How long should you stay at a wedding reception

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How to Be a Great Wedding Guest

There’s more to attending a wedding than getting dressed up, shedding a few tears and partying all night long—you have some important responsibilities too. Here’s the low-down on how to be a stellar wedding guest.

Getting an Invitation

When you receive an invite (usually six to eight weeks before the wedding), don’t let it get lost on the coffee table. Check the event date and consult your calendar, then decide if you’ll attend. Whether or not you can make it, respond as soon as you can—the RSVP date on the invitation isn’t arbitrary. The couple needs to know who’s coming promptly in order to give their vendors, like the caterer, a final head count no later than two weeks before the wedding. Your procrastination may seem trivial, but it could actually add to the couple’s planning stress.

Your response will depend on the invitation. If there’s a preprinted response card, fill in the blanks: “Ms. Kim Williams and Mr. Brian Jones will” or “will not” attend (and editorialize a bit, if you like: “will happily” attend). If you haven’t spoken to the to-be-weds recently, feel free to slip an additional note of congrats into the prestamped envelope.

The most formal invitations may arrive without a printed response card. In this case, you should write your response on nice stationery, mirroring the language of the invitation: “Ms. Kim Williams and Mr. Brian Jones/accept with pleasure/the invitation of/Mr. and Mrs. Michael Livingston/for Saturday, the second of August/at five o’ clock in the evening.” If you can’t make it, write, “Ms. Kim Williams/regrets that she is unable to accept/the kind invitation of/etc.” (You don’t need to include the time on a regret, just the date). If the invitation is more casual but doesn’t include a response card, just write a warm, informal note accepting or declining.

A few dos and don’ts:

  • Do let the hosts know if you must cancel at the last minute; don’t just not show up.
  • Don’t assume you can invite a plus-one unless it says “and Guest” on the outer envelope along with your name. Only the people to whom the invite is specifically addressed are invited. This may be obvious, but you’d be surprised how many wedding guests think they can invite a friend (or two) to the wedding. The bottom line: The couple decides who’s invited, and you should not ask if you can bring someone else along—even if it’s your significant other.

Getting an Announcement

Even if you’re not invited to the event, receiving a wedding announcement means the couple still wants you to know about it. Don’t get mortally offended off the bat—if they’re close friends, they may have chosen to have an intimate family wedding and couldn’t invite all their friends. If it’s not such a close friend, or it’s a business associate, don’t feel obligated to send a gift. It’s a nice gesture to send a personal note of congratulations, but even that isn’t automatically expected.

The Gift

Always plan on sending a gift when you accept a wedding invitation. If you can’t make the wedding, it’s still nice to send a gift, but you won’t be committing a major faux pas if you don’t. At the least, send a congratulatory card before the wedding.

Technically, you have up to a year after the wedding date to send a gift, but it makes sense to shop for a gift soon after you decide to go. If the couple has a wedding website, registry information will most likely be there. If not, find out where the couple is registered by asking the bride’s mother or siblings, or the couple themselves.

The wedding gift should be sent to the address the couple has given their registry—don’t bring it with you to the reception. While this is still the custom in some regions, gifts at the wedding mean the couple has to worry about security, making sure cards stay with boxes and getting them home somehow after the reception. (Also, you’d have to lug it along with you that day.)

You don’t have to get the couple a gift from their registry, of course, but the upside is they’ve chosen these items themselves, so you know they want and like them. If you have another, special gift idea, by all means, go for it. But still send or bring it to the couple’s home instead of handing it to them on the wedding day. (If you’re not having a package mailed through a store, make sure to insure the box against damage.) If you want to give the couple a money gift, make your check payable to the bride or groom if you’re sending it before the wedding (use the bride’s maiden name), or to both of them if you give it to them on the wedding day or after.

What to Wear

Dress as you would for any other social event held at the hour and during the season of the wedding. For example, if it’s a spring brunch or luncheon, a pretty suit or floral dress would be appropriate for women; a light-colored suit and/or shirt and tie for men. For evening, depending on how formal the wedding is (you can usually tell this from the formality of the invitation and/or where the wedding is being held), the dress code is cocktail dresses for women and darker suits (or tuxedos, if it’s a black-tie affair) for men. Avoid wearing anything too flashy—and remember that if the ceremony is at a religious site, you don’t want to show too much skin (for example, shoulders might need to be covered).

Black used to be taboo for weddings, but these days, a black dress is perfect for an evening wedding. Female wedding guests should not wear white—it’s considered extremely impolite to take away from the bride on her day by wearing her color. Avoid off-white and ivory too, unless there’s a dress code mentioned on the invitation or wedding website that instructs guests to wear a certain color.

The Ceremony

You should get to the ceremony on time—this is not a party to be “fashionably late” for. Also, never consider ditching the ceremony and just showing up for the reception. You’ve been invited as an honored wedding guest to watch this couple get married.

Ideally, you should arrive at the ceremony site 30 minutes before the time printed on the invitation, and even earlier for a large event (200 wedding guests or more). If you get there after it’s begun, seat yourself quietly in the back. If the procession is going on, wait until the bride reaches the altar to enter and find a seat.

You’re not expected to participate in religious rituals (if you’re Jewish and attending a Catholic wedding, for example, you don’t receive Communion). But it’s polite to follow the lead of family members sitting in front as far as standing and sitting goes (you don’t have to kneel if you don’t want to, though). After the recession, wedding guests remain in their seats until the families of the newlyweds have been escorted out. If the receiving line is scheduled postceremony, simply join in the line.

The Reception

Usually the first thing you’ll see at the reception (if the couple has arrived before the guests, which is ideal) is the receiving line. Don’t blow it off—this is your opportunity to talk one-on-one with the couple, meet the bride or groom if you haven’t yet, and thank their parents for inviting you. Especially if it’s a large wedding, you might not get a chance to chat with the couple later. Don’t spend too much time in line, though—just say a heartfelt congrats, shake a few hands then proceed to the reception.

After the receiving line, it’s time for the cocktail hour, when guests mix and mingle over drinks and hors d’oeuvres. This is prime socializing time, so enjoy! You’ll know when it’s officially time to be seated for the meal, but it’s fine to sit before you’re asked to (although it’s more fun to walk around a talk to people). Don’t just park it anywhere, though. Check the seating chart and sit where you’re supposed to. When you find your table, introduce yourself to anyone you don’t know and explain your connection to the couple. Be nice and a little adventurous—don’t just talk to people you’re already acquainted with. If there’s a specific seating arrangement, the couple probably put you with people they thought you’d enjoy talking to, so you probably will.

When it comes to dancing, guests generally follow the lead of the couple, wedding party and families. Usually the newlyweds dance together first (although the first dance sometimes happens later on in the reception). Once the party gets going, though, feel free to dance as much as you want to.

As for the bouquet throw and garter toss, if you’re not crazy about these traditions, don’t just avoid them by hiding out in the bathroom. If you’re not someone inclined to dive for the bouquet or garter, just go out there and stand in the back with a smile or remain seated at your table. Even if you think these traditions are silly, or that something else about the wedding is tacky or inappropriate, always keep your feelings to yourself. This might not be exactly how you’d do it, but the couple chose to do it, and it’s not your place to complain or criticize.

