It’s time for our next post from Weddings by Rachel – a professional wedding planner based in South Wales. Each fortnight she’ll cover a different wedding planning topic and this week she’s talking about wedding etiquette :)
Wedding traditions are everywhere. Many traditions have changed or been completely forgotten over the years, however, brides often ask me about wedding etiquette and the expected protocol in certain situations.
Wedding etiquette is an unwritten (though sometimes written) list of traditions and guidelines to follow in the planning and execution of a wedding. Generally, this type of etiquette can be traced back through centuries of tradition and routines, and most of it will play a big role in the weddings and marriage ceremonies of today.
Wedding etiquette is important because it is there to ensure that weddings progress smoothly and that all guests are treated with care and appreciated for attending the wedding. It also really does impact just about every aspect of your wedding, from the invitations to the thank you cards.
Here are 8 top etiquette tips to help guide you through your wedding day.
1. Paying For The Wedding
Traditionally: Traditionally it will be the parents of the bride that will pay for the majority of the wedding, with the groom paying for suit hire, rings and the honeymoon.
Modern Equivalent: Nowadays many couples are paying for their weddings themselves or even splitting the cost between both families. It is a difficult subject to approach when starting to plan a wedding but it is important to sort this out early on so you know what, if anything, each family would like to contribute.
2. Setting Dress Codes
Traditionally: A formal engraved invitation used to mean that guests were expected to wear morning dress.
Modern Equivalent: When it comes to dress codes, traditions have changed. Nowadays dress codes are much more varied but are still known to be quite formal. If you do wish to set a dress code this is fine, just make sure that any invitation wording is simple and clear.
Traditionally: This is an age-old question of who sends the invitations and when? Traditionally invitations are sent from the bride’s parents.
Modern Equivalent: It’s becoming more common for couples to send their own or for the wording to be from whoever is paying for the wedding. If a number of people are contributing, it is best to send it from the couple. Order your invitations four months before your wedding and post them approximately 10 weeks before the wedding.
4. Arriving at the ceremony
Traditionally: The groom and best man should arrive at the venue at least 30 minutes before the bride. This is also true of guests who would usually arrive half an hour before the start of the ceremony. The groom traditionally does not mingle during this time but sits quietly at the front of the ceremony room waiting for the bride to arrive.
Modern Equivalent: Times are changing and this is often not the case any more, with the groom usually greeting guests while waiting for his bride to arrive.
5. Walking down the aisle
Traditionally: The bride would enter first and bridesmaids would follow, sometimes with the flower girl going before the bride.
Modern Equivalent: In the States it’s the other way around, and this is becoming more and more popular in the UK. There’s no set rule for this so go with your instincts and what you would prefer.
Traditionally: Favours are not necessary, especially if you are on a tight budget. The most traditional wedding favour is sugared almonds. These are usually given in a box or bag in sets of five, representing fertility, longevity, wealth, health and happiness.
Modern Equivalent: Couples are becoming more creative with their favours, providing guests with all sorts of gifts. Edible favours still remain the most popular, though, and charity donations are also a lovely option for those who don’t know what to give.
Traditionally: The speeches are usually made as coffee is being served. The father of the bride usually speaks first, followed by the groom and best man.
Modern Equivalent: you could have the speeches before the meal so that the speakers can relax and enjoy their food, or hold them later on when your evening guests are also present. Also, these days anyone can make a speech – the bride, a bridesmaid, a grandparent. If you want to do a joint speech, do! If your dad is freaking out about giving a speech but your mum loves to talk then switch the roles :)
8. Gift Lists
Traditionally: Register your gift list sooner rather than later, especially if you’re planning to use one of the popular department stores. Some will let you register online early, but otherwise 12 weeks is about standard. If you’re sending your invites out eight to 10 weeks before, you can include information about your gift list with them.
Modern Equivalent: Although it’s more acceptable now to ask for money as a gift, some guests may still prefer to buy you a present. A compromise could be to set up a small wedding list and suggest that vouchers for a variety of retailers would be just as useful.
Although lots of couples like to stick with traditional wedding etiquette, times are changing and there are no hard and fast rules for this any more. Use these tips as a guide but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and be a little bit different.
For more tips on wedding etiquette, or if you have any questions, please get in touch.