Wedding Etiquette

Be Polite and Other Useful Tips

Weddings are one of those seemingly
inevitable milestones that come along somewhere between the diaper
eras. Whether as a bride, groom, participant, family member, or
guest, these social events are impossible to avoid, particularly if
you are me.

Mind you, I’ve never actually been a bride. But I have been a
bridesmaid 12 times, as well as the best man, the deejay, the limo
driver, the photographer, and the minister. During The Year of Bad
Taffeta I pulled four — count ’em, four — tours of duty. (I have
yet to be the maid of honor, a fact that vexes me to no end.) In
short, I’ve been the ultimate observer and, believe me, I’ve seen
everything: bridezillas at various stages of meltdown, heart
attacks at the altar, fist fights at the bar, a bouquet-toss
bloodbath, and all the usual stress, excitement, and emotional awe
that go with the nuptial territory.

I’ve noticed that weddings are absorbing the casual informality
our modern lifestyles now reflect. When young girls wear flip-flops
to meet the president (all together now: Harrrrrumph!), shorts to
church (or so I hear), and sweatpants to fly on airplanes, there
are fewer and fewer occasions to apply standard manners or even a
spritz of decorum. Weddings are the final place where “Be on Your
Best Behavior” is clearly written between the lines of fancy font.
Without getting too stuffy (yes, you can still get drunk but try
not to hit on the bride), consider a few social guidelines for the
modern wedding.

At the very bare minimum, “suiting up” and “shutting up” may be
the best place to start. Some modern social rules are obvious (no
Evites, no exceptions) and some less so (pregnant brides/unwed
mothers are not supposed to wear a veil). The freshly affianced may
be so blissfully in love they may not care what others think, but
I’ve never met a starry-eyed couple who didn’t want to make the
event as beautiful and ideal as they felt. Turns out, there are a
million ways to do it wrong, which is precisely how bridezillas are
born. (For some alarming evidence, check out

The About-to-Be Betrothed Though I have seen it
done, it is considered poor taste to have the invitation clarify
“no children.” Unless you are trying to protect them from your
wicked aunt who lives in the forest and likes to eat wayward young
’uns, this instruction ends up excluding entire families. It also
begs the questions, “How old is a child?” Does this means 12 or
under? However, if two larges families are merging and the guest
list budget is going to be eaten up by various rambunctious
cousins, you may want to add a note apologizing and clarifying that
the request was made for monetary concerns. If you are resolute in
this decision, then stick to your own rule; any exceptions will
result in hurt feelings. When addressing your invitations, leave
the children’s names off and don’t mention them in the invitation.
Also, have friends and family pass the word — let the network

Never give a verbal invitation to your wedding without following
it up with a formal invite via U.S. mail. Furthermore, make sure
you add that person’s name to the final guest list. When I have
been invited verbally, I always ignore it (especially if it is the
groom, who, by tradition, is clueless) unless I get that hard copy
in my paws. Even then, I call the bride to confirm she is on board
with my sudden appearance. Of all the dreams a bride has on her
wedding day, none of them involve surprises.

Try to resist the urge to involve helpless animals in your
wedding. Arriving in a horse-drawn carriage? Sure, that’s lovely.
Having guests release envelopes of trapped butterflies that may or
may not drop dead at their feet? Not recommended. I’m no
vegetarian, but I still think it’s a bad omen to celebrate your new
life by having your guests witness the death of many. Redirect that
PETA guilt for something more predictable, like the dry, overcooked
chicken everyone is about to eat at the reception.

Limit the time gap between ceremony and reception. Lord knows
there needs to be 28 sets of formal photographs taken with every
possible family arrangement (“Now let’s get just the bride and her
nephews …”) but have some consideration for the guests. Having
folks happily mingle at a pre-dinner cocktail party is a wonderful
plan — for one hour. Anything longer and guests are just going to
get sauced and impatient.

Threaten the deejay with medieval violence if “What I Like about
You” gets played ever again. Okay, not really etiquette, more of a
personal request.

Wedding Party Ways Do whatever the bride wants
you to do, no matter how insane she is. Bride Cindy once told me I
would have to part my hair on the right side for the ceremony,
despite nature insisting otherwise. I then wondered aloud to the
crazy woman if the B-maids Unit looking as uniform as possible was
really the best plan for firmly cementing their holy union for all
eternity. Her eyes welled up with tears, and so left became right
for a day. I’m telling you, the compounding frivolous details make
some of these gals flat-out bonkers.

If you are the best man, you must give the first toast at the
reception to the couple, not just the groom. I have seen this
happening more and more lately and what was left unsaid is now
being picked up by a bridesmaid or maid of honor. This is not the
time for either one of them to be singled out — it isn’t someone’s
birthday party. If a person does not know the bride or groom and
still wants to give a toast, they must acknowledge the other half,
as in, “Though we’ve just met Kent, he seems like a wonderful guy
and he obviously makes Courtney very happy … blah blah blah.” You
can still tell the fishing story from when you were 13, but it
better end with them.

Best Guest List When you receive the
invitation, please — I’m begging you — RSVP! Failing this simple
task is incredibly rude and insensitive. More and more people
ignore this request so let’s review some history: The acronym RSVP
comes from the French expression “répondez s’il vous plaît,”
meaning “please respond.” It’s really just that simple.

If the invitation specifically states: “John Q. CollegeBuddy and
Guest” then you may certainly bring someone. If the invitation is
addressed to you and you only, you may not bring a guest. However,
if you too have found The One and would like to bring him/her
along, you can phone the bride and ask her permission. She, drunk
with desire and on the biggest shopping spree of her life, may cave
immediately. She may also (politely) refuse and she may even say,
“I’ll let you know after I receive more RSVPs,” — a perfectly fair
compromise. (At $50-$100 bucks a plate, a girl has to watch

When a wedding date I had cancelled once, I phoned the bride the
day before to let her know. The spot then was made available for
another guest to bring a date — an opportunity not gone to waste.
Alas, my date’s table card could not be changed in time so another
fellow impersonated my date all evening. An inaccurate list of
attending guests can cause preventable problems: shortage/surplus
of food, minimum-guarantee issues with catering halls, party favor
quantities, and seating planning. The average wedding costs $20,000
and has 175 invited guests, so communicate clearly with your

And, finally, a tip for everyone: Turn off your cell phone.

Remember that a wedding, in its most sincere form, is a
celebration of love, and as you may recall, love makes the world go
’round. Now go ahead and grab a second piece of cake — there should
be plenty for all.

Wedding Etiquette Sources


Emily Post’s Wedding Planner by Peggy Post Miss
Manners on Painfully Proper Weddings
by Judith Martin
Wedding Etiquette Hell: The Bride’s Bible to Avoiding
Everlasting Damnation
by Jeanne Hamilton Wedding Etiquette
for Divorced Families: Tasteful Advice for Planning a Beautiful
by Martha A. Woodham  New Book of Wedding
Etiquette: How to Combine the Best Traditions with Today’s
by Kim Shaw Bad Bridesmaid: Bachelorette Brawls and
Taffeta Tantrums — Tales from the Front Lines
by Siri Agrell
The Wedding in Ancient Athens by Rebecca Sinos and John
Oakley The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern
American Culture
by Elizabeth Freeman Brides and
(published 1872) by John Cordy Jeaffreson

Web Sites

Top-Rated Source Your mother


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