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Innovating etiquette

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When I daydream about my wedding I envision a formal affair where the man I marry and I slow dance to Frank Sinatra singing “The Way You Look Tonight.” Not all weddings are a black-tie affair, nor do they require you to be an excellent dancer, but they do carry a few universal rules of engagement.

I tend to be a traditionalist when it comes to rules and etiquette, but just like most things in life, time provides us with new options that grow into becoming acceptable. One such rule that may plague the evening is wedding seating and the guest list. When choosing whom to invite and how to mingle the entire guest-list, think of it more like a good martini — it’s shaken, not stirred.

If you have relatives who have never supported your relationship, the short answer is that you don’t have to invite them. Someone once told me, “If you don’t want to hug every person there, don’t invite him or her.” You may have some family pressure on inviting all your relatives; if that is the case, err on the side of inclusion and if they have a problem with it, they likely won’t attend.

Tradition dictates seating have a bride’s side and a groom’s side. With gay weddings, there is sometimes a family that does not support the union and won’t show up. Nothing looks worse than one side with lots of support and one with none. Because this should be an occasion for bringing family together one solution is to let everyone sit where they want. But for those of us who still swear by place cards, just make sure you know the temperament of your guest and don’t sit a religious zealot next to your gay friend who would cause the two to butt heads. We are having a union, not triggering a war.

To those of us attending the wedding, it is important to remember that a gentleman has never been seated beside a boring person at dinner. Neither has he ever been seated beside a person who has been bored. That being said, in matters of politics or religion, a gentleman does not assume that everyone believes what he believes. Keep in mind the adage from Steel Magnolias: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then you can sit by me.” These Southern words of wisdom simply mean that all conversation should be had in a spirit of jest.

Regardless of how formal you decide to make your big day, make sure that you either decide to play by all the rules or none of them at all. When we begin to pick and choose which traditions we keep and which we disregard, that is the moment when things get confusing.

And no matter which route you decide to take, do not choose “blush” and “bashful” as the colors, because we all know it is simply pink and pink, and no amount of manners can save a wedding coated in Pepto-Bismol.

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