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24 sticky wedding etiquette issues -- solved

By Anna Post for Real Simple
updated 11:04 PM EST, Thu February 20, 2014
From married couples with the same last name to members of the military -- here's how to get your wedding invitations where they're going in style. From married couples with the same last name to members of the military -- here's how to get your wedding invitations where they're going in style.
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Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
Follow the script -- addressing invitations
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Most sticky situations can be avoided by maintaining an open dialogue
  • Thoughtful brides and grooms consider the finances of their guests and attendants
  • Guests lists in particular can be riddled with potential pitfalls
  • Rules are meant to be broken, so long as you are honest and communicate expectations

(CNN) -- From what to wear to what to register for, planning and preparing for an upcoming wedding can sometimes be tricky. Navigating through each and every sticky situation with a smile can be hard work. Enter Anna Post. The etiquette expert and co-author of "Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th edition" is here to set the record straight on some of the most frequently asked wedding dilemmas.

Who should be the first to know about my engagement?

Avoid broadcasting the news (photos included) to social networks before sharing your engagement with family and friends. If you have any children from a previous marriage, they should be told first. Parents, family members, godparents, and anyone you are particularly close with should also be told before the news is public knowledge.

Am I supposed to bring a gift to an engagement party?

Traditionally gifts were not expected at the engagement party but, some guests opt to bring a small token -- like Champagne flutes -- for the couple. Because engagement gifts aren't a standard everywhere, don't expect presents to be opened at the event.

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Can I have someone besides my father walk me down the aisle?

The bride's father traditionally walks her down the aisle, but you can have anyone who is significant—mom or stepdad, brother or sister—walk you down the aisle. You can even walk alone or with more than one person.

No matter who walks you down the aisle, don't let it be a last-minute decision. The most important thing is to maintain an open and honest dialogue with anyone impacted by your choice.

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How do I get my guests to RSVP?

Give guests at least 15 days between the invitation's arrival and the RSVP deadline to figure out the logistics. Sending pre-stamped enclosure cards or permitting RSVP via email may also encourage guests to respond faster.

Approximately one week before the numbers are due to vendors, make follow-up calls to guests who have yet to reply. This is a great time to ask your wedding party or family for some help.

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If I know someone can't attend, do I need to send an invitation anyway?

Because an invitation comes with the expectation of a gift, you don't want people to think they have to give a gift even though they cannot attend. If someone lets you know that they have a conflict, don't follow up with an invitation. In the case of very close friends and family, you may want to send an invitation anyway with a note that explains you are sending it as a keepsake.

How can I back out of my duties as a bridesmaid if I can't afford it or no longer want to do it?

If you think financials might be a problem, talk with the bride about what expenses you might incur before accepting. Bridesmaids typically pay for their own attire (including any alterations), hair, makeup, and any travel expenses. Though the maid of honor may have a bigger time commitment, there is not necessarily a greater monetary obligation.

Other than illness, family emergency, or an iron-clad work demand, it's not acceptable to back out once you've committed. If you have no choice but to cancel, it's important to let the bride know as soon as possible.

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What are my duties as a bridesmaid?

Bridesmaids generally assist in the planning of the wedding, help the bride choose her dress, attend fittings for their own dresses, and attend any parties they are invited to. Though it often makes sense for bridesmaids to throw the bridal shower, they are not required to do so.

During the wedding festivities, bridesmaids act as an ambassador of sorts to the couple and may be expected to help with the little details that keep the day running smoothly. They should also participate in any activities like a receiving line or a bouquet toss.

Can I skip the cake?

There are certain traditions, like cutting the cake, that are okay to omit. Instead of cake, you may opt for something that provides more variety such as a candy bar or a selection of pies -- it's up to you.

If you do skip the cake, be aware that the cake cutting ceremony and serving of dessert is typically the signal to guests that it is OK to leave without being rude.

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Who hosts the bridal shower?

Anyone from the bridesmaids to the mother of the bride to the mother of the groom can host a bridal shower. In any case, the hostess should consult with the bride about the guest list, because shower guests should also be invited to the wedding.

Is it OK to use mobile devices to upload pictures during the wedding?

When in doubt, it's better to ask the couple's permission before posting photos to any social media outlet -- especially during the ceremony. Uploading photos not only distracts you from participating in the moment, but it also broadcasts details of the event to people who may not have been invited.

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How do I decide who can bring a date?

You should extend a plus one to anyone who is in a committed relationship, whether married, engaged, or in a live-in partnership -- even if you haven't met the other half. You are not obligated to give single guests and guests who are involved in more casual relationships the option to bring a date. You do, however, want to be consistent and avoid making exceptions.

