Ask a Boss: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Weddings and Work

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A weeklong series dedicated to skewering the traditions, expectations, and psychodrama that surround wedding season.

As a workplace-advice columnist, a huge portion of the advice I give — maybe the majority of it — deals with the collision of office culture and human behavior (and the accompanying interpersonal awkwardness). Throw weddings into the mix, and that collision feels even more confusing and high-stakes than usual: you’re dealing with friendships, social etiquette, vacation time, all sorts of gender weirdness, and an ongoing distracting time-suck (for the person getting married, and sometimes also for the co-workers who end up hearing all about it). Plus, since most of us don’t get married all that often, we don’t have many opportunities to learn to navigate it perfectly — so we’re figuring it out as we go, and often stumbling into etiquette land mines that we didn’t even know we’d have to think about.

Some work questions come up every wedding season. Others are more specific to you and your co-workers. Let’s tackle the perennial ones first.

Are you expected to invite co-workers to your wedding? It’s entirely up to you. There’s no etiquette obligation to invite co-workers, and that’s doubly true if you’re not close with them. If you feel awkward about not issuing invitations, co-workers will generally understand if you explain you have a limited guest list for budget reasons.

If you do decide to invite co-workers, just make sure you’re doing it in a way that won’t leave some people feeling slighted. If you’re inviting some people but not others, just ensure the number of people you’re inviting is smaller than the number of people you’re not. And of course, if you’re the boss, make sure you invite everyone who reports to you or none of them, since otherwise it will look like you’re playing favorites.

Are you expected to attend a co-worker’s wedding if you get an invitation? If you’d like to go, assume the invitation is a genuine one and attend! But otherwise, it’s okay to graciously bow out.

If your boss or your co-worker is getting married, do you have to buy a gift? You do not! A gift is a nice gesture if you want to give one, but in a business context you’re not obligated to give a gift if you don’t feel moved to. It’s fine to just send a card with a personalized message of congratulations. (If you’re attending the wedding, though, generally you should give a gift.)

How much time off is reasonable to take for your wedding? It varies depending on the type of job you’re in, but it’s pretty common for people to take off a week or two. A lot of workplaces frown on people taking off more than two weeks at a time, but managers are often willing to make exceptions for weddings and honeymoons (just like they should be for other significant life events). That said, it’s pretty uncommon to see people taking off more than three weeks, and even three weeks might not be doable in every office.

Now, with the basics out of the way, here are some specific questions on weddings and work that we’ve received from readers:

Single-gender wedding showers

My co-worker is getting married soon and my office is planning a shower for her that we’ll hold in a conference room. For some reason, they’re inviting all of the women and none of the men. I mentioned to the person organizing it that I thought we should invite everyone and not exclude by gender, and she blew me off. This isn’t normal, right?

Nooooo. Single-gender showers may still be a thing socially, but it’s not cool to divide activities by gender at work. Sometimes people forget, though, that what’s okay socially isn’t okay in a work environment.

Since the person organizing it wasn’t receptive when you raised it, you could try talking to your boss next. Say this: “I really don’t think we’re supposed to divide things by gender at work, even if this might be how Jane might do it in a nonwork, social context.”

My friend wants to list Maid of Honor on her résumé

I think my friend is about to seriously embarrass herself in her job search. She is in two weddings this year and another next year and has been a maid of honor no less than five times. And she is super intense about it, apparently. Like full-on 27 Dresses.

So, here’s the embarrassing part: She wants to list Maid of Honor on her résumé. She’s looking for admin and executive-assistant-type jobs and thinks the MOH-ing is a relevant qualification. I told her “no” and tried to explain how unprofessional that would look. But she didn’t seem convinced because she kept going on about how maybe employers should be more open-minded (again, nooooo).

She specifically cited scheduling, vendor/venue contact, and other event coordination she handles, like planning the bridal shower and dress fittings. She also acts as a backup contact on the wedding day so the brides have less to worry about. In fairness, scaled up, it does kinda sound like an assistant gig, but I think it’s more that she’s able to bring that experience to the bridal party rather than the other way around. And still I think it will look out of place on a résumé regardless, even if she tucks it in the Volunteer section.

This does not belong on your résumé, right?

No, it does not.

Being in a wedding party is the kind of thing that so many people do in the course of normal life that it doesn’t hit the bar for “things that are résumé-worthy.” It would be like noting on your résumé that you planned your family reunion or are fantastic at helping friends move.

The guiding rule with résumés is that work you do as part of your personal life doesn’t go on your résumé. Part of that is just convention, but part of it is that with things you do for your friends or family, you’re not accountable in the same way you would be at work.

