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Ask the Experts

All's Well That Ends Well

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  • Photo by Kikuo Johnson

My aunt wants to donate two kilos of Beluga caviar to the wedding, which she has stashed in her kitchen for years. The caterer says that he won't serve it; he claims it's overfished and therefore un-p.c., and in any case he wouldn't serve anything that wasn't being prepared by him. What should I do?
In general, caterers should not be expected to serve other people's food at your wedding, a rule that protects you from accepting unsavory donations from relatives and lets the caterer maintain his reputation on his merits. But this is Beluga we're talking about, people, and Beluga is never bad. Un-p.c.? Maybe, if you're buying it from Petrossian today, but your aunt has a store of it already; it's like buying vintage fur. Caterer Brent Newsom suggests presenting the caviar to the caterer as a "wedding gift" and reminding him that you're happy to pay extra for blinis and the caviar setup.

My fiancé and I want to keep our wedding small, and we really hate the idea of inviting a bunch of people we don't know well. Can we cut down on all those plus-ones? Who gets a plus-one and who doesn't?
This is one of the only games in life where being the popular girl is a disadvantage. If you are not having a wedding that is truly tiny-in other words, exclusively limited to family and very close friends-get ready to spread out the welcome mat. The general rule is that if you've been to someone's wedding in the past three years and you're still even vaguely in touch with them, they're in-with their spouse, of course. All adults who have been dating the same person for more than six months are in with a plus-one, and guests from out of town with kids under 12 should at least have kids invited to a "kids' reception" (a hotel room with a hired babysitter). According to Thomas P. Farley, editor of Town & Country's etiquette book Modern Manners, if you are still leaving out people who invited you to their wedding, give them the courtesy of a phone call explaining why. You might be able to save a friendship that way. Maybe.

I am renting a glorious mansion for my wedding reception. It has twenty bedrooms and costs $25,000 for the weekend. I am picking it partially because I want family and friends from out of town to be able to stay there together, but I don't want to pay for this entire cost. Can I ask them to pay, say, $200 a night per room?
The jury's out on this one: Some wedding planners say this is the tackiest of the tackiest; others claim it's no big deal. According to Nancy Grigor, a wedding-location scout in the Hamptons and Palm Beach, simply add a sentence to the save-the-date with the list of local hotels that reads, "There are several rooms available in the mansion at $200 a night," with the contact for the locations scout or wedding planner. The money is sent directly to the scout or planner, who then puts it toward payment. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees-and some strongly disagree. "That is so tacky," says Victoria Pericon, author of Social Etiquette and the City. "You're having your reception there, so you are in essence asking people to shoulder part of the bill for your wedding."

Since graduating from college, I've been a bridesmaid in fifteen weddings. Besides not wanting to have a 30-person wedding party, I'm no longer as close with some of the women whose weddings I've been in. Is it okay not to ask them to be bridesmaids? Do I have to tell them they won't be?
You are so off the hook, sister: Not only do you not have to include these women as your bridesmaids, but you don't even need to inform them they're getting left out of the bridal party. The answer to your troubles is a truly delightful "Don't ask, don't tell" policy: You simply don't mention it and hope the ones being jilted aren't crass enough to ask why. If this feels wrong to you, cut down on your bridesmaid list. Says Diane Meier Delaney, author of The New American Wedding, "I don't think you have to do anything, but you might want to pick just one attendant, like your sister or a childhood friend, so nobody feels left out."


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