Who buys the bridesmaid dresses?
The bridesmaids do, but these people are your friends and family, so be sensitive to their finances and to the realities of being in a bridal party. Even an inexpensive dress requires alterations, plus there’s shoes, hair, and makeup. And they’re probably paying for your shower, and may have to travel to the wedding. Give the bridal party some decision-making power, like letting them pick their shoes, say David and Reinhard. “Suggest a color and style, like gold sandals, then let them decide on the details.”
Does everybody get a gift?
Yes. “Your bridesmaids are honoring you by standing up at your wedding,” says Hanlin, “so give them a thank-you.” It doesn’t have to be lavish; a Helen Ficalora initial charm necklace (from $185; 212-219-3700; helenficalora.com) is charming. Or make it part of the celebration; book a group appointment at Blow’s downtown salon (212-989-6282; blowny.com) for blowouts, manicures, and makeup (and complimentary Prosecco!) for the group (starting at $153 per person).
How much do I include my future in-laws?
They’re giving you their blessing, and possibly helping with the bills. So, a lot. Solicit your mother-in-law’s opinion on the shower (you don’t have to agree, or do what she says, but ask). Hanlin also notes, “A gift for all parents, divorced or not, involved in the wedding planning or not, is a generous and lovely gesture.” As soon as you get the proofs back from the photographer, invite everyone to an indulgent Sunday brunch at Le Caprice (212-940-8195; lecapriceny.com) and pass them around the table—then quickly get their favorite pictures framed.
What about co-workers?
Depends on your company. In large offices, it’s easier to discreetly invite a few people. If your department is tiny, or you work for a smaller company, everyone needs to be included. “It’s easier to invite people and let them politely decline,” says Hanlin. “If they know only two people at work are really close to you, the likelihood is that most of them won’t accept.” And, obviously, don’t send invitations to the office address.
Speaking of invitations, do I have to invite all the shower guests?
Pretty much. “A shower requires presents, so you shouldn’t invite people to that, then cut them from the wedding list,” warns Mac Adam. If you’re having a really small wedding, invite them to an after-party, post-reception. “It can be lower key and lower budget,” says Hanlin, but it should feel as elegant and planned as the wedding. The three-floor penthouse of the Hotel on Rivington (complete with a rooftop hot tub) accommodates up to 250 people for a post-vows bash (space rental from $5,500; 212-475-2600; hotelonrivington.com).
What if my friend wants to bring her new boyfriend?
Nope. For those who you are inviting with a guest, Hanlin suggests, “The traditional way to let them know is to put their name on the invitation, and on the inner envelope write ‘and guest.’ ” When people ask, explain the space is small. “It can be hard, but as long as you’re consistent, it’s fine,” says Mac Adam.
And if they just show up?
Be gracious. “Squeeze them in at their date’s table,” suggests David. And realize this will be one of those parts of the wedding you’ll laugh about tomorrow.
Elise Mac Adam, author of etiquette guide Something New and resident manners guru at indiebride.com
Claudia Hanlin, of one-stop bridal shop the Wedding Library
Ann David and Nicky Reinhard, the planners behind David Reinhard Events