Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Money Dance

I had a client call today asking for some etiquette clarification pertaining to the planning of her daughter's upcoming wedding. It seemed that the bride and her mother were on two different pages for many of the traditions/new fads that are out in the wedding world. One of the main topics of disagreement was the money dance. Of course, the bride and the groom want it and the mother of the bride says NO WAY! The question is, is this a tacky way of getting extra honeymoon money or a long standing tradition that your guests look forward to?
First, let’s discuss what the money dance really is. According to Wikipedia, “The money dance, dollar dance, or apron dance is an event at some wedding receptions in various cultures. During a money dance, male guests pay to dance briefly with the bride, and sometimes female guests pay to dance with the groom. The custom originated in Poland in the early 1900s in immigrant neighborhoods. Sometimes guests are told that the money will be used for the bride and groom's honeymoon or to give them a little extra cash with which to set up housekeeping.”
While Poland is mentioned as one of the main cultures associated with the money dance, there are other cultures that embrace this wedding event as a tradition of support and wealth for the new couple. Although the gesture of extra cash for your honeymoon or the start to your nest egg is sometimes seen as an expected offering at weddings, there are people out there who see it as greedy on the part of the newly married couple.
The feeling is that your guests have given you a wedding gift, and in some cases, much more, so why keep putting out your hands for more. The argument up North can always circle around the fact that most guests give cash as their actual gift so this is simply a way for the guests to present it to the bride and groom. My feeling is that if a guest or family member were going to give money as a wedding gift, they would give it whether there is a money dance or not.
When it comes to my experiences here in New Orleans, I typically see the money dance from younger couples just out of college, give or take a few instances. For the most part, I find the parents to be against this traditional wedding dance, but it is no surprise that the bride and groom fight to have it.
I have to plead the fifth on this topic as I am not sure that I can judge a cultural or family tradition, as is often the reason a couple may decide to keep the money dance as a part of their wedding reception. Just like so many traditions before this one, someone saw this done at a Polish wedding and decided it was a great way to make money at their wedding reception. Unfortunately because it turned from tradition to fad, there are bad feelings toward what started off as a way to celebrate and support a newly married couple.
From an etiquette point of view, if you have no cultural or traditional reason to include the money dance, leave it out. It tends to look tacky when you reach for reasons for your guests to reach into their pockets.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Realistic Requests - The Bride/The Bridesmaid

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an entry about bridesmaids and their etiquette towards each other, but I did not have the opportunity to speak about the other party that drives the finances and emotions for the bridesmaids involved in a wedding: the Bride.

We all know that buying a dress comes with the territory of being a bridesmaid, but we also know that we wait with baited breath to see what dress the bride will pick for us and how much it will cost. The worst case scenario is the bride who picks some Vera Wang dress that she believes can be “worn again” (as they all think the dresses they pick can be “worn again”) that costs more than an entire wardrobe. We also know that it’s par for the course to throw and attend the bridal shower, but what about the bride who invites you to all five of her other celebrations and expects a gift for every invite given? There’s the engagement party, the stock the bar shower, the couple’s shower, the honey do shower and, of course, the lingerie shower. To top it all off, there’s the bride who, after all of that, gets upset if you do not travel to Vegas for a weekend bachelorette celebration which consists of three nights at the Bellagio hotel, dinner at every restaurant owed by a celebrity, followed up by multiple nights celebrating “with the Kardashians” at Pure.

Now, I know that not every bride is like this – everyone knows that I like to pick the most dramatic cases to illustrate points in this blog. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at a typical tab that even the most mild-mannered bride runs up for her maids.
Bridesmaids dress -$200
Hair on the day of the wedding - $50
Make-up on the day of the wedding - $75
Bridal shower - $100
Bachelorette party (if local) - $100

The total is $525 before we add shoes, jewelry, extra shower gifts and/or a wedding gift. You can see how things can get out of control very quickly, and if you are at an age where many of your friends are getting married at the same time, finances can become a big issue.

I’ve devised a little “bridal etiquette” for the brides to keep in mind when putting demands on the bridesmaids. Hopefully these are some ways to relieve the stress from the maids and give the bride a new way to think about the expenses that surely add up.
#1. If you have multiple showers that you’d like your bridesmaids invited to, please tell them directly that gifts are not expected nor will they be accepted. Everyone knows that the typical shower rule is that no one person should be invited to more than one shower. The idea of this rule is to eliminate asking the same people to bring gifts to 5 different celebrations. I think, if you want to invite some of the same guests, such as your bridal party, it is your duty to let those people know that you want them there to celebrate with you, not so you can get another gift.

#2. Please let your bridal party know that a wedding gift is not necessary either. I personally do not believe in giving the bride a wedding gift if I am standing in the wedding. I think throughout the process, enough gifts are typically given that by the end of the engagement, your bridal party has done enough for you. I do sometimes give (and did receive for my wedding) personal gifts such as a “goodie basket” for the honeymoon (thank you, college friends) or a framed picture of something that meant a lot to myself and the bride or the bride and the groom. A gift that is personal is more than acceptable, but I do not feel that the bridesmaids should be made to feel pressure to gift like the rest of your guests.

#3. A good rule of thumb, and proper etiquette, is that if you are going to make your bridesmaids do or buy something specific, as the bride, you should cover the expense. Hair and make-up are the perfect example. If you offer the option of getting hair and/or make-up done, but leave the final decision up to each girl, the bride is not responsible for footing the bill. In situations where you are bringing someone in and requiring that each girl have her hair done a certain way by a certain person, then the responsibility is on you.

