What good are rules if you can’t break them?

Forget everything old...here's Something New

Writer and filmmaker Elise Mac Adam certainly knows her stuff, if her essays on Indiebride are any indication. Those quirky columns were my introduction to her sharp, spot-on way of schooling brides-to-be — and everyone else — in the fine art of etiquette. I remember looking through the site’s archives (Dear Indiebride, Update your site more often, Kthnxbye) and being tickled by these words:

“Bridezilla” is a special kind of insult — too cute to mean anything serious, yet devastatingly demeaning. To call a woman “Bridezilla,” even if her prima donna antics put Diana Ross to shame, categorizes her bad behavior as a comic “syndrome.”

So when I was offered an opportunity to check out Mac Adam’s new book, Something New: Wedding Etiquette for Rule Breakers, Traditionalists, and Everyone in Between, I naturally said, “Heck yeah! Send it over!” Then, of course, life intervened and I had no time at all to read, which is why the book has been sitting on my coffee table for the last month.


Each chapter is divided up into three sections: Traditional Basics, Twisting Tradition, and Etiquette in Action. In short, Mac Adams lays down the rules, explains which ones can be broken without too many consequences, and then drives her point home by sharing actual reader questions she’s received and the answers she gave people like “Preparing to Mail” and “He’s Still my President.” Everything from money to rehearsal dinners to thank you notes is fair game, and she’s not afraid to talk about worst case scenarios like broken engagements and pissy parents.

The second-to-last chapter, filled as it was with schadenfreude-inducing scenarios, was by far my favorite because how often do you come across a weddingish book that will delve right into subjects like canceled engagements and weekend long marriages? That’s pretty unusual in and of itself, though Something New has yet another trick up its sleeve.

In addition to the advice directed toward the bride, groom, parents, and attendants, there is also plenty of solid advice that’s for guests and other individuals who hover around the fringes of the matrimonial machine. For instance, confirmed attendees are reminded that named dates are not interchangeable and those who did not make the final guest list cut are shown how to respond graciously to what some might see as a snub.

Just about the only piece of advice offered up that I simply couldn’t agree with was her suggestion that brides- and grooms-to-be employ A-lists and B-lists (or, as Mac Adams calls it, the first and second wave of invitations) to maximize the number of guests they can invite. Here I must take gentle exception by saying, “Poo-poo to that!”

I heartily recommend this easy read to all ladies (and gents) who want to stay on the right side of etiquette but don’t have the time or inclination to go wading through Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. I know at least one former bride who was desperate to stay on the right side of all things mannerly — it’s a shame Something New hit the bookstore shelves just a wee bit too late to be of use to her.

(There’s still a whole week to enter the Manolo for the Brides Sweepstakes!)

2 Responses to “What good are rules if you can’t break them?”

  1. Blake K April 21, 2008 at 6:26 pm #

    Oh, do I hope she covers bridal showers. Some MAJOR breaches of good taste are revolving around this formerly simple little shindig involving the bride’s nearest and dearest. Someone needs to straighten this out.

    Anyway, thanks for the tip, will try to get my paws on this.

  2. Never teh Bride April 21, 2008 at 10:12 pm #

    She does indeed, BLake K. Topics covered include ‘what if the bride doesn’t want one,’ ‘what if the moh can’t throw one,’ ‘who hosts,’ ‘who attends,’ and the ins and outs of shower gifts. Good stuff, all told.