in mind, we think couples should feel free to consider all the wedding choices they want, without us or anyone else giving advice about which choices are acceptable wedding etiquette. Here's why:

  • Traditions and etiquette vary widely by region and community. How are randos on the internet going to know what will make YOUR guests uncomfortable? Think of region-specific traditions like the Stag & Doe Parties! Only you know your community.
  • Etiquette shifts and evolves. The first time we wrote about honeymoon registries in 2008, readers foamed at the mouth. By 2011, The New York Times reported on the trend. These days, most folks don't care.
  • We believe in letting people make their own mistakes. As long as you make sure your guests know what to expect (overcommunicate, so guests can make an educated decision!) and hold yourself accountable for the decisions you make (and the hurt feelings or guest outrage that may follow), Offbeat Bride supports you in doing whatever you want.

All this means that no, Offbeat Bride is not anti-etiquette. Couples do indeed need to consider guest comfort when making decisions, and they absolutely are not off the hook for being responsible and accountable for people's reactions to those decisions.

We do not, however, believe that strangers on the internet (even awesome strangers on the internet like us!) can know what's best for you or your wedding.

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Comments on Accountability: Offbeat Bride’s official stance on wedding etiquette advice

  1. Honeymoon registries are still a 50/50 thing where I’m from, so we did a wide range of choices when registered. Traditional, wish list from Antropologie, and honeymoon. Still, there were several guests that were so offended by the mere presence of it that they not only didn’t come, the rebelled by getting us uber traditional crystal that was far left of anything we would ever need or use. Everyone else just chose the gifting method they were comfortable with.

    We were prepared for any outcome, so while we found it a bit ridiculous, we laughed it off and moved on.

    I wish the Internet, and world in general, would just let everyone have the wedding they wanted and chill out.

      • This made me laugh way too hard. On the bright side, at least with that revenge you can return it and use the money on something you like, I guess? Ha.

        • Nope. No gift receipt. We donated the pieces. Someone out there is bound to like them, so they were welcome to them. Just because they weren’t out taste doesn’t mean someone doesn’t like chunky, dust collecting crystal.

  2. Whoever said that etiquette is “universal” and “never changes,” meet my dad, who once called me in the middle of the night in a panic telling me how tacky it was that we weren’t inviting any of our bridal party’s parents because that was “etiquette” when he got married 30 years ago.

    Having good manners, putting others’ needs before yourself, and hospitality never change, but etiquette is a moving target.

    • How odd. Because our bridal party was our siblings (and 3 close best friends) we had their parents there and the parents of my MoH were on our B list (which got upgraded) because they were involved in mine and my sisters teen years. We’ve never met the bestman’s or the bridesman’s parents, why would we invite them?

      • According to my dad, back in the Southern US in the 80’s, it was considered a nice gesture to give your bridal party’s parents a chance to see their child in formalwear. A quick Google search of the major bridal sites says this is not necessary anymore.

  3. I feel like, overall, way too many people claim ‘etiquette’ when a bridal couple does something they don’t like or refuses to do something they do want, whether it is reasonable or not. Why, if I have an aunt that treats me badly but my others are awesome, should I not invite all of the ‘good’ ones because etiquette ‘demands’ we invite in circles?

  4. There is nothing more tedious than wedding etiquette. I’m from South Africa, and offbeat weddings are most certainly in the minority. (I mean, people think they have a weird wedding when they have cupcakes for a wedding cake.) We found out what the correct etiquette was in every case, and we just kinda did our own thing anyway. As long as you have a valid reason for doing it in the manner you did it seems fine, and the guests got that as well, luckily.

    But yeah, I totally agree that you should take responsibility for the choice you then make, whatever the choice is you make.

    • Totally agree with this! I’m also from South Africa, and our camping weekend away wedding in the beautiful Cederberg mountains is causing quite a stir, not to mention that I will have some black elements in my dress and my bridesmaids will be wearing short black dresses, shock horror! Purple hair?! Absolutely not!

