ADVICE & ETIQUETTE tips are farther below.
Enjoy these links to help with your planning...
Where do I start? What Time of Day? Gifts? Invitations? What type of Gown? Which Tux? Who Pays? Attendants?
We start with advice related to the most often asked questions. Farther below are standard rules of etiquette. Today, etiquette plays less a part in today's weddings than in times past. However there are still many things that are considered traditional, common courtesy, and remain appropriate.
MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER
This is the
BRIDE's day. Everyone plays an important part...but it's all about her. She may not get a 10-carat ring, and may not get a month on an exotic honeymoon. But she CAN have the most beautiful,
meaningful and perfect day possible...and as much as possible, what she wants, she should get. The bride is the focal point of the wedding and her memory of that day will last forever. She must stand
her ground and only agree to things she wants.
KEEP IT PERSONAL - HAVE IT YOUR
The more details you share with others the more opinions and ideas others will contribute and they may be hurt when you do not use their suggestions. "We're keeping details to ourselves" or "someone else is handling that" is a good way to respond. Let them be curious and anxious for your wedding while you keep your focus. If you have a planner or strong friend handling things, you can divert all questions to them to avoid unwanted influence.
For most Brides, it's all about walking down the aisle. The things that couples most often regret are a bad officiant, failed music for the ceremony, bad hair or make-up, and a “friend” handling photography. These are permanent memories that can haunt you. Ask Dan if you need referrals.
For sunset weddings, the ceremony should begin about 1/2 hour before sunset if you want a little sun but a full sunset sky during vows or at the end of the ceremony. If you prefer to have the sunset sky but no actual sun, the ceremony should begin at sunset. For weddings with effective candlelight, the ceremony should begin about 15 minutes or more after sunset.
"Less is More!" is a famous saying among professional classic designers and decorators. Remember this is a wedding--not a birthday party or prom. What your guests will remember most at the ceremony will be the bride walking down the aisle, her dress, and the backdrop of the ceremony. Focus on a really beautiful altar piece or arrangements at the front, and the main table at the reception that will all stand out and be memorable. Everything looking full and beautiful will have more effect and not look just "thrown together." For example, instead of a bit of fluff with a couple flowers on the end of each row, consider four or more larger pieces spaced out. This will also allow more in the budget for reception expenses.
Agapanthus, Amaryllis, Apple blossom, Bird of Paradise, Brodea, Calla lily, Cherry Blossom, Corn flower, Cosmose, Dahlia, Delphinium, Delwood, Forsythia, Freesia, Gardenia, Heather, Helleborus, Hollyhock, Hyacinth, Larkspur, Casa Blanca Lily, Gloriosa Lily, Stargazer, Liatrus, Lilac, Lisianthus, Narcissus, Orchid, Peach blossom, Peony, Phlox, Poppy, Protea, Pussy willow, Ranunculus (like small peonys) , Rose, Seeded Eucalyptus, Solidago, Statice, Stephanotis, Stock, Sweet Pea, Tulip, Viburnum, Wax flower, Zinnia.
Alchemilla, Allium, Alstromeria, Amaranthus, Baby's Breath , Bird of Paradise, Calla lily, Campanula, Carnation, Chrysanthemum, Cockscomb, Cosmos, Dahlia, Delphinium, Dianthus, Didiscus, Euphorbia, Foxglove, Freesia, Gardenia, Genista, Ginger, Gladiolus, Hallaconia, Heather, Hydrangea, Hypericum, Iris, Kangaroo paw, Liatrus, Lilac, Casa Blanca Lily, Gloriosa Lily, Star Gazer, Lisianthus.
Acashia, Allium, Alstromeria, Amaranthus, Anemone, Baby's Breath, Bittersweet, Carnation, China berry, Chrysanthemum, Cockscomb, Cosmos, Echinops, Freesia, Gerbera Daisy, Gladiolus, Hypericum, Iris, Juniper, Kangaroo paw, Kalancho, Liatrus, Lily, Asiatic, Lily, Gloriosa, Misty Blue, Orchid, Pepper berry, Protea, Queen Ann's Lace, Quince, Rover, Roses, Rowen berry, Salvia, Solidago, Statice, Star of Bethlehem, Sunflower, Yarrow, Zinnia.
Acashia, Alstromeria, Amaryllis, Carnation, Chrysanthemums, Cyclamen, Evergreens, Gerbera Daisy, Ginger, Helleborus, Holly berry, Lily, Asiatic Lily, Casa Blanca Lily, Narcissus, Orchid, Pansy, Pepperberry, Phlox, Protea, Queen Ann's Lace, Roses, Star of Bethlehem, Statice.
