Photo: Anna Simonak Photography
The concept that there’s a right way to do something (and a wrong way), a.k.a. etiquette, has been around since the dawn of time. But, in today’s day and age, especially when it comes to weddings, much of the old-school protocol has gone out the window. Sure, it may have to do with changing times, or type of wedding you’re attending—i.e. a ceremony in a church with hundreds of people will likely hold you to a higher standard than a beach wedding with a handful of the bride and groom’s close friends—but that doesn’t mean etiquette in its entirety no longer exists (at least we hope not). “Etiquette was created so people would know how to act and be accepted by the rest of society, which, when you get right down to it, is no different than trying to get a ton of likes or hearts on your social media posts,” says Larissa Banting of Weddings Costa Rica in Santa Ana, Costa Rica.
So what rules should you remember at your own wedding—or as a guest? We talked to top wedding and event planners to get the inside scoop on which elements of wedding etiquette still matter today.
If you’re getting married…
Treat your guests like guests.“Since you're inviting people to celebrate your passage into wedded bliss, it's your responsibility to make sure they are taken care of and made comfortable,” says Banting. “That means having enough seating for the ceremony so people aren't left standing, having fans or cold drinks available if it's hot, and having sufficient food and drink for all.” Of course, this is why you hire a wedding planner—to make sure you can sit back enjoy on your big day while ensuring your guests are taken care of. “It may be your day but once you've included other people along for the ride, you need to worry about their comfort too," Banting adds.
Don't keep people waiting.You're going to be pulled in a million and one different directions on your big day, which is why it’s crucial that you create a realistic timeline that you can stick to — and one that won’t keep guests waiting. “Hair and makeup is usually the area that can send the best-laid plans off the rails, so pad in an extra hour to ensure you're ready on time,” suggests Banting. “If you have a long photo session between the ceremony and reception, offer guests a cocktail hour to keep them occupied—and, if you're planning on having touchups done or changing into another outfit before or during the reception, just be aware of the time.”
Photo: Andrea Hallgren Photography
Play music that will appeal to all guests.You and your crew might be into Beyonce’s latest single, or those 90s throwbacks that you mentioned to your band or DJ in your pre-wedding meeting, but remember that you’ve likely invited guests of all ages. Consider what some of the older crowd (your grandparents, uncles, aunts) might want to listen to as well. “Select a wide range of music to be played so everyone has a chance to get up on the dance floor and have some fun,” says Banting. “Save the hip hop for later in the night once the older crowd has cleared out.”
Be thankful for your toasts.As the focus of all the wedding toasts, the couple shouldn’t toast to themselves, says Banting. “Proper etiquette is to remain seated, smile and not raise your glass, then thank the person who made the toast.” Although it's not required, she points out that it’s a nice gesture to finish the toast session with a small speech from you and your bride or groom. “Make sure to thank your guests for coming, your parents for their support and then say something gracious about your newly betrothed before raising a glass to all and taking a sip.”
Send thank-you notes.Even if you had the chance to thank someone verbally for attending your wedding or giving you a gift, handwritten thank-you cards are still definite dos. “Guests spend considerable amounts of time and money in choosing a gift, selecting attire to wear, finding child care, and traveling to and from all of the wedding-related events,” Kimberly Lehman of Love, Laughter & Elegance in Massillon, Ohio, points out. “A heartfelt message, written to the giver of the gift, is much appreciated—just a few lines stating how nice it was to see them and spend time together at the shower or wedding, and how much the gift is appreciated and may be used is fine.”
Photo: Hyde Park Photography