When is it appropriate to leave? Receptions usually last about four hours, and you’ll know when things start winding down. You should stay at least until after the cake has been cut. Many brides and grooms stay until the bitter end these days, so it’s hard to leave after them. When you decide to head out, find a member of the bride’s immediate family (like her mom) and thank them. Also attempt to give the couple a last hug before you leave.

What’s the Basic Wedding Reception Timeline?


I’m not certain about the order of events at the wedding reception. Could you please give a rough timeline of the following events: receiving line, cocktail hour, first dance, champagne toast, best man and maid of honor speeches, dinner and cake cutting? I feel clueless!


Great question! Here’s the traditional order of wedding reception events, based on a basic four-hour celebtation. How long each event lasts depends on your party—is it a simple cocktail wedding reception or a seated dinner? (The average reception with full meal lasts for about four hours.) Keep in mind that you’re probably not orchestrating the wedding reception alone—your banquet manager, caterer, bandleader (who might act as MC) and other wedding vendors are pros hands at this stuff, so they know what’s supposed to happen when. Remember too, that nothing is set in stone—there are always options, and if the timing of one thing or the other doesn’t suit your style, you can always mix it up. Then, to make sure your entire wedding day—not just the reception—runs as smoothly as possible, get your full, personalized (and free!) day-of wedding timeline, right here.

Receiving Line

The line can form at the wedding ceremony site just after the wedding or at the reception site, depending on logistics. If you think your guests will get to the reception before you (if you and the wedding party will be taking pictures after the vows), you might want to have the line at the ceremony site. Another option is to hold the cocktail hour in a room other than the main reception room. You’ll have plenty of time to get to the cocktail hour, and when the doors to the reception room open, you and your parents can form the receiving line as guests enter.

Cocktail Hour

The cocktail hour kicks off the wedding reception and can last for an hour or perhaps an hour and a half. Guests arrive, greet each other and you, and generally get into party mode.

First Dance

This moment can take place when you two are announced for the first time as husband and wife—just go directly to the dance floor. Alternatively, you can wait until after the salad course—it’s entirely up to you.

Champagne Toast and Speeches

The toast generally happens after everyone is seated and the first course has been served. The best man starts the toast and gives his speech, followed by the maid of honor. The couple responds (the groom usually responds to the best man, but why not let the bride say something too?), and then parents and other guests can say a few words as well.


Once cocktails are finished, the couple and wedding party have been announced, and the first dance is over (if you’ve chosen to dance before the meal), dinner should be served. Generally, not much more than half an hour should have passed since guests entered the main reception room.

Wedding Cake Cutting

The cake is usually cut during the last hour of the reception, which makes sense because it’s time for dessert and coffee as the party is winding down. Also, the wedding cake cutting generally signals to guests that it’s okay to leave soon, so don’t cut the cake too early or things could start wrapping up before you’re ready.

Not sure where to begin with your wedding planning? Take our Style Quiz and we’ll pull together a custom wedding vision and vendors to match, just for you. After that, create a free, personalized wedding website to keep your guests informed (and excited!) about your plans, and a time-saving Guest List Manager to organize your attendees. Even better? You can sync your Guest List Manager and wedding website to update everything at once.

How late should I reception go til, is 8pm too early?

We are getting married at 3pm on a Saturday. The reception hall is about 10 minutes away from the church. We are planning a cocktail hour from 4-5 and dinner at 5.30. Since most vendors do everything in 4 hours increments that means our reception will end at 8pm, is this too early for the night to end? We can’t afford another 4 hours of everything, any suggestions?

Emmanuela Stanislaus, Precious Occasions, Wedding and Event Planner

There isn’t anything that says that you need to end your reception at any specific time. The end time really depends on the type of vibe that you want for your reception. For example, if you want to have more of a party atmosphere, you may want to have the reception end later. If not, then you are okay with the end time that you have set. However, I do recommend that you add an additional hour to the reception site to allow time for all of the formalities like speeches, cutting the cake, garter and bouquet toss, and allowing time for guests to have a good time. While you’re correct that most vendors operate in four hour time blocks, most of them will allow you to add an hour or two to the package that you have booked with them. The vendors that I would suggest you consider adding one hour with would be your venue, photographer, and videographer (if you have one). I hope this is helpful. Good luck!

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Darlene Taylor, PBC
TaylorMade Weddings

Emmanuela is correct – there is no set time that you *have* to end your reception. A reception should be as long as it needs to be. LOL.

In my experience, a 6 hour reception is just right with a cocktail hour, band/DJ, bar, dinner, cake, special dances, mingling, and all the other fun stuff. I would suggest contacting your venue representative and ask how long you have the room. Venues in my area will ask what time you’d like to have the event end or they at least give you a final time when everything needs to be out of the room. You know your guests – if you think they are the type to stay and party past 8pm then make sure you have that room for another hour, maybe 2.

This is what you’re looking at: you’ll have an hour for your cocktail hour and you should allow an hour for dinner. That takes you to 6:30. You have an hour-and-a-half for special dances, toasts, cake cutting, more dancing, garter and bouquet toss. Those events really do not take that much time in and of themselves and you could be “done” at 8:00. Does your reception need to be done at 8:00? No. You may want to stay and party for another hour. If you feel that 8:00 is too early to end your night, then contact your vendors and ask to end at 9:00. Getting with a coordinator and creating a wedding day timeline will help. He/she will help you schedule the events of the evening. Then you can see if you really need more time or not.

Like Emmaneula said, you want to have your venue, photographer and videographer on board as long as you need them to be. Go over your vendor contracts and see what you have. Will they allow you to book an extra hour? Probably so. Usually it’s just a base package they have and you can always adjust it. It never hurts to ask!

Best Wishes!

Donna, Wedding Queen, President; Top Wedding Sites, Inc®, a wedding planning guide, and Recent Mother of the Groom –

Are you sure they are including the cocktail hour in the 4 hours aloted for the reception? Typically we see the cocktail hour and then 4 hours for the reception, meaning your reception would end at 9 PM. I’ve been to all sorts of weddings, beginning and ending at all sorts of times. If you want to continue the party after the reception you can leave and go to another location. Just be sure that you only make mention that you and your groom will be at (location of your choice) after the reception so that guests don’t think you’re inviting, and paying for an “after party”.

Joyce C Smith, MBC, President and owner of Weddings Unlimited, Inc. and Ohio State Coordinator for Association of Bridal Consultants

A five hour wedding day is typical for most guests and you should not feel guilty about the ending time. Plan a spectular get-away that gets the guests up and away from the dance floor and outside. Your emcee can help by making an announcement of the last dance, and encourage the guests to gather outside for a big fanfare for the newly weds.

Brandi Hamerstone,
Owner/Senior Wedding Planner All Events Planned

I’ll have to agree with the previous answers. There is no rule that says how long your reception has to be, so you are fine with doing it, as you have listed. Cocktail “hour” isn’t always in hour in every case either, so some people do change around timing for their day, to fit their needs. I’m sure your guests will be happy with the timing you have planned. As of lately, quite a few of my reception guests start to head out around 9pm anyhow, so some of your guests might even be happy with an early end to their evening! If people want to continue their evening out, they can certain do so at a local restaurant or bar and at that point you aren’t obligated to pay to everyone, unless of course you “invite” everyone out, then you are responsible for the bill (as another poster has mentioned).