      I completely agree with taking responsibility for your choices though. Overall, we’re choosing to do this our way, with all of our little Things intact, as it’s what will make us happy.
      Luckily most of our guests are super excited to do something different, so we have only had to deal with a small chunk of negativity due to our etiquette ‘errors’ so yay for that!

  5. It’s a great article but it’s frustrating that other wedding websites just can’t keep their opinions to themselves.
    I attempted to use ‘proper’ etiquette when addressing our wedding invitations but even with my mum’s help we struggled to find people’s current surnames and marital statuses and don’t get me started on the names of their children. We just mixed and matched, anyone who would care got addressed properly, for everyone else we were more casual. We even used nicknames, shock, horror! >;D

    • To be fair, they generally do keep their opinions to themselves. There have really only been a couple times when members of other wedding forums have flooded Offbeat Bride’s comments with etiquette snark… mostly, they just link us (thanks for the traffic, honestly!) and bitch amongst themselves, which is fine.

      • I am still shocked at how horrifying other brides on other forums can be! I never went back!

        • I went on on of those forums once asking about a pot luck reception. While I got some real advise regarding how the food would stay cold or hot and such, most of the women on there were really really rude and nasty. And when I called them on it, they told me I only wanted to hear what I wanted to hear and couldn’t take criticism. Woof. Unbelievable. I’m glad I found Offbeat Bride!

          • I am very anti-potluck, but let me explain why. I have several food allergies that are very difficult to manage. Restaurant and catering staff are trained to handle food allergies. Aunt Sally isn’t. I have been given food containing one of my allergens at a potluck type event (members of the host family all brought a dish, but most guests didn’t). This happened, despite asking about it, because the person cooking didn’t realize that one of her ingredients contained that allergen. It has taken me years to learn to manage my allergies at home, and I find that professionals with training manage it better than someone’s brother I have never met.

  6. I still can’t get behind the honeymoon registry thing…my motto is if you can’t afford it, don’t hold your can out for donations.
    Sure, everyone would like to go to Fiji for two weeks and stay in a hut on stilts in the ocean, but in reality it’s the company that counts (even if it’s just in a Motel 6)!

    • We already had everything essential paid for (and one of my bridesmaids surprised us with a hotel upgrade). The registry was for things like back lot tours, private dinners, non-essential stuff that would be awesome, but not necessary. A lot of people thought it was awkward to use, so opted for cash instead, and just told us what it was for.

      I think it definitely depends on what your comfortable doing. We didn’t see it as asking for handouts at all, as we knew a large number of people would be giving cash, and wanted to give them the option to give towards something specific, which they did; they just skipped the middle man.

    • By that same logic, if you can’t afford the things you want on your registry you shouldn’t even create one.

      • My thoughts exactly! We’re encouraging guests to contribute time and energy to our wedding rather than gifts. But we know some people won’t be able to attend and will want to contribute anyway. We’ve already established our household together, so we really don’t need linens, dishes, etc. A honeymoon registry allows guests who want to make a financial contribution to our lives to do so without us winding up with soup tourines and toasters we’ll never use. We’re not asking guests to buy a gift AND contribute to our honeymoon, so it doesn’t feel like begging for something we can’t afford to me.

      • It had nothing to do with not being able to afford it; it was about giving people creative options. We chose later on to get some of the things for ourselves, with non-gifted money.
        Some people Just don’t like honeymoon registries, and that’s okay. It’s not super cool to hate on people who had them, though, no matter what he reason was. D

          • Gah, sorry. My sarcasm sensor is majorly borked due to my migraine. *facepalm*

        • I agree with this…it’s about giving people options, one of which could be the option to contribute to the couple having a fun experience, as opposed to giving them more “stuff.”

          Obviously every person’s motives and experiences are different, but I’ve never seen a honeymoon registry that was asking people for random amounts of money to cover plane tickets and hotels and such. It’s usually more like “$30 for dinner and drinks” or “$100 for a surfing lesson.”

