Maybe you shouldn’t share your thoughts about Bernie with the wedding party. (Photo: Getty Images)
Heard any news about politics lately (maybe just a little bit)? To say this election year is heated is an understatement. In the polite, mixed company of a wedding reception, the traditional wisdom is to avoid the topic altogether. But because that may prove impossible until after November, Yahoo Style spoke with Nancy Mitchell owner and principle instructor of The Etiquette Advocate in Washington, D.C., to get some advice about how to navigate these tricky waters while celebrating a couple’s newly wedded bliss.
“The coverage of the campaigns is so widespread and intense that I am guessing that the same discussions, both civil and heated, are taking place all over the country,” Mitchell said via email. “There isn’t a wedding that‘s safe.”
The bride and groom can do something to stave off party-line fights with their seating arrangements, she said. “A host should keep volatile guests apart at all costs,” she said, suggesting they either use smaller tables to separate potential debaters, or large tables that can’t be shouted across. Another defensive mechanism she suggested is to designate a host (who has been briefed about group dynamics) for each table to keep things running smoothly.
After that, it’s up to the guests to make sure their strong beliefs don’t overshadow the big event. A good rule of thumb is to keep political conversations as general as possible. It’s when you get into the specifics of a candidate, party, or issue that civility is in danger. “It’s just too risky,” Mitchell said. “The focus of the occasion is the bride and groom and helping them to achieve the special day they envision. Political discussions can cause tempers to flare and behavior to go south.”
It’s difficult to gauge how well a political conversation will go. As you might be able to tell by your social media feed, people’s triggers are unpredictable. That’s why you might want to come up with a way to extricate yourself from a disagreement.
“If someone is trying to draw you into a political discussion and you feel that it is neither the time nor the place for it, take the high ground and finesse your response,” Mitchell said. You can try to turn things back to a more general nature by saying something like, “This has been an interesting race.”
The same goes for when the bride’s favorite uncle says something to you that really gets your blood boiling.
“Take a deep breath and remember that you are a polite guest, and that the event is not about you, your confronter, or about debating politics,” Mitchell said. Lines you might use include: “All I know is that he/she has certainly got everyone talking about it, and that’s a good thing,” or “It’s an issue that needs a lot more time and attention than we can give it here.”
Then smile and find a long-lost friend to chat with, or get yourself to the dance floor and channel that energy more productively.