To make mention of your 4-hour time allotment for vendors, I’m certain that most will add on an additional hour, if you did want to extend things a bit later, you would just have to review that with each of your vendors. I’ve never had an issue where my clients were required to only work in 4-hour blocks for their vendors. They are out for the night anyhow, so I’m sure they would be more than happy to make any additional money by staying for however long you’d like. However, from your post, that doesn’t seem like the case with your vendors, so we’ll go back to stating that your timing will be fine and you should just enjoy yourself!!

photos via 1

When the wedding day comes, everyone anxiously awaits the moment the doors open and the bride makes her descent down the aisle. All heads turn in her direction and all eyes are upon her. While everyone is looking at the bride, I like to look at the groom’s reaction. Just like the bride has been waiting and anticipating this moment, so has he.

Some grooms spend their time waiting for their bride by hanging out with their groomsmen, by having a moment of prayer, writing their vows to the future Mrs., or simply staring into the future. Sometimes the anxiety of waiting can spill over and a flood of emotions surfaces at the altar; the long months of planning have been worth it. It’s one of my favorite moments of the wedding day and I’ve gathered some of those moments from the grooms previously featured in our real weddings.

Real Wedding Featured here: Photography by Janet Howard Studio

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Real Wedding Featured here: Photography by Keith Cephus

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About the Author

Lissahn DeVance

Lissahn is a Certified Wedding & Event planner, has planned weddings for nearly 10 years, and is currently completing courses to become a Certified Designer. She loves everything about weddings and the creative process. She feels no two people are alike so no two weddings…

Groom Walk Down The Aisle?

You, sir, ARE AN IDIOT!!! Nah, just kidding. We know you’re a little sensitive about the issue, so we wanted to be delicate. (Really. We’re kidding. It’s not a bad idea. You can remove your fist from the monitor now.)

See also: Doh! Groom Kidnapped Before Wedding

Okay, our real thoughts. We like to give concrete answers. No-BS advice. We like to give you a clear directive, as opposed to a slippery “On the one hand” and “On the other hand.”

We also like to make exceptions.

On the one hand:

Sure, perhaps your idea is a little unconventional, but only the stodgy traditionalists will really give a shit. Most people will say, Ahhhhhhwwww… he’s with his mother! That’s what makes this wacky idea acceptable. If you just walked down the aisle by yourself, it would smack of arrogance. But walking with Mom? Suddenly you’re a big teddy bear.

If this means a lot to you, and if–this is big–IF the bride is truly onboard, then screw it, go for it.

On the other hand:

In the traditional scenario, you have more spotlight than you think. When you’re standing at the altar with a goofy grin on your face, it’s a long, loooooooong time on the pedestal. In reality it’s seconds but it will feel like hours. Until the procession starts, all eyes are on you. You’ll feel it.

To clarify: we are not suggesting that you abandon your idea. But it’s worth reevaluating your perspective that you are the “smallest character” in the wedding. When you’re standing by the altar, you’ll feel like you’re exposed to the world. And you are.

The final analysis:

Don’t listen to the pinheads who are mortified by change, go with your gut, but, above all else, be respectful to your bride’s wishes. If you embarrass her, you fail.

Good luck.

Wedding Reception Etiquette: Can We Have Two Wedding Receptions?


My son is getting married in his bride’s hometown in South Carolina next October. Since we live in Massachusetts and most of our family is from New England, many of us will be unable to attend the wedding. We would like to have a second reception for the newlyweds here. What is the protocol for inviting guests to either or both wedding receptions? I do not want to include only those who did not attend the wedding, but I also don’t want guests to feel they have to give two gifts if they are invited to both receptions.


In the regular wedding invitations — which the bride and groom should send to everyone you’d want at the wedding, regardless of whether or not they think those guests can make it — enclose a card that lets guests know about the second wedding reception you’re planning in Massachusetts. The card needn’t include “official” info if it’s too soon — maybe just your phone number so guests can call to chat about the second reception. This way, they’ll know that if they can’t make it to South Carolina, they’ll still be able to celebrate with the couple — or they can come to both wedding receptions! As for gifts, it’s doubtful most people will think that coming to two parties means buying two gifts. And if they ask, simply say “Of course not.” Otherwise, don’t worry!

Donna, Wedding Queen, President; Top Wedding Sites

Hi all, first post here. So my fiance and I are in the process of planning our wedding and figuring out our guest list. We have tentatively chosen a venue for both the ceremony and reception. In terms of financing the wedding, my fiance and I will be responsible for that. For the guest list that my fiance and I made up, we have it narrowed down to between 90 and 120 people (an ideal number for us). However, this does not include all the friends that our parents (on both sides) want to invite. We have spoken to our parents about keeping the wedding relatively small, but they are absolutely opposed to cutting back on the invite list. As a suggestion to solve this problem, my parents have offered to hold a second reception to accomodate both family and friends (they would be footing the bill). So in summary, what is proposed is: ceremony and reception #1 to be held at the same location, with only the groom and bride’s friends and coworkers to attend the reception. Reception #2 (at another location, but in the same city) to be held the next day for groom and bride’s extended family and parents’ friends. The reason we do not want to have one big reception is that firstly both my fiance and I feel uncomfortable with having our wedding turning into a big affair with many guests. Secondly, it would cost prohibitive to invite everyone to reception #1 (at our venue of choice). Another reason is that our extended family and parents’ friends would much prefer food of a different culture than what would be served at reception #1.

I have looked through previous posts and I understand the reasoning as to why two receptions is frowned upon, especially if guests feel they are on a two tier system. Would this still apply in this case?

Another issue is who to invite to the ceremony. Since the reception #1 is to be at the same location as the ceremony, it would make sense to have the reception follow right after the ceremony. However, this would be awkward for those guests who are invited to reception #2.

Any advice would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

There really isn’t anything wrong with having 2 wedding receptions, per se. Some families host an additional reception for those who can’t travel or can’t attend for one reason or another. However, everyone invited to the wedding ceremony must be invited to the reception immediately following. If your parents want to host a party for their friends and extended family on another date, they need to plan it carefully so as not to hurt any feelings. I’d suggest making this other reception in an alternative location, maybe on the weekend after or when you return from your honeymoon, if you’re taking one. Put yourself in the place of those guests to see if what they’re planing may be insulting.

Conversely, you can thank your parents for offering this additional party, but refuse.Let them know you appreciate their offer but do not want to have another reception.

Deborah McCoy, President, American Academy of Wedding Professionals™

Hello mogomugu:

I think the solution is simple. A party held after the wedding is not technically a wedding reception, but rather a party in honor of the newly married couple. Invitations, therefore, would be sent to the people whom you’re considering for the “second reception”. (They would not be invited to the ceremony.) (As Donna said, the party would take place the weekend following the wedding or after you return from your honeymoon.) Invitations would be sent from your parents, who are hosting the affair.

