(This is the second in a two-part series on wedding-related matters by Christa Terry for Wedding-Scoops.com. Click here to see the first post about online wedding planning.)
Making sure you don’t run afoul of the wedding etiquette police can also seem like a lot of pointless busywork. After all, does anyone really care whether you don’t list your cousin’s husband by name on the invitation or you include a registry card in said invitation? Maybe… but you may never know or you may find out through the grapevine that your Aunt Ida has been telling everyone who will listen how rudely she felt she was treated because you never thanked her properly for the engagement gift she sent.
All in all, it’s good form to at least follow the big etiquette rules, like brides should not host their own bridal showers and couples should not feel slighted when wedding guests choose not to buy a gift off their registry. One may start to wonder, however, what the point of all the dos and don’ts really is. With that in mind, here’s a wedding etiquette primer that explores just what wedding etiquette is good for.
Wedding etiquette is tradition
There are definitely some wedding etiquette rules that make life more difficult for the bride and groom, but still add something to the whole wedding experience for the guests. Most people would agree that sending an e-mail thanking everyone for their gifts and for attending the wedding would be a lot easier than writing out 100-plus thank-you cards by hand. But there’s something so lovely about receiving a handwritten note in the mail, so the thank-you cards that you scrawled out over hours on a couple of Saturdays is like a little gift you give to your guests in return for their presents and presence.
Wedding etiquette provides a framework for an eventYou know how people who go to a wedding have an idea what to expect when they’re there? Etiquette is a part of that. Sure, you can have a wedding that’s unlike any your guests have ever attended -- and there’s nothing wrong with that -- but there are plenty of wedding codes of conduct that exist simply to help people who have never planned a party as big or as elaborate as a wedding, and their guests, understand what they need to do and when.
Wedding etiquette is about making people comfortable
There are people out there who will tell you that it’s just straight up poor etiquette to say your vows without bridesmaids and groomsmen at your side (legally you need witnesses, not attendants) or to choose to opt out of certain traditions like the cake cutting, father-daughter dance or bouquet toss.
Manners exist, not because there is one definitive right way to do things, but because we all have to get along with each in this thing we call society and having rules of behavior in place helps us do that. Just like in every area of etiquette, rules have sprung up that may seem rather pointless -- not saying congratulations to the bride because it apparently sounds like you’re congratulating her on finding a man springs to mind -- and then there are “rules” that are utter bunk, like the “rule” that states a guest’s gift must cost as much or more than his meal. I’d like to take this moment to point out for the umpteenth time -- this is not at all true.
Etiquette does not, in fact, dictate that mothers must be escorted in by ushers and that one dad must escort one daughter down the aisle. It's perfectly fine to have a dad and a stepfather do the escorting or to walk arm-in-arm with both of your parents. A MOG can escort the groom and give him away, if that's what everyone wants. You can even make up roles for your parents to play if you want to give them something to do during the ceremony.
So when you’re trying to wade through all the rules of socially acceptable wedding behavior out there and you find yourself overwhelmed by minutia, ask yourself whether actually adhering to the rules will do anything to make your bridesmaids, groomsmen, parents, and wedding guests feel comfortable and happy. If the answer is no, you can probably safely ignore them without too much worry.
Christa Terry is the author of "iDo: Planning Your Wedding With Nothing But 'Net," and editor-in-chief of wedding planning blog Manolo for the Brides.