Wedding Etiquette For Dummies book cover

Wedding Etiquette For Dummies

By: Sue Fox Published: 12-02-2009

Your expert guide to the dos and don'ts of getting married

Your wedding should be fun, exciting, and worry-free-but most brides, grooms, and their families run into sticky situations or unique circumstances that surround etiquette. Now, there's a definitive guide that provides the solutionsfor all those dilemmas big and small.

Wedding Etiquette For Dummies provides sound information and guidance-whether it's deciding how to handle divorced parents, inform guests of where the couple is registered, or tastefully incorporate new traditions into your ceremony and reception. You get plenty of proven advice and tips for everything from who pays for the wedding and properly announcing the engagement to hosting events leading up to the wedding and dealing with destination wedding snags and pitfalls. You'll even see how to gracefully handle wedding cancellations and postponements.

  • The dos and don'ts of wedding etiquette for any bride, groom, relatives, or friends of the marrying couple
  • Tips for proper behavior during the engagement, ceremony, and reception
  • Advice on dealing with the wedding party and opinionated or pushy in-laws
  • Special considerations for second (or more) marriages and military, ethnic, and religious weddings
  • How to set up a tasteful, interactive wedding website and write the all important thank you note
  • Sue Fox is the author of Etiquette For Dummies, 2nd Edition and Business Etiquette For Dummies, 2nd Edition

Leaving no wedding dilemma uncovered, Wedding Etiquette For Dummies is your one-stop guide for having the wedding of your dreams without the stress!

Articles From Wedding Etiquette For Dummies

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19 results
19 results
Wedding Etiquette For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-16-2022

Wedding etiquette rules have relaxed a bit over time, but common sense and basic etiquette are still necessary in every phase of wedding planning — and on the big day itself. Familiarizing yourself with what to do before, during, and after your wedding will help ensure that everyone enjoys all your wedding festivities.

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Etiquette Tips for Compiling Your Wedding Guest List

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Etiquette can help you decide your wedding guest list. Compiling a wedding guest list can be extremely stressful because people's feelings are involved. Here, etiquette calls for extra tact and sympathy for others' feelings — and patience and understanding to avoid conflict. Here are some etiquette guidelines for building your wedding guest list: Find out how much money you can spend per guest on food at the reception, and use that amount to determine the number of guests you can invite. After all, the head count at your reception is the biggest expense in your wedding budget. Establish your budget, and stick to it. Before creating a master guest list, you and your spouse-to-be make a list, your parents make a list, and spouse-to-be’s parents make a list. Compile these lists and work graciously together to come up with a final master list and reach the desired number of guests that fit into the budget. To prioritize your master list, you first have to determine the must invites, the should invites, and the could invites. Does your budget cover all the must invites? If so, move on to the should invites and then to the could invites. By using this system, you ensure that the people who are most important to you, your spouse-to-be, and your families make the cut. As a general rule, always invite family first. Remember that the guests at your wedding are your “witnesses,” so they should be family and close friends whom you care about and will stay in touch with for many years. If any single friend or family member is in a long-term relationship, invite that person and his or her significant other by name even though they aren’t married. Also, if your budget allows, give the single members of the wedding party and any single family members the option of bringing a guest. If your budget doesn’t allow for each single guest to bring a date — and many couples’ budgets don’t — address the invitation appropriately. Don’t include “and guest” in the hopes that they won’t bring one because they probably will. Don’t feel obligated to invite co-workers because, after all, you may not work with them six months after the wedding. Remember, no hanging invitations on workplace bulletin boards! If your budget allows, you can follow the unwritten rule that says to invite the co-workers and business acquaintances you socialize with outside of work. However, inviting everyone on your team except one person isn’t appropriate. Determining whether to invite children can be tough. Before you make the decision, consider the type of wedding you’re having. If it’s a black tie affair and your reception begins in the evening, you may have to deal with a few meltdowns as children become tired. If you’re having a casual garden wedding in the early afternoon and your motto is the more the merrier, by all means, invite children. Children count toward your final number, and, if space is limited at your reception, you may have an easier time making your decision. Keep in mind, though, your flower girl and ring bearer are part of your wedding party, so you should invite them, of course. If either you or your spouse-to-be has children, you should absolutely include them, too. If either of you has children in your immediate family (that is, brothers or sisters), you should invite them, as well.