Jay Remer, The Etiquette Guy, International Protocol and Corporate & Social Etiquette

I agree with the remarks above. Treat the wedding and reception you are hosting as a separate event from the celebration your parents are suggesting. I would point out that your parents need to be respectful of your final decision. This milestone in your life is about you and your husband, not about your parents. No matter how this shakes out, there will some explaining to do to some nosy guests. On balance, however, this arrangement is on solid footing. Congratulations and best of luck!

Having 2 Receptions? How To Word Your Invitations

admin 03.10.2014 Advice, Etiquette

What do you do when you and your fiancé are from different states and each side of the family is expecting a reception? It is perfectly acceptable to have multiple receptions weeks or even months after your wedding, but how do you invite your guests? More importantly, how do you do it without confusion or insulting your guests? Here are some common scenarios and the best way to word your invitations.

Small intimate ceremony, followed by an open house reception in another state

In this situation, you will most likely have all of the people you invite to the ceremony join you afterwards for an intimate reception. The guests are probably your close family and friends and will be invited to your second reception. The rest of your guests will only be invited to the second reception.

Wording the Invitation:

On the main invitation, announce the date you will be married on. You can also include the city and state of your ceremony location. After the announcement, invite your guests to celebrate with you at the second reception. This invitation will go to all of your guests, but the ones invited to your ceremony will also receive an insert card inviting them to the ceremony. If you need guests to RSVP, we recommend doing two separate cards. One for the ceremony and reception guests that includes check boxes for the events they wish to attend. The other RSVP card is for your second reception with an accept/decline option for that date.

Invitation Example:

Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Reed

Are pleased to announce

the marriage of their daughter

Danielle Nicole


Howard Martin Turner

Son of Mr. and Mrs. Brad Turner

Saturday, September 20th in Salt Lake City, Utah

Please join us at a reception held in their honor

Friday, October 10th, Two Thousand Fourteen

Reception Venue


Ceremony Insert Example:

Danielle and Howard

Invite you to join them at their wedding ceremony

Saturday, September 20th, Two Thousand Fourteen

Ceremony Venue


Dinner to Follow

Two receptions, hosted by different families

If the bride’s parents are hosting one reception and the groom’s family another, each reception should be treated as if it were its own wedding. There most likely won’t be much overlap in the guest list, so sending two different invitations would be ideal in this scenario.

Wording the Invitation:

In this example, the bride’s family is hosting the ceremony and first reception, the groom’s family the second. The invitation for the ceremony and first reception should be treated as normal. For the second reception, change the host names to be the groom’s parents. This invitation will have an announcement line that lets your guests know when and where you were married and then will invite them to join you at the second reception. Each invitation will have it’s own response card, going to the family collecting the replies for that particular reception.

Invitation 1 Example:

Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Reed

Request the honour of your presence as

Danielle Nicole


Howard Martin Turner

Exchange vows of marriage

Saturday, September 20th

Two Thousand Fourteen

Ceremony Venue


Reception to Follow

Invitation 2 Example:

Mr. and Mrs. Brad Turner

Are pleased to announce the marriage of

Howard Martin Turner


Danielle Nicole Reed

on Saturday, September 20th in Salt Lake City, Utah

The pleasure of your company is requested at a reception held in their honor

Friday, October 10th, Two Thousand Fourteen

Reception Venue


Two receptions, letting your guest pick the one(s) they attend

The past two examples assume that there isn’t much overlap in the guest list of the two separate receptions. If you would like to let your guests pick the reception that is the best fit for them you can announce both receptions on one invitation. Chances are most of your guests won’t attend both (unless they are close family or friends). Response cards for this type of invitation would have check boxes for the reception location they would like to attend. Note: if you are doing a plated dinner at one or both of your receptions, this may not be the best option for you. The example above with two separate RSVPs will eliminate the confusion on meal choices.

Wording the Invitation:

If you are going to devote your invitation to both receptions, we recommend including a separate insert inviting guests to your ceremony.

Invitation Example:

Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Reed

Invite you to celebrate the marriage of their daughter

Danielle Nicole


Howard Martin Turner

Son of Mr. and Mrs. Brad Turner


Saturday, September 20th

Two Thousand Fourteen

Reception Venue


Open House

Friday, October 10th

Two Thousand Fourteen

Reception Venue


Hopefully this gives you a starting point and there are many other wording options to fit your exact situation. If you are having multiple receptions and need help planning your invitations we would love to sit down and hash out all of the details! Schedule a consult now 🙂

Wedding Ceremony Rehearsal Guide

Our team of professional wedding officiants has performed over 5,000 wedding ceremonies, and our couples occasionally ask us to be a part of their wedding rehearsal. While some officiants offer “rehearsal coordination” as an integral part of their services, we have found that it’s typically unnecessary (and sometimes even counterproductive) to have the wedding officiant running the wedding rehearsal. We are perfectly happy to do wedding rehearsals for our couples for an additional fee, but the vast majority of our clients choose to do the rehearsal themselves.

The Free Guide to Running Your Own Wedding Rehearsal

We created this free wedding ceremony rehearsal guide as a way to help couples run their own wedding ceremony rehearsal, saving you time and money, as well as helping the ceremony run more smoothly on your wedding day. It’s important to note that there are many possible variations to the ceremony order, and this guide was created focusing on a straight, non-denominational wedding ceremony. Please see the “Variations” section of the guide for options for our LGBT couples, as well as common cultural, religious, and regional variations.

Who Should Be In Charge?

At the rehearsal, you are not practicing the ceremony itself – you are only practicing walking in and walking out, and making sure everyone knows where to stand. Since the officiant is one of the first people to enter at the beginning of the ceremony, it’s not possible for the officiant to “cue” each group and tell them when to start walking. This is normally the responsibility of the coordinator at your ceremony site, or your wedding planner if you have one. Many of our couples will also ask a friend or family member to help run the rehearsal and cue everyone for their entrance to the ceremony, which is a great option. You want the same person who is running the rehearsal to be in charge of the ceremony on your wedding day as well – that continuity will really help ensure that there isn’t any confusion on your big day.

Your wedding rehearsal should be a quick, easy, and straightforward process. If your ceremony venue doesn’t provide a coordinator, you should choose a friend or family member to help you. The best person for this job is, quite frankly, someone who is a little bossy. They will need to be assertive enough to get your group to pay attention, but not be so overbearing that it’s off-putting to your families and wedding party. Teachers are almost always the perfect choice for this because they are used to corralling large groups of unruly children. Give them this guide before you arrive, and also give them a copy of your ceremony draft that you have finalized with your officiant. They’ll have all the information they need to run your rehearsal quickly and efficiently.

Running the Rehearsal

Follow these easy steps to rehearse the wedding ceremony quickly and easily, your friends and families will thank you and you can get on to your rehearsal dinner!

