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Wedding Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Wedding Etiquette Explained

Wedding etiquette refers to what is typically “expected” at a wedding, from who to invite as a couple to what to wear as a guest.

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Strict wedding etiquette can feel outdated and overly formal, that’s not the type of wedding etiquette we like! But some relaxed understanding of wedding etiquette can help the couple and their wedding guests feel happy and understand what will happen on the day.

READ MORE: Wedding Traditions and Their Meanings – 15 Things You Never Knew About Weddings

Engagement Etiquette

Let’s start at the beginning, engagement etiquette. We answer all the common wedding etiquette questions around engagement and proposals.

READ MORE: How to Propose in 5 Easy Steps

Do I Need to Ask Permission to Pop the Question?

Tradition states that the prospective groom ask the father of the bride for his permission to propose. While the notion of the woman being ‘property’ of the men is more than outdated, this little tradition is still expected by lots of families. If you are a same sex couple and you plan to pop the question then same rules apply – if you are feeling traditional you could ask the family.

Use your own judgement of family relationships to think about what would be expected – and if in doubt then we say ask permission. It’s better to ask when they weren’t expecting it than to not ask and the family were expecting it! You might want to speak to your partner’s wider family or both parents together rather than simply asking your partner’s father. It will be a lovely bonding moment to spend some time alone with your (hopefully!) future in-laws to be.

When Can I Post My Engagement News on Social Media?

Whenever you want! But if you want to save any family upset then make sure you tell your family and close friends personally before you shout your news from the rooftops.

If you are about to post a social media congratulations to a couple you know, stop and ensure they have already posted the news themselves, you don’t want to inadvertently be sharing their happy news before they have had a chance to tell people.

Wedding Cost Etiquette

Image: Wedding Fund Box – Not on the Highstreet

Money is always a sensitive topic and many couples now foot the full bill for their wedding day, while the majority of couples pay the bulk of the costs themselves with contributions from their families.

READ MORE: Who Pays For What at a Wedding?

What Do the Bride’s Family Pay For?

Traditionally the bride’s family are said to pay for the wedding reception – so this includes the venue, food and drink.

What Do the Groom’s Family Pay For?

The groom’s family traditionally pay for the marriage fees and the groom’s suit.

Can We Ask Our Parents to Contribute?

If you are planning your wedding and would like to ask your parents to contribute then have an open and honest conversation with them. We would advise that it is fine to ask and have a discussion…it’s probably less fine to demand they pay for it!

Do We Need to Have a Free Bar?

Most wedding guests won’t expect a free bar for the whole night so there is no pressure to try and cover the costs of this. Typically the happy couple will provide drinks up until the evening reception starts, so this includes the post-ceremony drinks reception and the wine throughout dinner.

Guest List Etiquette

Image: Wedding Invitation – Etsy

Planning the guest list is one of the most difficult parts of wedding planning and using basic wedding etiquette can help you navigate this tricky topic.

READ MORE: How to Avoid Wedding Guest List Politics

Is it Ok to Invite Someone to the Hen or Stag Do and Not the Wedding?

We would say probably not! If someone is invited to the hen or stag do then it’s likely they will be expecting an invitation to the big day!

Do We Have to Give Single Guests a Plus One?

It’s quite a dated tradition that single guests are given plus ones – weddings are expensive so don’t add to your budget by inviting extra guests you don’t know.

Do We Have to Invite Partners to the Wedding?

Typically you would invite long term partners – however if your budget won’t allow then try and keep it consistent. You could invite just partners that you have met and are on friendly terms with – the key to not offending people is to keep your rule consistent.

Do We Have to Invite Friends of Our Parents?

This can be a tricky one. If your parents are trying to add a huge number of extra guests then we would say no, however it would be nice to invite a handful of their close friends. If your budget won’t allow this then simply explain this to your parents. If your parents are footing the bill for the wedding then it’s probably the polite thing to do to let them invite some of their friends.

How Do We Word Our Invitations?

The majority of couples word their invitations from themselves but tradition would have the bride’s parents be the ones inviting all the guests.

It is up to you how you want to word your invitations – and we have a whole list of templates to help you make up your mind.

What Do We Do If Guests Don’t RSVP?

Awkward! If your guests don’t RSVP then we suggest you follow up with them, their response may have gotten lost in the post or they might think they have RSVP’d and actually didn’t. You don’t want them turning up on the day with nowhere to sit so we advise you double check.

Wedding Guest Etiquette

Are you heading to a wedding soon? We answer some of the most asked questions by wedding guests.

