Did you hear the one about the groom that got so drunk the night before his wedding he passed out during the nuptials?

What about the bride who deliberately chose ugly, clingy sheath dresses for her overweight bridesmaids just so she could look like a supermodel in comparison?

general wedding etiquetteWe’ve all heard wedding horror stories — true tales of etiquette faux pas and heinous manners. But a classy, considerate bride does not indulge her ego, overlook her bridesmaids’ feelings or point out the poor taste of others, according to Gail Dunson, coauthor of “Bridezilla: True Tales From Etiquette Hell” and a certified protocol and etiquette consultant.

Dunson has heard hundreds of stories about wedding guests gone awry, tacky gifts and friendships ruined by wedding disasters on www.etiquettehell.com, the Web site she manages with partner Jeanne Hamilton.

“There are a lot of misguided people out there,” Dunson said.
“The only thing that matters is getting down to the end of the aisle and exchanging vows. Everything else is superfluous.”


Unoriginal thank you notes for wedding gifts is the most mentioned correspondence crime, Dunson said.

“People buy tacky thank you notes and say, ‘Thanks for the gift. Love, Jane,’ or go to services on the Net that generate the thank-yous for them,” she said.

So, mass-mailed acknowledgements of wedding gifts are in poor taste, but what if the gift itself is tacky?

“The bride writes the most creative thank-you note possible,” Dunson said.

After that, the bride can do anything she wants with the present.
Put it in a closet, smash it with a hammer in the backyard or give it to charity — just don’t tell the gift-giver what happened to their thoughtful thingamajig, Dunson said.

Mentioning gifts in the invitation is another nuptial no-no, Dunson said, which also includes sending registry cards, asking for money in lieu of gifts or any other presumption that a gift will be given.

“No one owes you a gift because you’re getting married, and no one needs to be told where to get you a gift,” she said. “Get it out of your pretty little head that you are owed gifts. People will give gifts because we will toss them into Etiquette Hell if they don’t.”

“A registry is fine as long as you don’t advertise it,” she clarified.
“If people want to know where the bride is registered, people will ask.”

“It’s fine to put on the invitation, ‘No gifts please.’ Anything other than that leads the guests to think something else,” she said.


Because bridesmaid responsibilities generally include buying an outfit, planning the wedding shower, getting a gift for the shower and finding a gift for the wedding, the honor can be quite costly.

“Bridesmaids need to realize that saying yes carries responsibilities of time and resources,” Dunson said. “It’s more than pictures and parties. It’s an expensive proposition.”

What if the bridesmaids aren’t up to the challenge?

“You do not want a pain in the butt on your wedding day. There are enough details to take care of. You don’t want someone uncooperative,” Dunson said.

“The bride can ask her to step down, but doing so is usually a friendship breaker,” she said.

When ousting a bothersome bridesmaid, be honest, talk about your concerns, but don’t blatantly ask her to step down, Dunson said. See what you can do to make her job easier, or give her the chance to bow out. If she can’t spare the necessary time and money, maybe she would be better suited to simply coordinating a party or being an usher.

“You really have to be diplomatic if you want to preserve the friendship,” Dunson cautions.

But, the biggest bridesmaid blunder isn’t always on the bridesmaid’s part.
Sometimes the bride herself is the one trampling on good taste.

Choosing dresses will be biggest decision the bride and bridesmaids do together, Dunson said, and she has some tips for the bride before the big shopping trip.

“Do some preshopping, but don’t get set on any ideas,” she said.

Instead, let your attendants have a say in the outfits they have to wear.

“These are not Barbie dolls to dress up. These are your friends. They need to look nice and be comfortable,” Dunson said. “It’s not about the dress, it’s about the friends.”

She suggests choosing outfits from the same designer line so everyone can find a style they feel confident in — a style that suits their body.

“If the bridesmaids look gorgeous, the bride is going to look gorgeous,” Dunson said. “If the bridesmaids don’t look good, I guarantee tongues are going to be wagging. The bride is the one who ends up looking ugly for her attitude.”


“Please don’t think the reception is a place to get money from your guests,” Dunson said.

Receiving lines for guests to hand envelopes of money to the groom, satin purses to collect cash for dances with the bride and cash bars are traditions past their prime, Dunson said.

“To actively solicit money is just a heinous faux pas,” Dunson said.
“Asking your guests to bring out their wallets will certainly put a sour taste on their tongues. Guests are not paying customers. They are guests.”

The cake smash is another tradition Dunson would rather the bride and groom do without.

“We’re not against fun,” Dunson said. “We’re just against public displays of tacky.”