Planning your wedding can be downright difficult, with the seemingly never-ending list of things to do and the countless decisions to make. And those are just the tangible tasks that you need to check off your to-do list. Factor in the emotions, social interactions you need to have, and the potentially difficult situations you’ll encounter along the way. Plus, weddings have a long-standing tradition and wedding etiquettes and this can lead to dozens of questions.
Now, why should you be expected to know the answers to the most delicate wedding-related inquiries if you are still yet to plan your own wedding? Even the simplest and most customary things (such as wedding registers for gifts) requires an ample amount of knowledge about wedding etiquette. Some of these etiquettes and traditions can be ignored but some should be followed and are non-negotiable. Take the engagement announcement for example; there is a proper way for you to share the news of your engagement, and it isn’t you posting on Instagram a photo of your engagement ring or a video of him proposing. There’s even proper protocol on who pays for bridal showers, and definitive guidelines for cell phone use during a couple’s wedding ceremony and reception. These etiquettes are not exclusive for the newlyweds but for the guests also. Navigating through each and every sticky situation with a smile can be hard work (1,2).
We have listed below the most common Wedding Etiquettes dilemmas and how you can navigate through them.
Don’t make your guests wait for too long
If there is a big time gap in your wedding day timeline between your wedding ceremony and the beginning of your cocktail hour or reception, your guests might feel like they are being forgotten. If your ceremony and reception are in the same venue, then you can time it so as your guests are entering the reception site, the bar is already open and the appetizers are ready to be served. If these two are at different locations, do your best to minimize the gap between the ceremony and reception. You should allow enough time for your guests to travel from one venue to the other, but not too much time for your guests to sit around doing nothing and getting hungry. If this gap is unavoidable in your situation for some reason, then keep your guests entertained.
Don’t invite people to pre-wedding events (bridal shower, bachelor, bachelorette parties) if they aren’t invited to the wedding
These pre-wedding parties have a very small guest count and are generally more intimate. So it is already understood that the people who are in these pre-wedding events are also invited to the wedding. Of course, there are exceptions such as your friend not being able to attend your wedding because they are migrating to another country and can only be present at your bachelorette parties. But the general understanding is to invite the people who are sure to be invited to the wedding. Inviting them to only your shower would imply that they’re good enough to give you a gift, but not good enough to celebrate on your actual big day - and a lot of people might get upset with this. And even if your bridal shower is a surprise, you can use your ‘bride card’ and insist that the final decision over the guest list still rests on you, ensuring that everyone who is invited is also in the wedding guest list. Another exception to the rule is office showers. These events are usually hosted by your coworkers, who spend for the party with no expectation that they’ll be invited to the wedding. Or they might throw you a shower because they know you only want your closest relatives and friends to be there, but they still want to celebrate with you.
Don’t forget to take care of your wedding party
Remember that your friends love you and love to celebrate with you, they have committed their time and money to be a part of your celebration, so do not forget to reciprocate. Do you best to keep the celebration as drama-free and as stress-free as possible. You can also give them tokens or gifts to show how much you appreciate their presence or help. Depending on your budget, pick a token of appreciation that your bridesmaids and groomsmen will love long after your wedding day. You do not have to overdo it, something simple will suffice.
Do not designate a ‘singles only’ table
Weddings are, arguably, a great event and place to meet people. But do not turn your wedding celebration into a blind date booth for your single friends - especially if you force them to sit with other single people who do not have anything in common with them. Seat your single friend just as you would the rest of your guests - based on whether they would get along or if they already know each other. Group friends and family members based on similar interests, whether your cousin and your college bestie work in similar fields or you know your old roommate will love your coworker’s toddler.
Don’t make guests pay for their drinks
The bar will be one of the biggest expenses at your reception and you might not be able to afford hours of open-bar with free flowing drinks, but there are ways to cut costs while still giving your guests good booze. Plus, your guests wouldn’t have to spend a penny.
Serve Signature Cocktails
You can have a personalized feel with your booze by giving your guests a taste of your personalities, signature cocktails can cut back so much on how much booze you’re gonna have to buy by limiting the number of recipes.
