Wedding etiquette is the set of informal rules that govern all aspects of engagements, weddings and receptions. While some may seem outdated, they can act as guidelines when unsure about the correct way to do things.
Asking Permission to Marry
In years gone by, the man was expected to ask the father of the bride-to-be, if he could have the hand of his daughter in marriage. This formal request opened the doorway for discussion and is still expected in many families.
Announcements and Invitations
These are handled by the family of the bride, under her guidance. Traditionally, invitations are engraved on good quality white or off-white paper. Envelopes should be addresses by hand in black ink.
If one parent has passed away, the invitation should refer to them as the ‘late’. For example, Mr James Jones announces the engagement of his daughter, Mary, to Jack, son of Michael and the late Ethel Smith.
A traditional engagement ring is a single or solitaire diamond. It is best to allow the bride to choose the ring if possible.
The accepted period is three to six months.
Apparel for Bride and Groom
It is traditional for the groom to wear plain black and white so the focus is on the bride. The bride should wear a long dress in white or off-white and the neckline should be modest. Gloves and trains are no longer essential but are accepted accessories.
Bride and Groom Attendants
The bride may select a matron of honor and a number of bridesmaids. They should wear matching dresses and shoes. The color of the bridesmaid’s outfits can be picked up by handkerchiefs, flowers, ties or cummerbunds for the groom’s attendants. The groom should be dressed in a different color suit/tuxedo/shirt to differentiate him from his groomsmen.
Parents and Wedding Guests
A wedding is supposed to be a formal occasion and dress should be suitably smart. Full length dresses are acceptable but the colors black and red should be avoided.
There are no set rules about flowers apart from them being fresh. Never use silk flowers for a wedding.
It is expected that gifts be given by those who accept the wedding invitation. The gifts may be sent in advance or delivered to the reception on the day. Gift registries are still common although the list of gifts is generally more practical these days.
Gifts for Attendants
These are small token gifts and are normally given before the attendants dress for the wedding. Traditional items include bracelets, necklaces, cuff links, silver or gold pens and key rings.
This is traditionally the choice of the bride and her family. Vows are not as rigid as in the past and many churches will allow the couple to write their own.
Seating at the Wedding Reception
The wedding party should have a table with place cards showing their position. The bride and groom are at the centre with the bride to the right of the groom. The bridesmaids and matron of honor are seated to the left of the groom and the best man is to the right of the bride. The parents may be included or have their own table. It is traditional for the parents to swap partners for seating arrangements.
These were traditionally made of fruit cake and frosted with thick marzipan. It is acceptable to use other varieties and style of cake today.
When unsure of how to plan an engagement and wedding, a knowledge of wedding etiquette can help solve a lot of problems.