The most popular month for weddings might be October, but May, June, and August are all in the top five! Everyone likes nice weather and late sunsets for their special day, so it’s no surprise that summer is considered the season of weddings.
For most people, a wedding isn’t just any party — it’s the most important party they’ll ever throw, combined with a (sometimes religious) ceremony that’s built on hundreds of years of tradition. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things, and you want to make sure you know the rules before you arrive.
Before we get into details, we should give you one quick caveat: every wedding is different. If you’re the one tying the knot, it’s your wedding — you don’t have to follow any wedding etiquette rules you don’t want to. You don’t even need to wear a white dress if you don’t feel like it! Your wedding day is all about celebrating your love for your partner in whatever way the two of you think is best.
That said, if you’re a stickler for tradition or you’re attending a wedding for the first time and don’t know how they usually go, there are a few pieces of wedding etiquette you should keep in mind.
Tell Your Family About Your Engagement First
Social media has shrunk the world — it’s much easier to keep in touch with close friends from all over the globe than it’s ever been, and you can broadcast the most important moments in your life for all to see.
It’s also considered poor wedding etiquette to announce an engagement on social media before telling the most important people in your life directly. People like your parents, siblings, and close friends don’t want to find out alongside everyone else in a Facebook post, so give them a phone call to tell them the happy news. After that, show off your ring and smiling faces to your heart’s content!
Don’t Invite People Who Can’t Come
It’s tempting to invite everyone you know so that no one feels left out, but wedding invitations often come with the expectation of a gift — often, even people that can’t be at the wedding in person will send something from your registry. If you know someone won’t be able to attend your wedding, don’t put that pressure on them by sending an invitation.
What Are Your Duties as a Bridesmaid or Groomsman?
The job of a bridesmaid will vary from wedding to wedding, but the basic role of the bridal party is to help alleviate the stress the bride is feeling from planning and executing the wedding. You’ll need to attend a fitting for your dress and you’ll probably be involved in planning the bridal shower or bachelorette party, but beyond that, it’ll simply depend on what the bride asks of you.
The maid of honor usually has more responsibility — she might be asked to help pick out napkins or flowers, help the bride choose her dress, make sure the rings arrive at the ceremony, or any number of other tasks. Just be prepared for anything!
The job of a bridesmaid or groomsman will vary from wedding to wedding, but the basic role of the bridal party is to help alleviate the stress the couple is feeling from planning and executing the wedding. If you’re a bridesmaid you may need to attend a fitting for your dress and you’ll probably be involved in planning the bridal shower or bachelorette party, but beyond that, it’ll simply depend on what the bride asks of you. If you are a groomsman, you may be asked to provide moral support when picking out the ring, coordinate travels accommodations, plan the bachelor party, and anything that will help the groom remain calm and collected.
The maid of honor and best man usually have more responsibility. A maid of honor might be asked to help pick out napkins or flowers, help the bride choose her dress, and accompany her to other appointments. A best man might be asked make sure the rings arrive at the ceremony, help with the reception, or any number of other tasks. Typically the maid of honor and best man are expected to deliver a speech during the reception. Just be prepared for anything!
It’s Ok to Skip the Cake
Every wedding is unique to the tastes of the people putting it together, and that includes food. Maybe you can’t stomach the thought of spending so much on dessert. Maybe there’s a dessert you ate on your first date with your partner that has more sentimental value for you. Or maybe you just don’t like cake!
In any case, cake is one of the traditions that you shouldn’t feel obligated to keep to maintain proper wedding etiquette. Keep in mind, though, that cutting the cake and serving dessert is generally taken as the signal that guests can leave without being rude. If you don’t cut a cake, you should at least call attention to the fact that dessert is ready.
Don’t Take Photos During the Ceremony
Unless you were specifically asked to take wedding pictures, leave your phone in your pocket. You’re (probably) not a professional photographer, you’ll block the views of other people watching, and you’ll divide your attention between the ceremony and your device.
Lots of couples these days are coining their own hashtags for social media and encouraging people to participate. That’s great! But save it for the party, the cocktail hour, the dancing, and the other social parts of the day. The bride and groom won’t have time to mingle with everyone after the ceremony, so they’ll appreciate having those moments captured.
How Much Should I Spend on a Gift?
There’s no minimum or maximum for the value of a wedding gift — it truly is the thought that counts. If you know the couple well and have found something of sentimental value, feel free to spend whatever you’d like and buy off-registry.
If you truly have no idea where to start, sticking to the registry is good wedding etiquette. Look for a gift you can afford and feel comfortable spending your budget on — lots of people say to spend roughly the cost of the dinner, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule.
Should I Invite My Co-Workers?
You don’t have to invite anyone you don’t want to, but if you’re close with your co-workers, it makes sense to give them an invite. Treat them like friends — invite them through the mail like everyone else and try to keep talk of wedding plans outside of the office.
Should I Invite Guests’ Dates to the Rehearsal Dinner?
This one is also entirely up to you — generally, the rehearsal dinner is just for the wedding party and family, so you shouldn’t feel obligated to invite the date of an invited guest to come along. However, some couples treat the rehearsal dinner as a big party for everyone that’s come out for the wedding weekend, so feel free to go big as well!
A wedding is a joyous and magical occasion for everyone involved, so it’s perfectly normal to worry about whether everything will go smoothly. At the end of the day, though, remember that your wedding isn’t about the people you invite or the color of your tablecloths — it’s about spending your life with the person you love.