A Wedding Etiquette Update

I last wrote about wedding etiquette in 2007 – yes, I’ve been writing this column that long, and reading that old piece showed me how much things have changed since then. So today I’m going to update you with some ideas about what is appropriate and some things to consider.

I still believe that, while in our fast paced, modern world, etiquette might seem antiquate –  but good manners and knowing appropriate protocols never goes out of style. Understanding what to do, especially in unfamiliar situations, helps us all enjoy ourselves. When we are confident we avoid embarrassment.

For weddings, we definitely want to know what’s expected. Historically, the couple and their respective families used to have very specific roles to play. Today it is perfectly ok to stray from those, more so than ever.

A great toast is always appropriate.
Rhinehart Photography

Quick story: recently at a very nice, upscale wedding venue, as we were about to walk down the aisle, a car pulled up and two elderly people got out. They were dressed extremely casually, looked around and saw everyone dressed up, and became embarrassed and attempted to leave. Their friends and relatives tried to put them at ease and insisted they stay. They did attend the ceremony but slipped out before the reception. The moral to this story is make it very clear on your invitation the style of dress you are expecting. Don’t think you are being snobby doing this, you are actually doing your guests a favor.

An important topic is always money, who pays for what. Couples today often pay for their own weddings, when it used to be the bride’s family’s responsibility. It is wise to do what is financially prudent for all involved. You can find lists breaking down those responsibilities  – who pays for what (bride’s side/groom’s side) – but thanks in part to same-sex couples, those rules can be completely tossed aside if you so choose. Much of what you find regarding etiquette is strongly tied to gender roles, which I find a bit ridiculous.

Here are few other topics to consider.

The plus-one. This is pretty simple. If a couple has been together for a while, of course they are both invited. And yes, a single person may bring a date, but a single person should not feel obligated to do so. Make it clear on the invitation that a guest is welcome but certainly not required.

Please respect the RSVP. I continually hear that people are not responding to the invitation. You are making it very hard on the couple. They need to know how much food to order along with other key decisions.

Show up on time. Don’t be that person rushing into the ceremony at the last second or standing in the back because you were late. And don’t leave before the couple cuts the cake.

Don’t leave before they cut the cake!
Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for your gorgeous photos!

Social Media – do not take photos at the ceremony, unless you are asked to do so. And do not post your photos of someone else’s wedding on social media without their permission, especially before they post their own photos or the professional photos. It’s ok to post photos of yourselves at the wedding, however, because obviously you look fabulous!

One old but still important rule of etiquette involves the thank you note. I’m the first to go to my email whenever possible, but for a wedding gift you really should write a personal thank you, and in a timely fashion! Not a printed note. Handwritten. Include in it:  thanking the person for attending (if they did), mention the gift specifically, possibly how you will use or enjoy the gift, and reference any other specifics, such as a toast, or tidbit from the wedding. Three weeks post celebration is the perfect timing, but even six to eight weeks is still within reason. Please do not mess this one up – of all the etiquette rules to be broken, this is not one of them.


find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois Heckman

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