Answers by Diane Forden, Bridal Guide Editor in Chief
I'm confused. What's the difference between tuxedo, black tie and formal?
Q: I'm confused. What's the difference between tuxedo, black tie and formal? Galveston, Texas
A: Good question. Let's start with the word "formal", which dictates a more dressed--up look for both men and women: in other words, men in tuxedos and women in long dresses. The "tuxedo" is a single- or double-breasted jacket with satin lapels and satin-trimmed pockets that's paired with formal trousers (the kind that have a satin stripe on the pant legs). "Black tie" means that the tuxedo jacket, trousers, tie and vest or cummerbund are black or dark gray and paired with a white formal shirt.
Q: What's the best way to distribute our wedding programs? Should we leave them on a table at the back of the church or ask our ushers to hand them to our guests as they arrive? Mount Vernon, New York
A: There are a number of ways to distribute wedding programs and none of them include leaving them on a back table. I went to a wedding recently where the couple did just that, and most of their guests (including me) didn't know that programs were available. Unfortunately, only a few people spotted them. After putting time and effort into writing and designing your program, you'll certainly want guests to appreciate it,
Q: One of my bridesmaids has asked if she can wear a pantsuit instead of a dress. I’m OK with that, but not sure where to start looking. And can she wear a tuxedo made for a woman? Fairfield, Connecticut
A: The fact that you are flexible and willing to let your bridesmaid wear a pantsuit is very admirable, and I commend you. Obviously, you are not a demanding “my way or no way” bridezilla! That said, you have a number of options: Check out the special occasion section in department stores, and call boutiques, specialty stores or bridal salons in your area to see if they carry dressy pantsuits (if they have a white pantsuit designed for brides, they may be able to order it in a color). You can also do some research online to see where you can purchase a tuxedo tailored for a woman. If you decide on a black tuxedo, consider pairing it with either a shirt or tie and vest in the colors of your other bridesmaids’ dresses.
Q: My parents are divorced and not on great terms. And, quite frankly, I can’t stand my stepmother. Am I obligated to have her in my wedding photos? Las Vegas, Nevada
A: You don’t have to round up everyone for that “one big, happy family” shot, but you do need to include your stepmother in your wedding photos. Leaving her out is bound to hurt her feelings—and your dad’s—and affect your relationship with them. Meet with your photographer ahead of time to discuss the types of photos you want and which members of your family should be included. An experienced photographer is sure to have dealt with divorced-family situations and can offer some expert advice on how to handle potential problems. For instance, plan to have photos taken of you and your fiancé with your parents and then have additional shots taken of the two of you with your father and stepmother. Your dad will have a keepsake, and both of them will appreciate your generosity.
Q: My fiancé and I live on the West Coast, as does my entire family. However, his relatives live on the East Coast. We both want to marry near our families and can’t agree on the location. What should we do? San Diego, California
A: Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution. I do understand your fiancé wanting to have his family members in attendance and undoubtedly, traveling across country would be difficult for many of them. However, weddings are traditionally held in the bride’s hometown, and since you—and most of your relatives—live on the West Coast, this would seem to be the logical choice. Also, if your parents are helping to pay for part of the wedding, you need to take that into consideration. If you decide to marry in California, send out your save-the dates now and follow up with your fiancé’s family to gauge how many will be able to attend. You may discover that a greater number than you expected plan on being there. And, for those who aren’t able to make the trip, why not schedule a post wedding celebration with them in your new husband’s hometown after you return from the honeymoon? And here’s another option: Other couples faced with your dilemma often decide to have a destination wedding at a location that’s at a halfway point for everyone. If you marry, say, in Mexico or Texas, both families would need to travel and you’d avoid any semblance of favoritism. Plus, there are lots of well-priced wedding packages and affordable hotel rates now. But before you make your final decision be sure to weigh all factors, such as your own time and budget constraints, the number of guests you can afford to invite and the type of wedding that’s most important to you (casual, formal, brunch, sit-down dinner, etc.) There will be some compromising involved, but isn’t that what marriage is all about?