READ MORE: 18 Rules All Wedding Guests Should Follow

What Should a Wedding Guest Wear?

If there is no dress code on the wedding invitation then treat the big day as a formal occasion.

Can I Wear Smart Jeans to a Wedding?

Unless the invitation states an informal dress code then jeans are a no!

Is it Ok to Wear White to a Wedding?

No – this also goes for ivory! Some brides won’t mind a guest wearing white but it’s such a sensitive topic that we say if in doubt, don’t.

Can I Ask For a Plus One?

It’s poor etiquette to ask for a plus one – if it’s a long term partner then it’s likely the couple haven’t factored plus ones into their budget. If it’s a new partner and you are hoping they get an invite, why not invite the couple over for dinner so they can get to know them – you may then get a follow up invite appear in the post!

Can I Ask to Bring My Child to a Wedding?

Again, it’s likely the couple have had a lengthy discussion about children at their wedding, so if their name isn’t on the invitation then they are not invited.

Do I Have to Bring a Gift to the Wedding?

It’s polite to bring a gift to the wedding but you don’t have to spend a fortune, if the gift list is filled with ideas out of your price range then think about what other unique gifts you could bring.

Can I Post Photos on Social Media on the Wedding Day?

This depends on the couple – generally you shouldn’t post photos of the couple before the evening guests have arrived so that they don’t have the surprise of the dress ruined. The couple may state they don’t want posts on social media so if they have said this then respect that. Alternatively if they have encouraged social media posting and created a hashtag then go for it. If in doubt you could wait until the couple post some pictures themselves.

After the Big Day

You just have one more thing to make sure you do after the big day – send your thank you cards.

READ MORE: A Guide to Writing Wedding Thank You Cards

When Do We Need to Send Our Wedding Thank You Cards?

Make sure you don’t fail at the last hurdle! Thank you notes should be sent out within three months of the wedding day.

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Are you a couple who love to break the rules? Then take a look at the wedding rules that were made to be broken.

8 Old-School Etiquette Rules That No Longer Apply

There are a lot of old-school traditions and etiquette rules attached to the word “wedding.” But don’t worry, most of these so called “rules” were made to be broken (with a few exceptions, of course). Hey, times are changing and some stuffy old rules simply don’t hold up anymore. Here are eight wedding etiquette rules you no longer need to worry about—despite what your parents say.

1. The bride’s parents always pay for the wedding.

Today more than ever, couples fund their celebration in different ways. It’s true the majority of weddings are paid for by the bride’s parents (according to The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study)—however, unlike in the past, where the bride’s family was expected to foot the whole bill, they’re in no way obligated to now. Grooms’ parents and the couples themselves chip in nearly as often as brides’ parents do. Many couples split costs evenly with both sets of parents or even pay for the entire thing themselves. It all depends on you two and your families’ financial situations and preferences.

2. Absolutely everyone gets a plus-one.

If you want and can afford to give all of your guests plus-ones, go for it. However, once you’ve invited all guests who must be considered package deals (a quick refresher: spouses, engaged couples and couples who live together, or have been dating seriously for a year or more), you aren’t obligated to offer other single guests dates. The only exceptions to this rule are members of your wedding party and single guests who are coming from far away or really won’t know anyone there.

3. An adults-only wedding is rude.

An adults-only wedding is completely acceptable, and it’s your prerogative to go that route if you prefer it. Leaving the kids at home will make for a sophisticated affair and can really help you trim down the guest list. What isn’t acceptable is to go about it tactlessly. (If you’ve always envisioned an adults-only wedding, here’s all the proper etiquette to follow so you don’t step on any toes.)

4. It’s tacky to ask for cash gifts.

This is one old-school wedding rule we couldn’t be more excited to rewrite. Requesting cash contributions instead of, or in addition to, tradition presents is not only acceptable but hugely popular among today’s couples. Thanks to The Knot Newlywed Fund, couples can ask for classy cash to put toward experiences (maybe a trip to Thailand) and big life milestones (like IVF). So while traditional retail registries aren’t losing favor any time soon, there’s definitely a new registry sheriff in town (and its name is cash).

5. The mother of the bride can’t host the bridal shower.

Traditionally, it was considered gift-grabby if members of the bride’s immediate family, like her mom, planned and hosted the shower, which is why you’d often see the maid of honor, entire wedding party, a family friend or the in-laws commonly play host. But that’s not really a thing anymore. Really, it comes down to who wants to throw the shower—the bride’s aunts, in-laws, family friends, college roommates or even coworkers—as well as who lives where.