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The Etiquette of Writing and Addressing Wedding Invitations

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

There's a purpose for all the etiquette surrounding written wedding invitations. The etiquette of writing and addressing invitations provides important answers for wedding guests: They'll know who the hosts are; who's invited; and the locations of the ceremony and reception. Before you select your invitations, you need to know how to properly word your invitations; send all the right enclosures with your invitations; and properly address the envelopes so that everyone clearly understands who’s invited: Spell out professional titles, such as Doctor and Reverend, and all military titles (General, Major, and so on.) for names on your invitations. Acceptable abbreviations are the nonprofessional titles of Mr., Mrs., and Ms. Don’t include academic titles, such as PhD, on the invitation unless the person is a minister with a theological degree. And no nicknames! Use full names instead (such as Michael rather than Mike). If you choose to include any middle names on the invitation, spell them out, too. Spell out street names, such as Avenue, Boulevard, and Street, on all invitations. Also spell out days of the week, dates, months, times, and numbers in addresses for invitations to black tie and formal weddings. For invitations to semiformal and informal weddings, you can use numbers freely. For a ceremony in a house of worship, use the word honour to show reverence to God, as in “request the honour of your presence.” For a location other than a house of worship, even if the ceremony is religious, use the phrase “request the pleasure of your company.” Give the hosts of your wedding top billing on the invitation. Do not include gift registry information or gift suggestions on your invitations. And never, ever, handwrite anything on the invitation. Include lodging information on a separate enclosure card with a map and directions to your ceremony and reception. You may also include this information with your save-the-date cards and/or on your wedding Web site. Address the inside envelope with exactly whom you’re inviting. For example, writing “Mr. and Mrs. Swanson” tells your guests that just the Mr. and Mrs. are invited, not their children.

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Etiquette Pointers: Registering for Wedding Gifts

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Using a wedding gift registry makes it easy for friends and family to shop. Registering for wedding gifts is fun, but remember your etiquette! Consideration is key, whether you're working with the gift consultant, settling matters of differing taste with your beloved, or choosing your items with a range of prices in mind: Call ahead and make an appointment with the registry consultant at each store where you choose to register. Always be patient with and kind to consultants because they’re often being pulled in different directions by the many couples they’re trying to help. List items in different price ranges on each of your registries. Many national stores have lots of fun and useful, less expensive gadgets that make great gifts. Of course, it’s okay to register for some pricier items, as well; often friends and family go together to purchase one larger, more expensive item, such as a new grill. Don’t be concerned with having too many items on each list; your guests will appreciate having options to fit any budget. Besides, you have engagement parties and bridal showers, plus the wedding! Feel free to register for more gifts than the number of guests who will attend the wedding. Feel free to list “gift cards welcome” on your registry. Try to register together with your spouse-to-be or at least discuss each other’s likes and dislikes before registering. Be respectful of your different tastes! Let your family and wedding party spread the word about where you’re registered. Noting where you’re registered, as well as any gift alternatives, such as contributions to charities, on your bridal shower invitation and wedding Web site, is also acceptable. Check your registries throughout your engagement period (especially two weeks before and one week before your wedding), and add items as needed. If the pricier items are the only ones left, be sure to add some less expensive items. Keep a detailed list of who sent gifts as you receive them; also keep the enclosure card and receipt for each gift. This organization makes writing and sending thank-you notes much easier — and hopefully provides an incentive to start writing thank-you notes immediately.