If the invitation does not say, for example, Anna and guest, guests can assume they cannot bring a date. If someone does show up with an uninvited guest, avoid an uncomfortable situation by finding a place for them and follow up with the invited guest via a polite phone call afterward.

How much should I spend on a wedding gift?

There is no minimum or maximum. When shopping for a wedding gift you should consider two things: your personal budget and your relationship with the couple. It's not necessary to pay for the cost of your dinner, but rather spend what you can afford and feel comfortable spending on something that suits the couple. Don't be afraid to diverge from the registry if you need to.

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If someone asks me to be in their wedding, do I have to ask them to be in mine?

You shouldn't feel obligated to reciprocate. If you feel uncomfortable about the situation, ask them to be a reader or to fulfill some other role in the wedding. Similarly, it's a nice gesture to include your fiancé's siblings in the wedding party, but you are not required to do so.

Do I need to invite someone I casually mentioned the wedding to?

Talking about the wedding is OK, but don't extend an invitation unless you know a formal invitation will follow. It's impolite to uninvite someone, even if it was a verbal commitment. If the topic arises, you can diplomatically skirt around the issue by saying you haven't finalized the guest list.

I'm paying for the wedding myself, how can I tell my parents I don't want to invite certain people?

It may be best to give your parents an allotted amount of spots they can fill as they wish. If there are certain people you do not want in attendance, it's best to have a private and honest conversation when you first discuss the guest list. Don't insist your parents feel comfortable with the situation, but be clear about your wishes.

Am I expected to invite all of my coworkers?

You do not have to invite everyone you work with, but try to pick a logical dividing line, like your division or team, so people don't feel excluded. Treat any invited coworkers as you would friends, and invite them outside of work. Mail invitations to their home addresses and discuss wedding plans outside of the office.

Can I tell my bridesmaids what kind of shower I want?

It's a good idea to discuss the shower with bridesmaids -- or whoever is hosting -- but avoid demands, especially those that dictate the budget. For example, if you really don't want games, you may express that sentiment but shy away from requests that add extra expenses.

How do I deal with guests who ask to bring kids even after we've made it clear they're not invited?

You have to nip this in the bud. Call the guest (even if they've contacted you through another medium, like email) and kindly, but firmly explain that the invitation was just for the adults and that you hope they can still attend. Don't make exceptions -- it's not fair to other guests who respect your wishes. You can, however, invite the flower girl and the ring bearer without being hypocritical.

Can I register for gifts if it's my second marriage?

Whether it's your first marriage or your third, you can still register. There are plenty of people who may want to give you a gift, including those who have attended a prior wedding.

If you feel uncomfortable about receiving gifts, it's a good time to get creative and sign up for a honeymoon registry. It's also perfectly fine to request guests do not bring gifts.

What is the correct way to address a wedding gift check?

There is no hard and fast rule about which party should be addressed. Unless you know the couple has a joint bank account, pay to the order of either the bride or the groom -- not both -- to make the check easier to cash.

Who should host the rehearsal dinner?

Traditionally, the groom's family hosts (and pays for) the rehearsal dinner and arranges a guest list in conjunction with the bride's family. Though some families now choose to split the cost or let the bride and groom host their own rehearsal dinner, the groom's family should get "first dibs."

Am I obligated to invite a guest's date to the rehearsal dinner?

Because the rehearsal dinner is traditionally a close-knit event for wedding participants and family, it is not necessary to extend an invitation to an attendee's wedding guest.

How much should I tip my wedding vendors?

You do not have to tip vendors with whom you have a contract. Depending on service and relationship, a small gift or a cash tip is at your discretion. You should, however, distribute tips to non-contracted staff like musicians and servers.

Meals for vendors are typically included in your contract, but you should plan to pay for their dinner regardless. Discuss meal options with your venue or caterer to find something that works with your budget.

How long do I have to send a thank-you note?

Though it's best to send a thank-you note as soon as possible, you have approximately three months to express your gratitude. If the three-month timeframe has elapsed, send any lingering thank-you notes as soon as possible. Sending an email or putting a generic thanks on social media, your wedding website, or anywhere else does not replace a handwritten note.

To save time, the bride and groom can both write thank-you notes and simply sign each one. In a serious time crunch, it's acceptable to send an email that acts as a digital placeholder to say you received the gift and a thank-you a note will follow.

Have you run into a sticky wedding etiquette situation? We'd love to hear all about how that worked out in the comments below, on Twitter @CNNLiving or on CNN Living's Facebook page.

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