The answers from seasoned etiquette experts may surprise you.
During the height of wedding season, it’s easy to get whisked away by ideas of romance while attending a friend or family member’s wedding. But if you feel inspired to actually get down on one knee and ask for the hand of your partner, should you contribute to the loving theme of the celebration, or should you wait until the wedding is over?
Well, two stories of couples using a friend’s wedding as a background for their own proposals recently went viral: one, from a seething bride writing to Slate’s Dear Prudence, after her husband’s best friend proposed to his girlfriend during their wedding ceremony and then proceeded to (perhaps subconsciously) make the celebration all about them. The other, from People, a surprise proposal a bride and her best friend’s husband-to-be planned as a thank you for all the help her best friend had done as a bridesmaid. Reactions were swift and divided—some praised the proposals as a celebration of love, while others were horrified by the attention a proposal took away from the bride and groom.
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But we wanted to know: Is it always an etiquette faux pas to propose at someone else’s wedding? We asked two etiquette experts for their opinions: Diane Gottsman, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life and founder of the Protocol School of Texas; and Elaine Swann, etiquette expert and author of Let Crazy Be Crazy.
According to Swann, there are absolutely no circumstances in which a proposal at another person’s wedding is acceptable. “The day of someone’s wedding is one day out of an entire year,” Swann tells RealSimple.com in an e-mail. “We have to keep in mind that the couple is creating a memorable moment that will last a lifetime and a proposal should not be part of the one day that the couple has to themselves: Let them enjoy it!”
Gottsman, mostly agrees, but says there is one exception to this rule: If the proposal has been prearranged and pre-approved by both the bride and groom well in advance. Gottsman says this could happen if the to-be-engaged couple comes from a close-knit family and the proposal is expected to be a family affair. For example, if the family is scattered across the country, or even globally, having a celebration like a wedding is a convenient time when everyone is already gathered together. She also notes that if one of the members of the to-be engaged couple is part of the armed services and is home for only a short time, that might be part of the conversation, too.
If a proposal is planned to happen during a wedding celebration, it should only happen when the festivities are winding down, as to detract the least amount of attention from the bride and groom. And of course, if it can be avoided, it should. “It’s always best to make your own memories, which don’t include another bride and groom in the picture!” Gottsman says.
Other wedding etiquette questions on your mind? Here, your top 24 wedding etiquette questions, answered.