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Wedding Etiquette

Sure, monograms and de rigueur ecru linen invitations may be quaint relics of the past (or as rare as hens' teeth), but in modern day nuptials, some rules still apply. Wedding etiquette is less about being persnickety than it is about showing courtesy to everyone involved, from guests to the happy couple themselves. Let's start from the beginning.


Not only does one no longer need to order and purchase stationery as heavy as a stone tablet, one doesn't even need to purchase paper. Email invitations are perfectly acceptable nowadays, but remember to consider the tone of both the invitation and the RSVP. An invite, either digital or concrete, should clearly indicate the method by which guests should RSVP. Responders should then indicate their availability through the method provided. If it is a beautiful engraved invitation, use the RSVP card. Do not text, "I'm in!" Likewise, be sure to answer an email invite via email. The couple will be using the selected method of RSVP to organize their guest list, so your cooperation is appreciated.


This is definitely an area in which the rules of etiquette have undergone reconstructive surgery. The gift of cash from anyone but a father-in-law used to be seen as crass at an American wedding. Of course, that has never been true in places such as China and Italy, where monetary gifts are standard. While many couples still use a registry to provide a list of potential gifts for guests, cash has shed its stigma. A sticking point remains as to how to figure out just how much to spend or give. The old custom of "cover your plate" referred to the practice of shelling out as much or a little more than your catered dinner would cost. Most event professionals and reasonable people view that approach as a bit mercenary. Be thoughtful and spend what you deem appropriate.


The most dramatic shifts in etiquette involve the dress THE dress. It was Queen Victoria who popularized, nay, institutionalized the concept and practice of the white wedding dress. Many, many brides remain attached to a picture of themselves floating down the aisle in a cloud of white lace and silk taffeta. However, for those out there who would rather not, here's the good news: wear what you like. A standard that predates Queen Victoria is to wear one's best, whatever that may be. As for the guests, a big no-no used to be for a female guest to wear either black or white. While neither color is absolutely out of the question, there are a couple of guidelines. If one chooses to wear black, avoid the funereal. Lighten the look with striking jewelry and great shoes; in other words, no shrouds. There is nothing in the modern playbook that prohibits the wearing of white by a guest, but again, be courteous. Consider:

  • Wearing an outfit that incorporates white, rather than one that is entirely constructed in it.
  • Saving that knockout white number for another time. Not your wedding? Not your spotlight.
  • Avoiding white if you aren't sure it's appropriate.

Wedding Ceremony and the Reception

Be sure to attend the service itself, and not simply show up to the reception. The party exists to celebrate the ceremony. Be there. Also, do not bring a plus one unless he or she has specifically been invited. Although it used to be assumed that an invitee would bring a date, the financial realities of planning a wedding these days often prohibit uninvited participants. Picture taking with your smartphone is fine, as long as you do not get in the way of the professional photographer, and do not post unflattering pictures of the wedding couple on social media sites. In fact, avoid posting any pictures of the event before the couple has had a chance to do so.

Category: Wedding Planning

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