From the very moment you get engaged, questions of wedding etiquette start popping up. Should you announce your engagement online or wait until after you see your families in person? Who are you supposed to invite? What is up with all the different pieces of invitation stationary? Why does it matter how I address the invites? And that is only the beginning…
Not only are traditional etiquette rules overwhelming, many are completely irrelevant for modern couples. If you have spent any time on the wedding forums, you have likely seen just how twisted up people get over wedding etiquette. Easily one of the most hotly debated issues between engaged couples and their families.
Ok, super quickly, I want to put things in perspective for you. Most etiquette rules originate in a time way gone by. When exactly depends on which tradition you are looking at. Some wedding traditions go back 50 years while others go back hundreds of years. Our ever-changing society is constantly updating the rules of decency and manners.
Whether you want to follow traditional etiquette rules or not, the most important thing to remember is quite simply, “Don’t Be a Dick.”
Wedding Etiquette & Traditions you can probably scrap…
Don’t put your registry info on the invites.
Etiquette says that doing so will make you look gift-grabby and selfish, but in relying on your family or bridal party to relay this information is just frustrating to your guests. Ok, so what do you do instead? Maybe you don’t want your registry URL printed directly on your invites, because that is ugly. What you absolutely should do is put your wedding website link on your Save-the-Dates and/or Invitations. Then all of your registry info goes on your wedding website. Easy! Everyone is happy! It just makes sense. Wedding guest etiquette says that they should give you a gift, but it also says we should play coy with our registry details… why are we hiding this information?
Bride’s family pays for (most of) the wedding.
Most couples have left this one behind already, but it’s worth saying. Unless one set of parents REALLY wants to throw the wedding, its best to let each family contribute what they are comfortable or not accept money from the families at all. Modern couples often are from different socio-economic backgrounds and cultural traditions, so it really does not make sense to put the entire job of planning and paying for a wedding on one side of the newly-joined family. Additionally, guest lists are not always evenly split between the families. Avoid a lot of headaches and hurt feelings by just being egalitarian about it from the start.
Formal Invitation Wording
Building off of the issue above, the parents hosting the wedding would traditionally be the ones sending out the invitations and that’s how you end up with the veritable word salad that is the formal invitation. Scrap it for something more authentic. These days, the couple hosts, end of story. Unless your parents are throwing you a gala in the Hamptons catered by Ina Garten, you are probably fine ditching the formal invitation wording.
Besides, no one wants to get into the brass tacks of how to handle formal invitations when you are dealing with things like mixed families, divorced parents, or couples who are paying for their wedding in full.
Not Seeing Each Another Until the Ceremony.
This is simply not practical. If you really want to catch that magic moment when you see each other for the first time all dressed up for the wedding, do a first look with your photographer. Trust me. You will want to get your photos done and out of the way before the ceremony. That way you are free to enjoy your reception and not be whisked off to do another hour of photos while your guests awkwardly hang out at the bar. This one isn’t so much wedding etiquette as it is superstition, but I don’t put much stock in that either.
I have heard from so many couples that getting ready together was actually one of their favorite things about their wedding day and they felt more relaxed because they were together.
The Receiving Line
UGH. Just Ugh. If you really want to waste a half hour or more having awkward hugs with people you are literally about to party with for the next few hours, be my guest. But most couples can think of something better to do with their time, like actually kicking off the reception! Skip the receiving line and instead make a point to visit each guest table early in the reception. Make a point to chat with the older guests or those who have young children first, in case they bow out of the reception early.
Toasts & Speeches
Who do you want to give a speech? Ask 2-3 people who are super important to you both to do give toasts, and limit it to that. Your wedding is not an Open Mic Nite, but it also does not have to be limited to Father of the Bride and Best Man. Talk to your toasters in advance and make sure they know not to share overly personal or embarrassing stories. It may seem funny to them, but it is hella awkward for you and your guests. Give your toasters some guidance on length as well, I usually advise folks to stick to 3 minutes, 5 at the very most.
Whether you choose to have a Bridal Party or not, one thing that we all need to ditch is the whole concept of single gender squads. Girls have guy friends and guys have lady friends. That is life. Include whoever you want in your bridal party and just have fun with it! Your best friends are your best friends regardless of gender! And while we are at it… don’t make your squad wear ugly outfits. Let them choose something they feel comfortable and confident in. Feel free to give guidance on style or color, but don’t expect 6 people to all look good in the same silhouette or fabric.
New Wave Wedding Etiquette for a Rebel Couples
Ask your guests to set down their phones and be present for your ceremony. This serves two purposes: Your guests will truly experience your wedding, and they won’t muck up the photographer’s shots of the ceremony. They can get back to hashtags and live tweets once the ceremony is done.
Social Media Announcements
Yes, you should absolutely tell your closest family members about your engagement before you post ring selfies on Facebook. Also, unless you plan to invite your entire Friend’s List to the wedding, keep the planning talk and details to a minimum on social media. You can inadvertently send the wrong signal to someone who might think they are getting an invite and then Surprise! The wedding happened and they didn’t make the cut. Social Media allows for a lot of gray area and miscommunication regarding friendships and that extends to weddings as well.
Register for Shit that You Actually Want.
And yes, that includes cash. That can include a honeymoon registry, a house-buying fund, or hell even a student loan fund! Modern couples have very different needs and lifestyles than those of 20 and 30 years ago when these rules regarding gift registries were established. If you want house stuff, get it. If you just want to know you can afford your honeymoon, that is just as important as a stand mixer. Though stand mixers are pretty great.
In then end, its all about doing what makes sense for you.
If you find yourself worrying too much about the opinions of others, take a step back and evaluate what is most important to you. If haters wanna complain, let ’em. You don’t have to listen. Follow the golden rule of “don’t be a dick” and you will be just fine.
Erica Greenwold Reisen is a Wedding Planner and Designer in Chapel Hill, NC. She specializes in creating authentic, unique events for bad-ass couples who want to do things a little differently. She is the lead planner at Folie à Deux Events and the Founder of Secularly Wed.