7 Old-Fashioned Wedding Etiquette Rules That Are Still Relevant

A wedding bouquet on an antique chair with a veil hanging next to it.

Weddings are full of traditions and etiquette—some of them wildly outdated (the bride can only wear white or the bride’s family has to pay a dowry to the groom’s family), but some of them are timeless and still followed today. Though for the most part we are living in a post-Emily Post world where weddings have become more individualized and modern, there are still certain old-fashioned wedding etiquette rules that remain relevant. Need a brush up on some of the proper wedding etiquette? Here are seven old-fashioned wedding etiquette rules that you should keep in the back of your mind.

1. You Always Need to RSVP

When you’re invited to a wedding, the invitation likely includes an “RSVP by” date. Whether your invitation includea a self-addressed envelope and an RSVP card or requests that you indicate your RSVP on their wedding website, it’s important to take note of this date and give the couple an answer before the deadline. Although the RSVP date may seem random to you, it’s not just arbitrary. The couple has to give their caterer, wedding cake baker, and their venue a near exact head count, so it’s crucial that you respond in a timely fashion.

Worse than RSVPing late, however, is failing to RSVP at all. The couple has made all sorts of arrangements—everything from a seating chart to a head count for the dinner being served—and showing up unannounced will put them in a bind to figure out where you should sit and whether or not there’s going to be enough food and drinks.

2. Don’t Wear White to Any Wedding Events

A bride and groom with their friends in a park after their wedding.

Even if the bride herself decides not to wear white to any of her wedding events, it’s still not a wise idea to choose that color for the wedding shower, bachelorette party—and especially not the wedding. Thankfully, an old wedding etiquette rule of not wearing black to a wedding is now a completely outdated concept, so feel free to wear that gorgeous little black dress to any of the wedding events.

3. Don’t Put Registry Information on the Wedding Invitations

You may have painstakingly thought about your wedding registry and spent hours carefully curating it on Amazon or scanning items in the local Williams Sonoma, but you still shouldn’t advertise where you registered on your wedding invitations. When you’re inviting guests to your wedding, you shouldn’t expect/demand that they will bring you a gift. However, it’s perfectly appropriate to put your registry details on a wedding shower invitation or your wedding website so that guests will know where to shop.

4. Send Thank You Cards for Gifts

Speaking of gifts, when your guests bring a wedding gift to your shower or wedding, it’s your responsibility to write them a thank you note. Although there’s no hard and fast rule for your deadline of sending a thank you note, it’s best not to wait too long (try not to go beyond a couple of months).

5. Don’t Assume You Can Bring a Plus-One

Weddings are a romantic occasion, so it’s only natural that you’d want to bring your sweetheart—or maybe even just your best pal or roommate to share the fun evening. However, unless your invitation specifically addresses your plus-one or has a space for you to add one, don’t assume that you can bring someone else to the wedding with you. Although it may seem unfair to you that you aren’t allowed to bring a plus-one, keep in mind that their venue may only hold so many guests or their budget may only stretch so far. Try to respect their wishes and leave your plus-one behind for an evening.

6. Don’t Arrive Late to the Ceremony

A wedding ceremony set-up with wood chairs and a cloth backdrop.

Even though many weddings don’t start right on the dot of when the invitation indicates it will, this doesn’t give you license to show up 15 minutes past the hour. Arriving late to the ceremony will be a huge distraction and will take away from the couple’s special moment. If anything, you should aim to show up at least a half hour before the ceremony starts so you can pick out a good seat.

Things happen, however, and if you’re running late then it’s best to just wait it out and head directly to the reception space. If the wedding guest list is especially long, it’s likely that the couple won’t even notice.

7. Congratulating the Couple

Lastly and most importantly, when you attend a wedding it’s always in good form to wish the happy couple a huge congratulations. This is a milestone in their lives, and it goes without saying that you should thank them for inviting you and wish them well. Thankfully, we’re not stuck to the rigid rules of “best wishes for the bride” and “congratulations to the groom” anymore, and you’re free to tell them congratulations in any way that feels right to you.

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