Ask Mrs. Know-It-All: Exs, Open Bars, and Rehearsal Dinners

Find out the solutions to common wedding etiquette concerns from our very own Mrs. Know-It-All.
Can you avoid awkwardness? Short answer: Probably not.
Can you avoid awkwardness? Short answer: Probably not.

Illustration by Brittany Christine

We sent out our wedding invitations, only to find out that two of our friends who are currently dating each other are breaking up. And it’s a bad breakup. We invited them both, of course, assuming that they would come together. We’re pretty sure that they both still plan to attend our wedding. Is there any way to avoid awkwardness? Should we ask one person not to come? How should we proceed? —Nervous

Dear Nervous:
Can you avoid awkwardness? Short answer: Probably not. That’s a mess. Unless your friends are exceedingly cool or you have a very long engagement or they both meet their soul mates in the next month, it will likely still be awkward by the time your wedding rolls around. But you’ll be fine. They’re your friends, aren’t they? If all is right with the world (in other words, if they behave themselves), then the day won’t be about them at all. It will be about you and yours. So have faith that nobody will cry or camp out in the bathroom or throw a glass of water in anyone else’s face. Because they’re probably adults. (And if they might actually do that sort of thing, then it’s worth having a heart-to-heart before the big day.) You can also help matters by offering a plus-one if at all possible and seating them at separate—and distant—tables. Those seemingly small gestures will give them a fighting chance at a good night. And as for asking one person to bow out? Don’t do that unless you’re prepared to take sides—and potentially lose a friend.


My fiancé wants to have an open bar but I’m worried about the cost. Is it tacky to have a cash bar? —Budget-Conscious

Dear Budget:
Tacky is a strong word. Weddings are money pits and I hate to judge anyone for trying to save a buck. But a cash bar doesn’t exactly scream “crazy-fun night.” It mumbles “networking event.” Which is kind of a bummer. And, fair or not, people will definitely take note. Think of it this way: Your guests are giving of their time—and possibly buying new clothes and booking a flight and hiring a babysitter—to attend your wedding. And they will probably buy you a gift on top of all that. Don’t you want them to feel relaxed at your reception? And more importantly, to dance their butts off? According to the most basic laws of the party universe, free-flowing alcohol (and probably some Beyoncé) are necessary ingredients to achieve these results. So consider retooling your budget to accommodate an open bar. So you can’t have peonies in January? Who actually cares? Thinking of your guests first is the classy thing to do. Still coming up short? Do a beer-and-wine-only open bar, plus cans of soda and bottled water. It will significantly decrease costs and people will still be able to get their drank on, as it were.


The idea of a rehearsal dinner feels kind of crazy. Like, we’re hosting two big dinners? We’re paying for our wedding ourselves, so a rehearsal dinner on top of the reception feels out of reach. Any ideas for affordable options? —Sticker Shocked

Dear Shocked:
Yes! Thanks to Pinterest, with its barn doors and hay bales and whatnot, super-casual receptions are very much in. Which means that casual rehearsal dinners are even more appropriate. Save cash by skipping the restaurant and hosting a catered BBQ at a park or in a friend’s yard (season permitting, of course). Just make sure that you’re well equipped with serving necessities like plates, utensils, and napkins, and that you consider beverages. And it seems obvious, but make sure the on-site bathroom can handle it. (These are the things you have to think of when hosting your own event.) If it’s a small and/or close-knit group, you might even consider a potluck (but be advised that this comes with its own obvious pitfalls, like weird casseroles). Whatever you do, remember that it’s all gravy for the wedding party. The main event comes later and they all know it. They might even appreciate a break from the formality.


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

Illustrations by Super Secret Pow Wow

Originally published in the Cincinnati Wedding Summer 2015 issue

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