After Louise Fox, The Etiquette Lady, related a story about a bride in Toronto who, once dessert was cleared, served her 150 stunned guests individual bills for their meal, I was inspired to add this post. Its always fun to hear wedding etiquette horror stories. I asked our Alumni to share stories from weddings they had attended (not planned!) over the years. In the interest of privacy I will not tell who told what, but I have included a list of contributors below. Hopefully you will learn what not to do.
- I had to turn down a bride who wanted to serve her guests only a few appetizers each person and NO dinner at a 7pm wedding. If you are only serving appetizers at a wedding it must at least be enough to fill the guests up. Guests should NEVER leave a wedding hungry. It was of course a cash bar. Not to mention that a lot of the guests didn’t even get invited to the ceremony.
- My clients got invited to a wedding that charged them $60 each to attend, they were to include their chq with the reply, the invite also listed where they were registered, but they would prefer cash.
- I was invited to 2 Stag and Does (Wedding Fundraisers) for couples whose weddings I was not invited to. I was also part of a bridal party and asked to sell tickets for their Stag and Doe to complete strangers. What has happened to the family/couple/bridal party treating guests like “guests”?
- I came across a girl who was having a destination wedding and she wanted to book the resturant so they could have a private party with their guests. The problem was, the restaurant wanted to charge extra $$$ per head in order to make the party private. The bride wanted to know how to bill her guests the extra cost because “having the dinner be a private party will benefit the guests as well.”
- We drove 3 hours to a wedding out in the middle of a cow pasture (cow patties and all). There were only about 30 chairs, there were about 75 guests – we had no idea it was in a pasture and all the guests were wearing heels. The ceremony started late so we were standing around for over an hour – in a cow pasture. The ceremony was at 4 pm, people had to bring the chairs back from the ceremony to the tent. There was no dinner; it was light potluck cocktail food – not enough for everyone there, and a cash bar. Plus only one small tent for the guests when it started to rain.
- I received a tacky computer printed invitation to a wedding for a June date and when they had a falling out-cancelled the wedding, then a month later it was back on again, so they reprinted the same invitation, crossed out the date in pen (why they didn’t amend it on the computer, I have no idea), and put in a July date. Because most of us had other obligations for that July date, we had to decline only to be called by an irate bride as to WHY we are not attending. I had to advise her that we had other obligations for that date that unfortunately could not be broken and that we’re sorry. She then asked me if we were going to send a gift?
- We went to a wedding that had a Cash Bar for a 50-person sit-down reception, with no dancing. The bar would have cost maybe $400!
- A bride asked our thoughts about a “Pot-luck Dinner Reception” because she wanted the family to “feel involved”.
- The couple decided to have a Destination Wedding with only 2 months notice for the guests. Everyone had to drive 3-5 hours to get there (it was off season and there was no regular bus service) and guests needed to spend the night ($200/night). While the couple was off taking pictures for two hours there were no refreshments or hors d’oeurves for the guests. We had to wait approximately 2 hours from arrival to get anything to drink or eat and there was no music. I, as a guest, ended up having to talk the catering manager to please serve water and start the hors d’oeurves earlier than planned, which they were kind enough to move up a bit. Oh, and they ended having a cash bar for alcoholic beverages. They had Champagne for the head table and a bottle of Vodka that the groom kept pouring for the head table all night as the guests watched. It was disturbing.
- I received a call from a bride looking to have a buffet dinner reception with the guests paying their share at the door when they arrived. She fully expected to have a cash register up and running.
- When I was about 9 years old, a server took it upon himself to make sure I ate my entire meal at a wedding.There was a kids table so my parents weren’t there to take charge. I thought the pea soup being served looked gross. He reprimanded me by saying if I didn’t eat it HE wouldn’t allow me to have any cake.
- The wedding was in one town up north and the reception in another. It was an afternoon wedding with a 5 pm reception. We got to the hall about 5 pm, only to find out that all the food was gone. They had one tray of sandwiches, one pickle tray and a bowl of chips.
- I have been to a wedding where the bride and groom had no back up for allergies and neither did the banquet hall. So the people who had a nut allergy were left eating a grill cheese while the other guests had their dinner.
- I have been married to my husband for 23 years, we were invited to a cousin’s wedding. The invite however showed that my husband was married to someone else. Plus the invite stated it was a cash bar and to top it off guests should only bring cash gifts. I kid you not.
- At one wedding, about 20 guests were invited to the ceremony, and an open invitation was extended via Facebook for ‘after supper’ to enjoy dancing (and to bring gifts). The community hall tables looked as if they had been around for 50 yrs and were so badly stained and damaged that the day of the wedding the wedding party out of desperation purchased paper towel quality dollar store table clothes to cover them, as the bride didn’t see a problem. As the night went on the bride and groom proceeded to OPEN all of their gifts (including sexy lingerie) and cards, reading aloud how much each person gave them.
