Thursday, April 24, 2014

Save-the-Date Wedding Etiquette

In response to our increasingly overscheduled lives, a fairly new practice has burst onto the scene of wedding planning: Save-the-date cards are now being used to give prospective guests a heads-up about the impending nuptials that they may need in order to attend. As this practice has emerged, so too have some etiquette guidelines surrounding it.


    A fairly new invention in wedding stationery, the save-the-date card is a sort of announcement to your invitees that you will be getting married. It effectively serves two functions: It lets your friends and family know that you will be getting married, if they did not already know. It also gives them a heads-up about the date and location of the event, so they can start planning their schedule accordingly. Although wedding invitations are sent out well in advance of the event, the traditional six to eight weeks may not be enough time to let all of your guests make arrangements to attend.


    Originally it was only couples who were planning destination weddings or who lived far away from all family members who would use a save-the-date card. Common sense dictated that if you lived in California and would be wed in Ireland, you had to give people ample notice if you wanted them to join you. Today, however, there is an increasing trend toward sending these cards out even for domestic affairs. People's increasingly complicated schedules have made the advance notice a helpful tool and a courtesy for all guests. Knowing well in advance gives your guests time to schedule child care, arrange for time off from work and book their travel.
    Save-the-date cards are especially important if you are planning to get married around a holiday, or in a location that gets seasonally busy.


    The rule of thumb for save-the-date cards is that anyone who receives one must receive an invitation to the wedding. While you may think that only guests who live out of town or who have children need the additional heads-up, the truth is that most of your potential guests will appreciate the extra-early warning. If your budget will allow it, it is a good idea to send a save-the-date card to everyone whom you intend to invite.


    The good news is that a save-the-date card does not need to be as formal as your wedding invitation. The wording can be more relaxed, the numbers do not have to be spelled out and you have a little freedom to have some fun with it. However, bear in mind that for many, this first correspondence about your wedding will be the first indication of how fancy your wedding will be. If you are planning a black-tie gala, a cutesy cartoon or photo of the two of you frolicking on the beach may give the wrong impression.


    Your save-the-date card should inform your guests of who is getting married, where and when they are getting married and who exactly is being invited in the guests' household. Be sure to include the proper names of each person you will be inviting. If children are welcome at your wedding, make sure to include their names on the card. If you would like to encourage your single cousin to bring along a date, write "and guest."
    It is also a smart idea to include any information about local hotels or rooms that you have at a discounted rate with the save-the-date card.

Time Frame

    Mail the save-the-date cards six months in advance of the wedding, which will give your guests plenty of time to make arrangements. However, if you are getting married somewhere to which it is notoriously costly to fly, or if you are getting married on a holiday, you may want to consider sending your save-the-date card as much as a year in advance. This will ensure that your guests have enough time to budget for the trip. The more notice your guests have, the more likely they will be to show up on your big day.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wedding Etiquette for an RSVP Deadline

RSVP is short for the French term "rpondez s'il vous plat," meaning "please respond." RSVP deadlines for weddings need to combine sufficient notice to guests with the planning needs of the couple getting married. Proper wedding etiquette dictates specific rules for both the bride and groom, or hosts of the wedding, and for the invited guests.

Mailing the Invitation

    Most people mail out their wedding invitations six to eight weeks before the wedding. Consider the time of year -- summer and holidays are usually busy times for many people. You should also take into account the distance people will have to travel and the cost associated with this. If family or friends are coming from a great distance to your wedding, or if you are having a wedding on a beach in a tropical resort, you need to provide people with extensive notice. This can be done by sending a "save the date" notice -- even by email -- with basic details about the wedding.

Response Cards

    It is traditional to include a response card in the wedding invitation. Often, self-addressed, stamped envelopes are also included. This makes it easier for your invited guests to quickly send their response. You may choose to provide a phone number, email address or even wedding website address as options for guests when sending their RSVP to your wedding.

RSVP Deadline

    The date of your RSVP deadline should be determined by your planning needs. If the caterer or event venue needs a final headcount two weeks before the wedding, that is your absolute cut-off date. However, to allow you time to follow up with people who haven't responded, you may want to state a date three weeks before the wedding. If you didn't receive a response, you may call your invited guest to inquire about her intentions. Don't assume that a lack of response means she isn't coming.

