Weddings can be fun. They can also be a veritable minefield of potential gaffs. We asked our trusted advisors Peter Bonventre and John Jannuzzi to open their wedding playbooks and save us from certain embarrassment.
Having grown up in a large, extended family that has its roots in Sicily and Naples, I can assure you that Italians know their way around weddings. Not for nothing did Francis Ford Coppola open The Godfather with a long and loving wedding scene. Even today, many Italian-Americans are acutely aware that weddings carry a heightened risk of making la mala figura—a bad impression. It is a tribal imperative to make la bella figura—a good impression. And nothing creates a better impression than a generous gift, which may include cold, hard cash or a big, fat check.
But first, a few words about dressing up before paying up. For me, though the casualization of dress has reached into almost every corner of our social and professional lives, weddings are sartorially sacrosanct. Unless the invitation specifies black tie, you will never go wrong wearing a dark gray or navy blue suit. For a morning or afternoon affair in summer, you can choose a lighter shade of gray or blue; a tan or seersucker suit is also appropriate. And wear a tie, always. Easy, huh?
It’s just as easy to choose a gift. If you’re a twenty- or thirty-something attending the wedding of a sibling, friend, or colleague, then trek to the store (or go online) where the bride is registered. (It would be kinda weird to gift your childhood chum with a check, no?) But if you’ve reached a certain age, then you will be or have been celebrating the nuptials of the children of those closest to you. In which case, you should assume the kids could use a few bucks. Imagine you’re starting out again and ask yourself: Would my buddy’s daughter prefer a 3-speed blender or 3 crisp Benjamins tucked into a card? Does my nephew really need a crystal water pitcher more than a check for $500 or $1,000? I rest my case. And, yes, la bella figura doesn’t come cheap.
True story: At the wedding of one of her 289 cousins, my mother ran into an acquaintance she had heard was embroiled in a feud with the bride’s parents. He seemed to be having a hell of a good time when someone diplomatically remarked: “I didn’t expect to see you here.” To which the uninvited guest replied, quite seriously, “I had too much respect for the family not to show up.”
Now that’s Italian!
Ah, the sweet scent of spring. Rebirth! Rejuvenation! Weddings. Sooner or later, the STDs (Save-the-Dates, guys) will start rolling in and you’ll be forced to dress up, hang out with mostly strangers and celebrate two people at a lavish, expensive fiesta that requires you bring a gift. Are you picking up my tone? I don’t like weddings. I don’t like them at all.
Despite my distaste for weddings, I do have a few tips to try and make them as enjoyable as possible. First, make sure you look awesome. You should be the best dressed person in that room except for the bride. Being the most desirable dude at face value at a wedding is pretty much everything. A no, “Black Tie Optional” isn’t optional. Go all out.
When you arrive, locate the bar immediately. As far as I’m concerned, I need to be buzzed enough to break ice as soon as I sit down at my table full of strangers. Stranger danger is no problem with a little liquid courage. Once at your table, I suggest introducing yourself as soon as possible. Before you know it, 20 minutes will have passed and you’ll be branded the awkward dude who didn’t speak until halfway through the organic mesclun with walnuts and goat cheese.
Now, for the dancing. I hate to dance. A lot of people hate to dance. But, with just the right song and just the perfect blood alcohol level, you too can have a good time. Dancing at weddings is a necessary evil. It also helps pass the time. So go crazy and pull out those James Brown leg kicks.
When it comes to the gift, always stick to the registry or whatever guidance you’ve been given. This couple is starting a life together and they know what they need better than you. A four pack of tumblers from Crate & Barrel may not be exciting, but that’s what they asked for.
Finally, feel free to pull the ol’ Irish Exit and get back home or to the hotel at a decent hour. The best wedding goers are pros at this. Everyone at the party remembers them doing the tango with so-and-so’s grandmother, yet no one remembers them slipping off into the night like some wedding ninja.
Because last time I checked, well-dressed mystery man was the objective in every situation.