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The Definitive Guide to Wedding Etiquette

These days most couples decide to do away with tradition and have the wedding that suits them. However, sometimes etiquette can be a good thing and can help get around those tricky situations. Here are listed some of the best etiquette tips.


Wedding Planning Editor, Susanna Richardson 10Etiquettebouquet.jpg

Inviting Children – If you choose not to invite children then you need to let people know. This if often best done in person so that you have a chance to explain why you are going with this, maybe it’s down to numbers or maybe the venue don’t allow them. Just be honest and remember, it must be one rule for all so don’t give in and allow one guest to bring theirs along. The only exception to the no children rule is immediate family and those in the wedding party.  

Cake – A traditional fruit cake was meant as a symbol of a fruitful marriage. It was also traditional for brides to keep a slice as this ensured their groom would be faithful. These days anything goes and many couples opt not to have one at all. If you do have a cake it’s a nice touch to send slices to those that couldn’t attend the wedding. It’s also traditional to keep the top tier for the christening of your first child. If you do this it must be fruit. Sponge cake doesn’t keep well!  

Gift Lists – It is not good etiquette to include a gift list with your invitations. It gives the impression that a gift is expected. A better approach is to have a list and send to those that ask for a copy. Or put a note on your information sheet that states “For those that would like to purchase a gift, a gift list is available on request.” Of course many couples do send them out with the invitations and really this has to be your choice. 

Asking for money not gifts – It is not good etiquette to ask for money, although it is a popular choice. Steer away from it and ask for vouchers instead, you don’t want to appear greedy. If you must ask for money then make sure you put a reason “we are saving up to buy a new dining suite” or “we’d like to use the money for a belated honeymoon”, that way guests will feel it’s for a good cause. Also make sure you set up a small list for those guests that are real traditionalists. If you don’t, you run the risk of ending up with 5 teapots. 

Walking down the aisle  (The processional)– Many brides opt to have someone other than their father give them away. Maybe a brother, Uncle or even their mother. There is no rule about this. It is traditional for the bride to walk down on the right arm of whomever gives her away. Her hand shall then be placed into the grooms as an act of “giving her away”.

The exit (The recessional) -  There is a standard order for leaving the ceremony venue or walking up the aisle. The bride and groom will lead, followed by the attendants in pairs, the chief bridesmaid and best man, the bride’s mother and groom’s father and the groom’s mother and bride’s father.

Leaving the reception – Normally the bride and groom would be the first people to leave the evening reception. If you plan on staying late into the night then it’s a good idea to let guests know beforehand as many older guests won’t leave until you do.

Something old – The verse goes: “Something Old, something new something borrowed, something blue”. Most brides follow this and it’s quite a fun tradition to keep.

Guest lists – Make sure that you invite people that you really want to be there. There is no etiquette about who you should and shouldn’t invite when it comes to guests. However, if you are having a church wedding it is polite to invite your minister to the reception. If both sets of parents are contributing to the wedding costs then it is normal for them to have a say in at least a few of the guests. Maybe allocate a set number each to avoid any arguments.

Speeches – No wedding is complete without the speeches. Traditionally the order would be Father of the Bride, Groom and Bestman but these days the girls often get in on the action. You can work the speeches in any order, although it’s really the Father’s job to welcome the guests and you should always finish with the Bestman’s speech as this is the finale to the meal. With any speeches try and keep them quite short and also reasonably clean. Think of all of the guests that are attending and if you think someone may be offended, leave it out!

Toasts – Each speech should and with a toast so guests will need something to raise a glass. Champagne isn’t a must but they should have something so maybe opt for sparkling wine.

Thank you cards – You must always send thank you cards to all of your guests, regardless of whether they purchased a gift or not.  If guests have purchased gifts then mention the gift in the note “thank you so much for the beautiful photo frame …”. Hand write the cards, don’t have bulk ones printed, it’s too impersonal.

Throwing your bouquet – The story is that whoever catches the bride’s bouquet will be the next to marry. Many brides want to keep their bouquet and have it preserved so if you do it may be an idea to have a second smaller bouquet made for throwing. It is good way of gathering everyone together when you make your exit. 

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