“S’up dawg?” may be acceptable etiquette for introducing two of your buds who don’t know each other at a frat party, the workplace, beach or nightclub, but in the more restrained world wedding day etiquette , it just won’t do. For two months I helped an etiquette expert proofread and make minor style changes to a planned guide on manners. Then, in what I still consider a breath of etiquette, she dropped the idea completely. The good news I managed to take away some rules of etiquette I never thought I’d ever used in a million years. But that was before I switched from fiction to non-fiction.
Etiquette is the term given to those formal codes of behavior that bind together what used to be known as “polite society.” Polite society may have gone the way of Miley Cyrus since “Hannah Montana” but one arena of society where etiquette still retains at least a semblance of respect is the at the wedding ceremony and reception. Your wedding may not be following a strict set of formal rules, but even the most informal of nuptials still raises the specter of your having to introducing two or more people who are friends to you, but strangers to each other.
When the nuptials are one of those that takes things in stride with less than formal circumstances, wedding etiquette dictates the appropriateness of introducing two people who are strangers to each other, but known to you, simply by their first names. As the circumstances of the wedding rise in formality, etiquette calls for introductions using both the first and last name.
The etiquette of introducing people always calls for presenting the less prominent acquaintance to the more prominent acquaintance. This convention of etiquette is more faithfully applied in the world of business, of course, but is well worth remembering your wedding reception put you in the spot of introducing your slacker cousin Iggy to your boss.
What if both of the people you know share roughly the same amount of prominence? Wedding day etiquette insists that you introduce the younger person to the older person as a sign of respect. A wedding is a very likely event to find yourself in the situation where you are called upon to introduce one entire group of friends to another entire group of friends who have never met each other. The first thing to do if this predicament arises is some quick etiquette calculus in your head so that introductions go in order from the least prominent person within each group to the most prominent.
While wedding day etiquette makes it perfectly acceptable to introduce a younger man before you introduce an older woman, the situation is reversed when the age differential is not that great or is unknown. In that case, you always introduce the man to the woman rather than the other way around. Since weddings are one area where this rule is very likely to include relatives, you should also know that in such cases it is expected of you to make that connection known. For instance, you would introduce your boss to your Aunt Simone, rather than using her first and last name. (And if you’re lucky, maybe sparks will fly and soon your boss will be your new uncle.)
For many people, the worst scenario when it comes to making formal introductions of one person to another is forgetting a name. Your initial response is likely to be driven by panic that results in a long, awkward pause until disaster is averted by one of your friends coming to the rescue with a self-introduction. Since you can’t depend on that rescue actually taking place, the best approach is to quickly admit you have forgotten the name, apologize and then give the mystery person the opportunity to introduce himself.
The most important thing to remember is that wedding day etiquette is far different from the world outside. Wedding day etiquette is really about ritual. By following even just a slightly stricter code of formality, you make the day special by heightening its difference from every other day of your life. You don’t need to go the whole route of planning a formal wedding, but moving past “s’up dawg” when it comes time for introductions is a step in the right direction.