What are the rules when it comes to weddings in these fast-changing times? We ask the experts about today’s wedding etiquette.
As a DJ, I attended more than 400 weddings, and I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. So what are the modern rules when it comes to weddings? Are there even still rules? I asked some top wedding and etiquette professionals for the do’s and don’ts of modern weddings.
Engagement party etiquette
He finally popped the question and a celebration with friends and family is top of mind. Now, who should be invited to the engagement party? Are you allowed to invite people whom you may not be able to invite to the wedding?
Wedding planner Melissa Nowakowski of Et LØfte Events says no: “Whoever you invite to the engagement party must be invited to the wedding. Period. The same goes for bridal showers, bachelorette parties, bachelor parties and the like. If you can’t invite certain people to the wedding, regardless of your reasons, don’t insult them by inviting them to the engagement party. If they’re important enough to you to have them present to celebrate your engagement, then they’re important enough for you to find a way to include them in the wedding.”
However, not all experts agree. Wedding planner Cynthia Martyn takes a more casual approach: “An engagement party is just that — a celebration of your engagement itself, and this event can include a large group of extended friends, family, work associates, etc. There is no obligation to invite all the guests at your engagement party to the actual wedding. So feel free to host an engagement party for 200 people, and only invite 100 to your wedding!”
Guest list etiquette
Since many weddings are tight on space and budget, is it appropriate to ask that single friends not to bring a guest or that children be left at home? Etiquette expert Karen Cleveland says, “While it is a thoughtful gesture to allow a single guest to bring a date, it is not required. That said, consistency is key. So either all single guests are welcomed to bring a date, or no one is. And either all guests are welcome to bring their toddlers, or none. It is only fair.”
It’s also become more common for friends to be invited to join later for the drinking and dancing portion of the night. Is this a wedding etiquette no-no? Nowakowski is strongly against this trend, “It’s extremely bad taste, whether your friends mind or not. And I use ‘friends’ loosely, because if they were really your friends, you would invite them to be a part of your entire day, not just the end of it. In inviting friends for only the after-dinner portion of the night, you’re basically telling them that they weren’t important enough or good enough to be a part of the earlier festivities…or for the couple to spring for a meal.”
Martyn offers an alternative: “If you are hosting a very intimate wedding for close friends and family and your venue only seats a certain number of people, then I do think you can host an after-party at a locale nearby with additional invited guests.”
Formal attire vs. black tie
So, you’ve received your wedding invitation! Are you confused when it says formal attire or black tie? What does that even mean? Karen Cleveland suggests that, “For men, black tie means a tuxedo or black suit and for women this means either a floor-length gown, or a dressy cocktail dress.” Formal attire allows a bit of wiggle room for a shorter dress for women, but men are still expected to wear a full suit, but not necessarily a tuxedo.
And remember: Never, ever, ever wear white to a wedding, unless it is specifically requested on the invitation (for a beach wedding, for example). White (or near-white) is the bride’s colour, but you can choose any other colour in the rainbow. I once saw a guest walk into a wedding wearing a floor-length, cream gown — I almost thought she was the bride!
When it comes to speeches, open mic is never a good option. Melissa Nowakowski says that commonly it is the best man, maid of honour and both sets of parents who will speak, but this arrangement is not an absolute must. She notes, “If a member of the wedding party isn’t comfortable giving a speech or toast, they shouldn’t be forced.”
Feed your vendors
It is terrible wedding etiquette to not feed your vendors. Always book a meal for your photographer(s), wedding planner, DJ and any other staff you have hired to work directly for you. These people are in charge of making sure that you have the best day possible and it would be rude to not feed them when they are working a 12-16 hour day without meal breaks. As a cost-saving option, banquet halls usually offer a “service meal” at a reduced cost that only consists of the main course.
As a DJ at more than 400 weddings, only once was I not fed by a bride and groom. Luckily, the banquet hall felt sorry for my colleague and me and pulled together a couple extra plates from the kitchen. I would say feeding your vendors is the norm; you want them to be fed and happy so they can focus on doing their jobs and not on where they can run out to buy dinner.
What are your thoughts on modern wedding etiquette? Share them in our comments section.
Lisa Ng is now editor-in-chief of This Beautiful Day, writing daily about food, travel, style, beauty and life advice.
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