This blog reviews the most common etiquette mistakes in wedding planning. I’ll go through what traditional etiquette says about these subjects, though you can always go against traditional etiquette. It will serve you well to do that knowingly. Breaking etiquette on purpose feels much better than finding out you broke it on accident.
My go-to resource for this is Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette Guide. I give the same advice as Emily Post on how all the wedding parts and details should go.
Here are the 5 areas where people unintentionally break or disregard etiquette.
- The Ceremony Processional
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. The order of the processional may have meaning to family and/or attendants. If you are going out of the order, it may be considerate to give an explanation to those who have been placed outside that traditional order.
Traditional etiquette dictates that the bride enters on her father or other special person’s RIGHT side, even though the females usually stand on the left side of the male. Bridesmaids stand on the left side of their escort. But the bride stands on the right side of her dad. It will make the handoff easier especially if the bride has a large train.
My goal is to help you avoid unintentionally breaking tradition or etiquette. 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.
For a specific advice on how to order your wedding processional check out this video on processional order.
2. Formal Dances
When it comes to formal dances, the newly married couple shares the first dance, which is pretty standard across the board. 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. In some traditions, this dance is combined. The mother of the groom dances with the groom alongside the bride dancing 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 two 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, it is upsetting if she does not have that opportunity. Check-in on both sets of parents’ expectations and accommodate them if you comfortably can. Same-sex couples should also check expectations and communicate the floral dance plan with parents.
3. Personal Floral
The third mistake is skipping out on the parents’ 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. Oftentimes, 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.
4. Greeting Guests
Etiquette says the couple should greet each and every guest. You can have a traditional receiving line. Or you can go for table visits, where the couple visits each table says hello, and welcomes their guests. Because it’s informal, many guests probably don’t even notice it happening. Allot time to greet guests one way or another.
5. Meal Service
And the final most common etiquette mistake is about how long your guests can go before you feed them a meal. Guests want to eat unless they are thoroughly entertained by something else. Many couples wait to serve entrees until after the first dances. However, when the couple wants extended post-ceremony pictures this can push the dinner back too far.
Here’s my rule of thumb, flights over two hours usually provide a meal. After two hours people need more than a light snack. 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!)
One Last Thing
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!
Thank you so much for reading and Happy Wedding Planning!