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Simply Entertaining: Go with flow of wedding etiquette

Thursday, June 13, 2002

By Mary Miller

I once wore a red silk dress topped with a yellow polyester ski jacket and brown ankle boots to a wedding. (My dress coat and party shoes were with a friend who was stuck in a snowstorm.) A few years ago at other nuptials, I developed terrible hives during the ceremony. Too self-conscious to attend the reception, I went home and took some Benadryl and a nap. I found the wedding gift when I cleaned out the trunk of my car years later. Oops!

If you've never been a guest at a wedding, there are so many questions to ask. Can you take a guest? Do you have to buy a gift? What should you wear?

Don't panic. Begin with the invitation. The name on the envelope reflects who is invited to the wedding. Do not bring your new boyfriend or someone posing as your new boyfriend if your name is the only one there. Guest lists are often very limited. Inside the envelope you'll usually find the invitation, a response card and a stamped return envelope for your response.

On the response card, there's often an M with a line beside it. Most people don't know what to do with this M. It's actually the beginning letter of Mr., Ms., Mrs. or Miss. Fill it in with your name ...Ms. Perfect Guest, then include whether or not you can attend. If you don't want to go, then don't. Do RSVP promptly.

If you get an invitation, you must send a gift whether or not you attend. Sorry.

Select a gift the couple will like, not just something you like. Inquire if they've registered for gifts. This can really help. Mail the gift before the wedding so you don't have to tote it to the reception.

How much to spend? It depends on your budget and how well you know the couple. Consider a group gift if funds are short.

As for clothes, don't wear anything that will compete with the bride. In general, daytime weddings are more casual, evening weddings more formal. Some general rules apply for guests -- no sequins or black leather in the morning, avoid see-through blouses any time of day, and stay away from huge white hats with netting that resemble a bridal headpiece.

Be on time for the ceremony. When you arrive, if an usher offers his right arm to walk down the aisle, grab it and let him lead you to a seat. Your guest should walk behind you. This might sound goofy, but it's just the tradition of weddings. If it's all too much, when it's your turn to get married, don't do it. But don't mess with what others have planned for their wedding. Just go with the flow.

Don't talk during the ceremony, but do participate as much as your religion permits.

You've made it through the wedding -- now it's time for the receiving line. Introduce yourself to each person in the line and follow with a nice comment about the day or the couple. Then move on.

Once at your table, don't alter place cards or switch tables. Introduce yourself to table mates. The bride has spent a lot of time trying to arrange guests at tables, so be a good sport and chat with your neighbors.

After you've become buddies with others at your table, go up to the famous Pittsburgh cookie table and bring back a plate of treats for everyone. This recipe would be great for any cookie tray.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups sifted flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Beat together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Sift together flour and salt and stir into butter mixture. Add nuts and mix. Chill dough.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet in center of oven. Bake until set, but not brown, in middle of oven, about 8 to 10 minutes. While still warm, roll in additional powdered sugar. Cool; roll in powdered sugar again.

Yield: about 6 dozen cookies.

Mary Miller is a Fox Chapel-based registered dietitian and food writer. Her column appears twice monthly. For questions or comments, she can be reached at marymar333@attbi.com

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