    • Why assume that a honeymoon registry means Fiji for two weeks? The last honeymoon registry I saw was pretty much for a cheap motel and a nice dinner, and this from a couple who live in a tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny place so that being given Stuff ends up being a burden, and they also know that most of the people likely to want to give a gift aren’t replete with cash, either.

      I would much rather know what will actually give them joy than insist on giving them some object they won’t use.

      • THANK YOU! For our honeymoon, we are taking a train to Ithaca, NY, and staying in an Air BNB. We are encouraging our guests to contribute to our honeymoon fund, but we are registered for a few traditional gifts should they REALLY want to buy us one. (And we could use a blender). Why? Because we want to go on a honeymoon, and we cannot afford one. Why should we have to put off going on our honeymoon when there are people willing to give us cash and gifts that we a)neither want nor need and b)the cash value of such would be more than enough to send us on the simple yet romantic honeymoon we want, anyway!

        Oh, but I guess I better grin and bear it and register for hundreds of dollars in kitchen appliances that I don’t want. Just to be polite. 😉

        • One of the weddings I’ve been to asked instead of traditional registry gifts that we donate whatever amount we feel appropriate/would have spent on a gift towards their honeymoon. Meant they didn’t end up with kind of useless duplicates of things they already had and they ended up having a three month honeymoon in South Korea, which will have meant so much more to them! It’s what I’d like to do for my wedding whenever it happens, though given that my fiance knows people from all over the world due to his sword fighting tournaments we’re saying that while contributing to our honeymoon is very welcome instead of registry gifts, any guests who want to gift what is culturally significant/traditional to their idea of a wedding may do so 🙂 (and hello I am not turning down a hand made kimono should the Japanese team captain accept our invitation, nor my fiance a swedish greatsword from his beserker friends!)

          • Wait. Hold up. I feel like you’re burying your lede: international sword-fighting competitions!? How AWESOME!

    • If something is your motto, shouldn’t it just apply to yourself? As in, “If I can’t afford it, I won’t hold my can out for donations.” If that’s what you want to do, I would totally support you on that motto all day! But the way you’ve phrased it, it’s not a personal motto, it’s a judgment on other people who don’t have the same motto as you.

  7. I think etiquette questions are just another “Is it tacky?”

    Yes. Your choice is wrong. To somebody, somewhere, your choice is wrong and rude and bad bad bad.

    I feel like if you ask about a piece of etiquette, you probably have some issues with that piece of etiquette. If you agreed that it was right for you and that it makes perfect sense, you’d already be doing it.

    So to me, it makes perfect sense for somebody to be the voice saying “Okay, it sounds like this isn’t right for you. Well, if you don’t want to do The Thing, here are some alternatives that might be for you!”

    • it makes perfect sense for somebody to be the voice saying “Okay, it sounds like this isn’t right for you. Well, if you don’t want to do The Thing, here are some alternatives that might be for you!”

      This is a great point, and really goes both ways: If you’re worried that people in your community might not like it if you do The Thing, and those people’s opinions matter to you, then you may not want to do The Thing.

  8. This is why I love the Tribe so much. We all get that things are different for different people and generally if you really just hate something because it’s not “you”, you’re more inclined to just move on to the next topic rather than tear someone apart like I’ve seen happen on so many other forums. Or if it’s simply a matter of guest comfort, thoughts are expressed with kindness and as a suggestion, not a CONFORM OR DIE attitude.

    If you’re planning a wedding and aren’t a member of the tribe, I highly recommend it! So much love and support and even more awesome Offbeat ideas.

    • I second this! I have never understood why, on some other forums, people feel the need to comment, usually negatively, on every single thing they see! I love that on OBB opinions can be shared in a constructive manner without tearing each other to shreds. If I see something that I really don’t like or disagree with I just move on with my life and choose not to comment. “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all” really does work!

