The Top 5 Etiquette Mistakes for Parents

You might be among the parents who are paying for the entire wedding, or you might be paying for part of the wedding. You might not be paying for anything, but the bride and groom have invited you to participate in the fun of picking out flowers and cakes and looking at venues. Each parent group has its own involvement level these days, but what you all have in common is the need to avoid making the most common etiquette mistakes.

This is a very important time, after all. You're not only helping with the wedding, you're setting the rules for your future relationship with the bride and groom. Mistakes made by parents right now can live on forever in the form of hurt feelings or insult taken at a comment you make to the 'other side of the family.' So be careful to practice good etiquette, keep the bride and groom's wishes above all else, phrase your wishes as requests and not demands, and avoid the top 5 etiquette mistakes for parents:

1. Assuming you'll have roles in the wedding. Weddings are vastly different than they were when you got married, so nothing goes by the old rules that you expect. Don't invite any problems by assuming that you'll get to do x, y, and z because you're the parents of the bride or groom. The couple get to decide who will do what, even if you're kicking in a percentage of the wedding costs. And even if you're kicking in a large percentage of the costs, it's good etiquette now to let the bride and groom make all the decisions anyway.

2. Overruling the bride and groom. They've made their plans, so let them stick to it. One of the top mistakes is giving them the old "We're paying for it!" argument when they confront you about how you called the caterer and changed 'a few things.' This is a time of change. So if you've been a hands-on parent even into the bride or groom's adult life, it's time for you to step back and not try to control things.

3. Speaking badly of the bride, groom, or their family to others. Even if you're totally frustrated, your words live on forever. So don't vent about how selfish the bride is, or how uninvolved the groom is, or how tacky the bride's mother's ideas are to other people. Because word gets around, and these judgments come back to bite you. If you have to vent, do it into a journal instead.

4. Asking others to give a shower. You can't ask someone else to give a shower as a way for you to slide underneath the traditional etiquette rule that parents don't give showers on their own. While it's true that more mothers are co-planning showers with the bridal party, they're asked by the group. You can't obligate an aunt or family friend to throw the shower for them, even though you have good intentions. Just let the Maid of Honor know that you're willing to chip in and help with whatever's needed.

5. Inviting too many people. Parents make a big mistake when the initial engagement gets them inviting all of their friends and colleagues to the wedding. Even if the bride and groom say 'it's going to be big!,' it's still wise to wait for their assignment of how many guest spots you get. In weddings of decades ago, the parents who were paying for the wedding also invited a big group of guests of their own, but now with weddings so expensive there's not a lot of room for extra people. Particularly extra people who don't know the bride and groom. So hold back on extending verbal invitations until you get a chance to talk with the bride and groom about the guest list. You'll be an invaluable asset when it comes to figuring out the family members who will be invited, and the more agreeable you are with that phase, the more likely the bride and groom will be to let you invite a few extra friends. What's most important is waiting to hear from them.

Sharon Naylor is the author of The Essential Guide to Wedding Etiquette. Ask Sharon your etiquette questions on iVillage Wedding's Etiquette Expertmessage board.

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