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Escorting Guests to Proper Seats for the Wedding Ceremony

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

At a wedding, ushers escort guests to their seats — that's pretty common knowledge. The task of escorting guests to the proper seats falls to the ceremony’s ushers — it’s their job to know who sits where. After your guests have been greeted and have signed the guest book, they are taken to their seats. Seating guests smoothly Some larger weddings designate certain guests to receive within-the-ribbon or pew cards, which they present to the ushers so they are led to certain seats in designated rows. Other guests are often asked, “Bride or groom?” by the ushers in order to know to which side of the sanctuary to lead them. The bride’s friends and family traditionally sit on her side of the ceremony site, while the groom’s friends and family sit on his side. In a Christian wedding, the bride’s side is to the left of the aisle when facing the altar, and the groom’s side is to the right of the aisle. A Jewish wedding is reversed. If you’re conducting a wedding from other cultures or faiths, or a blended service, consult someone knowledgeable in the finer points of your desired ceremony style. Also note that many couples now choose to mix their guests and eliminate the bride and groom’s sides altogether. Understanding where family members sit The first row is reserved for any member of the wedding party who feels ill or faint (or for all the attendants in a long ceremony). The parents of the bride and groom and any siblings who aren’t in the wedding are seated next to the aisle in the second row. The third row is reserved for grandparents and siblings who do not sit in the second row. Other honored guests, such as elderly relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, those doing special readings or parents of children in the ceremony are seated in the fourth row. Those in the first three rows are seated by the ushers immediately before the ceremony, while those in the fourth row are seated with the other guests. Filling the seats Ushers should fill the pews from front to back of the ceremony site, reserving the first few rows for close family members and special guests. If one side fills up more than the other, ushers should seat guests to make the rows look even, after politely asking guests if they mind. Response cards should give you a clue about the possibility of uneven sides, and you can alert your ushers accordingly. Another alternative, if you’re disregarding the tradition bride and groom’s sides, is to fill the rows evenly from front to back. Well-mannered guests will comply, but if a guest insists on a certain seat, the guest wins. Guests who arrive after ushers have started to escort the immediate family may sit or stand in the back of the site until after the processional has reached the front and the bride has been presented to the groom. Late guests should use side aisles to slip quickly and quietly into rear seats without disturbing other guests. It’s perfectly acceptable for guests to seat themselves if the wedding is large and the number of guests waiting to be escorted down the aisle is multiplying or it’s almost time for the wedding to begin.

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Choosing Wedding Ceremony Music

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Personalizing your music selections is one of the ways you can make your ceremony your own. While some officiants require you to stick to traditions, others are happy to work with you in personalizing the ceremony. Music is one of the most important components of your ceremony because it sets the mood for your special day. If playing a record of “Here Comes the Bride” isn’t your style, choosing something more contemporary or personal is perfectly appropriate. Choosing your selections In general, a wedding ceremony has five main pieces to choose selections for: Prelude: Played for 15 minutes before to a half our before the ceremony, this music welcomes the guests and is the background by which they’re seated. Procession: This music sets the pace for attendants walking down the aisle. Really ambitious couples plan their music so that it changes for each portion of the procession. One piece for the ushers, another for the bridesmaids, then a pause before a flourish for the entrance of the bride. Ceremony: Couples might designate music to be played or a choir or soloist to sing at some points in the ceremony, like before a reading or during the lighting of a unity candle. Recession: This music at the end of the ceremony should be powerful and joyous. It’s usually louder and quicker than the processional. Postlude: A continuation of upbeat and celebratory music that keeps the guests feeling they’re a part of the wedding until they have all filed out of the ceremony space. If you’re having a nonreligious ceremony, your music options are open. You can add personal touches through your music selections to create a memorable wedding. If you’re having a religious ceremony in a house of worship, be sure to clear your music selections with your officiant; some houses of worship don’t allow secular music and have limited options for what you can play. Give it some thought A few other things to keep in mind while choosing music: Try to keep the music within the framework of the style and formality of the wedding. Although a church wedding doesn’t dictate that all music must be religious, you want to be respectful of the location and the event taking place. Don’t forget to mention the titles of the songs and music on your program. Check with the officiant or the person in charge of your ceremony location to find out whether you need to work with a particular music coordinator or use a particular musician or singer. Keep your religious and cultural backgrounds in mind when selecting your music. Your officiant can guide you on acceptable selections.

