Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Case for Wedding Etiquette, Hawaii Style

All names in this entry have been changed to protect the fabulous.

So my friend Rogue and I went to see Wedding Crashers the other day, which I thought was a cute and amusing movie (even with the boobies and the bad behavior), and even more so because I felt like it reminded me a little bit of my own “wedding season” last month. Don't get me wrong, I like weddings as much as the next girl, and I have to admit that any event that offers all-you-can-grind pupus and bottomless champagne and Martinelli's on somebody else's tab is all good to me, as long as I am on the guest list. But you have to remember that weddings are social obligations, after all - and emphasis on the word obligation, because you do have to make a little sacrifice and be a little less selfish to make the happy couple even happier.

What exactly do I mean about obligation, you ask? Well, there's the fact that weddings here in Hawaii, regardless of religion or ethnicity, are almost always family affairs. Save the freaky weddings for Vegas or the Caribbean, folks, because if you have your wedding here, it will be inevitable that your uncles, aunties, and their cousin's daughter's classmate's friends' coworkers will be invited eventually. And if they are invited, like it or not, you will have to treat them with a modicum of respect, if only out of reverence for tradition. Which is why I think it's about time somebody laid down a few Hawaii-specific rules of wedding etiquette.

First and foremost: Dress up, and dress nice. Wear something that you would want to wear if you're out on a nice dinner date to a super-fancy restaurant. (And, no, Cheesecake Factory and Ruby Tuesday does not count as “super fancy.”) Again, it goes back to the previous point that I just made about Hawaii weddings being family affairs: not only would you need to clean up out of reverence for the auntie and uncle in question, but you will also have to take into consideration the venue of the wedding ceremony itself, especially if it is 1) a religious ceremony and/or 2) held at a venue that calls for strict formality, such as a historical site or a 5-star hotel. That said, you don't want to get too stuffy because, HELLO, you'll never know if you'll run into a hottie, let alone a hottie that may actually turn out to be related to the very uncles and aunties that you need to impress. And if you don't think this logic applies to you, substitute business contact for hottie and the rule still applies. Either way, if you're going to insist on wearing those jeans and Chuck Taylors to that wedding, you may have to think very, very closely about the kind of message you're sending.

Speaking of shoes: Be creative, but be practical. By now you may already know that all of the rules about flip-flops that you read about in the Mainland publications don't apply over here. Believe me, I know. I also used to mock people who wore their “dress” rubbah slippahs - that is, until my friend Bunny showed me the jeweled rubber kitten-heeled sandals that she was wearing under her fancy white dress at her outdoor reception. Not only did those shoes withstand walking through slushy ground and dancing the night away, but she was able to wear them many more times after the honeymoon was over; the shoes even survived a few natural disasters, and she's still wearing them everywhere in the middle of her pregnancy. Other than that, you can never go wrong with wearing your “nice” shoes to a formal reception, especially if it's indoors. And, unless you're under the age of 16, Birkenstocks, Crocs, and Uggs will never, ever count as “nice” formal shoes. EVER.

But what if I want to dance? you ask. Well, you'll have to suck it up, because more often than not you will be expected to dance. That means you have to plan on making sure that your “nice” shoes are comfortable, unless you want to follow up that foot soak with Advil and a topical antibiotic as soon as you get home. Some experts recommend buying them a half-size larger to allow for the swelling, but I suggest making sure that they don't pinch or slip off too much against the heel, ankle, and toe areas in the first place, and get pads or orthotics when necessary. In some cases, pantyhose or socks may cause your soles to slip and increase your chances of getting injured, so be careful about wearing them. A few fashionistas also swear by cutting out the old soles from their running shoes and sneaking them into their Manolos to for padding and traction, which works just as well.

Another point about dancing: Who you dance with is beside the point. Those guys in Wedding Crashers did get something right - there's a certain sweetness of character about people who go out of their way to dance with the other guests and family members, especially the children and the elderly. You don't have to get all Rico Suave on them (because that would give your game away) but you do want to make them as comfortable as possible about moving on the dance floor and being there at the party, especially if they've spent the entire time being emotional. It doesn't matter if the band or the DJ is playing salsa, swing, or The Electric Slide; dancing is a great way to get moving and get happy, no matter how "sober" you are.

About the wedding gifts: Remember what I just said about obligation? Just because you're eating and drinking on someone else's tab doesn't mean you can totally get away with being chintzy. My big sister always tells me that the retail value of the gift should be equal or more to how much the host is paying per plate on their tab. You don't want to, say, spend $7 - the current cash value of a regular sized plate lunch at Zippy's- on a wedding gift for a couple who will be having their reception at the Halekulani, where the same amount of money will get you a glass of water and a dinner roll at the lobby bar. You could try and cheat by 1) getting your gift on sale at the original store (et tu, Borders?); 2) raiding a garage sale; or 3) using your craft-making skills to spruce up a purchase from Ross, but you still have to remember to get something that you know will be useful for the couple in question. There is, after all, a reason why the wedding registry was invented in the first place.

If your wedding season includes bridal showers, you can't go wrong with getting a simple gift - especially if you will end up going to the wedding anyway. Leave the lingerie to her closest friends and go for something a little more practical, like hand-made “Thank You” cards from a local stationer (to ease the stress of having to send them out) bath products in her favorite scent (for the post-stress aromatherapy) or even a box of fine artisanal chocolates (you know where this pattern is going). Lip balms make good bridal gifts, too.

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