      • I’ve also seen folks make great use of making observations about their OWN wedding (ie, “Interesting! I don’t know that I could do that at my wedding, because I’d be concerned my guests would respond negatively, but sounds like that’s not an issue in your community. Cool that it’s going to work for you!”) or asking open-ended questions (ie, “Do you worry that guests might think ______? That would be my only concern.”). In both ways, commenters are able to express concerns or ask questions, without saying HOW COULD YOU THAT IS TERRIBLE ETIQUETTE.

        I believe in folks speaking up, but I get that it can often be easier just to say nothing than to figure out how to speak up in a constructive, kind way.

        • Oh, I definitely agree with that! Open ended questions are great and have actually made me see things about my own wedding in a different light. I was more thinking about tongue holding in the sense of not telling someone that you think the dress (or any other random wedding item) that they love is ugly. I’m positive that there are people out there who will HATE my dress. But I’m not scared to share it with OBB because I know that people who love it will tell me so and people who don’t will either say “Great for you, not for me” or not say anything at all. Unlike what would happen to me if I put it on a different forum I tried out and ran away from screaming! =P

  9. I do think that there should be an exception about holding yourself accountable, for issues of racism, homophobia, or other prejudice that sometimes masquerade as etiquette. There are certain people or communities who might try to weasel their political or ethical beliefs into your purview by claiming etiquette – “oh, it’s not that I have any real objection to a wedding with two brides both wearing dresses, but I think it’s really tacky.” “I really think that your dad’s side of the family will be uncomfortable if you wear a white dress, because, you know, you were already married once.”

    Sure, be accountable for guest comfort, and gently help out even with ethical issues when you can. But in some cases, you are WELCOME to just say “fuck ’em” about people who require YOUR strict adherence to THEIR religion or ethical code to feel comfortable.

    • While I totally agree with you personally, I think you have to be consistent and say that ANYONE is always welcomed to say “just fuck ’em” about ANY issue.

      I mean, sure: those of us in Offbeatland would argue that there are certain unalienable issues that are deal-breakers… but that’s assuming our progressive worldview is the “right” one. Ultimately, *everyone’s* entitled to thinking they’re right, regardless of whether we think they are.

      In this way, if someone wanted to make the decision to, say, not invite anyone who was ____ to their wedding (gay, straight, Muslim, democrat, republican, Mongolian, WHATEVER!), I support their right to make that decision, whether or not I agree with it.

      I might choose not to attend that wedding, but I support couples making their own choices… Even when I strongly disagree with them.

  10. My issues are going to stem from the lack of any religious mentions [Both my boyfriend’s mom and my entire extended family are religious, although funny enough my Catholic cousin is the most vocal supporter in my extended family of any and all of my non-traditional wedding plans] and the fact that my boyfriend is black.

    Like, I literally just went to a wedding that had mentions of god and I KNOW they were just to appease their family because they have both been very vocal around friends about their disbelief in god. But I just can’t get behind that idea. I think it’s so weird that people do things in their wedding just to appease family members. I’m not about to blatantly do things to upset them, but I also won’t pretend to be someone I’m not just to stroke their comfort.

    And again, my extended family is at least racist enough to believe people shouldn’t inter-racially date/marry. At the very least I know my grandparents think that way, and there’s no way I CAN’T invite them. So I have to pray that everyone is kind enough to just care about my happiness more than their beliefs and keep their mouths shut because that’s the proper thing to do. [Basically what I did at said wedding. Not about the bride and groom. I vehemently hate two guests that just so happened to be sitting at the same table as me. I just did not converse with them and was happy and had a great time. No reason to start drama or ruin someone else’s wedding just because I don’t like someone]

  11. My husband and I got married ten years ago after a 3 year engagement where we tried all sorts of means to bridge a narrow but very deep cultural and religious divide between our families. Ultimately we got married on two weeks’ notice with immediate families only in attendance, without planning or a photographer or any of the normal accouterments, in a hailstorm of hurt feelings and mean comments.