6. You have to have a rehearsal dinner.

You’re going to want to rehearse your ceremony, but as for what you do before or after? Totally up to you. Traditionally, when most couples lived separately before tying the knot, and engagements were only a few weeks long, the rehearsal dinner would be the first time both sets of parents could meet. Having a rehearsal dinner is still a fabulous idea, but if there’s no time or room in the budget, it’s fine to skip it, especially if your ceremony rehearsal has to take place on a weekday or the morning of your wedding. And it also doesn’t have to be a dinner—ever considered a rehearsal brunch or roaming cocktail party including any early guests?

7. Only your wedding party can come to your bachelor/ette bash.

False! The only etiquette rule you have to follow at your prewedding bash is that anyone invited to it must also be invited to the wedding. After that, go nuts.

8. You have to leave for your honeymoon right after your reception.

It’s your honeymoon—you can leave whenever you want! Heading straight to your honeymoon can be very romantic, but it can honestly be a logistical nightmare. Whether you jet off immediately following morning-after brunch or wait six months, your first newlywed trip should be completely tailored to you two—not tradition.

Soon-to-be brides certainly don’t need to be told that the 21st century has ushered in a new era of wedding etiquette. They’ve likely already considered sending eco-conscious invites via email — and appeasing their hashtag-happy generation with a custom, Instagrammable wedding slogan.

But what about the guests?

If you’re planning on attending a wedding this summer, you’re going to want to put your best foot forward. And that means staying up to date on what’s been crossed out of the rule book, what’s been tweaked, and what’s, well, really not up for debate.

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TODAY spoke with Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas to learn all about modern wedding guest etiquette.

The old rule: Thou shalt not steal the bride’s thunder by wearing white to a wedding — oh, and black’s out of the question, too.

“Black used to be taboo, yes,” Gottsman told us. “In most cases, if this is the second marriage for the bride, those sorts of rules are already thrown out the window. And in other cases, I believe that as long as you don’t show up as if you’re going to a funeral, you’re totally fine.”

Gottsman suggested donning a light, breezy black dress, especially if you’re on your way to a summer wedding. Tradition aside, a “shroud-looking garment” just might not be the best choice aesthetically. You can liven up the all-black look with some killer shoes and playful jewelry.

As for white?

“Traditionally, you would not wear white. White and ivory should be left for the bride — and that still holds true today,” said Gottsman. “Of course, you can wear a dress with some white in it, or have white somewhere within your outfit, but you shouldn’t plan to show up wearing an all-white ensemble.”

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The old rule: Thou shalt not take photos on your smartphone, because … wait, what’s a smartphone?

“Now that everyone’s phone takes photos, and now that those photos are promptly uploaded to social media platforms, you really need to make sure that you’re not trumping the bride and groom,” said Gottsman.

Some will encourage you to photograph the event, and even give you a hashtag to use on all the wedding photos. But if you aren’t sure what they want, err on the side of caution. Which is to say, don’t post anything.

“Often, a guest will post before the bride has even had a chance to post herself, and that can be upsetting. You just don’t know how they’re feeling, and with tensions running high already, it’s best to put down the camera.”

Secondly, if there’s a professional photographer, don’t get in their way. The bride and groom are likely looking forward to having photos taken by the professional they paid to do the job. They’ll appreciate it if you allow the photographer his or her space.

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“Oh, and you also do not want to tag the bride in a photo that’s unflattering,” concluded Gottsman. “And, of course, you never want to post pictures of children without permission.”

The old rule: Thou shalt send in your RSVP via snail mail.

“Sure, things have changed, and some people really are conscientious of going green,” Gottsman said. “But it doesn’t mean you can choose your own response method or get lazy with it.”

The best way to ensure you’re doing the right thing is to answer the invitation in the form in which it’s requested. So, if the couple emails you and provides an RSVP email, respond with a courteous note to that email. Likewise, if they invite you with beautiful stationery, don’t plan on texting them with a, “Yup, I’ll be there.”

Not only does that take away from the exciting, formal tone they’ve set, but it also makes their life difficult. Someone’s collecting all those little RSVP cards, so help them out by keeping all the responses in one place.

And remember — simply telling someone you’re coming does not constitute an RSVP.

“If you’re invited to a wedding, and you run into the bride at the grocery store and say, ‘Hey, yes, we’ll be there,’ that just doesn’t cut it,” Gottsman laughed.

