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Wedding Bliss - An Experience All Can Enjoy

by  Tina Hayes on March 31, 2010

etiquette The wedding experience – a magical moment in a couple’s life. Whether traditional, contemporary, informal, formal, elaborate or simple, there is specific protocol that should be followed during, before and after the ‘big day’. The wedding guidelines I will be addressing highlight proper wedding etiquette for the bride, groom, bridal party, as well as the guests.


  • With the rising cost of weddings, consider it an honor to be invited.
  • R.S.V.P. – Do not show up if you have not responded to the invitation in a timely manner.
  • Do not be offended or bring children if the invitation reads “adult affair only”.
  • Only invited guests should attend. It is very inappropriate to “crash” a wedding.
  • As an invited guest, you are obligated to give a gift. Traditionally, all gifts are to be sent to the bride’s home before the day of the wedding. Within some regions and cultures, it is acceptable to bring the gift to the reception. The grace period for giving a gift is one year; however it is best to send your gift within three months.
  • At the ceremony, the groom’s family and friends are seated on the right and the bride’s invited guests on the left side of the church. Don’t forget to be on time.
  • If the social hour is held outside of the banquet room, finish your drink and hors d’oeuvres before entering into the dining hall. It is inappropriate to bring cocktails to a formal table setting.
  • Never re-arrange place cards at the reception; it is a breach of etiquette.
  • The receiving line allows the bride and groom to greet their guests personally. Etiquette – as you proceed down the receiving line, shake hands, introduce yourself, exchange smiles and congratulatory sentiments, and then move along. This is not the time for extended conversations.
  • Finally, show the highest degree of respect to the happy couple. It’s not about you; it is their special moment in life.

Bridal Party

The misconception of the bridal party is thinking that their main responsibilities center on walking down the aisle the day of the wedding. The bridal party members are to be the main support mechanism of the bride and groom:

  • They are to take part in assisting with the wedding planning.
  • Ask what they can do to help.
  • Be available for all pre-wedding engagements.
  • Hosts showers and bachelor parties.
  • Be on time. Don’t cause the bride or groom extra stress because of tardiness and lack of respect.
  • Be the last people to leave the reception.
  • Be available to offer words of encouragement during the couple’s stressful moments.

The Toast – the person that pays for the wedding gives the first toast (usually the father). If you as the Best Man or Maid of Honor are requested to make a toast, be sure it’s respectful and appropriate. Be brief (under a minute or two). Prepare for the toast, don’t read it from a paper. Be sure to include congratulatory remarks and best wishes.

My greatest advice to bridal party members is to be very supportive and cooperate. Go along with the decisions of the bride and groom. It’s their wedding, not yours!

Bride & Groom

I will keep my advice to the happy couple brief because most brides purchase “how to” and wedding planning materials.

  • Surround yourself with people that will support your decisions about your wedding day.
  • Strongly consider using a wedding coordinator (even if they’re just to oversee the ceremony).
  • My mentor and friend Peggy Newfield, founder and owner of The American School of Protocol in Atlanta, offers the following suggestion. Make sure all of your clothes for your special day, especially undergarments and shoes, are worn before the ceremony so that you know they are comfortable. Nothing is worse than blisters on your feet before the ceremony is over.
  • Appropriate gifts to suggest include: flatware, kitchen utensils, crystal, stemware, vases, fine china, candle sticks, frames for wedding pictures, monogrammed towels, bedding, and cookware. Do not request money on the invitation. Some of the top bridal registries: Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Williams - Sonoma, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s and Kohl’s.
  • It is okay to return duplicate gifts.
  • Show your gratitude in a timely manner. Thank you notes should be written and mailed within three months, no later than one year if your wedding was extremely large.
  • Remember, things happen and not everything and everyone is perfect. Enjoy the experience of planning your wedding. Work together as a team. Grooms, help with the planning process.
  • Keep things in perspective. The most important part of your wedding is the joining of two people deeply in love, beginning a life of “foreverness”.

Everyone has a specific role in a wedding. The key element in wedding etiquette is to display the highest degree of respect for yourself and others.

Tina Hayes

Tina Hayes

Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Northern California (Antioch). full bio



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