8 Modern-Day Wedding Mysteries, Solved

Weddings are never not complicated. And these days, the quandaries they present go well beyond bouquet-selection: How do you keep guests from going into social media overshare mode? Or, what's the best way to deal with meat-lovers unsated by your mindfully curated vegan menu? How do you keep everyone — especially yourself — as happy as possible?

Three industry experts — Ariel Meadow Stallings, creator of Offbeat Bride; Francesca Abbracciamento, founder and president of Francesca Events Inc., and Lizzie Post, cohost of The Awesome Etiquette podcast from American Public Media (and, yes, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily) — offered up their advice for those ready to tie to knot, as well as those ready for the open bar and cake. Read this before any further nuptial-related planning, and there will be no missteps.
Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
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For The Bride:

I'm having a super-small wedding. How do I tell friends or family that they're not invited?
As tough as it may seem, honesty is the best policy. You can set the proper tone and wedding-size expectations when you announce your engagement so there are no surprises. Post recommends saying, “We looked into what was going to be best for us, and we decided it was going to be very small; we were only able to invite our most immediate family and one or two friends." If that doesn't fit the bill, Stallings has a list of things you can blame your small guest list on, ranging from the venue to the budget, which notably does not include "your invite got lost in the mail."

I'm a vegan, but my family is a bunch of carnivores. How can I avoid a hangry crowd?
"Assuming you're paying for the wedding yourself, you should serve the food you want to serve,” says Stallings, but it doesn’t hurt to give your steak-and-potatoes-eating clan a heads up. For extra precaution, Post suggests you might even consider inviting them to the tasting. Stallings adds, “As long as you've set expectations about the meal being served,” and been clear if there will be dinner or simply punch and cake pops, “then it's up to guests to decide what they want to eat from what you offer.”
Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
How can I control the way my wedding appears on social media?
Whether you want all your guests to adhere to one hashtag or would like to ensure that you’re the first person who gets to ‘gram your outfit, make it explicit to your friends and family. Don't make yourself crazy, though. Stallings emphasizes, “You have better things to do than try to police how your Aunt Marge uses Facebook.” If you are determined to try, the best way to go is to just ban all social media (sort of a wedding witness protection program). “Let guests know that you're having an unplugged wedding via your programs and signage around your venue,” she adds. Know that you can’t physically monitor all guests at all times, nor should you. Make your desires clear, and then let it go. Hey, it’s your wedding day!

What's the deal with registering for my honeymoon?
This is fine, great even! “Many guests understand that couples are marrying later, and already have all the housewares they need,” says Stallings. “Lots of us would much rather give experiential gifts to the people we love." So, plan your dream post-wedding trip to Vietnam, or wherever you’d like to go, and use one of the many handy honeymoon registries that make it simple — and far more elegant than asking someone to Venmo you cash — to source funds for a trip. Abbracciamento suggests that whether the couple asks for honeymoon help or not, they “really need to have a website presence for their wedding, which helps make it easy and less confusing.”
Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
For The Guest:

How do I you say “Thanks, but no thanks” to being a bridesmaid?
Before you turn down any offers, find out exactly what the bride expects from you. “Some just want you to stand up with them on their wedding day, others want you to organize events, buy dresses, attend mandatory DIY sessions,” says Stallings. So, ask — you guys are pretty tight, right? If you’re not willing to commit to what your pal has in store, Post advises saying, "I really want to support you, is there a reading or a toast I could give? What can I do on the day to help you out?" Be prepared that the bride may not take the news so well, but she’ll take it much better than if you back out at the last minute in a fit of frustration and tears.

There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to gift giving. Do I gift at the engagement, the shower, and the wedding? How do I know?
Listen, you need to give a gift — yes, even if you can’t attend the wedding. But, the good news is there’s no specific amount you have to adhere to. Stay within your budget, Post says, and go off the registry if your prefer — especially if you have something personal and creative up your sleeve. "Whatever is in your means is the appropriate gift,” adds Abbracciamento. With the parties that circle the main event, giving is a bit more flexible, and you can always ask the host what’s expected. “If the idea of purchasing a gift to bring to an event feels gross, then you can totally just decline the event,” says Stallings. “Life will go on.”
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
I have a strong sense of style, but am going to a wedding of a very traditional family. Must I tone down my look?
The first thing to do is ask your friend. He or she can give you the best guidance. After that, it’s your fashion, your choices, Stallings says, but be prepared: “If you want to look weird around more traditional folks, be ready to answer a million questions about your pink hair or stretched lobes.”

My friend is having a destination wedding — at a destination that I totally cannot afford. How can I decline without hurting her feelings? Should I tell her I can't afford it?
Destination weddings are usually planned with the awareness that some of the invited guests may not be able to attend, says Stallings, so this isn’t the worst thing in the world. “Be honest about your financial limitations, and generous in offering any local help before the event.” The key is to show your support of the wedding and relationship in other ways.
Perennial wedding guest Jen Doll has written a memoir detailing her experiences at friends' weddings. Check out Save the Date, available now.