Ask Mrs. Know-It-All: Favors, Photos, and Future MILs


I don’t know what to do about favors. I think I want to give guests a little something, but our budget is already stretched as it is. And I’m worried that it will be a lot of work. Is this really necessary?—Busy and Broke

Dear Busy:
I went to a wedding once that had very complicated favors: There were miniature wine bottles at each table with a cheesecake photo of the couple and the wedding date. There were wee boxes of Jordan almonds and truffles at each setting. There were goodie bags in the hotel room. Altogether, it was a very nice gesture, but the only thing I could think about was how much time the bride (and her reluctant army of bridesmaids and female relatives) had spent assembling the aforementioned tchotchkes. It was likely too much time. Because I know she had better things to do, like getting her nails done and hanging out with her visiting sorority sisters. And drinking Champagne. And I don’t even want to know how much money she spent on tiny cardboard candy boxes that were destined for the trash. It kind of bummed me out. What was it all really for? People are there to see you get married (and drink your booze, but that’s another answer). I guarantee you no one is coming just to see what kind of random date-stamped stuff you’re going to give away. They probably won’t remember either way.

And my friend? I totally left all of her favors, unopened, in my hotel room by accident. So the short answer to your question: Are favors really necessary? Nope.


How can I make my ceremony more personalized? My cousin had a baby photo slideshow in the background. How about that? I just want mine to stand out from all the other ceremonies that people will go to this year. —Special Snowflake

Dear Snowflake:
Please don’t do that. If you must share baby photos with your guests (must you?) then set up a screen in the reception hall so people can view at their leisure. And then not view. Because people kind of don’t care. They love you! But they don’t care.

The problem is this: We, The Facebook Generation, have spent the last 10 years sharing every photo we can find of every minute detail of our lives. And don’t get me started on Instagram. So it makes sense to do the same thing at our wedding, right? Not really. Weddings are special (didn’t you know?!) and while they are definitely about you and your spouse-to-be, they’re also communal affairs. The whole idea is that your community—your family and friends—come out and literally witness this thing you’re doing. It lends the whole “gettin’ hitched” thing some gravitas. So your wedding is all about you—and then again it’s not.

If you really want to make your ceremony extra special, you might consider writing your own vows. At least then you know that everyone won’t already have your script memorized.


I’m having a hard time saying no to my future mother-in-law. She wants to invite a bunch of her friends to our wedding, but we’re trying to keep the guest list under control. We want to save room for our own friends! What should I do? —Family Fuss

Dear Fuss:
You never mentioned anything about your darling husband-to-be (a.k.a. your future mother-in-law’s son). Does he have an opinion on the matter? If not (or if, more likely, he can’t get up the gumption to lay down the guest list law), then you might have to take charge. And also give him a dirty look from me. So you have a couple things to consider: Are your fiancé’s parents helping with wedding costs? If not, then they don’t have much say in the matter and you can be confident that capping their guest invites isn’t disrespectful. In this case, you might suggest that a small contribution would help offset the cost of their extra guests. But if they are giving you money for the wedding, then they might feel they deserve certain considerations, especially if nobody thought to set any terms at the beginning. Finally, there’s something else to think about: How likely is it that saying no will cause a real rift? Do your in-laws hold grudges? It may not be fair to have to give in to their demands, but it might make your life easier in the long run. Just saying.

new1finalportraitMrs. Know-It-All is Amy Brownlee. She got married once and it was really fun. Send your pressing wedding etiquette questions to

Illustrations by Super Secret Pow Wow

Originally published in the Cincinnati Wedding Winter 2015 issue

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