Guest Etiquette

    As a guest, you must also follow proper etiquette for RSVPs. Notify the couple as promptly as possible about your decision. If you were invited to bring a guest, be sure to confirm whether you will be coming alone or with someone. If you misplace or forget to mail the invitation, call the couple and let them know about your decision. Try not to wait until the last minute, as it makes planning more challenging.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Etiquette for Wrapping a Wedding Gift

If you have been invited to a wedding, then you are required to bring a gift. You should select a gift from the bride and groom's official registry, if possible, and spend an amount of money within your budget. Gift wrap and presentation of the gift is important, as well, and there is an etiquette that you should follow.

Box Selection

    Select a box that fits the wedding gift. Often you can get these from the store where you purchase the gift. Do not place a very small gift in a huge box. A wedding usually is not an event where you play practical jokes on the bride and groom. A snug-fitting box also helps to protect fragile items because they have less room to move.

Tissue Paper

    Line your gift box with tissue paper. Avoid bold colors. Stick with white or pastel-colored tissue paper. Select a shade that you know matches the bride's colors for her wedding.

Store Gift Wrap

    When possible, use the wrapping paper of the store where you bought the gift, if they provide complimentary wrapping. You will want to do this especially if the store is high-end one. This lets the bride, groom and other guests know that you shopped from the bride's registry.

Alternate Gift Wrap

    Select solid-colored gift wrap in white or silver or a wedding-themed paper that is not obnoxious. If the wedding is less formal, then you can venture into bolder colors. For example, it would be appropriate to wrap a gift in brown paper, twine and an artificial sunflower if the wedding is outside at the beach or at a park. "Know the bride's favorite colors? Dress up your gift accordingly, using fine ribbon and faux flowers as accents," advises The Knot.

Greeting Card

    Include a greeting card with your gift. Use a small piece of transparent tape to secure the card on the front of the gift. You can hide the tape by covering it with a pretty fabric or paper bow. The greeting card is important because it lets the bride and groom know you sent them a wedding gift and gives them the information they need to know so that they can write appropriate thank you cards.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wedding Processional Etiquette for the Maid & Matron of Honor

The processional is the part of the ceremony when all members of the bridal party walk down the aisle to the altar where the bride and groom are married by the officiant. When including both a maid and matron of honor in your ceremony, there are a few etiquette items to consider. The processional responsibilities of the maid and matron of honor are almost identical and when including both, they can work together to complete the expected obligations.

Processional Order

    After the mothers of the bride and groom are seated and the officiant, groomsmen and groom walk down the aisle to take their positions, the bride's attendants begin their trip down the center path toward the altar. The bridesmaids begin their walk first, either one at a time or in pairs but the maid and matron of honor walk alone. If including both in your ceremony, the matron of honor walks the aisle first followed by the maid of honor, who stands closest to the bride during the ceremony. The flower girl and ring bearer follow the maid of honor before the bride makes her appearance.

Processional Preparation

    Prior to the processional, the maid and matron of honor straighten and fluff the bride's veil and train. Each check her hair for falling pins and her teeth for stray lipstick. The maid of honor signs the marriage certificate as the witness and both the maid and matron of honor assist the bridesmaids in the timing for walking down the aisle to ensure even spacing between them in the absence of a wedding coordinator.


    Commonly, the maid and matron of honor carry a floral bouquet, floral stem or floral pomander, which should be carried at waist level, keeping the elbows in toward the body. While walking very slowly down the aisle, the maid and matron of honor can adapt their steps to the beat of the processional music or count by 1,000s (1-1,000, 2-1,000, 3-1,000) to avoid getting too close to the last bridesmaid. When approaching the altar, the maid and matron of honor take their place directly to the left of the altar with the remaining bridesmaids, but closest to the bride.

Before the Ceremony

    Just before the ceremony begins, the maid of honor is asked to hold the bride's bouquet and the groom's wedding ring. When including both a maid and matron of honor, only the maid of honor, who stands closest to the bride during her nuptials, is obligated to perform these tasks. Oftentimes, the maid of honor holds a tissue, or two, for the bride in case she needs it.

After the Ceremony

    When the ceremony is complete and the bride and groom are announced as husband and wife, the maid and matron of honor are responsible for arranging the bridal veil and the bride's train in preparation for the recessional. She hands the bouquet back to the bride to begin her walk back up the aisle as a married woman. During the ceremony photography, the maid and matron of honor adjust the bride's hair, veil and train to assist the photographer and organizes the bridesmaids and flower girl for photographs.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Groom Dances With Mother Etiquette

The traditional mother/groom dance is one that is steeped in emotion. The groom dances with his mother and the bride's mother at a pre-determined time during the reception. There are times when special circumstances must be considered, including when the mother is not present or in the case of blended families.