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The old rule: The bride and groom are expected to create a registry. And thou shalt not stray from the items on the list.

“The truth is, a registry is still pretty fabulous because it’s specific and provides details on exactly what the bride and groom are going to need,” Gottsman said. “They still serve a purpose. So, if you’re provided with a link to a registry, you should still go by it.”

If you plan to go wild and get the happy couple something they didn’t ask for, Gottsman advised that you should include a gift receipt. She also conceded that gift cards and monetary gifts are fine, especially if you feel that the registry is a bit out of your budget.

But, in the end, this rule isn’t going anywhere. In fact, there’s even more of a reason to abide by the registry system.

“Nowadays, people are getting married a little older,” Gottsman added. “They may already be living together, and they might have their toaster and their blender. You can’t be sure your gift will actually be helpful to them unless you check that list.”

The old rule: Thou shalt respectfully participate in all wedding traditions, including the throwing of the bridal bouquet.

“Some people love going out and catching the bouquet. Other girls may feel like, ‘That’s so outdated. I don’t want to put myself in that position where I’m vying for the flowers,’” Gottsman said.

“But whatever you believe, this day is not about you, and if the bride has chosen to include a tradition such as this one in her big day, that’s her prerogative.”

Rather than making a scene, simply excuse yourself quietly.

“Don’t just stand off to the side, because people may chide you in a friendly way to get out there and participate, and you’ll have to respond,” Gottsman added. “You do not want to appear adversarial, at least at this particular moment in time, because this moment is not yours.”

RELATED: Picture perfect! 86 wedding photos you can’t forget to capture

The old rule: Thou shalt attend every second of the wedding ceremony, which will most likely be in a religious setting. Then, you can attend the party.

“Some people will think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to sit through that long religious ceremony. I just really want to go to the fun part,’” said Gottsman. “Well, if the couple has invited you to the wedding, they’re expecting you to join them for the full experience.”

A ceremony and reception go hand in hand, meaning this rule is here to stay.

“Trust me, the bride and groom will remember who shows up and who doesn’t. And they’ll remember who leaves early, too.”

It’s true that the tradition of the ceremony has changed enormously over the years. Many are now taken outside of churches or synagogues and instead held on beaches or balconies or hot air balloons. But whatever that ceremony consists of, you’re sharing an important moment with the couple. Be there for them.

The old rule: Thou shalt consider bringing a plus one if and only if the invitation makes it clear that a person other than you is being invited.

“The invitations may look different, but the tradition is the same,” said Gottsman. “If your boyfriend or girlfriend’s name is not on the invitation, or if it doesn’t include a crystal-clear ‘plus one’ addendum, they’re not invited.”

That may be uncomfortable for some invitees who are left to tell their significant other they didn’t make the cut. But try not to bug the couple about it. The exception is if you’re engaged or married. In that case, the invite blunder was probably just an oversight on the part of the bride or planner.

This article was originally published on June 17, 2016 on TODAY.com.

Because your wedding will be one of the most memorable days of your life, your behavior needs to reflect this. Learn what to do — and what not to do — on the big day from David Tutera of WE tv’s The Wedding Planner and author of My Fair Wedding: Finding Your Vision… Through His Revisions!

It’s simply important that you come across to your guests as appropriate, sincere, and genuinely thankful that they are there to celebrate with you. Trust me, being a graceful bride will keep you from having any regrets five, ten, or fifty years from now. It will also keep your guests filled with memories of you as nothing less than charming, beautiful, and blushing. Remember, this party isn’t only about you; it’s about the bride and groom — and, of course, your guests! Follow these tips to ensure that you are the picture of elegance and grace at your wedding:

  • Walk down the aisle with poise, and hold your bouquet by the stems with flowers tilted forward.
  • Practice your wedding kiss and make sure it’s sweet, not raunchy.
  • Make a mental note to avoid arm-pumping after the ceremony is complete. You’re getting married, not cheering for a high school football team! Walk back up the aisle together as the happy, elegant couple you are.