  1. Start in the middle. Instead of starting with the processional (entrance), start by getting everyone into place where they will be standing during the ceremony. Remember that you are practicing walking in and out, so knowing where to stand is the first step. See the diagram below for the standard positions for your officiant, parents, and attendants. It’s important to have your wedding party evenly spaced and standing at a slight angle in relation to your wedding guests, with the attendants at each end a little more forward than the Maid of Honor and Best Man. This looks better for pictures, and helps the guests see each person in your wedding party better. Bridesmaids should hold their bouquets in front of them with both hands, and groomsmen should decide on clasping their hands in the front or the back of their body. It’s important that everyone do the same thing, if everyone is doing something different it looks awful in your wedding photos.
  2. Speak through the ceremony headings. Take a look at the ceremony draft and read through the headings aloud, so everyone knows roughly the order of the ceremony. Don’t read through the entire ceremony word-for-word or say the vows, save that excitement for your big day. Make a note of any wedding ceremony readings, candle lighting or sand ceremonies, and when the rings will need to be presented. Double check that any items needed during the ceremony like candles or a table will be there that day. No matter what, make sure that everyone (including the couple) knows that they shouldn’t stand with their backs to the wedding guests at any point in the ceremony. Even if people need to move around during the ceremony, for example to do a candle lighting ceremony, make sure that they always end up standing in a position where they still face the guests (and the photographer). The last item on the list will be the kiss and, if the couple has chosen to do so, the presentation of the couple.
  3. Practice walking out (the recessional). Since you have everyone in place already, practice the recessional as if the ceremony has just ended and you are walking out. Start with the kiss and/or the presentation of the couple, and exit in the proper order. The Bride will take her bouquet from the Maid of Honor and exit with the Groom. Typically, the wedding party will exit in pairs even if they enter separately, followed by the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer and then the parents and grandparents. It’s important to make sure that each couple that exits the ceremony leaves enough room between themselves and the couple in front of them. To do this, everyone should agree on a set distance they will wait for before walking. Most people choose to start walking when the couple in front of them is halfway back up the aisle. In general, it’s best to leave at least 20 feet between each couple for the sake of pictures, but not much more than that. Once everyone has successfully exited the ceremony, it’s finally time to practice walking in.
  4. Practice the processional last. Now that everyone knows where to stand when they enter the ceremony, practicing the entrance should be a piece of cake. Line everyone up in the order they will enter, for our clients this information is at the top of the ceremony draft. The Officiant, Groom, Best Man, and Groomsmen enter first, typically from the side of the ceremony site but sometimes up the aisle depending on preference. Following them are the grandparents, the parents of the Groom, and the Mother of the Bride. Finally, the Bridesmaids, Maid of Honor, and Flower Girl enter. While the Officiant, Groom, and Groomsmen normally enter together as a group in a straight line, everyone else needs to be spaced evenly. As with the recessional, it’s important to agree upon how much space to leave between people entering the ceremony – normally about 20-30 feet.The Bride and her escort (typically the Father of the Bride) should not enter until the entire wedding party has entered and is in place. Normally there is a separate piece of music for the Bride’s processional, and the officiant will usually say “If everyone will please rise,” in order to invite your guests to stand.
  5. The hand-off. The last item to practice is what happens when the Bride and her escort make it to the front of the ceremony and are standing in front of the Officiant and the Groom. If the escort is a parent of the Bride they should give her a kiss and congratulate her. The escort then typically shakes the Groom’s hand, the Bride hands her bouquet to the Maid of Honor and steps forward next to the groom, and the escort moves to where they will be seated. The Bride and Groom should then be standing facing one another, holding hands in front of the Officiants. At this point, the Maid of Honor can hand off both sets of flowers to one of the Bridesmaids and fix the Bride’s train, if necessary.
  6. Do it again. Now that everyone is in place, practice walking back out and back in one more time to make sure everyone knows what to do, then you’re done! The rehearsal should not last more than 20-30 minutes at most.

Following these steps will ensure that everyone knows exactly what to do on the wedding day, and that you aren’t wasting a lot of time practicing unnecessary parts of the ceremony itself. Below is a helpful diagram of where everyone should be standing:


Many of our couples choose to forego the traditional wedding ceremony order and include cultural, religious, or regional variations in their ceremony. Our award-winning wedding officiants create a fully customized ceremony for each couple, and these are some of the more common variations of a “standard” ceremony.

  • LGBTQ Ceremonies – We work with hundreds of same-sex couples each year, and the only rule for gay weddings is that there are no rules. Our LGBTQ couples tend to break the mold entirely, creating a custom ceremony that reflects their relationship while still incorporating a few elements seen at most wedding ceremonies. The order for the processional and recessional may be completely different than the diagram we’ve provided, sometimes with the wedding party and couple entering together, or having no wedding party at all. We encourage all of our LGBTQ clients to be creative and work with their officiant to create something truly unique!
  • The Midwest Processional – We work with couples from all over the world, and couples from the Midwest are sometimes surprised to see the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen entering the wedding ceremony separately. Regional differences in wedding traditions are pretty common, and in the “Midwest Processional” the Maid of Honor, Best Man, and all of the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen enter the ceremony in pairs. The Officiant and the Groom still enter first from the side, and then the rest of the wedding party enters in reverse order, with the Maid of Honor and Best Man the last to enter before the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer.
  • Multi-Parent Escort – Many of our couples choose to be escorted into the ceremony by multiple parents, instead of just by one. While the Father of the Bride traditionally escorts the Bride down the aisle, we often work with couples who have their mother and father, or father and step-father, walk them down the aisle together. This isn’t just limited to the Bride, we also have plenty of weddings where the Groom is also escorted into the ceremony by his parents. This is often seen in many Jewish and interfaith weddings as well.
  • Jewish Traditional Entrance – For our Jewish and half-Jewish weddings, our couples sometimes opt for a traditional Jewish entrance to the wedding ceremony. In this variation, the Officiant enters first, followed by the Groom who is escorted by his parents. When the Groom and his parents reach the wedding canopy, or Chuppah, the Groom stands in the “standard” position but his parents stand under the Chuppah on the opposite side, so behind the Officiant’s right shoulder across from the Groom so they can see him. Next, the Bride enters, escorted by her parents, and they take the opposite positions, behind the Officiant’s left shoulder. Both sets of parents remain standing at the Chuppah for the entire ceremony.

Breaking With Tradition

We always tell our couples that there is no “right” way to do a wedding ceremony, and we encourage them to work with our officiants to create something that is a unique expression of their love. Traditions are wonderful, and many of our couples choose to perform a traditional ceremony – others choose to break with tradition and do something entirely different. We encourage you to listen to your heart and do what feels right for the two of you, whatever that may be.

If you are interested in more ideas and guidance for your wedding ceremony, please check out our Wedding Ceremony Resources section on our website. There, you’ll find wedding ceremony ideas, suggested ceremony readings, wedding ceremony songs, and Rev. Laura’s premarital counseling eBook, “The Marriage Manifesto”.

For more information about our services, or to check our availability for your wedding date, please !

It’s a well-known fact that weddings tend to be quite expensive — more expensive than many of us can even afford. Indeed, fully 74% of couples said they plan to take on debt in order to pay for theirs.

Why so costly? Well, the budget includes the bride’s wedding dress, of course, as well as caterers, a venue, cake, invitations, a guest book, photography, favors, and more. To start your marriage off right, here are some tips on saving money for a wedding — and honeymoon.

Start by taking a close look at the potential costs of various wedding expenses so you can get an idea of what your desired wedding will cost. The total is likely to be greater than you expect, so we’ll also review a bunch of ways to cut those costs without sacrificing the fun or elegance of the occasion.

Image source: Getty Images.

