Ms. Married Lady: Food Bandits, Dress Code, and Who’s Paying?


What do you do if you suddenly run out of food at your reception, only to realize a group of your guests is “boxing up” food to take home? (Yes, this really happened at a wedding I was part of.) —Totally Shocked

Dear Shocked:
Oh my. If Ms. Married Lady was wearing pearls, she would be clutching them right now. As far as cringe-worthy wedding guest behavior goes, this one really takes the cake (sorry). Anyway, to answer your question, Ms. Married would suggest aiming to reduce any potential drama from this already bonkers situation. If this is a fightin’-it-out kinda family, and a wedding isn’t complete without a visit from the local authorities and/or a visit to the local ER, then the couple has probably already removed their rings and handled the situation. But if, like most sweet, adorable, baby bunny wedding couples, they just want to have a nice day, then they’ll probably need to gasp (quietly), swear (under their breath), look the other way, and appeal to the caterer for a solution. If the take-out bandits keep it up and go totally crazy, the couple (or better yet, that caterer, who has probably truly seen it all in their day) can pull the ringleader off to the side and ask them to kindly cut it out.

What’s the etiquette regarding dress codes? And how should couples handle a complain-ey wedding guest who doesn’t want to follow one? One of my family members is having a huge black-tie wedding in her hometown, and another doesn’t want to spend the money to rent a tux for her husband. I’ve never heard of a situation where someone was so irritated by the dress code that they opted not to go or made the couple feel bad about it. —All Dressed Up

Dear Dressed Up:
It would be nice if there was an actual rulebook on this matter to which you could refer complain-ey culprits (or for that matter, one that you could just throw at them). But unfortunately, Ms. Married’s main advice is similar to what we tell first-year physicians: Primum non nocere, or First, to do no harm. If the couple’s high-end wedding feels out of reach for some family members, there might be messy dynamics at work that only they can really understand. And there might be real-life fallout from digging in on something relatively arbitrary such as this. Any wedding couple’s main goal in all planning matters should be drama reduction. This is for their sakes, and for the sakes of the other innocent bystander family members (like you!).

Right now, the bride and groom need to ask themselves three questions: 1) If said family member shows up in, say, their finest tuxedo T-shirt, will it totally derail the aesthetic of this “huge” event? Or will it even matter, in the grand scheme of things? 2) If said family member digs in and opts not to even attend this event because of this dress code request, then will it matter? And 3) Is this a pattern of behavior that no one in the family takes seriously anyway, and it’s just fodder for the Thanksgiving gossip machine? If they answer “yes” to any of these questions, then the couple likely knows their priorities and knows what to do (dig themselves in, hurt feelings be darned; or roll their collective eyes and carry on). If there aren’t bigger class issues at play, and if this is—as with most families—just a serial pain-in-the-ass family member, then they can probably let it go. After all, they have a big fancy party to plan.

If you’re planning a wedding, and particularly if your parents are helping you pay for it, how much say do they have in the wedding invite list? —Just Wondering

Dear Wondering:
Well, it seems the theme of this issue’s column is “how not to cause an irrevocable rift in your family while planning your wedding.” Fun! So, Ms. Married has some follow-up questions: Are these parents making a single financial gift? Or are they on the wedding planner’s speed dial? That does matter, because the scale of their support is likely informing their assumptions here, and might logistically tie your hands one way or the other. Ideally, they’d give with no strings attached, but we all know it’s never so easy when there’s real money at work, and real feelings at play. If they were the ones who brought it up, then they likely feel strongly about it and it might just be easier to let them drive this one. But here’s the good news: If they’re paying, and they want certain guests, then they can probably just pay for them too. Done. And as long as the guests in question aren’t like, members of the Suicide Squad, then it probably won’t matter once the party gets started.

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