  • Attend your own cocktail hour! When couples schedule photos during this time, they miss out on sharing those first few moments of newlywed excitement with their family and friends. Also, consider that couples often enter the reception room fifteen minutes after guests have entered, so missing cocktails as well as the start of the reception means a lot of time away from guests.
  • Make a point to look into the eyes of your guests when talking to them — this is good etiquette anytime.
  • At the reception, visit each table and greet guests individually. If possible, try to visit with each guest at least twice during the evening. It’s no different than if you were hosting a dinner party at home — you want everyone to feel welcome.
  • Always mingle with guests with your new husband at your side.
  • Neither you nor your groom should ever be seen smoking or drinking beer from a bottle rather than a proper glass. You’re not at a sports bar!
  • Pace yourself when drinking wine or cocktails — no one wants to see a tipsy bride or groom. You don’t want to wind up on Brideszillas!
  • Hold your champagne glass by the stem, not the bowl to keep the champagne chilled. And always have a glass within reach for toasts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Tutera, author of My Fair Wedding: Finding Your Vision… Through His Revisions! (Copyright © 2011 WE: Women’s Entertainment LLC), is one of the biggest names in the wedding industry, renowned for his wedding design and production firm that has catered to the bridal needs of celebrities like Star Jones and Antonio Pierce of the New York Giants. And, while not for weddings, David Tutera has also counted Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, Elton John, and Barbara Walters as satisfied customers. David will debut his own line of wedding dresses in Fall 2009 at bridal retail stores and boutiques nationwide. Additionally, “Disney’s Couture Wedding Collection by David Tutera” is a line of four wedding decor packages designed for Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California. David has been featured as a wedding expert on several television shows, including The Tyra Banks Show, The Bonnie Hunt Show, The View, TBS’s Movie and a Makeover, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and Fox and Friends. David is often featured in magazines and in printed publications, from Town and Country to The New York Times, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and more.

LEARN MORE

  • Browse inside My Fair Wedding
  • Browse more books about weddings

Weddings are a magical day meant to celebrate love and lifelong partnership, but they can get a little confusing at times. As a guest or member of the wedding party, there are plenty of rules to follow from the moment you receive that carefully-crafted invitation in the mail. While some etiquette rules vary by country or religion, most hold true just about anywhere.

We sat down with renowned event planner-to-the-stars David Monn to uncover the truth about what you should do—and definitely not do—when attending a wedding. So, before you check yes on that invite or plan on bringing a plus one, take a look at these helpful tips that might just save you from committing a tragic wedding faux pas.

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1. Is it okay to wear white to a wedding?

“Probably the worst faux pas, I think ever, is for someone to wear white at a wedding,” says Monn. Per tradition, white is a color to be worn exclusively by the bride, as it ensures all eyes are her during her special day. Guests should stick with colors that don’t draw too much attention—like black—which Monn says is a safe bet because “your eye never sees black. You become part of the void.”

According to Monn, there is only one instance in which guests should wear white. “If the bride wants you to…and it’s stated on the invitation. It has to be a very specific request,” he says.

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2. Can the groom wear white to the wedding?

When it comes to the groom’s attire, the colors he wears are just as important. “If it’s a formal wedding in the summertime, then men should wear a white dinner jacket,” Monn says. “That’s what it was meant for, and almost nobody even knows that anymore.” For this reason, depending on the setting of the wedding, the groom can also step away from the traditional black tuxedo suit.

3. Does your wedding have to fit with the season?

When planning your wedding, seasonality is a huge factor that affects everything from the flowers to the colors of the bridesmaid’s dresses. “The season means something, because the season actually tells us how we feel,” Monn says. “When it gets cooler out in the fall and the leaves turn, we wear cashmere and choose colors like warm and burnt oranges. The colors and fabrics make us feel a certain way about the season, and a wedding should absolutely be the same thing.”

4. Can you post pictures of the reception on social media?

While your social media page might be the perfect place to document your life and everything going on around you, you might want to think twice before posting at a wedding. Many couples consider the ceremony to be a private event for the people they’ve chosen to invite—not to mention, having guests with their iPhones in the air can be an eye sore in the couple’s professional wedding photos. However, if the bride and groom specifically encourage you to use their wedding hashtag, it’s safe to assume they’re fine with you posting photos of the big day.

5. Should you buy a gift off of the wedding registry?

“If the couple really needs things, then their registry will be filled with the items that they’re working toward owning for their home,” says Monn. If you know the spouses-to-be need a little help getting their lives started together, then the registry is the way to go. Otherwise, making sure the gift is thoughtful and personal.

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6. Do you need to buy a separate gift for the engagement party?

While an engagement gift is always appreciated, it’s not a requirement, according to Monn. Also, remember to send your gift in advance, as bringing a box or gift bag to the event can cause clutter and confusion.

