Wedding etiquette is the “traditional” behaviour which may dictate how you plan and carry out your wedding. Bride’s can enjoy following conventional etiquette, but they can also be rebellious and create their own!
Permission – It is one of the oldest wedding traditions for the Groom to ask the Bride’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Although times have changed, this is still a popular convention, showing the Groom’s desire for approval before popping the question.
Communicating the Engagement – Once engaged, the Bride and Groom are traditionally expected to inform their immediate family and Godparents before making a public announcement. For many families, it was then traditional to publicly announce the engagement in the paper. However, with the spreading addiction of social media, the temptation to post a photo of your ring with “#engaged” may take over, with Facebook or Twitter replacing the Telegraph!
White – A white wedding dress symbolises purity (not virginity, as some assume) and correct etiquette dictates that you should only choose a white dress if you have not married before. Guests should never wear a white dress to a wedding, regardless of what the Bride is wearing.
Who pays for the wedding? Traditionally, the wedding cost was split between the Groom himself and the Bride’s parents. The Bride’s parents pay for the dress, photography, bridesmaid dresses and reception (including the cake). It is left to the Groom to address the fees for the church, honeymoon, buttonholes and the Bride’s flowers. As women have become more financially independent, the current trend sees the Bride and Groom forking out for their big day (with a little help from both their families). To maintain some tradition in “who pays for what,” you could ask your parents to pay for your dress (maybe let them off the rest to avoid feeling responsible for their subsequent bankruptcy).
Invites and RSVP’s – As well as the “correct” wording of invitations, the parents of the Bride are traditionally left in charge of sending invitations and dealing with the RSVPs. If your parents live miles away then such etiquette may be impractical. Ringing your mum up every day for a daily update on RSVPs may also drive her insane.
The night before – “Its bad luck to see the Bride before the wedding” is a well known phrase, but “bad luck” really means your just breaking wedding etiquette. People can be very superstitious about this tradition, but many couples see each other the morning of the wedding and have a long and happy marriage!
Who makes the speeches? It may be traditional for the Bride’s Father, Best Man and Groom to make the big speeches, but nowadays, many Brides want to get involved too! Many a Best Man has been chosen for his role largely on the basis that he is confident and charismatic and will be able to deliver a memorable and entertaining speech.
Ceremony seating – During the ceremony, the Bride’s family should be seated on the left side of the aisle and the Groom’s family on the right. However, an increasingly modern trend is to encourage guests to “choose a seat, not a side,” so that the families become one.
Walking down the aisle – The Bride is traditionally walked down the aisle by her Father. A close family friend, or male family member is also considered appropriate etiquette. The question is – who do you trust to stop you tripping down the aisle? The reason the Bride walks to the left of her escort is so that his right hand is free to draw his sword and protect her. Walking down the aisle, the Bride will be next to her family for support; as she walks back up the aisle, she will walk alongside her Husband’s family, representing her introduction into their family.
Reception seating – Correct etiquette dictates a top table, with the Bride and Groom seated in the centre, the Bride’s parents on each side of the couple and then the Grooms parents, seated next to the Bride’s. The Chief Bridesmaid and Best Man sit at the ends of the top table. However, this layout makes conversation with anyone other than the person next to you impossible and many couples opt for a more sociable round top table for maximum mingling!
A free bar – Providing reception drinks and wine throughout the wedding breakfast is common at many weddings, it is not etiquette. Providing a free bar for the evening reception is a nice touch but is not expected, especially if your budget is limited.
Leaving early – Tradition suggests that the Bride and Groom should leave the reception early, leaving their guests to party on without them. But who wants to miss out on the fun of their own wedding? Most couples will want to make the most of their big day and dance the night away.
Gift lists– You can assume that most of your guests will want to buy you a wedding gift and it is correct etiquette for guests to contact the Bride’s mother to enquire where the gift list is registered. However most couples include details of their gift list (usually online) in their wedding invitations. The aim of providing a wedding gift list is to avoid ending up with a random collection of unwanted items that you and your new husband will never use, and the list can include anything from household items to a honeymoon experience. With the exception of Greek weddings, where money is pinned to the Bride’s dress during the reception, it is not appropriate to ask for cash.
It may be appealing to follow the traditional etiquette followed by previous generations, but remember that etiquette is a “conventional code” and not a “rule book.” Follow the traditions you like, and change the ones you don’t. It’s your wedding, so remember to set the standards in order to create your perfect big day.
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