Nov 14, 2019

Learning Wedding Etiquette Reduces Stress, Decreases Drama, and Makes for Happier Couples

Drop the Drama

This blog points out the common etiquette mistakes that lead to stressful wedding planning. If you want to drop the drama and focus on your fiancé, this one’s for you!

No Logistics on Wedding Day

As a general rule, I expect my couples to remember little to nothing logistical on the wedding day. We’ve got smart, successful, conscientious clients, so why do I assume they can’t keep up with timelines and details on the wedding day?

Etiquette One-Liner

As a coordinator, I have a one-liner about etiquette. “I can tell you what tradition and proper etiquette says you should do, and then I’m totally down if you want to ignore that and do you.” When it comes to etiquette, I refer to the Emily Post Wedding Etiquette Guide as my go-to resource. Unless instructed otherwise by my client, I give the same advice as Emily Post on how all the wedding parts and details should go. Most people go outside of traditional etiquette for at least some of their wedding choices. And there is simply nothing wrong with that. Here’s the thing, the best way to break etiquette is to know what it is first and then decide its not for you. This way you’ll avoid unintentionally communicating the wrong message simply because you didn’t know.

Family Etiquette

Beyond the advice that I can give you or that any etiquette can give you, its important to understand the traditions of your own family. There’s generally no rule book for that, so you’ll need to ask your parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Again, you do not need to follow your family’s traditions but it is wise to know what they are and address any traditions that you choose to forego.

5 Etiquette Mistakes

I’m going to hit the highlights, the 5 areas that people most commonly misunderstand etiquette or disregard it unintentionally. Keep in mind that my goal is to help you avoid unintentionally breaking tradition or etiquette. I stand by the choices of those who know the etiquette and decide its not for them. Etiquette has a place and a purpose, to show consideration and respect for others, and to make for a comfortable environment. But for each couple certain traditions can actually do the opposite. Following traditional etiquette could be uncomfortable or even hurtful to the couple and/or their loved ones. In those cases, traditional etiquette can and should be broken.

1. Processional Mistakes


The order of the processional goes by this rule, the people closest to the bride should be closest to her in the line-up. This is why the mother of the bride is traditionally the last parent to walk down the aisle, and the maid of honor is the last attendant to walk down the aisle. Often, couples will assume that the order doesn’t matter, or they may choose to rearrange the order to accommodate real-life couples or logistical concerns. Know that the way you are ordering your processional may have meaning to your family or attendants. So if you are going out of the order, it may be considerate to give an explanation to those who have been placed out of traditional order.

Who Stands on Which Side

Traditional etiquette dictates that the bride enters on her father or other special person’s RIGHT side (Show little people). (Argue with your self) Don’t believe me? Yup, it’s true. What if I told you that tradition actually has women to the right of the men in general. Some of you are like oh uh uh and you just left this video to google it. And some of you are like, why are we still talking about this. I’m about to move one, but know that the placement of the bride to the right of her escort actually makes the handoff much more graceful. So now you know and I know. But still next time someone tells me I’m wrong about this, my response will be just the same “ Yes, certainly, do it the way that is most comfortable for you!”

2. Formal Dances

The newly married couple shares the first dance, that’s pretty standard across the board. What happens next is not so black and white. The second dance involves parents, and most commonly in American weddings, the Bride dances with her father. For the next dance, the Groom dances with his mother. Here’s when things get touchy. In some traditions, this dance is combined. Mother of the Groom dances with the groom alongside the Bride dance with her father. The problem is when the custom of the couples’ families is not the same. Like if the groom’s family expects there to be 2 dances, and the bride’s family expects one. There is so much emotion and sentiment around this moment. If the mother of the groom is expecting to dance with her son to a certain song that maybe she’s been thinking of since he was a baby and that dance doesn’t happen, it is upsetting. We should all set boundaries with our families and our in-laws. Setting them during formal dances is a no go. Instead, check-in on both sets of parents’ expectations and accommodate them if you comfortably can.

3. Skipping out on parent’s personal floral

There are no requirements for purchasing floral for your parents or wedding party. In fact, I’ve seen beautiful weddings with minimal personal floral. The only time I’ve seen people caught off guard or slightly offended regarding personal floral is when a large group of people receives a boutonnière or corsage, but they do not. Often times, a couple will decide against personal floral for their parents, without letting them know. Then on the wedding day, when I’m distributing floral I field their comments about not receiving the floral and why. Again, check their expectations, because this is not an expensive add on. You can get something simple for as low as $10-$12. Again it’s ok if you don’t want to do floral for your parents, but do so intentionally and not accidentally. And best-case scenario, give them a heads up. For better ways to save money check out our Best Budget Cuts Blog.

4. Greeting Guests

Receiving Line

I don’t care how you do it but definitely plan to greet your guests. Receiving lines are not popular in New Orleans, I’m mostly unfamiliar with them, except that my college BFF did one after her ceremony. And it was beautiful and natural. But she’s an extravert and an expert small talker so she has a way of making something like that not awkward. It’s also customary where she lives.

Table Visits

Table visits seem to be more the norm around here. Informally, the couple visits each table says hello, and welcomes their guests. Because its informal, many guests probably don’t even notice it happening. Instead, they just fell the “Ran into the couple”. So it’s important when planning your reception that you set aside some time to do this, and you may have never noticed it being done in the past.

5. Feeding Your Guests

So, how long can your guests eat past apps before they are chomping at the bit? Starved? Hangry? What’s the magic number? Here’s my rule of thumb, your guests generally want to eat unless they are thoroughly entertained by something else. Many couples wait to serve entrees until after the first dances. This was pretty customary actually. However, when the couple wants extended post-ceremony pictures this can push the dinner back to the point of … well hunger I guess.

Rule of Thumb

Here’s my rule of thumb, flights over 2 hours usually provide a meal. So never let more than 2 hours pass from the time guests arrive at your ceremony to when they are eating a meal at your reception. (that’s from when they arrive, not when you walk down the aisle!)

It’s Not About Following Rules

If you take only one thing from this video, let it be this: It’s not about following etiquette rules, it’s about knowing what they are. Then just do you! Have a wedding that is customary to you and your fiancé, to your established traditions and norms. Let it be about love, unity, and having an amazing time. Etiquette is meant to make things more comfortable, not to restrict your choices!

Happy Wedding Planning!




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