Even if your friend is basically substituting for a professional event planner, including it on her résumé is going to look out of touch and naïve. At best, hiring managers will roll their eyes. But more than a few will find it weird enough to reject her over.

Asking for time off for a wedding before starting a new job

I accepted a job offer earlier this year, but it does not start for another few months (my field moves slowly). Since I negotiated and accepted the offer, I have gotten engaged (!). The date we want to pick for the wedding is about six months after I start the new job, and I’d plan to take a week off for the wedding and honeymoon. Should I reach out to my new employer before I finalize everything? 

It seems premature to ask about vacation days when I haven’t even started, especially since the negotiation period has long passed.  As a woman in a male-dominated field, I don’t want early interactions to focus on my engagement/wedding. However, I also don’t want there to be problems down the road.  

I will get 15 vacation days a year, but I’m not sure how they accrue. If it matters at all, my position is pretty self-sufficient, and I won’t have a traditional manager. The person who negotiated my offer and who is organizing my onboarding is not someone I would be working with on a regular basis.

Yeah, I’d contact them now before you finalize things. It’s unlikely to be a problem — most employers are pretty accommodating about weddings — but you don’t want to book things and then find out that the dates fall in the one week a year that you absolutely have to be at work. Plus, from the employer’s side, they’re likely to appreciate you checking now rather than just announcing it as a fait accompli after you start.

If it’s not clear who you should ask about this kind of thing, ask the person organizing your onboarding who would be the best person for you to consult with.

My co-worker made our weddings a competition

I planned my wedding not knowing that a peer was planning a wedding at the same time. Without knowing it, I chose a date three weeks before hers. Sadly, this peer seemed to resent this — she had been wanting to get married for a long time and I think she somewhat felt I was stealing her thunder by getting married in the same summer.

Everything wedding-related she turned into a competition, from comments about my wedding-cake vendor to comments about my having my cousin officiate. I really tried not to snap about this, but I did get irritated since she spent time in almost every meeting talking about her wedding, then asking me questions about mine. I tried to shut her down, but it was hard to do. What could I have done about this? I was never direct with her, because I was nervous about it. She has a reputation for being mean, so I was pretty meek and tried to avoid letting my irritation show.

I’m planning a pregnancy after two years of marriage and she is trying too, so I dread a repeat of this scenario, but this time with nursery colors instead of wedding colors!

You completely short-circuit someone like this by not giving her details to compete with! If she doesn’t know who’s officiating at your wedding or — now — what nursery colors you’re planning, she can’t opine or compete.

The easiest way to do this is to beg off talking about your plans because you’re desperate for a break. For example: “Ugh, I’ve been thinking about this so much that I’m desperate for a wedding-planning-free zone right now. Let’s talk about anything other than weddings.” Or: “I’ve been so consumed by this in my off-time that I’m really enjoying have work be a time when I don’t have to think about nurseries!”

I have to resign right before my wedding

I have been working at my company for three years. I have not been very happy with the company for the majority of the time. So I started looking at other opportunities about a year ago. I recently received an offer for a new job that I am very interested in. However, timing could not be any worse. I received the verbal offer about 11 days out from my wedding. The new company is aware of my wedding/honeymoon plans. However, this puts me resigning just before my wedding. My old company threw me a pre-wedding celebration lunch and gave me gifts. I am feeling guilty but know staying is not right for me.

What is the best way to handle this situation?

It’s so, so common for the timing of resignations not to work out perfectly. Really! You can’t control when the job offer came in or when they need you to start, and a reasonable employer will understand that.
It’s very unlikely that they’ll think you orchestrated the timing just so you could do a gift grab on your way out of the door.

When you have the resignation conversation with your boss, just mention that you’re grateful for how kind and supportive everyone there has been about your wedding, and that you’re sad to be leaving them (even though that’s not entirely true).

I turned down a wedding shower at work

I’m getting married this summer. No one from my work is invited to the wedding, partially because I’ve been at this job for less than a year, so I didn’t know anyone well when the guest list was solidified, and we’re trying to keep the wedding not-huge.

My boss asked if I wanted a work shower. I said no, I didn’t want a gift- shower-type shower. (Fiancé and I already have a lot of stuff — it was hard enough to find enough things to register for for our wedding guests, plus I’ve read that people who aren’t invited to the wedding shouldn’t be invited to showers.) But I said that I would be up for a low-key have-cupcakes-and-hang-out thing. I mean, who doesn’t like an excuse to have a cupcake instead of doing work? Did I do the right thing?

Yes! You’ve given your co-workers an excuse to eat cupcakes and you’ve absolved them of the obligation to buy gifts. Your union will be a blessed one.

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Ask a Boss: Everything to Know About Weddings and Work