MORE: 10 Wedding Gift Etiquette Mistakes You’re Probably Making

7. What should I avoid saying at the wedding?

“Even if you have the worst seat or something was bad, never share that; never share bad news on a good day,” Monn says. Weddings are all about love and celebration, and bringing up negative comments only takes away from the magic.

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8. Should I give the bride and groom any wedding planning advice?

“If a friend asks you, that’s one thing. Offering is not,” Monn says. While you may have good intentions and think you’re being helpful by recommending an amazing caterer or venue, it’s best to keep any suggestions to yourself unless specifically asked by the bride or groom.

“You have to trust in yourself first, because when you start to second guess or listen to somebody else’s opinion, you only get confused,” says Monn.

9. What are my duties as the maid of honor or bridesmaid?

Luckily for any bridesmaids or maids of honor, most brides like to take care of the wedding responsibilities on their own. There are still a few duties, however, that fall on you if you are part of the wedding party. Maids of honor are often tasked with throwing a bridal shower and helping the bride with anything she needs before (and on) the big day. The same is true for the best man.

“It’s much more about emotional support and not adding any of your drama into the bride’s day,” Monn says.

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10. How do you narrow down the guest list?

In the past, wedding guest lists were composed primarily of the bride and groom’s family, with a few friends as part of the bridal party. Nowadays, however, guest lists include co-workers, extended family members, and friends of the couples’ parents. This can make it difficult to narrow down the number of attendees. In order to make planning your guest list a little easier, Monn recommends creating some guidelines.

“If the person does not know both the bride and the groom as a couple, then you might consider leaving them off,” says Monn. “If someone has been dating their significant other for less than a year, they don’t necessarily have to be invited. And somebody that is not in a relationship absolutely does not get a plus one.”

11. Should you bring your kids to the wedding?

Kids are just as much a part of the family as anyone else, and having them participate in the ceremony—either as a flower girl or ring bearer—can make for some fantastic memories and photo opportunities. But when it comes to the reception, most couples prefer an adults-only affair. “I know almost no one who invites children to a wedding,” Monn says. For this reason, it’s always important to read the invitation carefully and check with the bride and groom before assuming your kids are welcome.

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12. Should you invite someone to the wedding if they invited you to theirs?

“You should not feel obligated to just because they’ve invited you to their wedding,” Monn says. Size and resource restrictions based on your budget or wedding plan are a completely valid excuse for reciprocating a wedding invitation.

13. Should you send an invitation even if you know they cannot make it?

“If you know they can’t come but they would be on your list, then you should definitely send an invitation,” Monn says. While a far-away guest or older relative may not be able to attend the actual wedding, making them feel included and letting them know you were thinking of them is always appreciated.

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14. How do you keep guests from getting bored or anxious?

As the bride or groom, it’s important to look at every guest individually as if they are the most important person at the wedding, not yourself, according to Monn. If you’ve planned your wedding efficiently, every single event should move at a smooth and timely pace that keeps guests from getting fidgety or bored. “It’s very important to make certain that you’re not doing things that will change how someone is having a good time,” said Monn.

Whatever you do, just be sure to keep the party moving. Never leave guests sitting anywhere for longer than 45 minutes, including during dinner, and always take into account travel time and other activities that may seem small but might actually accumulate and prove overly time consuming.

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15. How should you write your wedding speech?

When it comes to speeches, there should be no more than three: one for the bride’s parents, one for the groom’s parents, and possibly one other speech reserved for someone important. “And that other person’s speech should be incredibly edited—not a ‘you had to be there’ story,” says Monn. “You should always be elevating people, never taking them back to a stage in time that wasn’t fun.” Make sure the speech is short— about two-minutes long—and serves to promote the new journey the spouses-to-be are going on together.

16. How do you avoid getting stressed out on your wedding day?

While your wedding will be one of the most memorable days of your life, placing too much pressure on yourself by trying to make everything flawless will only cause unnecessary stress. Try your best to live in the moment, and remember that most of the time, your guests will be having too much fun to notice slight imperfections. Ultimately, your wedding is about the people you’re celebrating with—not the minor details!

An Overview of Wedding Etiquette Introduction

The happiest moments in our lives are usually accompanied by some kind of celebration. These “big events” are traditions that are surrounded by specific rules of etiquette that dictate how we are supposed to celebrate and how the participants should act in order to show respect for the guests of honor. A brief overview of how to act at some of the more common celebrations will enable you to handle yourself gracefully at all of life’s happiest celebrations. Want to learn more? Take an online course in Etiquette.