    Having gotten married with nothing but bad memories (and a great husband!) has always been something a pain point for me. I love celebrating my friends weddings but I’m always a little bit sad that I never got the joy of planning my own wedding.

    When I’ve tentatively explored having a renewal of vows or something similar and putting together a wedding-like experience the other wedding websites have come CRASHING down on me informing me what incredibly poor etiquette it would be to do so. (The folks at IDoTakeTwo were so harsh that it basically terrified me into giving up entirely on the idea and I’ve just tried to resign myself to never having any experience that remotely resembles that type of happy celebration.)

    So, in short, thank you for being willing to say that etiquette varies. I tripped over this thread while helping a friend plan their wedding, and while I still don’t think I’ll ever have the confidence that I could celebrate my own marriage with family and friends it’s nice to know that maybe out there there are some people who wouldn’t judge me if I did.

    • I know this comment is SO LATE, but I hope you still somehow see it. I’m going to start with this: Fuck those bitches. You ABSOLUTELY deserve to have the wedding/marriage you always wanted, and if that means a vow renewal, then go for it! My god, vow renewals seem so commonplace, how can someone be so upset about it? And frankly, it’s not a decision that’s up to Internet strangers; it’s a decision that’s up to YOU and your husband and your family and about what feels right for you. That’s all you should listen to. I know it’s hard to build back up after someone tears you down so hard, but please, please, please try to push those spiteful strangers’ comments out of your mind and listen to the only voices that matter; yourself and those who love you. Please be happy! You deserve it! We all deserve it!

  12. When I first got engaged I made the mistake of going to a few wedding etiquette forums. I had never thought about getting married before and had only been to one wedding at that point so I was totally new to how weddings worked, and I figured it was just a big party with cake. Oh man, I had a total panic attack after seeing those brides tear each other apart over open bars, bridesmaid gifts, and even little things like table settings and invitation wording. I mean, I thought weddings were supposed to be fun, not a competition where the word “tacky” gets thrown at everything.

    Thankfully, my family and friends are super chill and non-judgemental. So I’m just doing my best to make sure my guests have a good time. And if I’m not sure about something I ask them if they would find “XYZ” uncomfortable or rude. So far none of them care what Emily Post and the Knot have to say. 😉

    • I had some less than positive experiences on etiquette forums. Apparently, I’m the rudest host who ever lived ever in the history of hosts because I told my guests to come in costume … on Halloween … to a costume wedding …

      Anyway! I stopped going to those sites, we went with our gut instincts, and everyone had a great time.

      • I guess I’m right there with you since I also asked my guests to come in costume, lol. Though it never occurred to me that any of my guests would be such boring stick-in-the-muds that they would get offended by the request! Though I did give people the option of wearing regular dress clothes, literally every response to my wedding (even from older relatives) has been “So cool, I can’t wait to dress up, I’m already researching my costume!!”

        • We did kind of the same thing! We had a few sticks-in-the-mud who aren’t so keen on Halloween so in the pamphlet we sent out with the invites we said something like “Don’t like Halloween? No worries! A mask with your evening wear counts!” Only one person took that route and he showed up in a gorgeous three piece suit with this awesome asymmetrical metal mask with tons of bling on it! Even my one aunt who by her own admission “hates Halloween” found a way to make it work with a red evening gown and devil horns!

  13. Honestly, I don’t care one bit about wedding etiquette. I’m having the wedding I want in the way that I want. I do, however, boarder on someone who would rather have no wedding and elope, but the place we wanted to get married is conducive of having people, so we’re going with it (not to mention the fact that our families would be sad if they weren’t there). So it’s just family and close friends who understand what we’re all about. It’s just my opinion, but if there are people on your guest list who are going to feel outraged about your choices and are determined not to have a good time, maybe they shouldn’t be on your guest list.

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