#4. Some of the extras that add up and are not necessary are things like jewelry and shoes. Typically, at the bridal luncheon, the bride will give gifts to all of her maids. A great gift to give is always jewelry, especially if you have something specific that you want your girls to wear. Another “uniform” item that brides tend to fixate on is the shoes. Depending on how many girls you have, what style dress and how uniform you want to be, sometimes requiring that your girls buy the same shoes is an added expense that is un-necessary. Besides, many times, the bride tries to find a cheap pair of shoes so that the cost will not be too great for her maids. The shoes end up looking worse than if she would have given the girls a color to stick with and pick their own. A good suggestion would be to pick a color (stay neutral) and let the girls get their own or give the shoes to each girl as a gift, along with the jewelry.

As always, there are multiple sides to every story and I want to make sure to cover one of the most important things about being a bridesmaid that I do not need an entire entry to cover – If you really do not want to be a bridesmaid and be supportive to your friend who is the bride or you cannot afford the bare minimum that goes into being a bridesmaid, just say NO. Also remember that no matter who you are, when it is your turn to get married you too will want everything to be over the top and for all of our friends to want to celebrate and want to do whatever you want to make the wedding and the experience perfect. Keep that in mind when you don’t even want to go out for the bachelorette party or you are complaining about every dress that the bride picks… when it’s your turn, you can pay if forward!

When it comes to the bride, do keep in mind the small tips that I gave about being creative with the things you want and taking on some of the responsibility when forcing your girls to tackle such great financial tasks. The fact is, you are the bride and you deserve to have whatever you want for your big day, but being realistic to the situations of everyone involved is very important. Stay reasonable and understanding to the financial demands that you are putting on people and make sure you let your girls know upfront what you expect or don’t expect. Let them get excited about things by getting them involved in decisions which will not only make them feel like a part of things but also help them to pick what is most comfortable financially for them!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

For the Love of Mardi Gras

I have had many conversations recently with some of my destination brides about the thoughts and comments of their guests coming here for their weddings. Most of these guests traveling to New Orleans weddings have never been here and only have the media and MTV’s Real World to dictate the New Orleans traditions, expectations and etiquette! Since the locals know that the seven sheltered strangers from farm land picked to live in a New Orleans mansion are not true representations of what this city is about, I thought I would dedicate this week’s entry to such a topic. And what better event to exemplify the true local’s spirit than Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras is one of the most significant things related to New Orleans, especially when thought of by someone who is not from here; well, Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street. And if you use the television as your reference, the two go hand in hand, along with a lot of alcohol, nudity and the occasional spicy food. Every local knows that the biggest problem with Mardi Gras and Bourbon street being thought of together is that Mardi Gras actually does not happen on Bourbon Street. It is true that many people party there after the parades, although most of the people on Bourbon are tourists since most of the locals are on the balconies above! Regardless, the reality is that New Orleans has a lot to offer off of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras has everything to offer nowhere near it.

I’d like to squash a few other stereotypes and put some loGcal rules to the Mardi Gras season so that when you visit, it is not completely obvious that you are a tourist.
1. DO NOT flash, especially for beads – this is definitely something that someone from out of town started and everyone who ever visited followed suit – locals do not do this.
2. Do not show up five minutes before a parade and stand in front of the crowds of people who slept on the route the night before in order to conserve their spot – you will get your ass kicked and if you don’t, you should. Save your own spot or stand in the back.
3. Do not throw beads at the floats as they pass. The idea is for the riders to throw to us and because of that they are not expecting to have something thrown at them. You will not look cool or funny, but you will look like an idiot who does not get out much.
4. Do not follow the float down the street, unless you know someone riding on that float. There will be another float right behind the one that just passed. Wait patiently and get out of the street.
5. Do not fight a child for a pair of beads; actually, do not fight anyone. Beads cost nickels and dimes and are essentially worth nothing.
6. Pace yourself with the drinking. On Mardi Gras day and the weekend before, most people are out on the route for hours before the parade even starts. In order to make it through the whole day (and the whole season) – pace yourself. Do drink water and eat when you can!
7. Do not wear flip flops if you are planning to go to Bourbon Street (that is just a rule no matter when you are here).

Now, for your survival kit – pack a backpack and include the following:
1. A roll of toilet paper
2. Antibacterial hand sanitizer
3. Crackers, a sandwich or some kind of snack if you are not packing a full lunch
4. A koozie in case you switch to beer
5. A few plastic cups in case you, or a friend, need to make a drink on the route
6. A bottle or two of water – stay hydrated
7. Extra of whatever alcohol or beer you are drinking – tip – if you do not want to drag a cooler around all day, wrap your beer can in foil and then put it in a zip lock bag with some ice. This will keep your beer cold if you do not want to drag an ice chest around all day! Also, to conserve space, put your alcohol in empty water bottles.

No matter what, when you come to New Orleans, you will have a blast and if you stick with some of the local traditions and etiquette, it will be even better! The Saturday before Mardi Gras, go to Orleans Avenue and spend the day people watching and cooking out before Endymion. On that Sunday, watch Thoth on Magazine Street and then walk up to St. Charles Avenue to catch Bacchus. If live music is your thing, go hear some of the best cover bands New Orleans has to offer just outside of Harrah’s on Fulton Street before watching Bacchus, which rolls right down the street. Or head to Spanish Plaza on Lundi Gras for an outdoor concert and to see Rex arrive and enjoy a huge crowd of locals and the beautiful city setting. Even in Metairie, parades are rolling every night, so if a more family atmosphere and smaller crowds are more your speed, that’s the place for you.

Take advantage of everything New Orleans and Mardi Gras has to offer and then you can head to Bourbon Street!