- The couple invited a select few guests to attend their ceremony, and then had a nice dinner at an ‘expensive hotel’. The next night, they had a ‘reception’ that was more along the lines of a Social. Tickets were $10, and everyone from the wedding party, to the brides grandparents had to pay to attend. There was a cash bar (where the couple made a profit) silent auction, (with duplicate prizes as the Bride demanded ‘close friends’ to buy a prize to ‘donate’ but never kept track of who was bringing what) at the end of the night the Bride sat down at the cash box and counted it out bragging about how the wedding had been paid off as of the night before from presentation, so all this was pure profit for them. After this she tucked the whole cash box under her arm and spent the last hour of the party refusing to let anyone else take care of it for her because she “didn’t trust anyone” to not steal from her.
- Living in Ottawa at the time, I was invited to attend the nuptials of the daughter of old family friends in Toronto. Thrilled to be asked, I picked out a unique present, got a new outfit and drove the four hours to Toronto. At the time I was single and an invitation had not been extended to a plus one. My folks, my sister and her family as well as my absolute favourite cousin were also invited to the wedding, so where was I seated? Wait for this……. THE KID’S TABLE- HIGH CHAIRS INCLUDED!! Final insult- since most of the ” little darlings” were offspring of the bride’s family, she thought it would be an honour for me be seated with such a close family members!
- When I was a kid, my parents drove our family of 7 all squished into a station wagon all the way from Toronto to Rochester NY for a distant family wedding. My parents paid for the hotel and all the outfits and everything required to attend a formal wedding for all of us kids. Needless to say they dropped a small fortune to attend. The reception was dismal and the topper of the whole thing was that the Bride and Groom decided to have a partial host bar and a partial cash bar. That’s right! Every other hour they paid and every other hour the guests had to pay – it was super offensive to the guests and made no sense at all. People were rushing the bar in the final moments of the host bar hour to stock up before it went to cash bar!
- I attended a wedding a few years ago and it was full cash bar. I went to the bar and paid $5.75 for a cooler and they poured it into a small glass and gave me the glass and did not give me the rest of the cooler. So I paid $5.75 for a 1/4 of the cooler.
- I literally, got a text message on Nov. 1, inviting me to a wedding in a different province taking place on Nov 10! It was also sent via text format with abbreviations and incorrect spelling, LOL.
- I was invited to Stag and Doe for a couple whose weddings I was not invited to. At the party the guests were strongly requested to purchase tickets for several games that would be played that night. I happen to win one of the games and received a bicycle, (great gift for my son at the time). One of the bridesmaides came up to me and congratulated me on the win and then told me that “the brides nephew REALLY could use a bike and had his eyes on it all night and was hoping to win it. It would really please the bride if her nephew would win the bike”.
- The bride and groom had a reception at a friend’s cottage on the lake. The property was big enough for this large tent where the reception would take place. As the final touches were being put in the tent (dj set up, food stations plugged in and set up etc.) the guests started to arrive and so did the rain. The bride and groom, wedding party and parents stayed in the cottage to keep dry while the guests were ankle deep (yes it RAINED!!!) in water along with a million mosquitos as the lightning struck. A little boy told his mom he had to go potty and he was frightened of the storm. Two were not going to fit in the porta potty so the mother asked to use the bathroom in the cottage and stay in the corner as her son was shaking with fear. THEY SAID NO…As we were getting eaten alive from the bugs, now standing bare foot ankle deep in water with lightning all around us, we decided to leave with no food in our belly, and we still had not seen the guests of honour. We made it back to our car and were not looking forward to the return trip home of 3 hours after just sitting in the car for ride up north for this wedding.
- The bride invited almost everyone she knew to the wedding and had close to 200 people at the reception. During the cocktail hour, guests were treated to marked-up cash bar (marked up 2 dollars per drink as per the brides request). Moving into the lovely dinner, guests were treated to (drum roll) …portion control. The bride announced that the guests were only allowed 2 shrimps per person and thats it, and please don’t have more than a small amount of salad. During speeches the MC announced that a donation bucket would be passed around. (Keep in mind that this is NOT cultural for this couple.) The bucket was passed around a few times during the evening with the bride making a speech about helping the couple pay for the wedding and honeymoon everytime . . .and thanks for the gifts, please give money .
- We were invited to an Ontario reception for friends who had gotten married out west. And of course, the invitation included very specific instructions that monetary gifts or gift cards were requested.
- A friend of mine invited anyone and everyone to her wedding. The first red flag was that she had stated: “monetary gifts only please” on the wedding invitations. Upon arriving at the reception, guests were given with their “Thank You” cards which said, “Thank you for attending our wedding and for your monetary gift” BEFORE even entering the ballroom. Not only that, but there was a “food heirarchy” at dinner – some guests were served very expensive seafood dinners, while other tables (mainly the ones with the 20-somethings) were served light appetizers only!