What a wedding costs — from dress to caterers to the venue

Though estimates vary, the cost of an average wedding is well into the five figures. The website pegs the national average at $25,764, while The Knot reports an average of $33,391. The Knot also says the typical wedding includes 100 to 150 guests.

What your wedding will cost can vary widely, largely due to factors under your control. The folks at The Knot regularly survey couples getting married and tally up their costs. Here are their national average costs for 2017:

Source: The Knot. *Includes the average catering cost of $70 per person.

You can use various online tools to get an idea of what your desired wedding will cost. One option is the handy online cost estimator from Below are the kinds of costs it estimates for a couple based in Springfield, Illinois, who are having a wedding and reception at a hotel with 100 guests. The numbers are based on surveys of others who had weddings in the area:


Typical Cost



Hair, makeup, manicure, pedicure



Flowers and decorations


Gifts and favors




Photography and video services


Venue, catering, and rentals


Total of above and other expenses



Here’s a little more detail: The wedding dress estimate is $818, while a D.J. can run you $1,110 and musicians $931. An engagement ring is estimated at $2,102, while his and hers wedding bands are estimated at $483 and $281, respectively. An officiator may cost around $448, while a wedding cake will be about $331. (The difference between some of these numbers and those in The Knot’s survey may be due to different kinds of couples responding to each estimator’s surveys.)

Image source: Getty Images.

Location, location, location

Where you live or get married will have a significant effect on the cost of your wedding. Using the same estimator as above, here’s what a couple living in Manhattan might pay for a similar wedding:


Typical Cost



Hair, makeup, manicure, pedicure



Flowers and decorations


Gifts and favors




Photography and video services


Venue, catering, and rentals


Total of above and other expenses



The survey from the folks at The Knot also offered totals for different parts of the country. Here are some different locations for example:

Source: The Knot.

Clearly, if you’re opting for a wedding instead of eloping, you face the possibility of huge costs. The lists above can help you spot some categories where you may be able to spend less, though. For example, if you don’t plan on any fancy hair and makeup services, you may save several hundred dollars. You could also get married in your grandmother’s dress (or a secondhand dress) or have a qualified friend or relative photograph the event as a gift to you.

If you’re willing to reconsider your wedding’s location, you can save a lot, too. For example, if your family lives in the San Francisco area, while your fiancé’s family lives in Utah, you may want to have the wedding in Utah, where it will likely cost you much less.

Consider unexpected costs when saving for your wedding

Keep in mind that no matter how well you plan and budget for your wedding, there will likely be some unexpected expenses you didn’t think of. Here are some costs that sometimes sneak up on the bride and groom to be:

  • Marriage license
  • Save-the-date cards
  • Postage
  • Wedding gown alterations
  • A dance floor for your rented tent
  • Meals for the people working your wedding
  • Gifts and favors for guests and participants
  • Tips for service providers such as caterers
  • Overtime costs (e.g., if you have your band or photographer work longer than planned)

A marriage license can cost anywhere from a few dollars to $100-plus. Postage may seem minor, but if you’re sending out 200 save-the-date cards and 200 invitations that include stamped RSVP cards, you’re looking at $300 in postage costs. (Of course, you can shrink that if you send out save-the-date announcements by email and use postcards for your RSVPs.) Adding a dance floor to a rented tent can cost $400 or more. If you’re planning to give out bags of wedding favors (say, candies or candles) to 100 guests at a cost of $5 each, that’s suddenly a $500 cost!

As you plan your wedding, walk yourself through every minute and every detail of your wedding day. This will help you avoid any unpleasant surprises later.

Image source: Getty Images.

Less expensive wedding food and venues

Let’s take a closer look at what is typically the biggest expense in a wedding: the venue and catering. These can be two separate items or they can be combined, depending on where you get married and hold your reception. Note that if you have to rent tables and chairs and perhaps even a tent, that will be another big-ticket item. Your caterer might take care of that for you, or it may work with a rental company that bills you separately.

Here are some venue ideas that can cost less than the fancy downtown hotel you may be thinking of:

Your backyard — or someone else’s: This option can be posh, rustic, or somewhere in between. A rental company can deliver as many chairs as you need, along with tables, table settings, and even a tent with a dance floor. Depending on the setting, you may not even need a tent, and you might even forgo having a sit-down meal, opting for a buffet or hors d’oeuvres stations instead. String some white paper lights among some trees, and you can create a magical setting inexpensively.

An Airbnb rental: Not everyone realizes it, but Airbnb offers plenty of posh accommodations around the world. Having a destination wedding at or near an exotic or luxurious Airbnb site can still be much cheaper than more traditional options. Here are some possibilities spotted recently:

  • Entire villas in Tuscany, Italy, with eight to 10 bedrooms, for $100 to $500 per night.
  • A villa near Mumbi, India, with a pool and accommodations for more than 16 people for $380 per night.
  • An eight-bedroom country house in Argentina for $778 per night.
  • An entire hostel in Yerevan, Armenia, with eight bedrooms, for only $42 per night.
  • A lakeside cabin with nine bedrooms near national parks in Idaho for $400 per night.
  • A nine-bedroom beachfront house in California for $1,200 per night.

A national park: If you love the great outdoors, getting married a national park can be the perfect venue, though you might need to plan and reserve well in advance. Yosemite National Park, for example, has multiple spots where you might hold your shindig, and a special event permit recently cost just $150. (Attendees will still need to fork over park admission fees.) Some parks, like Yosemite, also have lodges and other accommodations, although they’re sometimes expensive.

The folks at offer some other suggestions, such as Rocky Mountain National Park, where “A one-and-a-half mile hike (with both a dirt trail and paved path available) lead you to a gorgeous spot with uninterrupted views of the Continental Divide. The open meadow will make you feel like you’re the only ones in the world — except for the herds of elk nearby!”

City hall, a public library, or a park: There are lots of public buildings and spaces that host weddings. Museums, aquariums, beaches, and even restaurants are other options. Look into some public spaces near you and see how much you like them and how much they will cost. Note that a restaurant will be able to feed everyone, too, and the total price may be well below what you’d pay at an upscale hotel or similar venue — especially if it’s a fun, downscale restaurant such as a barbecue place or taqueria. Being unconventional can save you a lot of money.

Honeymoons: how to spend less than average

Here are some eye-opening facts and figures from the folks at

  • The average cost of a honeymoon for U.S. couples is $4,466.
  • The average length of a honeymoon is around eight days.
  • About three-quarters of American honeymooners travel within the U.S. or Canada.
  • The top U.S. honeymoon destinations are Hawaii, Florida, California, and Nevada.
  • The top international honeymoon destinations include Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Italy, St. Lucia, France, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Many cruises will cost between about $3,000 and $7,000 per person, depending on where you go, how long you’re at sea, and how fancy the vessel is.

If you’re already planning, say, a $20,000 wedding, the thought of paying another $4,000-plus on top of that for a honeymoon can be a little alarming. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend that much on your honeymoon. Here are some ways to spend less.

Travel during your honeymoon destination’s off season: Hotels will be charging less, and the crowds will be smaller, too. Note that even if you get married in June, you can always delay your honeymoon for a few months if it means avoiding peak tourist season. Also bear in mind that traveling during the off season does not mean resigning yourself to bad weather. Some areas, particularly near the equator, have nice weather year-round but are simply more crowded at certain times — like winter.