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How to Remove a Bridal Attendant

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

How do you "fire" someone from your wedding party? Removing a bridal attendant can be a sticky situation, and the need to do so may arise from his or her behavior or the behavior of an attendant in the opposite party. Cutting a bridesmaid or groomsman should be done clearly and graciously. If you find that one of your bridesmaids has turned into an overbearing diva or that one of your groomsmen won’t return phone calls or e-mails, you and your spouse-to-be may have to make the difficult decision to remove him or her from the wedding party. Think carefully and consider the source of the problem; possibly the attendant has some jealousy issues, financial burdens or time restraints that may pass with time. Solicit input from your other close friends or family members to make sure you have a clear perspective of the situation and aren’t being oversensitive. At the same time, don’t turn the situation into a poll with the rest of the wedding party. After you’ve heard a few trusted opinions, talk directly to your attendant and take the time to really listen to his or her side of the story. If you genuinely believe your attendant will modify his or her behavior, give the attendant another chance. If your gut feeling is that you’re going to experience more of the same, quickly and politely tell the person that you’re removing him or her from the wedding party. Letting the attendant know may save your friendship. It’s often best to be practical, not emotional, in these situations. Say something like, “Olivia, I appreciate the fact that you agreed to be in our wedding, but you haven’t made it to any fittings, contacted the maid of honor about dates for the bridal shower or confirmed your travel arrangements for the wedding. I think it would be best to find someone else to take your place. We’d still like you to share in our day as a guest, if it fits into your schedule.” While you’re not expected to reimburse the former attendant for any of the costs he or she has already incurred, offering aid would be gracious if you know the expenses have created or added to a financial hardship for them.

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How to Choose Bridesmaids and a Maid of Honor

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The average wedding in the United States has four bridesmaids in addition to a maid of honor. Choosing bridesmaids is a way to honor the people most important to you and to share your special day with them. Many people have trouble narrowing down the field, feeling that if they ask one friend, they must ask another, and so on. Don’t feel that because you were a bridesmaid at someone’s wedding ten years ago, you need to reciprocate the honor. In a seemingly impossible dilemma, ask your mother to be your maid or matron of honor, have your wedding composed of only children or appoint only siblings as your bridal attendants. As you decide how many bridesmaids to have in your wedding party, think through what you expect them to do. Ideally, bridesmaids perform duties to assist you and get the wedding off the ground. Throughout the course of planning your wedding, you spend a lot of time with your maid or matron of honor. You need someone you can rely on for the organizational and emotional support, someone who will be there when you need her. For these reasons, many brides choose their sisters, mothers or best friends for the role, but if your best friend just had a baby or started medical school, she may not have the time for the commitment. As you begin to consider someone for this position, ask yourself the following questions: Will this person be able to attend the wedding? Will she be able to help pick out and prepare the site? Can I count on her to answer the phone when I call and help calm me down when things get overwhelming? No set rules tell you how many bridesmaids you have to have. Consider your budget before making any decisions. The more attendants you have, the more flowers, gifts and meals you have to pay for. The number of attendants should be suitable for the size and style of your ceremony. A good rule of thumb is to choose one attendant (on each side) for every 50 guests. You and your spouse-to-be should each make a list of the people you want in your party. If the number isn’t even and you want it to be, you can assign some people to other jobs, such as ushers or readers. If you plan to have a large wedding or a destination wedding, or you can’t bear to choose between sisters or best friends, it’s perfectly acceptable to have two maids of honor or a maid of honor and a matron of honor. Keep in mind that you need to be specific about the duties of each honored attendant so you can avoid misunderstandings.