- My earliest wedding memory is of my Uncle’s wedding. I had been eyeing a special display with pearlized paper and at the end of the night, I was told I could have it, only to have a member of my new ‘Aunt’s’ family tear it out of my hands and give it to another young member of their family.
- The couple handed out “Drink Tickets” selectively to those they really liked and left everyone else to pay for their own drinks.
- A couple hired a friend to cater their wedding. The caterer didn’t bring any serving staff and had guests come up to a window in the church hall to pick up their plates. Problem? No one was there to clear their plates, so I had to run around and clear 50 plates each course and assist in the kitchen with coffee and tea service.
- A few years ago my friend, his wife and their 10 year-old son were invited to a wedding in another province. They decided to drive and left 3 days before the wedding. The ceremony went smoothly, the receiving line went well, but when they went to the seating chart to find their assigned table, they discovered their son was not on the chart. A member of the bridal party approached them while they were still at the chart and told them that their son shouldn’t be there because the couple had changed their minds and were no longer including children at the reception. They were told they “should have gotten the message” and, per the couple’s instructions, they could either leave their 10 year-old in their hotel room and join the reception or they could “just leave and not come back”. Needless to say, they didn’t stay. Turns out when they arrived back home there was a phone message from the groom telling them not to bother to bring their “kid” because “he wasn’t invited anymore”. To top it off, the message was left the evening before the wedding.
- I was recently invited to a bridal shower for an old high school friend… the emailed invite stated every one was expected to bring an item to eat!
- I was supposed to be a guest at a friend’s wedding. I ended up coordinating the ceremony and reception, making 12 centrepieces while guests were arriving, creating a boutiniere for a groomsman, dressing the head table, serving and clearing all tables, cutting and serving the cake and getting yelled at when one table didn’t get cleared. I have never even received a “Thank You”.
- I attended a wedding with a friend as a favour; it was his cousin’s wedding that was taking place in a public park in rural Ontario. We arrived about half an hour early and the mother of the bride said great, we’re going to put you to work! She brought out coloured pencils and we (being the bride’s distant family and myself, a stranger) had to colour wedding favours for the rest of the guests, right there before the wedding! They were little print-outs with the bride and groom’s name, with roses. We coloured them but in the end the MoH forgot all about them and they were never handed out.
The bride and groom started walking around welcoming everyone. The bride looked lovely but the groom was wearing tattered jeans and a white t-shirt with an open black vest. It looked awful! He had not bothered to brush his hair or shave either. Suddenly the bride starts screaming and crying because the best man was MIA. He just didn’t show up. My friend her cousin had to be a last-minute stand-in. There was no photographer so they gave me a camera and told me that I had to be their photographer.
The bride walked down the aisle of the pavilion doing a ‘raise the roof’ dance to all of the guests humming the ‘dum dum da-dahhh’ of the Wedding March, which was the most surreal thing I think I have ever witnessed. At this point my brain was so broken from this ridiculous wedding that I just went along with everything that was going on.
The very worst part is that since it was a public park, there was a huge family reunion and many other park visitors sharing the pavilion where the wedding was. They were having loud barbecues and kept looking at us wondering who would be having such a crazy wedding! Other highlights include a meal of frozen burger patties (sorry, no vegetarian) and the bride jumping into the lake with her dress on to take a photo.
- I attended a summer wedding as a guest, where the bride was 1.5 hours late for the ceremony. The groomsmen were left standing at the altar and the guests were left guessing whether or not there was going to be a wedding. Was this a case of cold feet? Not at all. The mother of the bride refused to have her daughter walk down the aisle without a veil. The lucky MOH who was tasked with finding a last minute veil, ended up picking up tulle at FabricLand.
- I was once invited to an old friend’s wedding through a Facebook event page (everyone on his friend’s list was invited), and I was only invited to attend the ceremony. I received a Facebook message a few months later thanking me for attending, but I never heard from him again (even after I asked how they were doing to keep the conversation going).
- I attended a wedding where the bride was over an hour late. It was an outdoor wedding on one of the hottest/sunniest days of the year. We all cooked in the direct sunlight for over an hour. My cousin and sister got a sunburn. The ceremony and reception was at the same place (a private residence), far away from where most of the guests live. There was nothing to do in between and they had a nice 3.5 hour gap before cocktails. Cocktails ended up lasting 2 hours before they ended up getting back from photos (so if you’re keeping track it’s now 5.5 hours later from the time the ceremony ended). When they got back there was another hour of cocktails before they sat down for dinner. By the time we started dinner it was 8pm…
We get that it’s your day and the guests will wait for you, but really? That is just plain rude to be so inconsiderate of your guests and their needs(also a lack of poor planning).
