Your Guide To Modern Wedding Etiquette

1. What to Wear – Women


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It can be challenging to know what to wear to a wedding because each one varies in its extravagance. Generally, the rule for women is that skirts or dresses should be no shorter than 4” from the knees, little to no cleavage is showing, and that your dress isn’t so tight that you’ll stop breathing and drop dead. Everyone wants to look nice, especially if they are trying to find their own special someone but weddings are not the place to show off your club wear. Go for a Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton classy look as opposed to drunken girl showing off her lady bits in a super short mini. Also, try to avoid wearing the same colour dress as the bridesmaids unless they are all wearing black. Wearing white, tiaras, and over the top outfits are all great ways to get un-friended by the couple or simply asked to leave the celebrations.

2. What to Wear – Men


For men, shirts are to remain closed with the exception of the top button if it’s a casual wedding, otherwise a tie or bowtie is expected.  Also, even if a wedding is themed, it doesn’t mean that guests are expected to arrive in a costume. Be sure to clarify this before you show up in plaid and everyone else is sporting a suit and tie. Denim, white socks, and camo are all off-limits unless there is a specific reference in the invitation that explicitly says come dressed as “Duck Dynasty” fans.

3. Engagement Party

3_engagement_partyEngagement parties are meant to be a celebration of a couples’ wedding announcement and therefore it is neither necessary nor expected to bring a gift. If the party is hosted at their house, items such as wine, champagne, or small household gifts are always appropriate.

4. If You Cannot Attend


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If the bride and groom are aware that a person is not able to attend the wedding but still send an invitation regardless, it is considered very tacky by modern standards. Because invitations are sent with the expectation of a gift, it is very much looked down upon to send an invite to people who knowingly cannot attend the wedding. Unless there is a personalized note saying something to the effect “we are sad you cannot join us on this special day but wanted to send you this as a personal memento” consider an invitation like this a request for money or gifts.

5. Bridal Party

5_bridal_partyIf you cannot commit to the time and financial obligations that go with being in the bridal party, you should decline right away so that they can arrange for a replacement. Be prepared that the average bridesmaid spends around $800-2000 for her dress, hair, makeup, gifts, bachelorette festivities, showers, and other wedding incidentals. Also, another fallacy that many people aren’t aware of, siblings of the bride and groom do not have to be in the bridal party, nor does anyone who’s wedding the couple stood in either. Meaning- if the bride and/or groom were in your bridal party, there is no obligation for you to be in theirs.

6. Bridesmaid Expectations

wedding_partyBridesmaids are expected to help organize the wedding, act as support for the bride, help her choose her dress, and be of assistance throughout the days leading up to the wedding as well as the special day itself. It is a very large commitment both in terms of time and money and shouldn’t be a decision taken lightly by either the bride or her maids. The maid of honor in particular is expected to be the go-to person throughout the wedding planning events and therefore her commitment is far more strenuous than those of the others.

7. Cutting the Cake

7_cutting_the_cakeMore and more people are choosing to forgo cakes because of cost, dietary restrictions, or simply personal preference. Traditionally, once the cake is cut, it signals to the guests that the formal events of the day have concluded and that should they need to leave, they are free to do so at this time. If there is no cake, generally some kind of dessert presentation would be expected to signal the culmination of the days’ traditions and perhaps commencement of the evening’s dancing and other lighthearted celebrations.

8. Cell Phones at Weddings


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Cell phones at weddings have recently been causing more and more of a stir. Generally, it is acceptable for phones to be used to take pictures or film the days’ events, but not for other calls, messaging, or gaming. Phones should be kept on silent throughout the duration of the day and kept discrete (If you need to check your phone, do so in private, not at the table). Social media posting of the wedding in real time is generally not acceptable unless previously arranged with the couple. The first pictures to surface on sources such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram should be coming from the bride and groom, not their guests. Also remember, you probably aren’t hired as the photographer so be sure to stay out of their way!

9. Who Gets to Bring a Date

9_bringing_dateIf you are friends with the bride or groom and are in a committed relationship, it is expected that you receive a + 1 in your invitation so that you can bring your partner. Even if the couple has not met your better half, it is standard practice that they are invited. If a person is single, it is not necessary that they are granted a spare invitation to find someone to bring. The person who was invited to the wedding is also expected to cover the full cost of gift, not their guest.

10. Wedding Presents

10_wedding_presentsContrary to popular belief, there is no minimum for a wedding gift. Meaning, you actually don’t even need to cover your meal if it isn’t within your budget. The couple cannot expect everyone to fund their special day and shower them with enough money to cover the down payment of an extravagant home and decorate it with elaborate gifts. Money is the simplest go-to gift that is always well received. If you are planning to buy a present, first take a look at the registry as these are items that the couple has specifically chosen. If the couple is classy, they will register for a variety of items that are suitable for all budgets, specifically lots of affordable options. Gift cards to stores where the couple is registered is also an acceptable alternative.

11. Destination Weddings

11_destination_weddingDestination weddings have grown in popularity by 400% in the last few years! The drastic increase is largely attributed to reduced cost burden on the bride and groom, simplicity of planning, and let’s not forget, the beautiful settings. Couples who have destination weddings cannot expect their guests to provide expensive gifts, and some even decline gifts completely because of the expenses people have already incurred to be in attendance. If you attend a destination wedding and are later invited to another reception for the same couple, you do not need to attend if it isn’t convenient. Choose to give cash or send a gift to the newly weds back home instead of bringing a gift with you if you decide to give anything at all.

12. Who Pays

12_who_paysWeddings are no longer the financial responsibility of the bride and groom’s family. The onus for all payments is on the couple exclusively unless family members have kindly offered to contribute. It is seen as very distasteful when children ask their parents or in-laws for more money than originally discussed because they have gone over their budget. Also expecting guests to contribute a certain monetary value for their attendance is also a serious no-no. Guests are not obligated to bring gifts of any sort to the wedding. Most bring gifts, but there should be no expectation what the gifts are or how much they are worth. Each person’s financial situation differs and therefore it’s best not to place expectations.

13. Children at the Wedding

13_kids_at_WeddingThe attendance of children at the wedding can often be a point of contention amongst guests. Many adults do not think that weddings are suitable for children while others firmly object. The general rule is that invitations should be consistent, meaning all kids or no kids, with the exception of the the flower girl, ring bearer, and of course any children belonging to the bride and groom.

14. Second Marriages

14_second_marriagesIf this is the second, third, or fourth marriage for either the bride and groom, its widely accepted that the wedding doesn’t follow strict tradition. Processions such as walking the bride down the aisle, father-daughter dance, even whether or not there will be a shower is all left to the couples’ discretion. Things that are seen as taboo for repeat weddings include recreating the first wedding, marrying in the same location, re-wearing the dress or rings, placing expectations on gifts.

15. ‘Thank You’ Notes

15_thank_youThank you notes should be sent out immediately following the wedding. The bride and groom are busy, sure- but everyone else worked very hard to provide gifts and lavish celebrations for them and should rightfully be thanked for their time and contributions. Thank you notes received after 3 months following the wedding are considered extremely rude, as are any messages that are not hand written and signed by both newly weds. Generic thank you’s are also a serious faux pas that come off as being insincere and cheap.


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