    According to The First Dance, one of the reasons for the first dance is to present the married couple in their new union. The subsequent dancing with the parents and in-laws are to celebrate the bittersweet moment of a parent acknowledging their child's new status and the two families becoming one.

Order of Events

    Diane Warner's book "Contemporary Guide to Wedding Etiquette" notes the parents' dances should take place after the traditional bride and groom's first dance. After the couple dances to "their song" the bride's father usually cuts in to dance with his daughter and the groom dances with his mother.

    Next, the groom's father dances with the bride and the bride's mother dances with the groom. The dancing continues with the best man dancing with the bride and the groom dancing with the maid or matron of honor. The partner swapping continues until everyone in the bridal party has danced and the floor is officially open.

    Not all weddings follow the dance protocol through the entire wedding party; Our Marriage suggests the bride and groom may alter the schedule to fit their needs.


    First Dance suggests couple with blended families, deceased parents, etc., may substitute whom they dance with during the traditional parent's dance. They can chose to dance with a different relative or complete the dance with two partners, for example, in the case of a step-mother and mother or mother and close grandmother relationship. It is also stressed that the bride and groom work out any possible conflict before the wedding day.


    Bridal Guide suggests it is not necessary to have the mother/groom dance or any dancing at all. Wedding receptions eliminate the mother/groom dance for a variety of reasons. Some couples-to-be have complicated family backgrounds. Parents may not approve of the union, which would make the dance awkward. There may be parents who have divorced and remarried and both the step-parent and the biological parent are important to the couple. For the groom, picking which parent to dance with could cause emotional strife.

    Other couples simply want to eliminate the special dances to get to the open dancing portion of the reception. Whether the special dances are kept or eliminated is strictly up to the couple-to-be.

Song Choice

    When picking out a song for the mother/groom dance, it's important to pick a song the mother knows. The experts at Wedding Aces say because there is often so much going on during the wedding reception, if a surprise song is not one that the mother knows, she will probably not be able to comprehend the lyrics during the dance.

    Wedding Aces also advises that while asking the parent involved about a song choice is a nice gesture, the groom may end up with a song that isn't meaningful to him. When in doubt, ask your DJ or band leader for suggestions.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wedding Etiquette and Mother of the Bride Responsibilities

Your daughter has announced she is getting married. As the mother of the bride, you are considered the hostess of the grand affair, and you have many responsibilities. Your primary role is carrying out the wishes of the bride. Ideally, you should be able to sit back and relax this once-in-a-lifetime event, but the planning must get started right away. Sometimes the mother of the bride needs a little guidance on her specific role and the proper etiquette so that the wedding day goes off without a hitch.


    One of the important responsibilities as the mother of the bride is helping the bride pick out her wedding dress. Next, you must choose your mother of the bride gown. It is proper etiquette to call the mother of the groom and let her know what you are wearing so that you both coordinate in color and style. Your dress should coordinate with the style of the wedding, so if it is a beach wedding, it will be more casual than a black-tie affair.


    Your primary responsibility as the mother of the bride is to assist your daughter and future son-in-law in the planning, and you will take on the role of a wedding coordinator. Gather up the guest lists. Invitations should be sent out six to eight weeks before the wedding. Also, make reservations for any out-of-town guests. Keep in mind that it is your daughter's wedding, and try not to overstep your boundaries. You can act as an arbitrator when there are glitches in the planning, but you should not take control. Instead, help with wedding favors or decorating to lighten the burden off your daughter. Consult the maid or matron of honor for ideas and her help in the planning, because she also plays a significant role. A professional wedding planner may be needed if you need the assistance. Help your daughter with anything that is needed without getting in the way.


    Sit down with the bride and groom and his family immediately to discuss the budget of the wedding and your financial obligations. Traditionally, the bride's family pays for the wedding reception, and the groom's family pays for the rehearsal dinner. However, today's standards do not always follow yesterday's traditions. Most likely, the wedding costs will be equally divided between the families, and the bride and groom may make a considerable contribution themselves. Discuss with your daughter and future son-in-law what type of wedding they desire and what the budget entails.


    Give instructions for the ceremony to all members of the wedding party. This includes seating arrangements and any other details. The mother of the bride's role in the ceremony may include lighting the family candle with the mother of the groom.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Wedding Favor Etiquette

Wedding favor etiquette dictates that, while not required, small tokens work well as a gesture of gratitude. Favors also provide each guest with a memento of your special day. Wedding favors range from keepsake items to edible favors. Whether you choose candles, coasters, almonds or fortune cookies, your wedding favors should reflect your wedding theme.


