PEI

The Butler Is In: Wedding dos and don'ts

Although many weddings have become more informal and relaxed, couples still want their big day to go off without a hitch. And that's where being a good guest comes in. Certified protocol and etiquette consultant John Robertson tells us how to put our best foot forward at weddings.

'Spend what you can afford, and based on your relationship with the bride and groom'

The only person who should be wearing white at a wedding is the bride, says butler John Robertson. (Trineo Eventos Creativo)

It's the height of wedding season: summer is a popular time to get married and P.E.I. is a beautiful backdrop for those photos. 

Although many weddings have become more informal and relaxed, couples want their big day to go off without a hitch. And that's where being a good guest comes in.

Certified protocol and etiquette consultant John Robertson tells us how to put our best foot forward at weddings. 

1. The gift 

Gifts for which couples have already registered, meaning they wish to receive them as gifts, are an easy way to ensure you get the couple something they want, but Robertson said you don't have to follow it. 

Etiquette expert John Robertson says good guests don't use their cellphones at weddings. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

It is fine for co-workers who've been invited to the wedding to pool their money to buy a larger gift on the registry. 

If you are closer to the bride and groom and know them well, it's OK to buy them something more personal, Robertson suggests. 

The much talked about rule that says you should spend approximately what the couple has spent to host you at the reception? "Total rubbish," dismisses Robertson. 

"Spend what you can afford, and based on your relationship with the bride and groom," he advises. 

"If you're going to be spending Christmas with them for the next 50 years, don't buy them a set of wooden spoons for their wedding gift. It'll come back to haunt you!" Robertson said. 

2. Who's invited

If there's no plus-one on the invitation, Roberston said, you cannot bring a guest. While married people are usually invited to weddings as a couple, single people are not automatically invited to bring a date. 

"The bride and groom have constraints on numbers they will fit into the venue. It's also very costly to add another plus-one." 

3. What not to wear

"Unless you are walking down the aisle and plan to say 'I do,' don't wear white," said Robertson. "Why would you go up against the bride? ..it really looks odd, draws attention to you in a very negative way."

Also, don't dress to be the centre of attention. This is the couple's day — not yours. "Just ramp it down a notch," Robertson advises.

4. The receiving line

Expect to meet the bride's and groom's parents, possibly step-parents, the bride and groom and the bridesmaids in the receiving line. 

What do you get the couple who has everytyhing? Media mogul Rupert Murdoch and former supermodel Jerry Hall were married in March. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

If there are people you haven't met, introduce yourself to each and shake hands, smile and make a positive comment. 

Thank the bride's parents for including you.

Say "congratulations" to the groom and "best wishes" to the bride, said Robertson. "You don't say 'congratulations' to the bride, it's sort of like 'congratulations, you finally got married!'" he laughs.  

Tell the bridesmaids how lovely they all look, he suggests. 

Don't hold up the line recounting old memories — save that for later. 

5. Don't touch those place cards

"Someone's gone to an awful lot of trouble with that seating plan," said Robertson, so it is bad manners to move tables, even if you don't know a soul where you've been placed. 

"They've put you there for a reason," said Robertson. 

6. Phone photos

Should one pull out a cellphone to take snaps of the happy couple?

Have a killer outfit you're dying to show off? Not at a wedding, says etiquette expert John Robertson. (Keao's Photography, Keao Sunaok/The Associated Press)

"Turn off your phone and be present for them," advises Robertson, unless otherwise directed. A professional photographer is there to record the event. 

Some couples have even begun to ask friends and family not to take — or post — photos because they want guests to enjoy the day with them.

"If they set up a hashtag account for the wedding, feel free," said Roberton. Otherwise, "it's very tacky."

John Robertson is a professionally-trained English butler who spends his summers in Murray Harbour, P.E.I. and is contributing to a weekly etiquette column for CBC called The Butler Is In.