Weddings

Weddings run the gamut from private, informal ceremonies with just the immediate family in attendance to elaborate affairs with guest lists numbering in the hundreds. Entire books have been written on how to plan and organize weddings. We will talk about how to be a proper guest, from receiving your invitation to leaving the reception.

When you receive an invitation to a wedding, be sure to look at the wording of the invitation carefully. If it is addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Friend,” it is for you and your spouse only, not your children. When you fill out the RSVP, or response card, you should indicate your name and either one or two people. You cannot add your children and you cannot call the mother of the bride or anyone else and ask if it would be all right if you brought your children. The way the invitation is worded indicates who is invited, and you have no right to expect that the bride and groom should accommodate you by making changes.

If the invitation says, “Mr. and Mrs. John Q Friend and children” or “Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Friend and family,” you may assume this means you, your spouse, and the children still living under your roof. It does not mean your unmarried sister who would love to meet someone or your daughter who is 20 and has her own apartment. If she has her own place, she will receive her own invitation, which will either be addressed to “Miss Jayne Friend,” or “Miss Jayne Friend and Guest,” in which case Jayne may bring one guest, who is assumed to be the person she is dating.

Always respond so that the RSVP card will arrive at its destination by the date indicated. If it asks that you respond by the 30th of the month, mail it no later than the 24th, so that it has six days to arrive, particularly if you live several states away. The response date is not the date you should drop it in the mail.

If you discover that you cannot attend a wedding and you have already responded that you would attend, contact the mother of the bride if possible if it is more than a few weeks before the wedding. With enough notice, the wedding planners can adjust the orders for meals and save the cost of a few dinners, which can quickly add up. However, if you find out only a week prior, it will usually only add stress to an already long list of things the family has to tend to and will be too late to make any difference to the caterer.

On the day of the wedding, arrive at least 10 minutes before the ceremony is scheduled to start so that you can be seated. Ushers at the back of the church will ask you whether you are should be on the groom’s side or the bride’s side. Indicate which side you received the invitation from, and the usher will offer his arm to the oldest woman in the group. She should take his arm and allow him to lead her to the appropriate seat, with the others in the group following. Once seated, soft conversation is appropriate until the music for the processional begins, at which time all conversation ceases.

There are few ceremonies that are as beautiful as a wedding ceremony. Many people get misty-eyed and very few are not moved by the exchange of vows, the lovely music, and the giving and receiving of rings. The only thing guests have to do is listen quietly, respond appropriately if asked by the priest or officiating minister, and stand when the bride walks by during both the processional and recessional.

After the ceremony comes the receiving line. It may be at the church or at the reception. In either case, each guest should move through the line quickly. Conversation should be only a brief word of congratulations and a hug or kiss if appropriate. Be careful not to get lipstick on anyone! As you meet each member of the wedding party, be sure to let him or her know how you know the bride and/or groom and introduce yourself.

The reception is when everyone relaxes and has fun. Dinner is served and there is generally music and dancing. Whether it is a sit-down dinner, a buffet, or a barbecue, remember your table manners and keep in mind that this is a celebration that the bride and groom and their families have spent months putting together. Some general rules to keep in mind at any wedding reception include:

  • Do not drink too much alcohol. It is probably the No. 1 mistake made by guests, and too often ends in embarrassment for both guests and hosts. Remember that this day will be a cherished memory for years to come and is probably being recorded. Do you want to be seen years from now as the one who is staggering on the dance floor?
  • Do not take too much food the first time through the buffet line. Overfilling your plate makes you look like a pig and if too many people do it, may leave slim choices for the guests at the end of the line. Instead, eat moderately, and when all guests have eaten their meal, you can go back for seconds if you wish.
  • Guests should not give toasts until invited and until all members of the family and wedding party have done so. Keep in mind when toasting that grandparents and young children are listening; do not tell stories that will shock or humiliate anyone. It is not funny and it will make the happy couple regret inviting you.
  • Keep in mind that this day is about the bride and groom, not you or your family. Be charming, warm, friendly, and unobtrusive.
  • If you see someone who is not dancing, particularly a widow or widower, ask the person to dance. You just might make her or his night.
  • Introduce yourself to others at your table. Seating arrangements at receptions are the result of careful planning. If you do not know some of the people at your table, take the time to get to know them; do not ignore them. By the end of the evening, you probably will discover that you really enjoy their company.
  • If you want to join friends at another table, do not do so until after dessert. You should dine at the table you were assigned to. Things are more relaxed once dancing begins, and people tend to drift from table to table; before then, do not desert the people at your own table.
  • Try not to take the wedding gift to the wedding or reception. If you can, have it delivered before the wedding to the home of the bride or have it delivered to the couple’s home after their return from their honeymoon. Keeping track of gifts at the reception is difficult and there is always the danger of theft. You also do not know if the happy couple are leaving immediately for the honeymoon, in which case someone else will be left with responsibility for a stack of gifts.
  • Do not leave the reception without wishing the bride and groom well and congratulating them one more time. Also take the time to thank both sets of parents for a lovely celebration and congratulate them on their new son-in-law or daughter-in-law.
  • Do not be the last guests to leave the reception!