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Questions to Ask Your Wedding Caterer

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

When planning your wedding reception, it's crucial to ask the right questions of your reception site manager or caterer. Make sure you have all your concerns written down when you meet; you can never ask too many questions during a meeting. The success of your wedding meal is riding on it, so it’s no time to be shy. Making a list of questions before you meet is a great idea. Here’s a sampling of the kids of questions you’ll want to ask when you’re meeting with caterers and site managers: Are menus set, or do you have some flexibility? Can you customize your own menu or use a family recipe? What are their most popular dishes? Can you see photos of other wedding receptions at the site? Can you review the standard contract? Do you have to pay a deposit to hold the date? If so, how much is it and what does it cover? What’s the cancellation policy? Is the deposit refundable? Do the staff and servers receive a flat gratuity? Is that number in the contract? Does the cost cover just the food, or does it include linens, utensils, dishes and glassware rental, too? Does the per-person cost include the service staff and cleanup? Are sales taxes included in the contract? If you provide your own wedding cake, do you have to pay the servers an additional fee for cutting and serving the cake? Can you arrange for a tasting at which you try some options for each course of the meal, the cake and the wine and champagne? Can they accommodate dietary restrictions if guests have any? Do they require any special kitchen arrangements? Do they have any other events or weddings the same day or weekend? For how long is the site available, and is there a minimum time requirement? Do you have to pay extra if the reception runs long? Do they provide a children’s meal? If so, is there a reduced cost per person? Do they provide a less expensive meal option for the band, DJ, photographers and videographers? Do they have a liquor license, and, if so, do they provide brand-name liquors? Can you purchase your own? What are the prices for a cash bar? Is there a corkage fee for bringing your own wine or champagne? If so, how much is the fee? Can they provide a bartender? If so, what are the charges? Do they have insurance? If so what does the insurance cover? Will a catering manager be on site during the reception? If so, do they charge an additional fee? Can they give you a final per-person estimate if they know the details of the reception, such as the time of day, location and number of guests? If you have a list of certain foods you absolutely don’t want, can the caterer comply? Is there an additional fee for staff overtime? What are the shapes of the tables, and how many people can sit comfortably at each? What’s the ratio of servers to guests? Are any types of decoration forbidden? Is there dedicated space for the bridal party, either for pictures or for freshening up before the party?

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Assigning Ushers’ Duties for a Wedding

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Wedding ushers are usually in charge of seating guests and directing them to parking lots, bathrooms, dining rooms, and other wedding sites. While a part of the wedding party, ushers have distinctly different duties than other groomsmen. Ushers should arrive at least 45 minutes before the ceremony to assist in seating guests. They should be either nattily dressed to match each other or purposely diverse. Ushers should be welcoming and friendly to the guests and avoid standing in a clump. Reserved seating, aside from the first two or three rows, is rare these days. At many weddings ushers still ask, “Bride or groom?” but it is no longer necessary, as a wedding is considered a joining of families and friends. A good ratio is one usher per 50 guests. Ushers are usually in charge of seating relatives and other VIPs in the first few rows. The rehearsal dinner is often an opportunity to familiarize ushers with these front-row people. Once at the ceremony, guests often feel uncomfortable letting the ushers know they should be seated in the front rows. If you don’t apprise the ushers ahead of time, you may find yourselves looking at rows of empty chairs during your ceremony. You may also mark reserved seats with small cards. About 10 minutes before the start of the ceremony, siblings who aren’t in the wedding, grandparents (maternal first) and the mother of the groom are escorted to their seats. The bride’s mother is seated last, just before the aisle runner is unfurled. Designate at the rehearsal who will escort her. Late guests are directed quietly to seats at the back of the venue. When escorting a woman, the usher offers his inside arm to her, which is the arm on the side she requests. When they arrive at her seat, they step aside to permit anyone accompanying her to enter the row first so that no one has to climb over her to get to their seats. When a man arrives alone, the usher directs him by saying something like, “This way, please,” or “Follow me.” When a group arrives together and wants to be seated together, the usher offers his arm to the oldest woman, and the rest of the guests follow behind. Families with small children and elderly guests should be seated near the aisles whenever possible. Assigning usher duties is a good way to include those friends or family members who didn’t make the groomsmen list, particularly younger members of the family who aren’t ready for the debauchery of the bachelor party.

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