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Wedding Etiquette


While things might not be as stodgy as in the days of Emily Post, etiquette rules still apply to weddings in many respects, for the bride and groom, wedding party and guests. Thanks to Reader's Digest and Invitation Consultants, I've come up with a list of several to help get you started on the right track.

Guest List:

The bride and groom and their parents come up with the initial guest list, then it's up to the bride and groom to whittle it down to a reasonable number. Here are a few dos and don'ts to help you out:

  • Do invite immediate family and close friends. Don't feel obligated to invite acquaintances.

  • Do encourage single friends to bring their significant other. Don't feel obligated to have them include a guest when there is no significant other.

  • Do invite bosses and co-workers if close. Don't, if you're not.

  • Don't invite ex-spouses.

The Invitations:

Mail out "Save the Dates" six to eight months prior to the wedding. If yours is a destination wedding, mail out the actual invites three months in advance. If the wedding is close to home, six to eight weeks is sufficient. Set the RSVP for three weeks prior to the wedding. Also, provide invitees with a dress code and bridal registration information. Don't print the registry info on the invitation, though. Include a separate card. As a guest, always return your RSVP as soon as possible. Write your name on the RSVP, and once you commit, show up!

The Bridal Party:

Bridesmaids should pay for their own dresses, shoes, accessories, hair and make-up, so it is customary for the bride to buy them a gift. Matching necklaces for them to wear at the wedding is one idea. The bridesmaids should also help with the bridal shower and attend every event associated with the wedding.

The Rehearsal Dinner or Wedding Breakfast:

Usually one or the other, paying for these events is the responsibility of the groom's parents. There are no set rules, but attendees are usually immediate family, the bridal party and groomsmen. However, the groom's family may invite additional guests.

The Wedding Ceremony:

As ceremonies vary, so does etiquette. Generally, however, as a guest, make sure you arrive dressed as designated on the invitation. And never, never, never wear white!

Step-parents should be included in photos, even if the bride or groom doesn't get along with them. And all guests should respect the bride and groom's choice of ceremony whether they agree or not. Turn off cell phones, and no guest or member of the wedding party should disrupt the ceremony for any reason.

The Reception:

Receptions go different ways. If you're having a full sit-down dinner, then the receiving line should be first, followed by the bride and groom's first dance. The cake cutting takes place after dinner.

If you're a guest, unless designated otherwise, always bring a gift.

The bride and groom usually hire a professional photographer and/or videographer, so do not get in the way of their shots. And never upload pictures to social media until after the bride and groom do.

Thank-you Cards:

Handwritten cards are an absolute must. Electronic ones are not acceptable, and neither is waiting too long. Send within three months of the wedding. Include the wedding planner, location coordinator and all vendors, if you're pleased with their work.

Our society as a whole has shifted to be more casual, but weddings are still a formal affair, and should be treated as such out of respect to the bride. Good manners are always in style.


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