The Do’s and Don’ts of Wedding Etiquette

A bride and groom embrace on a European rooftop

Ever wondered about the different do’s and don’ts of wedding etiquette? So much going and even the most trivial of details can get make you wonder in muddled confusion. What’s acceptable or unacceptable, tasteful or untasteful, can drive any one of us a little mad. Let’s look at some things that might sound trivial, but might just come up sooner or later.

Do’s and Don’ts for the Wedding Couple

Paying for the Wedding

Many couples pay for the wedding themselves. However, it is perfectly acceptable to politely ask parents if they could contribute to the wedding. If they’re open to contributing, ask how much or what part(s) of the wedding expenses they can afford. Take note of the total contributions and start working on a budget in those areas, such as the dress, suits, wedding, reception venue, etc. Be appreciative and stick to their budget. Anything beyond their budget is your expense. In the past, it was traditional for the bride’s family to pay for the wedding, but every family is different. Personally, I chose to have our wedding reception at my in-law’s home, which helped save a lot!

A couple working on their guest list

Invitations and RSVP

If possible, match your invitations to your wedding colors. If you’d like it to be an adult-only affair, don’t say “no children” on the invite, as it should be understood that you’re only inviting the people written on the invitation. Instead, you can phrase it gently by saying how many seats are being reserved. However, when inviting the kiddies, add on “and Family” to the invite. Most agree not to include the wedding registry in the invitation, but instead include the registry, and have guests RSVP, using a free online wedding website that can be listed on the paper invitation. Less tech-savvy guests can inquire about the registry and be informed by word-of-mouth. Also, cash gifts are perfectly acceptable.

Include directions or map cards with the invitations and, if used, on your wedding site. Don’t forget to stamp the response card envelope and include a due date on the cards. If anyone hasn’t RSVPed close to the wedding date, contact them at least three weeks before the wedding, as you’ll need the count for the vendors, meal choices (unless buffet), seating arrangements, etc.

Guest List

This is the hardest part, period, but stick to your budget on just how many you can afford. You can start by those presently closest to you, the couple, and then work on the rest of the list. Remember to give single guests the option of bringing a plus one. It’s hard to invite everyone, so you should make the tough decisions together as a couple. I had the challenging task of cutting the list to about 100 guests, and it wasn’t easy. Lastly, don’t have a B-list of guests, as if these guests find out, and they usually will sooner or later, it will hurt your relationship.

A bride and bridemaids lined up

Bridesmaids and Groomsmen

Making this list means these people are close relations or best buds. I’ve been a bridesmaid at various weddings, but it doesn’t automatically mean these same good folks were in our wedding party, nor in yours. Consider how it may even be a relief to them not to take part in your bridal party, as there is so much involved with expenses or other responsibilities. People and circumstances change and most likely, they’d appreciate not having to deal with it as well. So just invite them, if you’re still close, and let them enjoy the event. Less drama, less everything else, more fun for everyone.

Thank You Notes

Send out thank you notes within three weeks (no more than one month) after your wedding. Nothing says I appreciate and received your gift like saying thank you on time, before they start to wonder!

Miscellaneous

Yes, do feed your wedding vendor caterers and make sure to give them a break. Also, a forgetful RSVP or another extra guest might show unexpectantly, but no worries, as good caterers do usually bring extra food to accommodate these instances.

Two grooms celebrate with their wedding guests at the reception

Do’s and Don’ts for Wedding Guests

RSVP

Send back the RSVP response card as soon as possible. Whether a yes or no, the couple needs to start making appropriate dinner and other planned events for you. Also, let them know ASAP if something came up and you can’t make it, so they can possibly get refund for your portion. After all, every guest is an added expense and they cared enough to invite you.

And remember, a plus one means one guest, and not more. If this isn’t possible, then regretfully decline the invitation, as deciding on who to invite was very difficult for the couple.

Gifts

Make sure to buy things from the wedding registry, which may be on their wedding site (check your invitation). Do not bring handmade gifts, as you can always give them those personal gifts later. If this is too difficult, then you can always give them a cash gift, so they can get what they need. Cash always helps!

Not sure how much to spend? In most places in the USA, it’s about $50-100+, depending on how close you are to the couple (close relatives and friends usually spend more).

Kids dressed as a bride and groom

Kids

Don’t bring your kiddos unless the invitation states “and Family,” but do call if in doubt. Respect their wishes, get a babysitter, and enjoy yourselves. Keep invited kids under control during all parts of the ceremony and reception. If the kids get loud or out of control during the ceremony, simply walk out with them until things quiet down. After all, the wedding is most likely being videotaped for a lifetime of memories.

What to Wear to the Wedding

Unless specified, do not wear white, ivory, or cream, as it is the bride’s day to wear it with pizazz! Gentlemen, don’t wear shiny jackets, top hats, or anything that brings attention to you. If the invitation doesn’t specify a dress code, then ask the wedding couple if it’s semi, formal, casual dress, etc. Just make sure you don’t wear club-wear, nothing too sexy (especially if the wedding is in a house of worship, or wear something over it till reception), Vegas-y (a sparkly outfit may outshine the bride or groom), or denim. Black is fine if it looks festive.

A bartender pours a mixed drink

Open or Cash Bar

Enjoy the libations, but don’t abuse the wedding’s open bar. Don’t overindulge or encourage others to drink more than they’re comfortable, and no shots or the best top-shelf scotches. Drink in moderation over the course of the evening. This is something the generous couple will pay for later, as they do want you to have an enjoyable time. Also, don’t be late if there’s a cocktail hour, as there’s a planned schedule for everything.

Don’t over indulge, even if it’s a cash bar where you pay for your own drinks. It’s never appropriate to get drunk or lose control at a wedding. You can do that later, if you choose, at a more appropriate time and place, as getting wasted at a wedding is embarrassing not only for you, but also the newlyweds and everyone present. Plan for an Uber or other ride back if you’ve had a few drinks.

Talking About the Couple

Do not talk about old stories or issues with the newlyweds. You don’t know who might overhear your conversation. This is the time to keep things upbeat and positive, as the couple deserves a wonderful wedding day. You should expect this respect on any occasion you may have later as well.

When to Leave

Don’t arrive late to the ceremony or leave early after the you’ve eaten at the reception. The couple is very busy making their rounds and probably won’t have time to talk for a very long time. When it’s time leave simply say goodbye by shaking hands, hugs, and say your thanks for being invited. Be a good guest and you’ll be remembered warmly.

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