Wedding Etiquette 101

By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.

While some etiquette rules have gone out the window, there are still some you must follow. Understanding what is expected of everyone involves helps in the long run. The following are guidelines for brides, grooms, wedding party members and guests.


Send invitations to your wedding eight weeks before the date with an RSVP date three to four weeks before the wedding. For all invitations, clarify RSVP with a sentence such as “The favor of a reply is requested by. . .” with the specific date prominently displayed.  And if you receive an invitation to the wedding, don’t forget to RSVP by the date specified. Timely RSVPs help with budget planning and are good manners.

Invitee lists

It’s always a hard decision when you’re on a budget to decide who you want to invite to your wedding. You want to be sure that family members are invited while also taking into account a maximum number of guests. The best way to cull your list is to make clear-cut decisions and then stick with them. For example, you might want to say no children younger than 14 years-old or no children at all. You might also want to invite only aunts and uncles and not first cousins. Talk it over and stick to your budget. Pick what makes sense and then don’t deviate.

Thank you notes

A well written thank you note is a must and experts advise writing them within two weeks of receiving gifts. It’s no longer acceptable to write thank you notes within a year, and three months after the wedding is the latest acceptable date says experts.

Wedding party duties

Traditionally, the bride’s parents are usually responsible for covering a majority of the wedding expenses. Today, it is more common for the costs to be distributed amongst the couple, the bride’s parents, and also the groom’s parents.

The bride’s parents typically host the first engagement party. On the wedding day, father of the bride will escort the bride to the ceremony and walk her down the aisle, give a speech at the reception, and he is the last to leave after saying goodnight to guests. The groom’s parents traditionally pay for the rehearsal dinner. They can also financially assist the couple by contributing to wedding expenses but they are not required to do so.

The maid of honor’s duties may include hosting the bridal shower and bachelorette party, coordinating dress fittings assisting with wedding preparatory tasks such as addressing invitations, wrapping favors, keeping records of wedding gifts, and paying for her own wedding outfits and travel expenses.

On the wedding day, the maid of honor will help the bride dress and accompany her to the ceremony site. She will sign the marriage license as a witness, hold the bride’s bouquet at the altar, and arrange the bride’s veil and train during the ceremony. At the reception, she will gather the bridesmaids for formal pictures, mingle and dance with the best man and other important guests.

The bridesmaids’ main focus is to assist the maid of honor with wedding planning duties and to assist the bride whenever it is needed. Addressing invitations, planning the bridal shower or bachelorette party, and contributing to the cost of wedding related events, are a few examples. The bridesmaids, along with the maid of honor, all pay for their own attire, transportation, and lodging.

The biggest role of the best man is to plan and host the bachelor party with groomsmen. He also takes responsibility for coordinating formalwear fittings, picking up the groom’s tux before the wedding, and making toasts during the rehearsal dinner.

On the wedding day, the best man ensures that the groom arrives at the ceremony site on time. He brings the bride’s wedding ring, holds the officiant’s fee until the ceremony is over, and signs the marriage license as a witness. He also organizes the groomsmen for formal pictures, dances with the maid of honor, and gives the toast during the reception dinner.

The groomsmen help the best man plan and host the bachelor party. During the wedding planning process, they should check in with the groom and best man to offer assistance with any wedding related tasks.

Groomsmen are responsible for scheduling their tuxedo fittings, picking up their formalwear, and paying for their own attire and travel and lodging expenses. On the wedding day, the groomsmen arrive early to the ceremony site to greet guests. As members of the wedding party, they are expected to stay at the reception the entire time.

It is customary to thank the wedding party with personalized gifts which will show your gratitude for all their help.

Destination weddings

The couple does not have to pay for any of the guests’ travel, hotel and meals, besides the ones they are inviting the guests to attend. However, at a destination wedding, the bride and groom usually pay for the bridal party accommodations.


Author: Editor