Common Wedding Etiquette Questions … Answered!


Planning a wedding can pose a lot of questions concerning etiquette and propriety. Mixing religious and culture traditions with different groups of family and friends, often requires delicacy,– even a little bit of finesse to appease all parties. Juggling all this, while wanting to have a fun party at the end of the day, can leave a couple perplexed about the dos’ and donts’ of wedding etiquette.

To help, here’s a guide answering the most commonly asked wedding-etiquette questions:

 1. How to Address Wedding Invitations

Some of this depends on the formality of your wedding. As a general rule, the outside of an envelope should be formal. If you choose to use nicknames or personal titles (i.e.”Uncle Jimmy”), reserve them for the inside invitation.

*Always use “Mr. and Mrs.” for a married couple. If a couple is unmarried but living together, list the primary guest first (male or female) or put their names on separate lines in alphabetical order.

*If a guest is in the military, the title of an officer whose rank is equal to or higher than a captain in the army or a lieutenant in the navy is placed next to his or her name. Always place the branch of service below the guest’s name. You should also include titles for retired high-ranking officered inserting (Ret.) after their names.

*For children it is unnccesary to include their names on the outside envelope. But be sure to include invited childrens’ names on the inside invitation. Otherwise it will be assumed they are uninvited.

*If children are not invited, purposely spread the word that only adults can be accommodated at the reception. You can also include a handwritten note to guests with children. Do not leave a space with “number of guests” to be filled in.


2. Should you invite your ex to the wedding?

While invitations to ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends should be judged on a personal basis (how amicable the break up was and how comfortable your fiance is with their attendance), as a general rule, it is recommended that an ex-spouse not be invited to the wedding. There are several reasons for this:

*It can be very confusing and stressful for any children you might share.

*Guests too may feel uncoformatable, not knowing what to say to your ex, and thereby inadvertently putting the attention on your former spouse rather than your bride or groom to be.

*It presents an awkward invitation for your former spouse. They may feel bad about rejecting the invitation, but underwhelmed about watching you tie the knot.


3. The Best Man’s Responsibilities (Okay boys, besides planning the bachelor party)

Before the wedding:

*Coordinates the groomensmen’s formal-wear fittings.   

*Picks up the groom’s attire.

*Confirms your honeymoon travel reservations.

*Orchestrates the rehearsal party toasts.

On  the wedding day:  

*Helps manage the groom’s time.

*Bring the bride’s ring.

*Holds the officiates fee until after the ceremony, and signs the marriage liscense as the groom’s witness.

*Organizes the groomsmen for formal pictures.

*Dances with the maid of honor.

*Makes the initial toast during the reception.

*Makes sure the getaway car is ready and the couple’s luggage is inside.


4. The Maid of Honor’s Responsibilities (note- to be called “Matron of Honor” if she is married)

Before the wedding:

* Coordinates dress fittings

* Plans the bridal shower.

*Helps with organizational tasks such as addressing wedding invitations.

On the wedding day:

*Accompanies the bride to the ceremony.

*Arranges the bride’s veil and train throughout the day.

*Holds her bouquet at the altar. Carries and passes the groom’s ring to the bride during the vows.

*Signs the marriage liscence as the bride’s witness.

*Dances with best man.

*Helps organize the bridesmaids for formal photographs.

*Helps the bride with any dress changes.

*Makes sure the bride’s dress and bouquet are taken care of until she returns from her honeymoon.


5. What is the proper order for the processional

The traditional Christian proccesional has become the most common order for weddings, even in non-religious weddings. Below is that basic order along with links to other cultures’ processional traditions.

With the groom and officiate standing at the altar-



*Bridesmaids (If fewer than 5, in single file. Otherwise, in pairs).

Maid of honor last.

*Ring Bearer followed by or paired with the Flower girl.

*Bride and father.

Jewish Processions

Hindu Weddings

Nondenominational, weddings using 2 aisles, & weddings with a small bridal party

6. Vendor Treatment

Bands, photographers, videographers and other wedding professionals who will be at your reception for its duration often stipulate in their contracts that they need to be fed. Even if not, it is considered a courtesy to have plates for these vendors. Caterers will often charge half price for vendor plates. Serving them alcohol is not expected.

7. Thank You Notes

Promptness in sending your thank you cards is appreciated by guests. Below is a general timeline based on when gifts are received.

*Engagement party and bridal shower – send within 2-3 weeks after

*Gifts sent before the wedding –send as soon as possible

*Gifts given on the wedding day – send within three months

*Gifts received after your wedding – send within 2-3 weeks

Try to mention the gift by name and make the note as personal as possible. With monetary gifts, don’t mention the amount, but give the gifter an idea of how you plan to use their generosity.


8. Requiring a dress code    

Unless you run with a opera-attending crowd, requiring a tuxedo can prove a hassle for your guests. As a good host, you don’t want to do this. Nor do you want to put any unnecessary financial burden on your guests. However if you are planning a formal wedding, the best solution is to include “black tie optional” on your invitation. This will suggest to your guests the expected level of dress, and encourage guests who do own or want to rent a tuxe, to wear one. The other’s can simply wear their most formal dark suit. Furthermore, including this note will help your female guests gauge how fancy they should dress as well.


9. If guests don’t RSVP

Calling is perfectly acceptable to double check. They may have thought they responded, when their invitation is still under a stack of mail. Or worse, perhaps lost the invitation. Unaccounted for guests can prove a real challenge on the day of. The real err in etiquette would be to not have a plate or seat for these guests, by assuming they’re not coming.

posted by Sojourner on 01/26/13  /  Tags: , ,  /  37 Comments


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