Guide to Etiquette

The Gracious Bride’s Guide to Etiquette: Wedding Planning and Wedding Day

Every bride will verify that planning a wedding is surely a character-defining experience. How you handle yourself through the highs and lows will speak volumes about you, not just as a bride, but as a person. The choices you make regarding the details of your wedding, be they simple or extravagant, matter far less than how you conduct yourself as you transition into this new season of your life. The very best compliment you can get – far more important than flowers and venues and photos and food, no matter how exquisite they may be – is that you yourself were graceful and thoughtful. Here are some guidelines to help you shine:

  • DO: Share the News with Your Family First

As soon as possible after saying yes, call your parents, your favorite aunt, your beloved grandfather, and share the good news with them. Social media can wait. Your family should hear from you before you post anything, be it changing your Facebook status, or an Instagram pic of your sparkler. They need to know that you put them first, even if some of your relationships are strained. In fact, putting family first when it comes to weddings can sometimes be the first step to rebuilding or strengthening shaky relationship bridges.

  • DON’T: Post Every Little Planning Detail on Social Media

As much fun as this will all be for you, your personal life is not reality TV. Folks will be glad to know that you’re planning your big day, but daily reports on tiny details – your agonizing final decision on purple and teal, your hemming and hawing over stargazer lilies vs. hydrangeas for your bouquet – carry a significant risk of turning people off. Sure, you can post a photo or two of some of the highlights, but spread them out, and we mean spread, as in no more than one, maybe two at most, per week.

  • DO: Invite Bridal Shower Attendees to the Wedding

Bridal showers necessitate gift giving, and the last thing you want to do is elicit a gift from someone you’ll exclude from your big day. At the shower, you’re the guest. The wedding is your turn to do your best to help your guests feel welcome and well-fed.

  • DON’T: Limit Appreciation of Your Wedding Party to Thank You Notes

Most of these dear people were involved in the planning, and many have spent their own money on some of your wedding details. Wedding etiquette strongly suggests a tangible trinket as a thank you gift. This is also your chance to have fun putting thoughtful consideration into selecting lovely earrings for the bridesmaids, monogrammed money clips for the groomsmen, a gift certificate for the hardworking maid of honor, or whatever you know they’ll love.

  • DO: Include Wedding Venders in your Reception Meal Headcount

Just because you hired them to do their jobs well, that does not include making them bring – let alone foot the bill for – their own dinner. If for some reason you can’t afford to offer your vendors the same menu as your other guests, you still need to make arrangements for a simpler, yet still filling entrée or some other nice packaged meal. Remember: hungry vendors won’t be as motivated to make your photos, or videos, or even your DJ’s selection of tunes, as stellar as they might otherwise be.

  • DON’T: Be Impersonal When It Comes to “Plus One”

If you truly cannot afford for each of your single friends to bring a date or companion, apologize – personally – regarding your limited headcount. It’s easy to skip plus-one with those who are just casually dating, or who are in relatively new relationships and you haven’t met their partner yet. You must, however, budget in fiancées and partners in long-term relationships.

  • DO: Offer Free Drinks at the Reception

We know liquor can take a big bite out of your budget, but there are ways around it. An open bar offered for two hours instead of all night, and/or less expensive wines and beer, will let your guests can have their fill but won’t set back your budget. Also, when it comes to mixed drinks, they can be pricey, so consider offering two personalized concoctions and give each guest one or two drink tickets.

  • DON’T: Leave the Party Until You’ve Had a Personal Word with Each Guest

Of course, you’ll spend more time with your family, wedding party, and closer friends, but you absolutely must offer a quick and heartfelt word of thanks to each and every person who cared enough to come to your wedding.

  • DO: Choose Practical Wedding Favors

Fun as they might be for you, no one really knows what to do with a tiny ceramic telephone that symbolizes your long-distance relationship. Little things that are practical and/or useful will help your guests appreciate your wedding memento. Food always goes over well, too. It can be great fun to design a customized chocolate bar, or give little jars of jellybeans in your wedding colors.

  • DON’T: Force Your Wedding Party into  Non-Flattering Apparel

Everyone has their own taste in style and color, and while you want a unified look, you still want your ladies and gents to be comfortable. Sit down with your bridesmaids, maid of honor, mother and possibly your new mother-in-law, specifically to brainstorm the best styles that will flatter everyone’s body type. If you prioritize their comfort, not only will they enjoy your wedding more, but they’ll be more inclined to cheerfully carry out their assigned duties.

  • DO:  Be Mindful of Wait Times and Transitional Activities

As best you can, limit the lag time between ceremony and reception, or else your guests will rightfully grow impatient. If you’re planning an after-ceremony pictorial, keep it quick so you can move on. You might be able to offer a small libation at the ceremony site. Something as simple as miniature bottles of water can take the edge off and if they’re personalized with wedding labels (especially if handmade with love by you), they can double as takeaways.

  • DON’T: Plan a Long-Winded Program

Of course, you’ll want your emcee to announce the important highlights, but don’t add so much narrative that your wedding feels less like a wedding and more like the Academy Awards. People want to mingle and have fun, not sit in their chairs and listen to a lengthy presentation.

  • DO: Be Child-Friendly

If you’ll have children at your wedding, consider a special menu just for them with kid-friendly food. You don’t want their parents’ enjoyment of your day undermined by having to coax their children to eat a grown-up meal. You might have a special kids’ table with coloring books or non-messy craft materials to keep them occupied. Their parents – who of course are your friends – will be eternally grateful!

  • DON’T: Delay Thank You Notes and Social Media Shout-Outs to Vendors

As soon as you’ve settled into your new status, get cracking and start writing. If you have a lengthy flight to your honeymoon, you could start writing thank you’s on the plane. Plus, think how charming it could be for your notes to be postmarked from your honeymoon site! Shout-out kudos to your vendors on social media right away and tag them. However, do not comment on less-than-stellar service. Keep that to yourself when it comes to the public, but you can gripe all you want (privately) to a friend. It’s also fine to share your less-than-perfect experience with a particular vendor with a newly-engaged friend, but don’t ever bad-mouth the vendor publicly.

We hope you’ll find these Do’s and Don’ts helpful. It’s not always easy to be gracious under pressure, but following a few simple guidelines can go far toward helping others see you – and for you to see yourself – as thoughtful and refined!


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