Q: The guest list for my side of the family is very large, whereas my fiancé will have only a few guests. Since we don’t want his side of the church almost empty, may we have the ushers seat people evenly on both sides of the aisle? —Long Beach, California
A: Absolutely. There’s nothing wrong with making sure there’s a balance. Just alert your ushers to your wishes and tell them that as your side starts to fill, they should begin seating more guests with your fiancé’s family and friends. And if any guest should protest “but I’m a friend of the bride,” your ushers can say it’s your preference to fill the church evenly. Besides, they’ll be able to see and hear the ceremony better than if they were sitting far back on your side.
Q: We’re planning an outdoor wedding that will start at 6 p.m. Is it appropriate to wear a lacy gown? —Scottsdale, Arizona
A: There are no rules that say you can’t wear lace outdoors, so by all means go for it. Some of the prettiest bridal gowns today feature delicate lace accents (Chantilly and venise are two personal favorites) on bodices, skirts, sleeves or jackets. Let’s face it: Nothing says wedding quite like lace. It effortlessly lends romance and femininity to any dress, and it looks especially beautiful when used on fabrics like silk organza, chiffon or tulle. Ask your retailer to show you a variety of gowns with lace details. I think you’ll be amazed at the wonderful selection available in styles that are just right for an outdoor wedding.
Q: My future sister-in-law has offered to play the piano for our church service, but I don’t know which musical selections to give her. Do we need to play the traditional Wedding March? —Saint Joseph, Missouri
A: Not at all. In fact, many couples opt for ceremony music that has a special meaning for them and reflects their personalities. Speak with your fiancé about the mood you want to create at your ceremony. Do you both want a traditional feel, or are there some popular songs that have an emotional resonance for you—perhaps a tune that didn’t make the cut as your first-dance choice? If you do decide to go the classic route, some choices to consider for the processional, other than the Wedding March, are Canon in D Minor (Pachelbel) or The Four Seasons (Vivaldi). Or, if you prefer something nontraditional, then you might like “What a Wonderful World” (performed by Louis Armstrong), “You Raise Me Up” (Josh Groban) or “The Prayer” (Bocelli and Dion), to name a few. Take some time to listen to some wedding CDs and go to bridalguide.com/weddingsongs for more suggestions on traditional and nontraditional songs that are suitable for every part of your ceremony and reception. Have fun during the process and keep a notepad handy to jot down any songs you may suddenly think of or hear on your computer or radio. And if you’re marrying in a house of worship, keep in mind that some may have restrictions, so clear all musical choices with your officiant.
Q: Am I expected to sit with my ex-husband at our daughter’s wedding ceremony? Also, should we dance together after the father/daughter and mother/son dances? I have remarried and don’t want my husband to feel slighted. —Jamestown, Rhode Island
A: If you have a good relationship with your ex, both of you may sit in the first row, along with your spouses or significant others. If, however, your relationship is strained, then you (or the parent who lived with and primarily raised the bride) sit in the first row and the other parent in the third row. Grandparents and siblings occupy the second row. As far as having to dance with your ex-husband, it is not expected. When the parents are called to the dance floor, you should dance with your husband, and your ex can dance with his wife or date.
Q: My fiancé is 6'4" and I’m exactly 5' tall. Naturally, I plan to wear heels for our wedding. Do you have any suggestions for a comfortable, affordable shoe? —Louisville, Kentucky
A: The most important consideration is making sure you wear a heel height that you’re accustomed to. If you’re used to a 11⁄2" or 2" heel, then look for similar bridal styles. Don’t try to wear 3" stilettos! Trust me, by the end of the evening you’ll be barefoot. Shop for your shoes in the afternoon when your foot is slightly swollen, and opt for the most comfortable style. After you’ve purchased the pair, break them in at home. Wear them around the house (you don’t want the soles to be too slippery) and get accustomed to how they feel. Whether your bridal shoes are pumps, sling-backs or sandals, you’ll want to choose the style that not only offers the best comfort and support but also complements your gown. For fashionable wedding shoes generally priced under $100, our go-to gal for bridal accessories, Associate Fashion Editor Alison Rowe, recommends the following companies (all have websites you can peruse): Benjamin Walk Corp., Paradox London, Coloriffics, Salon Shoes, Grace Footwear, My Glass Slipper and Nina Shoes. Happy shopping!
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