Wedding and Baby Showers

There seems to be some confusion surrounding the etiquette of showers these days, whether they are baby showers or wedding showers. These used to be intimate little parties thrown by the closest, dearest friends of a young woman to celebrate either the impending birth of her first child or her impending marriage. They were small, rather informal, and a great deal of fun. Today many women have baby showers with a guest list that rivals their wedding guest list, which is against all the rules of etiquette.

A proper shower should be thrown by a close friend, never by the woman’s mother or any other relative, and it should be for only the closest of friends. There should also be only two showers at the most. For instance, if a woman is expecting a child and her close friends at work throw a small shower for her after work and her closest childhood friends have another one planned for her, that is it. Any more than that is simply gift-grubbing and is not appropriate or needed. Her relatives and family may certainly choose to attend one shower or the other if they are invited but not both. They can give her gifts, but they do not throw another shower and they do not invite half the town.

If you are invited to a baby shower or a bridal shower, the rules are much the same as they are for a wedding or any other celebration. Respond with plans to attend in the appropriate amount of time and give a gift that is within your budget. If you happen to be invited to two showers for the same woman, do not feel obligated to purchase two gifts or to attend both showers. Simply choose the one you feel is more appropriate or that you will enjoy more and attend that one.

Dressing Appropriately for a Wedding

What to wear to a wedding depends on the type of wedding, the time of year, and the time of day. Weather will obviously influence your choice of clothing; you do not want to wear velvet in the summer or a cotton dress in the winter. You also will want to take into consideration how formal the wedding is and the time of day. Most of us will never receive an invitation to a black tie or white tie wedding, although we may receive an invitation to a semi-formal wedding celebration. The wedding invitation’s formality and where the wedding ceremony will take place will give you an idea of appropriate dress as well. At a beach wedding, a sundress would be lovely, while an evening wedding would require something dressier. Some general guidelines for men and women follow.

Male wedding guests:

  • Daytime weddings are simple for men. In the winter, a dark suit, shirt, and tie is appropriate. In the summer, a lighter-colored suit can be worn. If the setting is more casual or for a smaller wedding, for example, in a country club or chapel instead of a large church, a blazer over contrasting trousers is also appropriate.
  • An evening wedding requires a dark suit and tie. If it is after 6 p.m., the wedding may be black tie. If so, it will be clearly indicated on the wedding invitation and all guests will be required to wear a black dinner suit and bow tie, with the option of a white jacket and black tie with black slacks in the summer.

Female wedding guests:

There is so much more variety available for women when choosing their attire that there is also much more room for error. Keep in mind that it is the bride’s moment to shine and no one should dress to take the spotlight away from her.

  • Daytime weddings call for a woman to wear either a dress that is just above the knees to mid-calf length, depending on the style that suits her, or a soft, flattering dress suit. A skirt and blouse or a sweater set is too informal for a wedding. A mini-skirt is improper for two reasons: It is too distracting and may be offensive in some churches or synagogues. Remember, you are attending a religious ceremony, not going to a bar.
  • Any solid color or print is acceptable for a woman’s dress with the exception of solid white, which is the color reserved for the bride. Before 5 p.m., you should also avoid solid black, which is too stark for a daytime celebration.
  • After 5 p.m., however, the “little black dress” or cocktail dress is perfectly acceptable for a wedding.
  • Unless it is an evening wedding, do not wear anything with sequins.
  • For a black tie wedding in the evening, a woman should wear a dress in a formal fabric such as brocade, silk, crepe, or satin in a length from three-quarter to ballroom length.
  • If your dress is sleeveless, be sure to take some form of wrap, such as a dressy sweater, shrug, or pashmina, to cover your shoulders at the church. This is a gesture of respect. You should keep your bare shoulders covered throughout the ceremony unless someone has assured you it is acceptable to remove your covering. Upon leaving the church and at the reception you can show off your dress and bare arms.