Goth wedding etiquette from Gothic Charm School

June 16 2009 | Guest post by Jillian Venters

Allow me to introduce Jillian Venters, also known as The Lady of the Manners. Jillian is the pre-eminent expert on goth etiquette. She runs gothic-charm-school.com and is the author of the book Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them.

Today she joins us with a guest post with etiquette tips for goths who've been invited to weddings both gothy and more white-dress-frothy … but her book includes a whole section dedicated to goth wedding etiquette for both guests and hosts.


jillianventers01October is always filled with gothy (and even non-gothy) couples getting married. And before any of you start making off-hand remarks about what a cliché it is, goths getting married on Halloween, hee hee hee, oh how spooky; firstly, that's the Lady of the Manners' own wedding anniversary you're chortling at there, and secondly, it's no more of a cliché than other couples getting married in June (Midsummer anyone?). It really isn't — in fact; there isn't any month that doesn't have some sort of cliché stigma for weddings. The Lady of the Manners is going to stop herself before she wanders down that tangent much further, and get back to the topic at hand. Yes, there are weddings in October. Gothy and non-gothy themed weddings, each of which has its own set of unique etiquette concerns.

Attending a non-goth wedding

Oh, look — your oh-so-spooky self has been invited to a wedding! By a couple that aren't gothy in the slightest, but are still your friends. Of course you're going to attend, but there are just a few things you need to keep in mind:

  • Sure, you can wear black, but this is not the time to wear the PVC trousers or dress. Velvet, silk, a well-cut suit — anything that shows you put a little thought into how you looked, but doesn't sartorially scream "Hey! I'm a freak!" You also should avoid layers and layers of swirly eyeliner, overtly white face makeup, or black lipstick. Anything that's just a teensy bit too dressy or gothic to wear to a job interview would be your best bet.
  • Relatives of the bride and groom will ALWAYS come over to talk to you about how unusually you're dressed. Even if you think you aren't. Expect it to happen, and have some friendly and polite responses ready. That way, when great-grandma Smithers comes over to you and, in the tones of someone relaying an important secret, comments, "You're wearing black," you don't stand there blinking in surprised irritation.
  • For that matter, just be prepared to make polite chitchat with the other guests. You were invited because the couple wanted you there, so behave yourself out of respect for them. Don't bring up controversial subjects, don't get drunk because you're "so bored with these people," and don't think because you're the "token freak," that you need to act outrageously.

Attending a goth wedding

But wait! Morticia and Gomez are getting married, and you've been invited! No problem, it'll be just like a private party! Well, yes, kind of. Most wedding invites state a dress code: formal, black tie, dressy casual (which the Lady of the Manners feels is wussing out — make the guests dress up!), costumes, and so on. If the invitation isn't clear, then ASK the bride or groom. Who knows, maybe they'll answer "Oh, we were hoping you'd wear that one outfit of yours that…" and all your problems will be solved.

Now, even at super-gothy weddings, there will most likely be relatives who, while they love "the kids" and are happy to be attending the wedding, still don't quite get this whole black-clad, everyday-is-Halloween lifestyle. Don't tease them. Don't make fun of them, don't say things just to wind them up, and DO NOT ignore them and pretend they don't exist. Answer any questions they may ask you in (again) a polite and friendly manner, EVEN if they are questions or comments you've heard a billion times: "Are you a witch?" "So, you think you're a vampire?" "Your hair is purple." "Is that your natural color?" "Do you dress like this all the time?" Do not roll your eyes or be condescending, even if you HAVE heard it all before; the people asking you HAVEN'T, and they genuinely want to know. If they start asking you questions such as "But why is she getting married in a red velvet dress?" or "Why are there bats on everything?" then tactfully suggest they go ask the bride and groom.

Planning a goth wedding

What if you are the bride or groom, planning your Addams Family spooktacular wedding? It's Your Special Day darn it, and you should be allowed to do whatever makes you happy, right? Welllllll . . . within reason. Are you paying for everything involved with the wedding by yourself? If so, you're free to indulge every little black-glitter-embellished whim you can afford. If there are family members helping with the costs, thank them profusely, pay even MORE attention to the budget, and DO NOT try to wheedle more money out of them so you can do something even more elaborate.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while your respective immediate families may be used to your gothiness and won't even raise an eyebrow when you select a skeletal bridal couple as a wedding cake topper, you still may have to have The Conversation with them. The Conversation might cover subjects such as "Yes, we do think purple, black, and white are appropriate colors for our wedding," "No, we aren't going to ask Wednesday to dye her hair a 'natural' color for the wedding," "No, Grandma doesn't have to wear all black" . . . You get the idea. No matter how accepting your families are about the way you live your life, most parents (and grandparents, aunts and uncles) have been secretly clinging to the idea that you will have a "normal" wedding — in a church, the bride in white, everything straight out of a wedding magazine. You have to let them down gently about this idea without upsetting them. If you're lucky, the family members in question will jokingly refer to their cherished little hopes themselves, with a comment that they always knew you'd do things in your own unique way.

Ultimately, weddings should be about two people making a commitment to one another and celebrating that commitment with their loved ones. A big elaborate dress, a huge reception, eight velvet-clad bridesmaids — those are perks, and fun ones at that, but they aren't the important thing. If you (as someone planning the wedding or just attending) can keep that firmly in mind, everything should go smoothly.

To get more of Jillian's impeccable goth etiquette wisdom, snag a copy of her book, Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them.

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  1. This would interest my neighbor. Thanks for the wonderful giveaway.

    dianad8008 AT gmail DOT com

  2. No doubt you've already picked someone–but I'd like to enter my name just in case, because I'd love to have a copy of this book. ^_^ I discovered Jillian just recently and find her delightful, from her incredible style to her impeccable manners. I wish I had the chance to attend a goth wedding. The ones I've been to wouldn't even warrant a showing on Offbeat Bride, much less are they goth–and the style doesn't quite (yet) fit my own tastes. But they look so lovely!

  3. Please enter my name too, in case you haven't picked a winner yet! I'm a fan of Gothic Charm School, and I'm so excited to see some advice from the Lady of the Manners herself on this site (which is one of my new favorite blogs of all time).

  4. Oh, please enter me. This would be amazing. I love the advice and I think different weddings instead of the traditional are a ton of fun!

    -Lauren
    lauren51990 AT aol DOT com

  5. Very good read, and it's very helpful for those of us who lean more towards the gothic side of life. I'd love to be put in for a chance to win the book as Jillian Venters has impressed me with her awareness of social faux-pas.

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