Weddings are slowly but surely returning and with that comes all the excitement and questions around planning your big day. Wedding etiquette is something which comes up multiple times throughout the planning process and when considering what to do and what not to do on the day itself.
Firstly, we want to point out that this is your wedding and it should be your way. Essentially, any past unwritten rules can most often be nullified or at the very least updated to accommodate your vision. Especially after the pandemic, most couples have reassessed their values and their priorities, and to this extent there is so much more flexibility when it comes to creating a wedding which is both personal to the couple and considered traditional at the same time.
The Guest List
Selecting your guestlist is going to be one of the hardest planning aspects of your wedding and whilst we are not involved with this, we can give you some words of wisdom to help guide you. Back in the “old days” it was considered necessary to invite people because they were a second cousin or because you or your parents went to their wedding. Nowadays, the unspoken rules around who you should invite are far more flexible.
The guestlist will initially likely be based upon a combination of two factors, and that is your budget and the size of venue. There is no point in deciding to invite 200 people if you have a venue that will only accommodate 100 people and equally, if you have a budget which you want to adhere to, then just remember that guests are expensive!
Once you have factored your guest count into your budget and venue size, then the question is who should you invite? Three factors to help you decide are: was the guest in your past; are they in your present; do you see them in your future? Quite honestly, if they do not fit all three of those criteria or at least the present and future one, then you should ask yourself if they should really be there.
When it comes to family members, there are no longer strict rules about who you should invite, for example inviting all of your second cousins but not your third cousins. Ultimately, you should still apply the three factor rule above and invite who you are close to and who you can see yourself staying close to in the future.
One guestlist query which often pops up is the topic of “plus ones”. Should you allow your single guests to bring a plus one and should you invite someone’s partner? The answer is no, you do not have to accommodate plus ones for single guests, as guests are expensive and whilst this is widely done in the USA, it not a rule so to speak. However, when it comes to inviting your guests’ partners this is a bit trickier, as generally yes you should invite a person’s spouse or long-term partner. That said, the main bit of advice here is just to be consistent and as long as you are consistent with all of your guests in your approach to plus ones and partners, then they cannot complain!
Should You Invite Children to Your Wedding?
Should You Invite Children to Your Wedding?
Inviting or not inviting children to a wedding can often cause a lot of disagreements between a couple and also their guests. In an ideal world where venue size and budget were not an option then yes, you could invite all of your cousins and friends’ children. However, the reality is that by doing this, you would likely end up with an additional fifty guests to accommodate!
It is quite common to have siblings’ children at the wedding (often as bridesmaids or paige boys) but again this is not compulsory. When it comes to the children of extended family members and friends then it is always a good idea to set a general rule where children are concerned. This way, you are eliminating the possibility of your guests feeling like some of them were afforded the privilege of bringing their children whilst others were not.
If you are having a destination wedding and you are worried that your guests might not want to travel without their children, then a great option is to recommend some qualified babysitters who can look after their children in the hotel room. Alternatively, if you are having a big wedding and you want your nearest and dearest to bring their children to the event, then it might be worth looking at hiring an entertainer or even setting up some type of creche area where the children be entertained, thus allowing their parents to have some kid free fun!
How to Involve the People You Love in Your Big Day
When it comes to giving out responsibilities for your wedding, not only will it make your life easier as delegation is the key to hosting any large event, but it is also a fabulous way to include the people that you love. Giving someone the honour of being a bridesmaid or groomsman is wonderful, but unless you intend to have an army of them, then there will likely be people left out who you still want to include in some way.
One of the best ways to give people a special honour is to give them a toast, speech or reading at your wedding. This will enable them to be involved and feel special, whilst also filling a crucial role. Additionally, you could break from tradition and ask a friend or family member (as opposed to one of the bridal or grooms party) to be the ring bearer for the ceremony.
Another auspicious honour is to ask them to witness you and your husband sign the Marriage Certificate, and if you are having both a civil and religious one, then this gives you four witness vacancies to fill! If you are having a Jewish ceremony then you could also ask four of your special friends or family members to be Chuppah holders and hold each of the four poles. This would be a truly intimate experience to have them close to you as you say “I do”, as well as being a big responsibility, the memory of which they will likely cherish for many years.
Ultimately, there are so many different aspects of a wedding that it is not difficult to find a role or responsibility to allocate to someone and it really is a great way to make them feel involved and also allow you to feel less guilty about not necessarily having that person in your bridal party.
The Order of the Ceremonial Procession
This question will largely depend on the country in which you are getting married and also the religious aspect of the ceremony. In a Jewish ceremony for example, the men tend to be on the left and the women on the right when they walk down the aisle together and this rule extends to underneath the Chuppah, where the groom and his parents will be on the left and the bride and her parents on the right.
The ceremonial procession will ordinarily start with the grandparents of the bride and groom, followed by the groomsmen (the best man goes last), and then the groom and his parents, followed by the flower girl and bridesmaids and finally the bride and her parents. This can of course be modified to fit the beliefs of the couple. For example, it is not uncommon for a bride to be walked down the aisle by just one parent or another family member.
In a traditional Christian wedding ceremony, the groom tends to walk down the aisle first, usually on his own but sometimes with his parents, followed by the groomsmen and then the bridesmaids and flower girl and finally the bride and her father. In contrast to the Jewish wedding procession, the men are usually on the right and the women on the left when walking down the aisle together.
This varies slightly for UK weddings, where the bride and the father of the bride tend to walk down the aisle before the bridesmaids, flower girls and pageboys.
Realistically, you can adapt these rules to make them more meaningful and suitable for you. For example, it is not uncommon to have members of the bridal party escorted down the aisle by the groomsmen. Equally, it is quite common for the groomsmen not to walk down the aisle and instead help by handing out ceremony booklets or showing guests to their seats.
Ways to Honour Deceased Loved Ones
One of the hardest parts of a wedding can be the stark reminder that sometimes the people that you love are no longer around to celebrate with you. That said, there are multiple ways to include the people you love who can no longer be with you on your wedding day.
For a bride who is missing a parent or grandparent, then having a locket with their picture in tied to her bouquet or sewn into the inside lining of her dress is a way to make her feel that they are with her throughout every part of the day. Additionally, you could wear a family heirloom, a piece of the deceased’s jewellery or even their favourite handkerchief.
A very common way to ensure that dearly departed loved ones are remembered is to include them in the toasts and speeches. You could opt to have a memorial table with their pictures on, leave a dedicated chair empty with just their picture on for the ceremony, or print a dedication to them on the back of wedding programme.
Another lovely way of remembering someone is to include their favourite flowers either in the overall florals or the bride’s bouquet, to light a candle in their memory or even to include one of their favourite songs in the ceremony or at the reception. There really are no right or wrong ways to honour a deceased loved one, and the key is to do whatever you feel is right.
The List Goes On!
We could spend all day talking about the various different types of wedding etiquette (yes there are many different aspects), however we have tried to address a few of the main concerns which our couples often ask us about.
At optimum weddings, we are great believers in the saying “your wedding, your way” and to this extent we really do believe that you can pretty much adapt any past wedding rules to suit you. The idea that a wedding should be governed by strict codes of etiquette is outdated, especially after this pandemic which has seen all previous rules surrounding weddings abandoned.
Yes, there will undoubtedly be rules which you have to adhere to if you are having a religious ceremony. However, when it comes to who you should invite, how to include your guests in your wedding, how to honour a deceased love one and all the other personal decisions which you will have to make, then throw out any preconceived rulebook because it is up to you and you alone!