Organizing a wedding usually brings about quite a lot of stress for the couples involved. They will have to organize a complex event, while incorporating this into their working- and private lives. On top of that, the future bride and groom will also have to take the unwritten code of “good manners or bon ton” into account.
In more recent times, different types of weddings have evolved, varying from the all-time classic style to new formulae of more easy-going and casual weddings, e.g. on a beach or in the countryside.
Nonetheless, within western traditions, a number of unwritten but well established etiquette “rules” regarding everything concerning the wedding apply, on which we will elaborate further from here on forward:
The announcements are comprised of two elements: the announcement not only represents an invitation to the wedding, but provides information as well. The announcement should be accompanied by an additional card on which an invitation to join the future bride and groom at their festivity has added detailed information on the location where the event will be held.
The announcements/invitations should be handed over in person (with the exception of those living abroad) at least 2/3 months prior to the event. The addressees names on the envelopes should be written in nice handwriting.
A more formal announcement provides for the parents to make their respective children’s upcoming wedding public, a tradition which won’t be upheld if the future bride and groom are not the youngest of age or if they are starting a second marriage. Whatever the case, the announcements appear more beautiful and stylish on a white, ivory or very light pastel card on which black or dark grey print characters are used.
The bridal bouquet is the financial responsibility of the groom. It should be delivered to the bride at her residence the night before the wedding as a final fiancée’s gift.
Tradition has it that the bride will present her bridal bouquet to her closest (single) friend, but more often than not, nowadays more than one single friend will be present at the festivities as a result of which the so-called backwards launching of the bouquet will take place.
If the bride decides that she wants to keep the bouquet as a token of remembrance, she can have a smaller version of the bouquet made for her to use for the launch.
If rings are involved, then they obviously are the personal choices of the bride and groom, be it white or yellow gold, with or without details. However, the important thing is that on the inside of each ring the wedding date and the name(s) of the spouse(s) is (are) engraved.
THE MOTHER OF THE BRIDE
She will be the first one to arrive and is tasked with welcoming the guests and await the arrival of her daughter at the entrance of the location where the ceremony will take place.
The groom will be the first to enter, accompanied by his mother or another family member. They will be followed by the bridesmaids and finally by the bride, accompanied by her father or another male family member. If the wedding takes place in church, the groom’s guests should occupy the right side of the church, whereas the bride’s guests will occupy the left side.
THE BRIDE’S DELAYED ARRIVAL
A short delay is fine, as it will heighten the tension and create the right atmosphere amongst the guests. However, the delay should preferably not exceed 10- 20 minutes.
GUESTS’ DRESS CODE
Unless otherwise specified, wearing white at western weddings is out of the question. Even black (unless the event takes place in the evening) or red are non-recommended colours.
It is better to opt for pastel colours, in any case colours that are too eye-catching should be avoided as it should always be in the back of one’s mind that it’s the wedding couple’s day!
If the event starts after 17.00, we would like to suggest you to wear a long evening dress, this way you will never be out of synch.
A side note for friends: avoid using your claxons while celebrating, this is not done!
Nowadays, the tendency has become more and more not to exaggerate the number of dishes to be served at the table as was once the custom. A great number of dishes tends to make the seated part of the event a difficult ride and even boring.
A great solution for that matter is the so-called starters buffet after which between 3 and 5 dishes can be served at the table. If some of the dishes served reflect the tradition of the countries of origin of the spouses, this will come across favourably, but is by no means a must. A classic wedding cake is layered and will be cut in front of their guests by the wedding couple.
As far as a seating plan and table layout are concerned, no strict rules apply. Usually the bride and groom set up a “tableau de marriage” at the entrance of the location in order to help their guests find their bearings on their own and to avoid embarrassment.
During the reception, the bride and groom as a couple should go around the tables and exchange few words with each guest.
BOMBONIERE/TOKENS OF APPRECIATION
Etiquette stipulates that the gifts offered by the wedding couple to their guests will be sent by their respective families 20 days after the wedding, while the newlyweds are on their honeymoon. However, it is common nowadays for the bride and groom to personally hand over their gift at the end of the reception. These gifts should must be the same for all the guests, with the exception of those predestined for their respective wedding witnesses for whom a somewhat more particular object is reserved.
A courtesy that is sometimes disregarded, but which is very important. After the reception it is advisable to send a simple thank you card to those who attended the reception and in general to all those who sent a gift. It is therefore good to keep track of what you receive so as not to forget anyone.
WHO PAYS WHAT OR HOW TO DIVIDE EXPENSES
Nowadays it is common, and rightly so, for the spouses to apply a fifty/fifty rule when it comes down to settling the bills for expenses (to be) made. However, the tradition of etiquette and even though outdated, requires the expenses to be divided as follows: the groom or his family is responsible for purchasing a house, the wedding rings, the honeymoon and the bridal bouquet; on the other hand, the bride’s family should financially carry the expenses of her wedding gown, the participations/invitations, the tokens of appreciation (bomboniere), the expenses of the ceremony and the reception.