'Manners maketh marriage' - wedding etiquette explained
Most of us get invited to a lot of weddings over the years, and it can be hard to remember the finer details of each one. A great way to ensure your wedding sticks in the mind, however, is to ensure you have got a firm grasp on the etiquette of the day.
This doesn’t mean choosing the correct meat for the season or perfect readings to match your social demographic so much as ensuring all your guests feel comfortable, welcomed and happy that they know exactly what’s happening when, and what’s expected of them at every stage. This consideration for others is what lies at the heart of etiquette and is what will make your special day stand out for your guests.
Make your guests feel comfortable from the moment they receive the invitation through the post. There are several layers of etiquette surrounding this aspect of the event, so take time to do your research to get it right. Include names and full titles of those who are hosting the event, whether that be the happy couple, their parents or other loved ones. This allows guests to know to whom they should address their thanks for the hospitality afterwards. Include the names of everyone invited to the wedding; don’t leave people to guess if their partners or children are also invited, as this could lead to awkwardness when they come to reply.
Send out details of the wedding venue, dress code, timings of the day and what guests should do about sending or bringing gifts. If you have a gift list, you can include details, but do so discretely. Don’t make a big thing about presents, as this can offend if handled too clumsily. If you want to give guests the option of sending money as a gift, again, discretion is key and it can go down much better with people if you mention what you plan to do with any money that’s gifted, e.g. a meal during your honeymoon, a certain part of ongoing house renovations etc., rather than simply making a request for hard, cold cash.
Again, choosing who to have in your bridal party can be an etiquette minefield. Make your choices early on in the planning stage and stick to them. This helps you to plan practicalities, such as dress fittings and stops people from being unsure as to whether they’re being considered for a special role or not. While you may prefer to pick friends over family, consider carefully any long-term repercussions. You could give different roles to family members or friends who don’t make the bridal party cut, such as ushering, witnessing the signing of the register, giving readings or performing/speaking at the wedding reception.
Speeches and thank-yous
Make sure all the main players are thanked in your speeches, including parents or close relatives on both sides, as well as anyone else closely involved in the planning or funding of the big day. You can choose to give thank-you gifts to special guests during the speeches, which can go down very well. Or you might prefer to do that privately – only you will know what will go down best with all parties.
Somewhere in the speeches, the rest of the guests should be thanked for coming. This is also where mini wedding favours can effectively express the couple’s gratitude. Finally, if you are having a religious wedding, you may wish to check if there are any niceties that should also be observed, e.g. saying grace before the meal starts, or including prayers or a blessing during the speeches.
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