Consult a travel agent: It may sound old-fashioned, but travel agents know a lot more about honeymoon destinations than you do, and they can save you a lot of time and trouble researching where to go, when to go, and what to do. A good travel agent can make all the arrangements and bookings for you and can be a valuable resource if you run into trouble or questions while traveling. They may even save you more than the amount of their fee by helping you plan an economical honeymoon.

Choose a less expensive destination: Some honeymoon locales simply cost a lot more than others. Fortunately, there are plenty of charming and romantic spots that won’t cost you much. Some great possibilities include: Charleston, South Carolina; Quebec City, Quebec; New Orleans, Louisiana; the Florida Keys; the Rocky Mountains of Colorado; Tulum, Mexico; and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Consider a road trip, too, heading to any place you’ve always wanted to go and stopping at charming spots along the way, or even a big camping trip if you’re the outdoorsy type. If you want to set your sights further abroad, consider Ireland, Portugal, Costa Rica, Vietnam, or Cambodia, which generally cost much less than the traditional honeymoon destinations while offering plenty to see and do.

Make it brief: Sure, a long honeymoon can feel luxurious, but you may actually find yourself a little bored after a week at a beach. Consider making your honeymoon a four- or five-day weekend in a place where you’ll treasure every day.

Crowdsource it: If you don’t need to register for household items, you might invite well-wishers to contribute to a honeymoon registry to help pay for your big trip. There are many sites for such an initiative, such as,, and, among others.

Remember the big picture

It’s smart to remember, as you plan your wedding, that it shouldn’t derail the rest of your financial life. Don’t go into debt in order to pay for a $30,000 wedding when you can probably have a wonderful ceremony for $20,000 or $15,000 or even less. Your honeymoon can be another major financial undertaking, so consider some ways to cut costs there — or include its cost in your wedding savings.

If you’re hoping to buy a home in a few years, you’ll need a down payment for that, so plan accordingly. As kids enter the picture, you’ll start countdowns toward college expenses. And no matter how old you are, you should be saving money for your retirement, too. Don’t be overwhelmed, though. A little planning and discipline can get you a wonderful wedding, a fun honeymoon, a comfy home, happy and college-educated kids, and a secure retirement — maybe even an early retirement. It won’t all happen by chance, though, so be smart about your money throughout your life.

The traditional running order of a wedding day

Keeping to a schedule is crucial in the smooth operation of your wedding day. Once all parties are informed and everyone knows where to be and when, the transitions between each stage of the day should be seamless.

Looking at the traditional running order of a wedding day can be helpful when working out timings, however this is by no means a structure that you have to follow – this is simply a guide. When working out your wedding schedule, you should have a running order in place before you assign times.

When you’ve finalised your schedule, share it with your wedding planner/co-ordinator, master of ceremonies or toastmaster, as well as ushers and best man so they can ensure the order of the day is followed. You may also wish to set up an ‘order of the day’ board or display so guests know what to expect and when. Here’s an idea of how your schedule could run…

Wedding preparations (3-4 hours)

The bride and groom traditionally get ready separately on the morning of the wedding. Bridesmaids, the maid of honour and mother of the bride get ready with the bride, while the groom is joined by his ushers and best men. If you have a large entourage to get ready i.e. more than four bridesmaids for hair and make-up, speak to your hair and make-up artist/s to discuss additional time needed. Photos will also be taken during this time.

The wedding ceremony (30-45 minutes)

Following preparations, the wedding ceremony typically takes place early afternoon. The groom and ushers should arrive at least 30-45 minutes before the start time, when – if you’re having a civil ceremony – the pre-wedding interview will be undertaken for both the bride and groom. Depending on how many readings and/or songs you have chosen, ceremonies usually last 30-45 minutes. Take a look at the answers to these key questions regarding your wedding ceremony.

Image: Banter Snaps via Unsplash

Drinks reception (1.5-2 hours)

After the confetti shot, guests will gather for the drinks reception where canapés can also be served. This is a chance for guests to mingle and for group shots to be taken. Your photographer may also request that you and your new husband or wife are whisked away for a few shots on your own.

Wedding breakfast (1.5-2 hours)

The bride and groom is announced in to the wedding breakfast room and food is served. Your venue team and caterers will work together to advise how long you should leave for the wedding breakfast and come the day, ensure timings are adhered to.

Image: Annie Gray via Unsplash

Speeches (1 hour)

While the speeches traditionally take place after the wedding breakfast, there is also a traditional order in which various members of the party should speak. The father of the bride is the first to take the floor, followed by the groom and finally, the best man. Click here to find out more about the content of the speeches and how long each speaker should talk for.

Cutting of the cake (5-10 minutes)

A symbol of the bride and groom’s union and a promise to provide for another, the cake cutting is a wedding moment that most guests will want a picture of so allow enough time for photos to be taken. The cake is then taken away by the venue team who will cut it for you and serve it later in the evening. This is also the point when the venue team will turn around the wedding breakfast room if you’re having the evening party in the same room. The bride and groom may also be taken for more photos before the sun goes down.

Image: Jason Leung via Unsplash

First dance (5-10 minutes)

Guests will gather around the dance floor for the first dance, which signals the start of the evening party. Whether you have a band or DJ to play your chosen song, you can request that they invite all guests on the dance floor halfway through and/or play an upbeat and up-tempo track straight after to get everyone dancing.

Evening reception (4 hours plus)

Evening guests tend to arrive from 7pm and the evening food is usually served around 8pm. If you have invited children as daytime guests, you may want to ask your caterers to provide a small buffet of nibbles for them earlier than 8pm to keep hunger pangs at bay.

After an evening of dancing, weddings tend to finish around 11.30pm to midnight – the bride and groom are entitled to slip away early or stay until the end to bid their guests farewell.

Image: Analise Benevide via Unsplash

Your wedding day will fly by so while timings are key, it’s also essential that you take a few moments during the day to soak up the atmosphere and spend some time with your husband or wife. Take a breather during the quieter interludes and go for a walk, or if you’re staying at the venue have a few minutes alone in your room. Weddings can be overwhelming, so pace yourself and savour each moment of your special day.

Is It Ever Okay to Attend a Wedding Without Giving a Gift?

If there’s one universal truth about big life events, it’s that they’re typically acknowledged with gifts. This is especially true in the case of weddings. It’s a cultural thing, whether you live in Alabama or Alaska, but it’s also the polite thing to do. Two people fall in love, get engaged, plan a wedding, invite family and friends to celebrate, and, finally, say thanks for the gifts. Extremely straightforward, nothing greedy about it.

Unless you’re a guest who likes to break the rules. “Buy a wedding present? Never!” You may be surprised, but it happens more often than you’d think. Most couples will have at least one or two attendees who never give a present. If you’re thinking about attending a wedding without bringing or sending a gift, here’s what you need to know.


Is giving a wedding gift even mandatory?

Yes and no. Whether it’s a 30th birthday or a wedding, if you’re invited to a celebratory party, it’s customary for a guest to bring a gift. But if you don’t bring one, you aren’t breaking any laws. More than likely, you won’t be called out for your social faux pas, but it will probably be noticed.

