Etiquette Answers

Brush up on your wedding manners with the answers to these common questions.

My fiancé and I have run into a menu problem. He and I, plus a good number of our friends, are vegetarian. We had planned on having an entirely vegetarian menu, but both sets of our parents are insisting that we include at least chicken and, they “hope,” a beef option. Our parents are each paying for half of the wedding. What is the right thing to do?

Regardless of who’s paying, a wedding isn’t the time to push your choices or beliefs. On the other hand, you don’t want to be untrue to your principles, get sick or alienate anyone – these are your friends and family, after all. What you need to look for is a middle ground. Instead of serving tofu or TVP (textured vegetable protein, for those not in the know), why not serve a pasta dish that’s heavy on the vegetables? You could also consider serving a large selection of fruits, vegetables, cheeses and the like. The key is to stick to food items that everyone can identify.

If you’re having a sit-down reception, offering an entrée choice for vegetarians and another for meat (or chicken or fish) is a simple choice that will make everyone happy – and you can tell your friends to push the veggie option.


My fiancé’s parents aren’t contributing anything toward our wedding, but his mother keeps insisting on having a say in every decision we make. Please tell me a nice way of handling this situation before I say something I shouldn’t!

Ask for her help in small, very specific ways, such as: finalizing the seating arrangements for her invitees, choosing her outfits for wedding-related events, helping with the flower girls, designing the groom’s cake, etc. If you head her off at the pass, so to speak, then you can focus her energies on those tasks so that you can deal with the rest of the planning.

If your fiancé’s parents are hosting the rehearsal dinner, try to bring his mom’s inquiries regarding your wedding planning back to what she’s planning – remember, the dinner is their event, and she gets as much control over it as she wants. Ask her about what she’s chosen and why, and make certain to tell her how much it means to you that she’s spending all this time and effort to make that event so special.

The most important thing to remember is that your wedding is only one day of your life, but this woman will be your mother-in-law for the rest of your marriage. Be kind, be nice and be very careful what you say about her to anyone – you don’t want to bad-mouth her to your fiancé (she’s his mother); you don’t want to say nasty things about her to your mother (your life will be easier if they don’t hate each other); and you don’t want to complain about her to any of your friends that might get drunk or upset and tell a) your fiancé, b) your mother or c) anyone else what you thought was a private conversation.


I have created welcome bags for my out-of-town guests. It will be easy to get them to the guests who are staying at the hotels where we booked rooms, but what do I do about the guests who have decided to stay elsewhere?

It isn’t necessary for you to run all over town delivering these gifts. When your guests opted out of staying in the hotels in which you have room blocks, they also sacrificed this kind of personal attention. However, if a few of your guests have all chosen to stay at the same place, and you only have to make one additional trip, then by all means include them as well.

If you do choose to deliver a goodie bag to each one of your guests regardless of where they will be staying, make it easier on yourself and include only non-perishable items – maps, schedules, activity pages, bottles of water, etc. Ask the staff at those locations if it would be possible for you to drop off the bags at the check-in desk early (by three or four days). That will allow you to get this task out of the way before the insanity of your wedding week begins.


Who is supposed to give a toast and when? I’ve been to weddings where just the best man and maid of honor speak at the reception and ones where they speak at the rehearsal dinner; I’ve also been to receptions where anyone who wants to make a speech does so, as well as one where just the father of the bride speaks. What’s the traditional answer and has that changed?

Traditionally, the first speech given at the reception is by the host – while that’s most often the father of the bride, if you and your fiancé are paying for your own wedding, then this would be your partner and, possibly, you. (The reason that a bride doesn’t traditionally speak at her wedding reception is because she’s the guest of honor. However, if you’re suddenly overcome with gratitude and feel like it would be rude to not stand up with your new husband and express your joy and thanks, then by all means do so.) The point of this speech is to welcome your guests, acknowledge those who have travelled to be with you, welcome the groom’s family into the bride’s and say a few tender words about the newlyweds.

After the host, the next traditional toasts are by the best man and the maid of honor, respectively. Following that, if you have siblings or stepparents who would like to say a few words, this is the time. After that, if the groom would like to speak or if the host would rather wrap things up, that’s the end of the speeches.

Some couples like to open up speeches to anyone who would like to say a few words. If you choose to go this route, follow the order above and open the floor between your siblings/stepparents and the closing by the host. If you choose to do this, make certain the host, or a person of your choosing, is in control of the microphone to keep speeches flowing and is prepared to take the mike away if a guest seems drunk or begins to tell a story that’s inappropriate.

If you’d rather keep the talking at your reception short, then the most necessary toast is the one by the host. If you choose to go down that route, then ask your best man and maid of honor (and whomever else you want to speak or who has offered to do so) to give their speeches at your rehearsal dinner, after the speech made by its host (i.e. typically the groom’s parents).

In regards to the timing of the toasts, that all depends on what type of reception and/or rehearsal dinner you’re having. If you’ve decided on a seated dinner, the host should give a very brief toast of welcome as everyone is seated, followed by the other speeches at the end of the main course; the bride and groom should give their thanks, if they choose, after the cutting of the cake. If you’re having a buffet, the transition between cocktails and dinner is ideal for the host’s opening statements; others should toast after the first dance, while everyone is still paying attention, with the bride and groom’s thanks coming after the cake cutting. If you’re going in a different direction, say a cocktail reception, there are no set rules for when to start your toasts. The best guideline to follow is to ask the host to say a few words of welcome at the beginning, followed by a smattering of other toasts to get the party going. In this case all toasts should be very brief so that your guests don’t get stir crazy waiting.

Remember, your wedding day is supposed to be fun, so make the speech plans early. You don’t want to be worrying about the toast itinerary when you’ve got a marriage to celebrate.

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