Shop with an open mind. Try various styles. Sometimes the picture we have in our heads does not measure up to what we look like when all is said and done, usually because of body type or personality. We all perceive ourselves different from how others see us. Be open to suggestions from a professional at a Bridal Shop. You can spend months buying magazines or looking online for the perfect mermaid style dress only to find that type doesn't work well with your curves! Or the perfect ballgown style to find it makes you feel big as a barn!
The same words used to describe the wedding venue should compare favorably with features of your gown. For example, formal/elegant/glitz, airy/relaxed/springy, fun/casual/intimate. A $10,000 crystal beaded designer gown at a beach wedding appears as though there wasn't enough money for other things!
One of the important aspects of the gown is the train. To determine how long it should be, review the bridal gown section below in the Etiquette section.
Buying the dress is personal and should be an exciting event. Either go alone or with one or two people who will be truthful and support you in decision making. Too many people will add confusion and make you question yourself.
Too expensive? If you don't need a train, try a formal shop or department store. You can always add lace or sparkle to complete the look you prefer.
You will know when you find "YOUR" dress. You will be comfortable in it and feel like a bride. Don't purchase until then.
WANTED TO BE BEAUTIFUL
"The morning of my wedding I had my hair and make-up professionally done by someone
I had not been to before. My hair turned orange and I broke out in a rash from the different brand of makeup I had never tried." Your excitement and happiness will make you more beautiful. It is fine to get help with your "do" and applying make-up if you like, but untried products can be risky.
CAKE IS TOO EXPENSIVE!
A fully decorated wedding cake from a bakery for 100 guests will probably run over $500, depending on the layers, icing and decoration. An alternative is to order a "large party" cake, either evenly round (cheaper) or square, covered with buttercream or icing. Some buy 2 or more cakes of different sizes and put them together once home. Rolled fondant and marzipan icings are more expensive and difficult to handle. You can decorate your cake using fresh flowers from your wedding and buy your own cake topper. (See our Wedding Cakes page.)
If you do not have a Coordinator, select someone to be on site to answer questions, make sure
everything is ready, handle last minute details, keep wedding participants in line, relay information, make sure musicians and photographers know the plan and have queues, and prevent visitors while you are preparing. This is when everything must come together and someone needs to be in charge. (See top of page for coordination services by Dan.)
CHILDREN IN WEDDINGS
If there are children you would like to play a special role in the wedding, here are
suggestions and considerations.
Under Age 4 – Children under the age of four may be very cute all dressed up ready to participate, and rehearsals may even go great. However when the real thing comes, a large crowd, public attention, a strange photographer, oohs and ahhs and changing moods can easily turn things into a nightmare. Including them is always a bit risky, and it may be more appopriate to give them extra attention at the reception. If you are set on having them in the wedding, having someone carry or walk with them after the mothers of the bride and groom are seated is appropriate. Having them pulled in a wagon sometimes works but is still risky.
Ages 4 to 8 - A flower girl is usually between the ages of 4 and 8 who has a special connection to the bride and groom. She can scatter rose pedals or leaves and walks in immediately before the Bride. A ring bearer is usually a young boy between the ages of 4 and 8 who has a special connection to the bride and groom. He may be related to them, or just be a family friend. He walks down the aisle with the flower girl, or alone after the last bridesmaid, with the wedding rings (real or costume) tied to a small pillow. In some instances children might carry in a sign reading “Here comes the Bride.”
For Ages 6 and up, there are Vows to Children which can be incorporated after the regular vows. They can also take part in a Sand Ceremony by providing them with their own color sand to pour, or can participate in a Unity Candle ceremony either with their own tapers to light, or holding the hands of the Bride and Groom as they light the pillar candle. There is also a Family Medallion Ceremony where a medallion or charm is given to children and can include Vows.
Ages 8 and up – At this age, a child may be able to read a short verse during the ceremony.
There is also the possibility of having your father and son give you away at the beginning of the ceremony, and a daughter can serve as the ‘bouquet holder’ during the ceremony instead of the Maid of Honor. Up to age 14, a girl and boy can be a Junior Attendant and Bridesmaid.
If you ask someone to say 'a few words' during the ceremony, ask them to keep it brief. It should be relevant to the ceremony and be no more than 5 minutes long. Anything longer or more personal should be done as a toast or speech at the reception.
There will be a lot going on in the few days before the wedding and things are much smoother and enjoyable with everyone rested and in good shape for the big event. You never know what your friends may surprise you with, so avoid hangovers, arguments, exhaustion, headaches and wedding day timing issues by having the bachelor and bachelorette parties at least a few days before the wedding.