What if I’m broke?

Sticking to your personal budget is important, and no bride or groom would ever want you to over extend yourself for their wedding. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put away a little something for a small present. From the time you receive the invitation to the wedding day, you should have about six to eight weeks to set money aside. Just skipping a few coffee runs will help you save enough for a $20 bottle of champagne and a nice card with a heartfelt message. It’s the thought that counts-not the price tag.

Will the couple even notice?

Yes, they’ll definitely notice. Since the couple is too polite to ask whether or not you sent a gift, they’ll always wonder if you just didn’t give them one or if it was lost in the mail.

What if I’m not going to the wedding?

If you’re not present, there’s no need to send one. You can write a nice message expressing your congratulations to the couple on the RSVP, or even send a card in the mail, but there’s no obligation to get a gift.

Wedding Gift Etiquette Is Confusing—Here Are Answers to All Your Questions

Getty Images

Being invited to a wedding—especially your first-ever wedding—comes with a whole set of etiquette questions and confusion. What should you wear? How do you RSVP? And, possibly most confounding of all: What’s the deal with wedding gifts? Wedding gift and registry etiquette is honestly its own subcategory of uncertainty, from how much to spend to how long you have to send a present. Lucky for you, we have expert answers to the most commonly asked wedding gift etiquette questions, so you’ll never not know what to do again. (Have a pressing etiquette question of your own? Ask it here.)

1. Do you have to get them something from their registry?

It’s absolutely fine to get them something they haven’t registered for. “Registry items are merely suggestions, not obligations,” says Jodi R. R. Smith, owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. A wedding registry is meant to be a guideline as to what the couple wants and needs—it’s there to help you. If you decide to purchase something else, it’s a good idea to check out the registry to gauge the couple’s style.

2. Do I need to send a gift if I RSVP “no” to the wedding?

It’s not technically required to send a gift after declining a wedding invite, but it’s still a nice gesture to do so. Take your relationship with the couple and your budget into account. If you’re not super-close (maybe you actually aren’t going because you don’t know them very well), it’s probably fine to pen a thoughtful card congratulating them. If you are close to the couple, however, you’ll likely want to send them something.

RELATED: Sure, It’s Fine to RSVP ‘No’ to a Wedding—But Experts Agree It Will Cost You

3. When is the wedding gift “due”?

Gifts should really be shipped to the couple’s home about two weeks before the wedding, Smith says. However, it’s considered acceptable to send a gift up to one year after the wedding. If you end up buying the gift after the wedding, try to do so immediately. “Otherwise, you’re likely to end up procrastinating, forgetting, and then wondering five years later why you’re no longer friends,” Smith says.

4. The couple is registering for cash, but I feel weird giving it—is it better to just buy a gift?

With such versatile registry options out there these days (think: honeymoon funds, cash registries, and experiential gifts) anything goes. There’s no right or wrong type of gift to give, especially if that’s what the couple’s asking for. But choose a gift based on what you’re comfortable giving and what you think they’ll love.

“ not my favorite gift because there’s no correct amount to give,” says Rebecca Black, founder of Etiquette Now, a company that conducts etiquette workshops. “An amount may appear generous to one couple, while the same amount could appear lacking to another.” If you’re uncomfortable about giving cash, opt for a gift certificate to a store at which the couple’s registered.

5. The couple registered really early—is it okay to buy birthday and holiday gifts off the registry?

Yes. Buying gifts for other holidays from the wedding registry helps make sure the couple will get everything they need, says Mark Kingsdorf, Master Bridal Consultant at The Queen of Hearts Wedding Consultants. In fact, this is why many stores offer the option of keeping a wedding registry open for several years after the event.

6. The couple registered for fewer gifts than the number of guests invited. What should I do?

“Couples sometimes view their wedding as a chance to get everything on their gee-I-want-that-so-badly list,” says Black, meaning they limit the items to make sure they receive them all. Or some couples do this hoping for money instead of gifts. Regardless of the motive, this means that your choices are wide open. Note: It’s probably still a good idea to choose something classic, not quirky.

7. The registry options are all way out of my price range—what now?

Don’t feel obligated to buy from the list. Instead, give a meaningful gift within your budget. “One of my favorite wedding gifts is a framed needlepoint picture of my wedding invitation,” Black says. Another option is to get something they didn’t register for but that goes with what they did register for, like the tableware. “Buy the serving utensils, salt and pepper shakers, or the sugar bowl and creamer that match their pattern,” Smith says. Lots of couples forget or don’t think they’ll need items like these until they’re serving guests (oops).

8. Is there a standard price range guests are supposed to spend?

There’s no perfect or proper amount of money to spend on a gift for any wedding guest―even a best friend―and no one is obligated to give a certain type of gift, Smith says. And that old belief that the guest should spend the price of her reception meal? “Another manners myth,” says Smith. Let your relationship and your own budget guide your selection. As a helpful guideline, you can think of it this way: give $50–$75 for a coworker, acquaintance, or a distant relative; $75–$150 for a closer friend or relative; and $150+ for very close loved ones (all depending on your budget, of course).

9. Do I need to get a registry gift if I’m in the wedding party and already spending a lot of money?

A little secret? Technically, nobody has to buy anyone wedding gift. So while it’s not necessarily required, it’s always a nice (and expected) gesture. “Etiquette’s all about thinking ahead,” says Smith. Make a list of all the upcoming expenses―shower, bachelorette party, dress, transportation, and lodging―and budget accordingly. Even if you only have a small amount left for a gift, Smith recommends at least giving a little something such as a book of love poems, bottle of bubbles, or a framed picture.

RELATED: 5 Next-Level Wedding Registry Options for All Engaged Couples

10. Do I need to buy gifts for both the shower and the wedding?

Yes. “That’s part of the obligation you agreed to when you RSVP for both events,” Kingsdorf says. Consider going in on a group gift with fellow guests in the same position to help lessen the cost for each person.

11. They’re registered for a product that costs much less at another retailer—is it okay to send them that one?

There’s no reason not to try to save money, Black says. Purchase and ship it well before the wedding so the couple will knows to remove it from their registry.

12. What’s the best way to find out where the bride and groom are registered if it’s not on their invitation or website?

Just ask! It’s completely acceptable to reach out to the couple, or even better, to members of the wedding party, or even the couples’ parents, Smith says. You can also try a quick search of the couples’ names on the usual wedding registry sites.

13. Is it acceptable to split an expensive item with a group of friends?

Definitely. Just be careful, warns Smith, because group gifts can get sticky. The more people involved, the more complicated it can get. Make sure you decide upfront whether everyone is contributing the same amount (and, if not, how the price tag is getting divided), who is collecting the money, and who’s purchasing the gift.

14. Registries feel so impersonal. Is there any way to make a registry gift more meaningful?

It’s all about the message in the card. If you bought a vase, for example, Smith recommends saying something like, “Congratulations on your wedding! May this vase be filled with flowers on special occasions, and, occasionally, just because.”

RELATED: 20 Practical Wedding Gift Ideas for the Couple Who Has Everything

  • By Amy Beal
  • By Maggie Seaver