Wedding planning has always been my dream job. Years ago I would sit in my office, writing and rewriting reports that I’m sure no one was ever going to read, crossing my fingers that this wasn’t my forever job and I would dream about what it would be like to do something else. I would look through wedding magazines and read blogs and I realised the importance of wedding etiquette. It’s so important that Debrett’s, the etiquette people, have produced a whole book on it. There are so many people and places where it is talked about, how could I possible become a wedding planner if I didn’t understand the difference between addressing invitations to a person who is in an established relationship and a person who isn’t?! (I’ll give you a clue, there isn’t).
The importance of wedding etiquette
So how important is wedding etiquette and does everyone have a role to play? When researching different aspects of etiquette I spent a lot of time laughing at different blog posts that apparently were not written in the 18th century! ‘Contrary to popular belief the groom’s role in organising a wedding extends far beyond the acceptance of congratulatory drinks and deciding what to wear at the stag party. Firstly there is the small matter of an engagement ring to choose and buy...’ I kid you not, he actually has to buy the ring! From what I read it’s clear that it is important and wedding etiquette still has a role to play, but are the rule just adding to the stress of brides who are planning their own wedding. The stress of getting it right on top of everything else can’t be healthy.
So what are the rules?
‘The father of the bride should publish an engagement announcement in the newspaper‘. So it turns out that you don’t announce your engagement by posting a #ringselfie and changing your relationship status. Who knew?!
There are lots of rules around addressing the invitations depending on the person’s status in society and their relationship status. I personally feel the most important issue with addressing invitations is getting it right if you are or are not inviting children. No one wants extra guests that were not expected. That would be an etiquette nightmare!
Apparently the role of Best Man is a position of huge responsibility that should not be undertaken lightly…if you’re anything like me I’m mentally crossing off my husband’s friends from that list. As part of the Best Man’s long list of responsibilities he is meant to ensure ‘the punctual and sober arrival of the groom’. Haha…I’m not even going to comment on that one!
So let’s move on to the actual ceremony and some less ridiculous wedding etiquette rules.
So rings are not meant to be worn other than the engagement ring which is worn on the right hand and then put back on the left hand after the ceremony. This is to leave the wedding finger free and this one makes sense but as with other, shouldn’t be a golden rule. A friend of mine wears a ring on her right hand that her grandmother gave her before she passed away. Wearing this ring meant that her grandmother was with her on her wedding day.
In the UK wedding etiquette dictates that the father walks the bride down the aisle. It wasn’t until I went to a wedding in America that I started to question this. I loved the idea of the bride being walked down the aisle by both of her parents. Why should the mother of the bride not be as involved as the father? When my cousin married, her brother gave her away. I think that this is a very personal choice and shouldn’t be dictated.
After the ceremony it’s photos and off to the reception, no breathing space for anyone and everyone lines up to receive the guests. For many people who do this at their wedding, it isn’t about etiquette for them, it’s about being able to say hello to everyone and thank them from coming, but a line up? Although may be good wedding etiquette, it isn’t very personal and can feel just like cattle herding! Many people are moving away from this and towards doing the rounds between courses at the wedding breakfast. It gives more of an opportunity to make conversation with your guests. I am a big believer in the married couple taking time to just breathe after they are married and having to receive your guests means it may not be possible. When doing the rounds wedding etiquette also states that ‘the groom is expected to introduce his new bride to friends and relatives who have not previously met her’…well to be honest, that’s just good manners but don’t worry brides, there is nothing to say you have to introduce your groom so don’t you worry about it.
So when we get to the wedding breakfast, where does everyone sit? ‘Wedding etiquette dictates that the top table should be, from the left: Chief bridesmaid, groom’s Dad, bride’s Mum, groom, bride, bride’s Dad, groom’s Mum, best man’. Coming from divorced and remarried parents and having a father-in-law who wasn’t around what an etiquette nightmare! This didn’t work for me so when I married I broke with tradition and went against wedding etiquette (shocker I know). I think the top table is one thing that many people in the UK still tend to adhere to but in the US, the sweetheart table is much more common. Families sit together on their own tables and the couple sit at the head of the room or in the middle of the room on their own. I love the idea of having the time just to yourselves to take the day in.
Next come the wedding speeches. Wedding etiquette dictates that the first wedding speech is given by the father of the bride and should end with a toast to the bride and groom. Apparently the bride should make sure the groom thanks her parents and the guests as well as toasting the bridesmaids (because he can’t do this on his own) and lastly the best man. But what if the bride wants to give a speech, or her mother, or her bridesmaid. I gave a speech at my mums wedding and why not?!
The last piece of wedding etiquette that we have to navigate is the first dance. Wedding etiquette dictates ‘…the groom must also dance with both mothers – the mother of the bride with the father of the groom and vice versa and the best man with the chief bridesmaid…’. Your wedding day can be a really long day and the first dance is the time that you forget about all the stresses, the anxiety and just relish in the fact that you have married the love of your life and are starting your new chapter. It’s not the time to think about etiquette.
Breaking away from ‘the rules’
The average wedding takes hundreds of hours to plan and costs thousands of pounds. Do you really want to look back and think ‘I wish…’? In case this is the first of my blog posts you have read I will tell you that I am a firm believer in your wedding day being your day. There will be things that you want to do and traditions that you want to keep in your wedding, but there will also be things you don’t want.
When my sister got married she had this real fear of being the center of attention. It was something that gave her a lot of anxiety so there were things that she just didn’t do. Okay I couldn’t make no one look at her as she walked down the aisle but what we did do is we did things like they do in America and the bridesmaid went first with her and my Dad not far behind us.
Why make things more stressful for yourself. If you are worried about speaking in public, don’t let it ruin your day, don’t have speeches, if you don’t have a great relationship with your Dad, ask someone else to walk you down the aisle and if you have two left feet, ask your friends to dance with you. Remember, it’s your day!
Why not drop me a line and let me know if you broke any of the rules you wedding rebel!