Imagine looking back on your wedding day 10 or 20 years from now and how you will feel about your choices. Fads are temporary. Your Wedding is a permanent memory. Will you be okay with regrets like "Why did I pick a lime green dress?", "Why did I wear rhinestone tennis shoes?", "What was I thinking?", or "Why did I let someone talk me into that?"! If you would like something unique or kinky about your special day, consider incorporating it into the reception or an after-party.
SET THE TONE. The Bride meets with her parents to begin discussions on how she envisions her wedding and what she and her parents can afford. If the bride and groom are paying their own expenses, consider whether or not using available funds or going into a bit of debt stress is acceptable to start a marriage. Once the vision and the costs are discussed, decide the tone of the wedding, which will influence all other plans. A beautiful, enjoyable and memorable wedding does not depend on the cost. The final look is primarily the preference of the Bride and her family, although the wishes of the groom must also be considered. Decide if this will be a Civil or Spiritual ceremony and what type of location will best suit your vision. Will it be indoor or outdoor? In most states there are only a few months where weather patterns permit outdoor weddings to be pleasant. (See Time of Wedding below.)
Next, decide if it will be formal, semi-formal or informal. A formal
wedding with full bridal dress and tuxedos usually follows a formal engagement with all the parties and trimmings. A semi-formal wedding follows a smaller engagement party with a limited number of
wedding guests and suits but no tuxedos. An informal wedding is usually a small, private affair where the couple wears anything from a suit or dress clothes down to jeans, riding or scuba gear, and
all arrangements are like one big party. The couple, usually with their mothers, discuss engagement and wedding plans. The Bride must be present, the groom if desired. Offers of financial aid should
be made at this time.
WHAT TIME SHOULD THE CEREMONY BE? Morning weddings are usually around 11am. Earlier weddings can be stressful and
difficult for all. You will need to arrange to decorate the day before a morning or early afternoon wedding. A luncheon or full buffet is expected at the reception since it will be during lunchtime.
If the wedding is earlier than 11am, a light luncheon or at least finger foods should be served. Formal English/British weddings are usually at 11am or Noon followed by a "wedding breakfast".
Midday weddings are great and are more flexible with catering. Weddings from 2pm to 4pm are after lunch so tea-time lunch or hors d'oerves with fruit
are appropriate. Sunset or Evening weddings, weddings or receptions after 4pm should have full meal options.
ABOUT SUNSET WEDDINGS -
Saying "I do" at sunset is so romantic — the light is soft and glowing and flattering! Not to mention the fact that your weddings photos are guaranteed to be great. But when should you start the ceremony to catch the best light and have the best overall experience?
In open areas, the ceremony should begin the closest half-hour before sunset.
In closed in areas (trees, high fences, buildings), 45min to an hour before sunset.
If you wait until the sun has begun to set to start your walk down the aisle, the best light will be gone by the time you say your vows and you may be left exchanging rings and ending the ceremony in bad light – especially if the moon is not adding its magic yet. By starting earlier, the setting sun will cast a soft glow during your vow exchange but will still be light enough so your photographer can get all the important shots. And as the sun sets and turns to dusk, you'll still have enough light for fabulous post-ceremony group photos, newlywed portraits, and cocktail-hour candids.
Remember, bugs still come out around the same time every day, regardless of the sun and moon cycle. Critters do not observe daylight savings time! It really distracts from the ceremony taking place when guests are swatting. The later you hold your ceremony, the more swatting there may be.
Just remember to start the ceremony in time and all will be wonderful!
WHO PAYS FOR WHAT? The groom usually pays the minister's fee. It represents the first financial obligation of the marriage. In older traditions, the bride's family paid for everything since the groom would have the responsibility for all his bride's expenses for the rest of her life. More recently the groom or his family assumed responsibility for the rings, marriage license, boutonnieres, bride's bouquet, accommodations for out-of-town guests, alcohol for the reception, rehearsal dinner and honeymoon. Since about 1980 it has been customary for these expenses to be discussed between the two families and agreed upon beforehand.
THE BRIDAL GOWN...
according to rules of etiquette, has certain guidelines. For a formal wedding, a full wedding gown is preferred. The length of the train is determined by the formality and location of the wedding. A Cathedral train trails from two to twenty feet and is appropriate in cathedrals, large churches and facilities with a long processional aisle and a large guest list. A Chapel train, which trails around two feet, is appropriate for formal or semi-formal weddings where the processional aisle can be any size. A Sweeping train, from six inches to eighteen inches, can be chosen for any formal or semi-formal wedding with a decent processional aisle. If the dress chosen has a sweep or chapel length train and the wedding is formal, a coordinating veil which trails longer than the dress can be used to give it the cathedral length effect. Semi-formal daytime and evening gowns are usually floor length with or without a sweep, and if a veil is worn it is usually short. When the ceremony is outdoors and the bride will walk on raw ground, a train may not follow smooth without special preparations. (For fun, see bridal gown photo history since 1500's at bottom of page.)
