The most important thing to remember when discussing etiquette is that "you don’t get a second chance at a first impression,” said Sustainer Claudia Kelleher, Owner of In Any Event, Inc., a New Orleans based event planning business. Whether you are a bride, groom or guest this rings true. Here are some wedding etiquette highlights to help you make a good impression.
The invitation “is the first glimpse and impression of the celebration,” said Anna Dearmon Kornick, JLNO Communications Council Director and owner of the calligraphy and hand-lettering business The Welcome Note. It is important to address the envelopes appropriately, using a guest’s title and full name, making sure that names are spelled correctly. Anna suggests using Emily Post’s etiquette advice as a guide for inner envelopes. “The names on the inner envelope indicate exactly who is invited, or if your guest may bring a plus one,” Anna explains. “It is a compliment to receive an invitation,” said Claudia. This is one of the reasons that as a guest, it is important to know what your invitation indicates. Reading the invitation correctly and respecting your host’s wishes is important. They have put a great amount of thought and planning into this event, and extra guests can affect budget, seating charts, and other aspects of the big day.
As the couple and their families plan the wedding and rehearsal dinner, Claudia pointed out that remembering to be inclusive is crucial, “This is your new family — it is important to make everyone feel included.” In doing this, you are laying a foundation for future interactions. If you have children, she said, “[your in-laws] will be their grandparents.” So, as you plan, reach out to your new family and make them a part of the celebrations.
And while the guest list is traditionally dictated by the bride’s family (who pay for the wedding and reception), it is a nice gesture on the part of the hosts to allot a certain number of guests for the groom’s family and friends — and vice versa as the groom’s family plans the rehearsal dinner.
Active Lara Mintz, of LaMintz Wedding Coordination, recommends “having open conversations with the families about who gets to invite who.” This is also important when deciding the size of the wedding. Discussing it openly will help keep everyone on the same page, and planning will go much more smoothly.
It is an honor to be asked to stand in a wedding, and being a bridesmaid or a groomsman is a lot of fun. Along with the fun, though, there are obligations that are often not considered. As an attendant, you will be asked to attend showers and parties as well as purchase your attire for the big day.
Claudia and Lara both touched on this topic. “When you accept an invitation to be an attendant, you are accepting a financial responsibility,” said Claudia. If you have been asked to stand in a wedding and you cannot manage the monetary commitments that will come along with it, it is OK to politely say so. “Offer to help host a shower or help in some way on the day of the wedding,” said Lara.
Sometimes, a bride assists attendants by covering the cost of hair and makeup and/or jewelry. Some families offer to take care of the hotel rooms for the wedding party. Every budget is different. Finding a way to assist your wedding party, if possible, is a way to say thank you for participating in your big day.
In this age of the internet, there are all types of wedding registries and ways to send gifts. Whether you receive a gift from a local store or through Amazon, it is imperative that you send a thank you note. “When someone sends you a gift, they have made an effort to spend time thinking of you,” said Claudia. She stresses the importance of sending hand-written thank you notes. If all else fails, she advises calling the gift giver, but says there is no substitute for putting pen to paper. Etiquette dictates that you have one year from your wedding date to send your thank you notes — but being prompt with your gratitude is always preferred.
Whatever your role at a wedding, it is important to navigate the “I Dos” and “I Don'ts” with good manners, courteous communication and a positive attitude. This proper etiquette is a way of showing respect for those around you as well as yourself.
Active Emma Pegues' wedding shower had signage explaining the rules of a game the ladies were to play during the party. Photo provided by: Emma Pegues
To Plug or Unplug?
Cell Phones and Social Media at the Wedding
While there is no official rule about having cell phones out during a wedding, the unofficial rule is to keep your digital device pocketed during the ceremony. “Cell phones will distract from an otherwise beautiful picture,” said Anna. Claudia also said having phones out during the ceremony is a faux pas.
If you would prefer to have an “unplugged” ceremony, Anna recommends having hand-lettered signage for guests to see as they enter the sanctuary or venue (For example, she said, “Honor the sanctity of our sanctuary. Please silence your electronic devices and put them away during the ceremony.”) You may also opt to include a note regarding cell phones as part of the wedding bulletin. Often, the officiant reminds guests to silence their devices before the ceremony begins.
At the reception, on the other hand, let the guests help you capture the day. Having signage stating, “Let’s be social,” and including your personalized hashtag is a great way to keep track of all those candid and posed pictures that are snapped at the party. Your hashtag can also be used ahead of the big day at showers and engagement parties.
If you choose to use a hashtag, Anna advises, “Search it first! If two thousand other pics on Facebook and Instagram have your same same hashtag, your guests’ photographs will get lost among all of the others.” Anna’s own hashtag, #keepingupwiththeKornicks was a success, and she was able to experience her wedding day through the eyes of her social media savvy guests. •