wedding etiquette
wedding etiquette

  1. Who pays for the wedding?Traditionally, the bride’s parents paid for most of the wedding, but many couples fund their big day themselves these days, or split the cost between both families. Though no one really likes to bring up the subject, it’s important to speak to both sets of parents and find out what – if anything – they’d like to contribute early on. Click here for Y&YW planning tools – which include a detailed budgeting gadget.
  2. Where do I start with my guest list?Draw up a list of everyone you’d like to invite in an ideal world and sort them into four categories,” says planner Samm Riley from wedding-matters.co.uk

    a) People who must be invited at all costs – parents, siblings, best friends.

    b)  Friends that you still see or keep in contact with regularly – work colleagues (if you’ve been there a while) and long-term mates from uni, football etc.

    c) People you recently met, who may be part of your life but haven’t been around long, such as new work colleagues.

    d)  Friends you haven’t seen in a long time and don’t keep in contact with, and family members that you don’t have a relationship with.

    Now your priorities should be clear, says Samm: “1s and 2s should get an invitation to the whole event; 3s could come to the evening do; and 4s shouldn’t be invited at all – there are reasons you don’t keep in touch, so be true to yourself.”

    Y&YW planning tools also include a guest and seating planner to simplify this process from day one.

  3. Who do we invite if we're getting married abroad? Most couples stick to close family and friends only and then hold a post-wedding party when they get back. If you are marrying in Europe and the costs involved aren't such an issue as for, say, a Caribbean or Mauritius wedding, then give your friends the option of coming along but make it very clear that you won't be offended if they cannot join you.
  4. Click here to search for operators who can organise your wedding abroad.

  5. Who sends the invitations and when?Traditional invites come from the bride’s parents, though sometimes the groom’s name is followed by “son of (his parents’ names)".These days many couples send their own. “Order them four months before the wedding and post them eight to 10 weeks before,” says Wedding Bible author Sarah Haywood. “Include a reply card and a pre-addressed envelope to speed things up.”
  6. Should I set a dress code?“Traditionally, a formal engraved invitation meant that guests were expected to wear morning dress – without it being stated on the invite,” says wedding planner Sophie Lillingston. “Nowadays dress codes can be quite varied and it’s fine to specify what you want – just keep the wording simple and clear.”
  7. What time should the bride and groom get to the ceremony?The groom and best man should arrive at the venue at least 30 minutes before the bride. It’s the bride’s prerogative to be the last to arrive, but don’t overdo the lateness or your groom may be a bundle of nerves by the time you make it up the aisle!
  8. Do my bridesmaids enter before or after me?In England, your bridesmaids traditionally follow you up the aisle (in the States, it’s usually the other way around). Some brides like to have a flowergirl enter first, but there’s no set rule.
  9. What duties do the best man and ushers have?Before the wedding, the best man is responsible for the stag do and getting your fiancé home safely afterwards!  And on the day, he briefs the ushers, oversee the buttonholes and make sure all the guests have got home safely at the end of the evening. Not to mention the speech, obviously. Ushers direct guests to their seats during the ceremony, and gather guests for photos afterwards.
  10. Can my pet dog be part of my wedding?“The presence of a dog at a wedding ceremony does not affect its legality,” says Stewart Cooper, a spokesman for the General Registry Office in Scotland.  “You just need permission from the owner of the building where the wedding is taking place and you need to consult the registrar for a civil ceremony or the relevant celebrant for a religious ceremony.” If you want your pooch to be present, bring it to rehearsals. “Let it sniff around the venue,” says Mark Johnston, veterinary surgeon and spokesman for the BSAVA (British Small Animal Veterinary Association). “If there’ll be loud organ music, get a tape recording to play at home, gradually increasing the volume so that your pet gets used to it.”

    More about pets at weddings

  11. Do we have to have favours?No, you don’t, especially if you’re on a tight budget. However, you may be surprised at some of the inexpensive favours out there – for instance, you can get a box of 100 ‘Just Married’ Love Hearts for £36.20, which mean they work out at just 36p each. “Or have lots of little cupcakes instead of a wedding cake, and these could double up as favours,” says Y&YW’s Receptions Style Editor Vanessa Gore.

    Find suppliers of wedding favours here.

  12. Do we need  a receiving line?In an ideal world you'd speak to all the guests individually, but this is time-consuming and you won't be able to say much more than a hello to each person. “A good compromise is to go round with your groom to every table and chat to the table collectively,” says wedding planner Mark Niemierko.
  13. Should we offer a choice of food, or stick with a set menu?If you are having a sit-down meal, it is simpler (and usually cheaper) to stick to a set menu with provision for vegetarians. If you want to offer more choices it is probably a better option to have a buffet where guests can choose from a selection of meat, fish and vegetarian options. Your guests know they are coming to a wedding and not a restaurant and as long as you choose a fairly simple menu they should be happy.
  14. When are the speeches and what order should they go?Traditionally, the speeches are made as coffee is served and the bride’s father speaks first, followed by the groom and best man. However, you could have the speeches before the meal so that the speakers can relax and enjoy their food, or hold them later on when your evening guests are also present.

    Although it's not traditional, it's becoming more common for brides to say a few words. But don't launch into an over-emotional ramble. If in doubt, keep it simple, and go first if you're nervous, or last for maximum impact!

  15. When should we register our gift list?Sooner is better than later, especially if you’re planning to use one of the popular department stores. Some will let you register online early, but otherwise 12 weeks is about standard. If you’re sending your invites out eight to 10 weeks before, you can include information about your gift list with them.
  16. Can we ask for money instead of presents?Although it’s more acceptable now, some guests may still prefer to buy you a present. A compromise could be to set up a small wedding list and suggest that vouchers for a variety of retailers would be just as useful.

    Also, some travel companies offer honeymoon gift-list services, so guests can contribute towards the tailor-made trip of your dreams. However if you make it known that cash would be welcome, most people are happy to oblige!

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