Weddings are joyous occasions filled with love and celebration. But with emotions and stakes running high—and so many different personalities commingling—these milestone events are also potentially minefields of social faux pas. You can be a model guest and avoid hurting anyone’s feelings by knowing what not to say, and what welcome words you should be offering instead, with this roadmap from an etiquette expert. Read on to learn the four words you should never say at a wedding.
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A wedding’s primary purpose is to bind two people in holy matrimony, so absolutely never say—or even insinuate—that you wonder if the union has the strength to go the distance. To that end, absolutely never say, “I hope this lasts.” Yes, even if you’re thinking it!
“I have actually heard this,” recalls August Abbott, PhD, a relationship counselor and etiquette expert on JustAnswer, who has spent 40 years teaching etiquette classes. “Not being more than a friend of a friend at this wedding I still wanted to haul off admonish this person for being so crass, negative, and downright rude!”
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Saying “anything less than congratulatory” is an absolute no-no for wedding etiquette, Abbott says. Keep it positive, light, cheerful, and effusive.
Uttering the phrase “good luck” is a tradition rooted in history, Abbott explains. “Traditional etiquette holds that one wishes the groom congratulations and good for them,” she says. “The bride [was] to be wished good luck because ladies were expected to tame and imbue culture into their men and many times it would be a lifetime task—so good luck with that.”
But in 2021, the phrase conjures negative sentiment and doubt, so it’s probably better to avoid it altogether. “These days it’s almost offensive to say ‘good luck’ and might be compared to ‘gee, I hope this lasts,'” she says. “So a general congrats is acceptable and best wishes for a beautiful life together.”
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Overall, Abbott recommends keep your marriage advice to yourself at a wedding unless directly asked by the marrying couple to offer it. “Keep it to yourself,” she says. “Even Auntie Mimi and Uncle George with 70 years of marriage should keep it to themselves unless asked by either the bride or groom or both.”
Indeed, it might be the couples who know the most about long-lasting relationships who know best how to keep it to themselves and let a new couple enjoy the glory of their wedding day bathed in positivity and joy, in her experience. “Frankly, I’ve rarely seen such seasoned couples ever offer advice unless asked anyway,” Abbott says. “There’s something so impressive about this quiet wisdom.”
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