    Plan to offer at least one favor to each guest, including children. Order or make extra favors, in case one gets damaged before the reception. All the favors should be of equal value. Select different favors for men, women and children, or give everyone the same gift. If you have a small budget for favors, give one favor to each couple and include a label addressed to both guests. Opt for such simple favors as a single flower.

Favor Tags

    Whether your favors are elaborate items or inexpensive tokens, personalize them so they stand out. Always affix a small note to each favor with the date and the wedding couple's names. Add the recipient's name if you plan to set a wedding favor at each place setting. Leave off guests' names if your favors will be displayed together on a table.

Edible Favors

    Couples often give guests such edible wedding favors as chocolates, gourmet candy, cupcakes and personalized cookies. Order personalized candies in your wedding colors--include the name of the bride and groom, as well as the wedding date. Save money and make your own edible favors. Fill small pails with chocolate-covered fruits and nuts or give guests jam in small jars. Give tins with mints, small boxes of tea or coffee, or cellophane bags filled with hard or fruity candies and closed with a ribbon. Choose boxes, containers and ribbons that reflect your wedding theme.


    Presentation is just as important as the favor itself. Favors should be elegant in appearance. Place flower favors in a pot or a small decorative cardboard box wrapped with a ribbon. Wrap stemmed flowers in cones of white parchment and secure them with ribbons. Use decorative boxes with complementary ribbons. Use ribbons and cellophane to wrap such odd-shaped favors as small garden pails or teacups filled with candy.


    Traditional favor etiquette calls for placing favors in the center of each plate setting, at the head of the place setting or on each chair. However, as long as the favor gets to the guest, you can set the favors anywhere. For instance, if you will have valet parking, ask the valet to leave a favor inside each guest's car. Place favors inside large decorative bowls in the center of each table. For a buffet-style reception, pile the favors on a table near the exit for the guests to take on their way out. For a beach wedding, provide a table of flip-flops at the guest entrance to the beach.


    Incorporate your wedding theme and colors into your favors. For instance, if you are planning a garden wedding, select small, individually potted flowers or miniature plants. Choose items that reflect your wedding colors, such as small picture frames, candles, personalized soaps, lip balms and bath crystals. Tie a beach theme together--offer guests flip-flops in your wedding colors. Customize paper fans, luggage tags or miniature globes if you plan to hold a travel-themed wedding.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wedding Etiquette for Distance Guests

If you've recently been invited to a wedding, but will have to travel out of town for the ceremony, it's best to keep etiquette in mind in the days leading up to the wedding and on the big day. A few courtesies can go a long way in ensuring that the wedding is as stress-free as possible for the bride and groom.

Bringing Children

    It is not appropriate etiquette to bring children to a wedding when the bride and groom have specifically stated that the event is for adults only. Guests who are coming from out of town are also expected to follow this rule, and they should make special arrangements for the children to stay at home with a trusted friend or family member. If a loved one in the town where the wedding will be taking place can keep the children during the ceremony and reception, this is acceptable as well.

Rehearsal Dinner

    According to traditional etiquette, the wedding rehearsal dinner is for the members of the wedding party and clergy. It is not polite for wedding guests who are visiting from another city or state to invite themselves to the dinner or to assume that they are permitted to attend. However, many couples make the wedding rehearsal dinner a time for friends and loved ones to catch up and socialize before the wedding, so it's essential to find out what type of rehearsal dinner will be held prior to solidifying travel arrangements.

Transportation and Lodging

    Out-of-town wedding guests are expected to pay for their own airline tickets or rental cars, as well as hotel lodging, once they arrive in the city where the ceremony will take place. It is best to assume that booking a hotel is necessary, unless the couple, parents of the bride and groom, or members of the wedding party have stated otherwise. To ensure that transportation and hotel rooms are secured for the wedding date, reserve these items immediately after returning the wedding ceremony RSVP.

Buying a Gift

    Friends and family members who have to travel to a loved one's wedding are still expected to bring a gift. If the wedding gift is mailed ahead of time to the parents of the bride or groom, it is not necessary to bring an additional gift to the reception. If the bride and groom are having the ceremony in a place other than their hometown, it is acceptable to give the couple a check as a gift, so that the bride and groom will not have to travel back home with heavy boxes.

Additional Activities

    Since the bride and groom will be very busy in the days leading up to the wedding, guests from out of town should not expect to be entertained by the couple. It is best to plan some sightseeing in the area or to enjoy the perks of the hotel to stay occupied until the ceremony. Some couples choose to have a brunch earlier on the wedding day for guests, or a breakfast the day after the wedding to express thanks and say goodbyes--it is considered proper etiquette to attend one or both events while in town.