Choose to Skip Hard Liquor
Cocktails and mixed drinks add up very fast, since they use mixers, garnishes, bartending costs, and the liquor used. Instead, you can choose to serve beers and wines that will also compliment your food, and make these the evening’s only choices.
Have a Limited Open Bar
If you don’t want your and your guests drinking beer, wine, or cocktails all night, then why not get the best of both worlds! Break the evening into two parts. You can have an open bar for a couples of hours, then serve beer and wine at the later part of the evening. Most of your guests will switch to these anyway.
Don’t forget to feed your vendors
Your wedding vendors are the ones who will be working all day to make your dream wedding into a reality, so you should take care of them. Most vendors will address this in their contracts, so make sure that your caterer knows how many people you are going to feed (guests and vendors included). You’ll need meals for your wedding planner, photographer, videographer, DJ or band, and any assistants - these are the vendors that will be with you throughout the day or during the reception. You wouldn’t have to feed your florist, baker, and those who won’t be staying for the celebration. Talk to your caterer about their vendor meals. Some have options to serve the chef’s choice, while others serve the vendors the same entree as the guests. You should also ask you vendors about any dietary restrictions and allergies, and make sure that they have their own space to eat that is still close to where the activities are happening so they don’t miss anything (especially the photographers and videographers). Feed the band or DJ before your guests sit for dinner so they can cue big moments, and arrange for your planner, photographer, and videographer to eat while you’re eating so they don’t miss toasts or the first dance.
Don’t skip out on greeting and thanking your guests
While sending out thank-you cards is gaining popularity, it’s still important to greet and thank your guests personally over the course of your wedding.
Your wedding day will go by very fast, and in fact, you don't get to see your guests for quite a bit part of the wedding day. The getting ready part in the morning tend to involve only immediate families and the bridal party. You will first see your guests at the wedding ceremony, which would then be followed by the bridal photography session. So the reception is your one true chance to mingle with the guests to your heart content.
Share a hug and a quick chat during the reception, then move on to the next group of guests. Make sure that you’ve eaten first because it might take some time to go through all of your guests. You could also hop in from a group of friends to another on the dance floor so you can boogie with different sets of guests. Your guests will know and understand that you’re trying to circulate through everyone, so don’t worry about keeping it short (but not too short).
Announce your engagement to your family first before posting it on social media
Avoid announcing your engagement to the world and to social media before sharing the news with your family and friends. If you have any children from a previous marriage, they are the ones you should tell first. Parents, family members, godparents, and anyone you are particularly close with should also be told before the news is public knowledge.
Can someone else walk you down the aisle?
Your parents traditionally should be the ones to walk you down the aisle, but you can have anyone who is significant walk you down the aisle. If for some reason your parents can’t be there or if your parents are already deceased, then you might have no choice but to let someone who you consider worthy to walk you down the aisle. You can even walk alone if you want to. But no matter who walks you down the aisle, don’t let it be a last-minute decision. The most important thing is to maintain an open and honest dialogue with anyone impacted by your choice.
Unplugged wedding etiquettes
You can tell your guests that your wedding will be an unplugged one or you can state it in your wedding invitation. You should also remind them come your wedding day because there will always be that aunt taking pictures and uploading blurred pictures of you dancing or walking down the aisle. You also wouldn’t want your wedding photos to be full of people holding their phones up trying to take a video or a picture. Plus, doing this would also make them be present in the moment.
Who should have a plus one?
Whether or not your guest count is limited, you should think about who gets to have a plus one. The obvious ones should be anyone who is in a committed relationship, whether married, engaged, or in a live-in situation. Even if you haven’t met the partner of your friend, this will be a great opportunity to meet them. You shouldn’t obligate single guests and guests who are in a casual relationship to bring dates. You do, however, want to be consistent and avoid making exceptions. Be clear in your wedding invitation whether or not that invited guest can bring a date or not. For example, if your wedding invitation does not state “Mark and guest”, your friend might assume that they cannot bring a date. This will save you from an awkward situation where an uninvited guest shows up during your wedding.
Should you reciprocate wedding invites?
You are not obligated to reciprocate wedding invites. Just because someone invited you to their wedding doesn’t mean they have to be in yours.