THE GROOM'S ATTIRE is determined by the gown his bride chooses. Very formal daytime is black or gray cutaway coat, gray waistcoat, winged-collar shirt, ascot or striped tie. Very formal evening is white tie, black tail coat, white waistcoat, winged-collar shirt. Formal and semi-formal daytime is black or charcoal sack coat with waistcoat, turned-down collar dress shirt, black, gray or striped tie. Formal and semi-formal evening is black tuxedo, white shirt with turned-down collar, black vest or cummerbund, black bow tie. In summer a white dinner jacket and cummerbund is an option, however keep everything else black to keep a classic look. For informal weddings a dark blue or dark gray suit with white shirt is preferred.
ENGAGEMENT announcements are rarely sent nowadays unless the family is very prominent or there will be a large event planned around the occasion.
Every one invited to an engagement party is to be invited to the wedding and reception. If the couple has been living together it is preferable that they sponsor their own party for close friends and
family only, or that the best-man-to-be or maid-of-honor-to-be host. An engagement party should be held at least three (3) months before the wedding.
The standard for selecting ATTENDANTS is one or two groomsmen for every forty or more guests. The Maid/Matron of Honor, usually a sister or most intimate friend, assists the Bride in choosing dresses, confirms delivery of dresses, helps with organizational details if asked, helps address invitations, make favors, hosts a shower, spreads the word if the couple selects a gift registry, helps the Bride get dressed, and holds her bouquet when necessary during the ceremony. The Best Man hosts the bachelor party, makes sure the groom has not forgotten anything, supervises other groomsmen and ushers, holds the ring(s) during the ceremony, signs the wedding certificate as a legal witness (must be age 18 or over), presents payments to vendors the day of the wedding, offers the first toast at the reception, handles the return of any rented clothing, and if needed transports the couple to the next destination after the wedding and reception.
ANNOUNCEMENTS & INVITATIONS. Order 10 to 20 more invitations and announcements than you plan on using. Extras are always needed and some may ask for another as a keepsake or to send to some one else. At a formal or spiritual wedding, it is proper to 'request the honour of your presence'. At semi-formal, casual or civil weddings, the wording should be 'request the pleasure of your company'. If you will allow specific guests to bring an escort or children, be sure to include 'and Guest' when addressing envelopes. Engagement party announcements should be mailed about 3 weeks before the party, wedding invitations 4 to 5 weeks before the wedding, and reception-only invitations about 3 weeks before the event. It is courteous and a good reminder to send wedding invitations to every one in and working for the wedding, including the minister and the facility. If announcements are mailed informing others that you have married, have them ready for mailing 2 days after the wedding.
GIFTS TO ATTENDANTS should be meaningful but not overly expensive. Common gifts include bracelets, necklaces, earrings, stick pins, picture frames, perfume bottles, hair ornaments, leather wallets, tie clasps, bookends and travel clocks.
WEDDING GIFTS from others are to be given BEFORE the wedding day. It is not proper to bring a wedding gift to a wedding or reception, therefore no
table should be set up to place gifts on. If gifts are offered at the wedding or reception, have some one accept them gracefully and put them in a safe place out of sight.
THE RECEPTION RECEIVING LINE is usually an ordered process. For some weddings, due to the set-up of the facility or later arrival of the couple, there is no official receiving line. If there is, the line should be inside the facility but placed so that guests are not waiting outside to be received. The modern order for the line is Host(s), Bride's Mother and Father, Bride, Groom, Groom's Mother and Father, Matron and Maid of Honor, then Bridesmaids. The Best Man and Groomsmen are not in the receiving line, however the Best Man should be close by in case any one in the line needs assistance. The line should break up as soon as all guests have entered.
RECEPTION ORDER & TIMING. There are always a number of persons who would prefer not to stay very long at the reception for various reasons. The bar and food tables should open immediately. After 15 minutes or so of breaking from the receiving line, the traditional activities should begin, usually in this order: Announcement of Bride & Groom, first dance, Bride & Father and Groom & Mother dance, toasts, special photos, cutting of cake. From there, the partying may continue until the designated time with every one being comfortable at being able to depart when appropriate.
SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY. Especially the Bride should reserve some time to spend final quality time with her immediate family. There are probably a few things that need to be said and good quality time will be in short supply as time draws near the wedding.
Wedding Dress Photo History