A GUEST'S GUIDE TO THE RSVP

BY SANDRA O'DONNELL

PHOTOS BY JOEL AND AMBER PHOTOGRAPHY

A dear friend or relative has included you in one of the biggest days of their lives. A day they’ve spent months, or may be a year planning. Your reaction and your response will ensure it is the best, not just the biggest day of their lives.

Attending a wedding is an honor. It is an invitation to a ceremony and a celebration. If you are thrilled and honored to be sharing their special day, check Happily Accept on the RSVP envelope. But, if you’re first thought is “Oh God, not another wedding!” Or, you groan and think, “I don’t even know Katie that well, I can’t believe she invited me!” you might consider checking Sadly Must Decline.

You aren’t obligated to attend every wedding you are invited to. And you certainly aren’t obligated to go and then complain about how much it cost to attend – the dress you had to buy, the present you got the happy couple, not to mention, the travel expenses! And yet, there are always those guests who make it a point of telling the bride or groom what they’ve gone through to be there, for them.

Wedding No No Telling the bride and groom what you had to go through to attend the wedding. Be gracious, be respectful, and be quiet. It is the bride and groom's day. Make it all about them.

Have you ever considered a wedding from the couple’s perspective? After a conversation with Terri Bukar and Mary Sue Jones of Willow Weddings, we got to thinking about that. About all the planning and expense that goes into a wedding and the responsibility, we have, as guests, to help make a couple’s day perfect.

Terri and Mary Sue are the perfect combination of big picture and tiny detail thinking. When they sit with a bride and her mother (brides and moms do the lion share of the wedding planning, but dads and more frequently grooms are chiming in too) they aren’t thinking about just a wedding. They are thinking about the hundreds of tiny tasks and small details that go into making an event seamless. And they are heading off all the little snafus that can lead to wedding disaster.

Like the time they were only supposed to drop off items that a bride rented from their ever growing collection of vintage wedding items and ended up staying to set up the tables and light candles because the do-it-herself bride and her mom had not factored in how long it takes to light 1000 votives or arrange and set ten tables.

Or, the time a mom thought she would prepare all the food for the reception and before things got out of hand, Terri and Mary Sue carefully painted a picture of her in the kitchen chopping, slicing, and cooking missing all the fun of her daughter getting ready, worrying if everything was done all during the wedding and being too exhausted during the reception and to enjoy even a moment.

Their detailed plan includes every task, right down to the finishing touches required to turn a bride and groom's vision into what they see when they walk through the reception doors. From the chairs guests sit on to the song played when the couple leaves the reception, everything has all been carefully considered and orchestrated to make the bride and groom’s day perfect and the guests’ experience enjoyable.

Before the bride and groom say, “I do,” the two words that join them together, Terri and Mary Sue ask their clients to give them three words to describe their ideal wedding. Those three words allow them to get inside a bride’s head and help them to turn vision into a reality.

Vintage, farmhouse, and fun becomes an outdoor wedding set in front of a barn with reclaimed pews for the service and farm style tables and an old wagon as serving cart for the reception.

Bohemian, chic, and eclectic creates a setting where turn-of-the-century furniture is mixed with leather suitcases, lamps and an antique ashtray stand to create a cigar lounge and other seating areas at the reception.

Traditional, elegant and formal means the setting will be a ballroom, with tables set with the vintage china and silver and crystal that Willow Weddings has collected and floral draped candelabras.

Terri and Mary Sue have seen just about everything that can go wrong and have the experience to nip potential disasters in the bud during the planning stage before nuptial bliss turns to wedding day tragedy. By the time the first meeting is over, Terry and Mary Sue have a firm idea of how the wedding will look. Now comes the hard work of coordinating the vendors, venue, and wedding party and creating the detailed plan that makes the event come together. And they do all of it within a carefully considered budget. Included in the budget is the cost of the reception, one of the biggest expenses for a wedding.

Imagine you plan a beautiful dinner, and you invite ten of your closest friends. You spent a day shopping and an entire day cooking and preparing the meal. You set an elegant table using your best china and silver, put out fresh flowers, and light the candles. It is the night of your party, and you can’t wait to see your friends and share the meal you’ve so lovingly prepared.

Your guests are scheduled to arrive at 6:30. By 7:00, it’s clear that only half of the group is going to show. They all accepted your invitation and told you how excited they were about coming to dinner, but by the time your dinner rolled around, they had had better offers. You find out later that two of your friends went to a concert because someone gave them free tickets. Another friend had a chance to go skiing at the last minute. And one couple forgot tos chedule a sitter. And, they decided finding one and getting dressed up just was too much of a hassle at the last minute, so they decided to bail.

That meal you prepared? They never gave a thought to all the trouble you went to, the time spent planning and preparing or the expense of the food.

Now, imagine you are a couple standing at your reception staring at mountains of food you paid for and someone prepared for guests who RSVP’d for your wedding.

Guests who decided to stay home and watch a football game, instead of coming to a wedding they RSVP'd for two months ago. True story! We’ve heard from wedding planners and caterers that very scenario happens a good bit here in SEC country.

The saddest story we heard was about a wedding scheduled for New Year’s Eve because the groom was about to deploy and that was the only weekend he had between assignments. The couple didn’t think about the National Championship playoff game schedule fort hat day. They had a bit more on their minds. They didn’t realize that their friends and even some of their relatives would RSVP and then ditch their wedding for a football game. They didn’t know the mounds of food, they’d spent a lot of money on, would go to waste because people had chosen football over their special day.

Hey, I get it. I love football as much as the next person. I had two west coast friends get married in the last two years right in the middle of football season. But I went to the wedding! Yes, I may have watched the game on my phone during the reception, and I may have asked one of the hosts at a reception held on an estate if I could peek in on the game in the pool house. After all, it was the Bama/LSU game. But during the wedding and through the reception, I gave the couple my attention and love.

Wedding No No RSVPing for a wedding and not bothering to show up.

So when you receive that envelope in the mail and consider whether or not to attend someone’s wedding, before you check yes on the RSVP and then ditch the wedding for a better event, think about all the time and effort the bride and groom’s family have put into orchestrating a day or weekend that brings together the people they love for a celebration of their union.

Think about the tiny details that Terri and Mary Sue have attended to, to make the happy couple's perfect. All the flickering candles that were lit, the tables set, the food prepared, not just to make the day special for the bride and groom but so you will have an enjoyable and memorable evening. Then haul yourself off the couch and get dressed. Who knows, you may have fun.

And, if someone offers you concert tickets on the same day as the wedding your already RVSP’d YES! to, say “Thanks, but I have a wedding to go to that day. Maybe next time!”

You will be on your way to being the best wedding guest ever and help make someone's wedding day a dream come true.

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