Wedding Etiquette: How Bridal Parties and Guests Should Act

Weddings make memoriesWeddings are a time of tradition and new beginnings.
(Photo by Walter)

Weddings follow a general pattern, but with today’s endless possibilities for location, customized theme, and personalized stye, it can be difficult to know what is expected of you when you are getting married, asked to be in the bridal party, or even receive a wedding invitation in the mail. Good etiquette never goes out of style though, and there are a few tried-and-true methods for how you should handle certain situations when it comes to weddings.

Here are our top tips on etiquette, to help you sail through wedding season:

Planning for the Wedding

To the Bride and Groom:

  • When it comes to planning your big day, it is important to remember that the wedding is about you as a couple, so compromise with each other.
  • If you have family or friends in the wedding business, do not automatically assume that they will contribute. If you wish for them to be involved, have a discussion with them and be clear on both your expectations and compensation. Do not assume services will be free of charge. For example, if Aunt Sally is a professional photographer, but you would prefer someone else for your ceremony, let her know. Welcome her to take pictures, and tell her you will be using the services of another photographer so that she can enjoy the wedding as a guest.
  • When finalizing details of the wedding, please keep your guests in mind and consider the appropriateness of any ideas. For example, if children are invited, you should refrain from having the groomsmen do a risque dance routine. Save it for the bachelorette party.

To the Bridal Party:

  • Be supportive. It’s your largest responsibility. Give honest opinions when asked, but don’t scoff at the floral arrangements if it is not your favorite. When it is your wedding you can do what you want.
  • Be upfront with what you will be able to contribute of both your time and money. If you have a full schedule, let it be known as soon as possible. If the bridesmaid dress is way out of your budget, speak up. You are close enough to be in the wedding party so there is no need to feel stressed.
  • If you are given the task of planning the bridal shower or bachelor/bachelorette party, be sure to find out what type of event the groom or bride wants. Get input on who they want invited to avoid any potentially awkward situations.

Resondez, s’il vous plait (RSVP)

Wedding invitation RSVPResponding to a wedding invitation is crucial. Always RSVP.
(Photo by Thryn)

To the Bride and Groom

  • Be clear when putting together your wedding invitations. State your expectations, especially if you have specific requests such as attire, the number of guests, or whether or not children are invited. Your guests are not mind readers.
  • Get extra help from a friend or relative by having them look at a draft of the invitation. They may help clarify any details before sending out a mass mailing.
  • Include information about your gift registry and event venue(s) on your wedding invitations. If you have an event website direct your guests to it on your invitation.

To All Wedding Guests:

  • If you are invited to a wedding you must always RSVP. Do not make the bride and groom track you down for a response.
  • Even if you are close with the couple you still need to send the response card back. Some responses may ask for meal choices or the number of guests that will be in attendance.
  • If there is nowhere on the response card to indicate guest count, check with the couple before inviting a “plus one.” Never assume you are allowed to bring a date.

Wedding Gift Success

To All Wedding Guests:

  • When selecting a gift it is best to stick to the gift registry. If you are close with the bride or groom and want to do something more personal than a gravy boat that is perfectly acceptable.
  • If the registry is out of your budget consider purchasing a gift card the couple can use towards something on the registry. Include a handwritten note to the bride and groom if you are worried that a gift card is too impersonal. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.

To the Bride and Groom:

  • Thank you notes truly are important, and your wedding guests will appreciate the acknowledgment. You can write thank you notes as the gifts come in, or do them all at once after the honeymoon. It is best to keep a list, noting who gave each gift to avoid confusion. If you write the notes as they come in, wait until you have finished all of the notes, then mail them all at the same time.
  • Your thank you cards for wedding gifts should be hand written. Mention the gift specifically; if the gift was cash or a gift card, let the giver know how you are planning to use it.

Best Wedding Fashion

wedding guestsMost weddings are classy affairs.
Men wear ties, ladies wear dresses, and everyone wears a smile.
(Photo by e.t.)

To the Bride and Groom:

  • It is your day, so wear what you want. If it makes you feel fabulous, then go for it. Do keep in mind, however, the appropriateness of your choices.
  • If your wedding venue has a dress code it is important to follow it.
  • If the wedding is a small family affair, you may want to be a little thoughtful before splurging on a skin-tight, cleavage baring, glitzy bustier number.

To the Bridal Party:

  • today is not about you. So yes, you have to wear the orange taffeta dress and look happy doing so.

To All Wedding Guests:

  • It can sometimes be tricky for wedding guests to know what to wear. Take cues from the wedding invitation. It is a safe assumption that an outdoor wedding followed by a barbeque reception does not require black-tie attire. If you are unsure, simply ask the bride or groom.
  • If the couple has specific dress requests it is best to follow suit. I once attended a beach ceremony where the guests were asked to wear all white.
  • Ladies, the only time it is acceptable to wear white to a wedding is if the bride and groom ask all guests to wear white. Even in this case, it would be best to avoid a floor length dress, instead opt for slacks or a skirt/dress of an appropriate length.

Wedding Day Etiquette

To all Wedding Guests:

  • Be sure to be punctual if not early to the ceremony. I have never been to a wedding that has started on time, but you certainly should not assume the ceremony will start late.
  • If alcohol is served at the reception, drink in moderation. Do not risk any drunken outbursts that could overshadow the celebration. Save it for the after party.
  • If the reception is alcohol free, respect the couple’s decision and refrain from sneaking in a few drinks. The bride and groom planned their special day that way for a reason.

To the Bride and Groom

  • Do your best to relax. Put someone else in charge of handling day-of emergencies to keep your inner bridezilla in check.
  • Today is all about the two of you, but do remember to acknowledge your guests. Take time to greet everyone and thank them personally for being part of your special day.

Check out our conversation about wedding memories: #tildeathdowepart

We celebrate life in every way at Everlasting Footprint. Create Footprints and share stories of weddings and all your important moments.


About Kimberly Knowles

Kimberly Knowles has a BS in Communication and post graduate education in event management, editing, and publishing. She enjoys writing, reading, and scrapbooking, believing that preserving photos and mementos is a great way to share memories. She currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida.

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