To top it off, we are still all waiting for thank you cards…. a year and a half later…
- Very recently I did a wedding. 3 speeches in and no one mentioned the mother of the groom. She was ticked and offended. She came up to the mic and said this (I’m paraphrasing). “The groom is MY son. I gave birth to him from THESE hips!!! That’s right! I Want to thank my cousins for coming from the states. Goodnight”. Not a mention about the bride and groom. No congratulations. Awwwwkwaaard!!!!
- My husband and I were left out of being invited to a wedding of a not terribly close friend who had invited everyone, and I mean everyone, else in our mutual group of friends. I was feeling a bit offended even though we’re not that close and casually mentioned it to one of our girlfriends. A couple of weeks later, the groom handed us an invitation when we saw him. The reply date had already passed. Then he emailed us a week later asking us to please reply ASAP as they needed to finalize their numbers weeks earlier. Needless to say, we did NOT attend! A lesson in how not to invite someone to your wedding.
- I attended a close friend’s wedding. I gave money in a card. Note the bar was a cash bar and there was not enough food for everyone one at the buffet. To this date I have not recieved a thank you note.
- I attended a wedding where on the Invitation it was BOB (Bring your own booze).
- Some friends of mine were getting married without a planner. I attended the ceremony which was fine, minus the candles for the candle lighting ceremony which I literally ran over to a random neighbour’s and begged her for 2 candles which she reluctantly obliged.
After the ceremony, I was asked by one of the couple’s friends to go to the hall to make sure everything was ok while the pictures were being taken. When I got there, I check in with the kitchen only to find out there was no dinnerware and utensils for the over 200 guest expected shortly. One of the waiters told me the couple had not rented any. I became the point person (unofficial wedding planner), got everything that was required so that the couple and their guests could enjoy the wedding. I served food, cleaned up, assisted with cake cutting, etc. I guess they forgot she was a guest.
- I once attended a wedding a few yrs ago that was the definition of hillbilly! It was a double wedding.*Jack (age 30) & *Jill (age 20) married alongside *Jack’s Uncle and Aunt (Both in their 40’s). The wedding was a tented ceremony/reception on Jack’s Uncles property.
Jill wore a proper wedding dress with Jack in a proper suit, but because Jack’s Uncle and Aunt had both been married before Jack’s Uncle decided to wear shorts, a t-shirt and a ball cap while his bride wore a short lace dress. It was horrifying to see everyone standing across the front of the tent.
Jills MOH forgot her flowers so she walked down the aisle empty handed. Jill was escorted down the aisle by her brother who wore jeans, a polo shirt, and a backwards hat . The dinner was a pig roast that guests stood smoking and drinking beer in the garage while it cooked. The invites said BYOB (Bring your own beer). The photographer became victim to a food fight with the wedding cake that some uninvited guests initiated. The police were called because of noise. Jacks 5 yr old son got thrown into a pool. Jills family left after dinner to go camping. I am sure there was a lot more that happened. Needless to say the marriage only lasted 8 months between Jack & Jill.
- And my favourite: The couple sent a Facebook invitation telling guests to please use public transit, as parking was for the immediate family, and let them know what pot-luck item they would be bringing. It included registry information and “please pray for us so that we may be able to afford this wedding celebration.”
Thank you for your contributions: Sherry Vanhoorne of Wedding Passion, Ashlie Baker of Harmony Wedding & Event Coordination, Megan Pinsent, Kirstin Patzer, Arthur K of Fusion Events, Meagan Eagles of Weddings Tied With Lace, Tiffany Yau of Tiffany Events, Sumba Ashabo of Simply Social Occasions, Holly Carney of Holly Matrimony, Gaitree Shivnauth of Plan My Day Now, Katherine Van Mierlo of 3 Graces Event Planning, Jennifer Clark of Kiss the Bride, Amanda Keuneman, Cassiopeia Burrell of Ad Astra Weddings, Elizabeth Rajanayagam of Event Planning Guru, Aimee Alabaster of AFS Events, Sandra Aaron of Mindless Sophistication Events, Erin Montgomery of Trendz Event Planning, Charlotte Burhoe of C Jayne Events Ltd., Sandy Stirling of Stirling Wedding Designs, Angela Watt of Sociable Events, Gayla Matos of Leave the Details to Me, Christina Frizzell of Sweet Bliss Weddings, Sheryl Hammond of Bella Chic Events, Karen Zuliniak, Cendi Micor of Immortal Weddings, Lorie Collins of Bee-Mine Weddings, Renee Ferguson of The Beginning of Forever, Nicolette Speight, Kalynn Warren, Jenn Borgh of Jennifer Borgh Events, Ashley Hayward, Julianne Cragg of A Modern Proposal, Cheri Tetreault of With Love Wedding & Event Planning, and Denise Newell of WeDDings Jubilee Planning.