Two years ago I was invited to the wedding of an old friend. The BTB and I had been close friends through high school and still caught up when she was in town. The wedding was over a public holiday weekend and I travelled to the wedding town with my DF and planned to stay for a few days and have a mini-break while attending the wedding.
When I arrived in the town where the wedding was to be held I contacted the bride to see how she was and to offer any help in the days leading up to the wedding. I thought that perhaps there were some errands that needed to be run. The bride replied that she has everything under control but invited myself and DF to join her and her girlfriend ( to go shopping as they were looking at a few last minute items for the bride. DF and I thought this would be fun and also a chance to collect a gift from her registry. DF and I arrived in town a few hours early in order to purchase the gift prior to meeting with the BTB.
On the eve of the wedding we were invited to have dinner with the bride at her apartment. Dinner was a takeaway that DF and I collected, again this was no issue as we hardly expected the BTB to cook on her wedding eve. The BTB made her own cake and I busied myself doing the dishes while we chatted. Overall it was quite uncomfortable and DF and I left after a short period of time. DF and I again offered to help if anything was needed as everyone appeared to be at breaking point. I felt sorry for the BTB as she seemed to be under a lot of pressure.
On the day of the wedding we were allocated some tasks and this is where I believe the etiquette breach occurred.
The ceremony was held in a public garden and the BTB and GTB wanted some seats brought down for the older guests.
It was decided that myself, DF and ODF (who lived locally) would drive to the BTB and GTB apartment and collect these chairs and then carry them through the garden into position. I was dressed for a wedding in dress and heels and was expected to stumble through the garden with the chairs. The ceremony location was not too far from the road but it was at the bottom of a steep grassy hill.
As we were waiting around for the ceremony, GTB asked myself and DF if we could serve drinks to other guests. I thought that this was inappropriate but I found it difficult to refuse. The preparation for the drinks service was lacking, including bottled water that required a bottle opener yet one had not been brought. The guests were quite rude to us and one gentleman commented that we should have been more prepared. There were also complaints about the lack of range. By this point I was very upset and did not appreciate the other guests assuming that I was wait staff.
The ceremony was pleasant and my temper cooled as we watched the vows.
After the ceremony I went to the small bar set up to pour myself, DF and ODF a drink. Another guest saw this and told me that I should be circulating and pouring drinks for the other quests. We were then asked to carry the chairs up the hill back to the cars and drive back to the Bride and Groom’s apartment and unload the chairs. I was very upset by this point and commented that they should have organised labour rather than expecting guests and family to provide this service.
By the time we had driven to the apartment, unloaded the chairs, driven to the wedding reception and tried desperately to find a parking space, the reception was in full swing. There was barely any food available, an understaffed bar and no entertainment to speak of. The Bride didn’t seem to mingle with her guests and the communication was mainly from the bride’s mother. While I understood that it was always going to be a low key budget affair, I think that the Bride and Groom showed disrespect to their guests. Some people had travelled great distances at large expense and they simply did not receive any hospitality. I left after the first dance, too upset to seek out the bride to catch up. Almost a year later we received a thank you card – with an apology that they had been “misplaced”.
You learned a lesson here. Never offer help, in your case twice, to a bride at the last minute unless you are prepared to be drafted into doing all manner of tasks. Some brides are competent enough at planning to note little details but most don’t realize all those little details til the very end and by then, they are overworked and overstressed. They will jump on any offer of assistance like a starving flea to a dog.
Brides, avoid the last minute abuse of one’s guests by creating what I call “responsibility cards” for your family and attendants who have been alerted well in advance for the need to coordinate efforts. A responsibility card is simply a 3X5 or 5X7 card with a person’s name on it and a list of little jobs they have been assigned to do. For example, the maid of honor has the task of making sure the room the attendants’ used to dress is cleaned up and all personal items removed, including the bride’s wedding dress, after the wedding. As you plan the wedding, you add notes to each card which are then given to attendants and family a week before the wedding. Who is taking the gifts from the reception to your house? Who is responsible to make sure rental items get returned? Who is paying the officiant and vendors? For the bride in this story, who is taking the chairs back to your apartment? Who is serving the pre-ceremony beverages?