06/04/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Pitfalls Of Wedding Etiquette (And How To Avoid Them)

Dear Christine,

I'm in my early twenties and on my first round of friends and acquaintances getting married. These weddings will be the first I'm attending as an adult, and I have no clue what I'm doing. I don't make that much money, but how much should I be spending on the wedding gifts? Do I even have to go to all of them? Can't I just buy and ship a gift online? And to top it off I'm single, amidst a sea of engaged women. Should I even try to find a date? Or attend on my own? Help!

~Wedding Ignorant, 23, New Jersey

Dear Wedding Ignorant,

As summer approaches that means barbeques, beach days, and yes, the sometimes anticipated, but often dreaded wedding season. Entering the real world can mean more than figuring out finance and the murky waters of career hunting; it can also mean learning the nuances of etiquette. Wedding etiquette can seem like a daunting arena, but by following some simple words of advice you can focus on what weddings are supposed to be - a joyous occasion.

So you are being bombarded by invites and the wedding registry lists are making you claustrophobic. No worries. Yes, you want to give a gift, but the brides and grooms should be mindful that you can't be expected to send fine crystal and china with the average twenty-something income. Keep in mind the expert advice of Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, author of Emily Post's Wedding Parties: Smart Ideas for Stylish Parties, From Engagement to Reception and Everything in Between, "Not to worry--it's pretty easy. The cost of a wedding gift (or any gift, for that matter) depends only on two things: your relationship to the person and your budget--there is no set price range. You don't have to go to every wedding you're invited to, but you should send gift (mailed is fine) whether you attend or not." Online shopping makes it simple to choose and ship your gift, so even if you aren't there, your beautifully wrapped present will show you are thinking of the couple.

As for feeling like you have a big target on your forehead as a single person attending a wedding and have to dodge matchmaking mamas by snuggling up to the open bar, that is self-inflicted misery. Just because your friends seem to all be getting married does not mean there is anything wrong with you. Marriage isn't a race. Especially now, a single woman in her twenties or even in her thirties or forties is not an object of pity or scrutiny. And believe me, many married women there will envy you.

Anna Post offers additional insight into the "to bring a date or not to bring a date" dilemma. "As a single girl myself, I know it might seem daunting, but don't put pressure on yourself to find a date--and unless your invitation explicitly says 'and guest,' you shouldn't be bringing one anyways. Just think of it as an opportunity to meet new people--you have friends in common with the other guests, after all!"

So whether you select gifts from the comfort of home, or choose your best summer dress and share a toast with the happy couple, feel free to relax and enjoy wedding season. As for joining the bouquet toss...well, that one's up to you.


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