wedding ettiquette

We would like to personalize our wedding ceremony by writing our own vows. Are there any rules we need to follow?

If you are having a religious wedding ceremony, you need to make sure your vows coincide with the beliefs of that religion. Make sure your officiant is aware of all your plans. Also, do not forget that marriage is not something to be entered into lightly and highlight your commitment to each other. While a some light humor is okay, be careful that they are not overly silly, too intimate or controversial as it may create an awkward feeling to your ceremony.

Whose job is it to send the invitations? When should we send our invitations?

Traditionally the bride and her parents are responsible for purchasing and sending the invitations. The invitations should be sent out 6-10 weeks ahead of the wedding date.

Whose job is it to send the thank you notes? Do you they have to be handwritten and when do I have to send them out by?

The bride and groom are responsible for the thank you notes. They need to be handwritten as anything else is considered in poor taste. The best rule of thumb is to send a note within 3-4 weeks of receiving the gift, but technically all notes need to be mailed within one year of your wedding. Never sign the cards using your married name until after the ceremony.

My fiancé’s family is much larger than mine. Do we have to seat people according to the bride’s side and groom’s side?

No, this is a tradition you can choose to forgo if it doesn’t suit your ceremony, but you will still want to seat close family, parents and grandparents according to the traditional sides. To avoid confusion, you may want to post a cute sign that indicates this so guests know what to expect. Also, instruct the ushers so they can seat guests according to your wishes.

Does the bride and groom have to stand on a certain side?

Traditionally, yes, the bride and her bridesmaids will always be to the left of the altar while the groom and his groomsmen will be on the right.
My wedding will be very formal and we want our guests to wear cocktail dresses and tuxedos. How do I let guests know?

The invitation really sets the tone for your wedding. Be sure you choose papers that convey elegance are very formal feeling. This is information can also be included on the invitation. In the bottom corner simply put “black tie” so that guests know that it will be a formal event.

We are having a very informal, outdoor wedding. Guests will probably be most comfortable in cowboy boots. How do I let them know?

Again, send an invitation that indicates it will be a rustic style wedding. Adding a note at the bottom that says “bring your boots,” will let everyone know what your recommend. Also, consider posting the information on your Facebook page or wedding website. Call older family members and friends and just personally explain what they can expect, especially if mobility is an issue and they may struggle to get around.Also, ask people to spread the word.

What should our mother’s wear? Should they match the wedding party?

No, the mother of the bride and mother of the groom do not need to match the wedding party nor should they match each other. The dresses do need to match the style and formality of the wedding, and for photography purposes, you will probably want their dresses to be in a complimentary color to the bridal party. Traditionally, the mother of the bride makes her selection first, informs the groom’s mother of the choice, allowing plenty of time to shop for her dress.

Traditionally, what is the order of the processional?

First, grandparent and important family members are seated. Then the mother of the bride and mother and father of the groom are seated. Second, the groomsmen, best man, groomsmen and officiant take their places. They can either walk down the aisle or take their places from a side entrance. The bridesmaids will walk down the aisle, followed the maid or honor and/or matron of honor. Then the flower girl and ring bearer will come down the aisle. At last, the guests stand and the bride, escorted on her father’s right arm, come down the aisle and the father “gives her away.” This is simply the most common order and can vary among different religions and cultures.

What is the order of the recessional?

The bride and groom will leave first. Once they have exited, the best man will escort the maid of honor down the aisle followed by the bridesmaids and groomsmen following suit in the assigned order. Then, the flower girl and ring bearer will exit if they have remained at the altar. Then, the bride and grooms parents will follow. Generally, then the officiant will invite the guests to the reception on behalf of the bride and groom and their families. 

What is a receiving line? Do I have to do one?

A receiving line is a very old tradition that has recently fallen out of popularity but is a very practical way to personally greet and thank all of your guests for their attendance.  The order of the receiving line is: the brides mother and father, the groom’s mother and father, the bride and groom, the followed by the wedding party. In lieu of a receiving line,  some couple’s choose to make their rounds to all the tables during dinner.

We want to have a sit down dinner for our wedding reception. How do we direct everyone where to sit?

Display seating arrangements as guests enter the reception hall so they immediately know the seating has been assigned, before they choose a place. You can make a beautiful seating chart or create place cards with the table number assigned on it. Some couples get creative with their seating charts. In lieu of table numbers, they assign each table a name that is symbolic of something to do with their relationship such as places they have seen or hobbies they enjoy. Just be sure everything is clearly labeled and organized so guests are not confused.

What are some of the traditions associated with the reception? Do we have to do them all?

Weddings are steeped in tradition and good luck charms, superstitions and silly antics. The reception is where the guests and bride and groom get to cut loose and party! Some of the most common traditions are giving toasts, first dance, bouquet and garter toss, cutting the cake and final farewell. You can choose to exclude any tradition you want or include something else that is fun and meaningful to you!

Of course, our wedding coordinators are always happy to answer any other questions you may have and to take care of so many of these little details! This is just a start! Do you have a question about wedding etiquette? Leave it in the comments below!