The day has finally come; you have received your very first wedding invitation in the mail! If your stomach sinks after the excitement wears off because you have no idea what to wear, what gift to buy, or how to behave, don’t worry! Although no one at Create Events is named Emily Post, we are well schooled in wedding etiquette and are here to pass our knowledge on to you.
Clothing- it is imperative that you are dressed appropriately for the occasion. Levels of formality will change based on the time and location of the ceremony, and religious tradition(s) of the couple. Often the invitation will indicate how formally the guests should be dressed, such as “Black tie”, “Black tie optional”, or “White tie”. If the couple is having a wedding ceremony that adheres to a certain faith and requires guests wear certain garments, it will be included on the invitation, for example, “women please cover shoulders”. Our general recommendations for wedding attire are as follows:
- If you’re questioning whether it’s appropriate, it’s probably not. It is best to always err on the side of caution when showing what could be considered “too much” skin.
- “Black Tie”- men wear a tuxedo, consisting of black jacket, white shirt, black pants, black shoes, and black bowtie, with an optional cummerbund or waistcoat. Trousers should be made of the same material as your jacket, if wearing a waistcoat or cummerbund, make sure the material matches the lapels and bowtie. White dress shirt can be clean-cut or pleated, showing or concealing the buttons, but make sure the cuffs are doubled. For women, “Black Tie” entails a floor length gown in a darker hue such as black, brown, metallics, and jewel tones. The dress needs to be able to hold its own standing next to a tuxedo.
*image from dappered.com
- “Black Tie Optional”- full tuxedo, or dark business suit with a white shirt and tie, with dark dress shoes and socks for men. “Black Tie Optional” for women includes, floor length gowns, cocktail dresses that rise just above the knee, or a little black dress.
*image from dresscode.hu
- “White Tie”- while no longer very common, White Tie is the most formal attire level used for weddings. To dress “White Tie” men should wear a tuxedo jacket with coattails, matching trousers, white dress shirt with a winged collar, cuff links, white vest, white bowtie, black dress shoes and dress socks, and if appropriate, white gloves. “White Tie” for women is a formal floor length evening gown in a darker shade, and long gloves if desired.
*image from blacktieguide.com
- Make absolutely sure to follow any instructions regarding apparel when they are given for a religious reason. Depending on the couple and the venue, you may not be allowed inside for the ceremony if you are not dressed appropriately.
- Women must not wear white. Even if it does not “appear bridal”, avoid it out of courtesy for the bride.
Ceremony- Ceremonies are the most important part of any wedding. While the reception may be more fun for guests, the ceremony is what unites the couple in marriage and must be given the respect it deserves. Our ceremony protocol is:
- Be on time to the ceremony. Plan accordingly to arrive to the venue, park, and still be 20 minutes early. If the venue is large, it may take time to find the ceremony site, and if there are many people invited, it will take time to get everyone seated. For all intents and purposes, the ceremony will begin at the time listed on the invitation, and it is very rude to miss it if you RSVP that you will be attending.
- Turn off your phone during the ceremony. Nothing is more awkward and embarrassing than a cell phone ringing during the vows. Remember that a professional photographer will be documenting the ceremony, so there is no need to try and snap some pictures yourself.
- Although it is increasingly common for ceremonies to take place outside during the daytime, remove your sunglasses no matter how bright it is outside.
Reception- The reception is the time for the happy couple, family, and friends to let loose and celebrate, but there are still a couple etiquette rules that should be followed.
- Sit in the seat assigned to you by your escort card. If it does not have a seat on it, choose your seat at the correct table. Sitting elsewhere not only means you will be in someone else’s seat, but it could confuse the caterer and cause you to receive the wrong meal.
*image from weddinglovely.com
- Hopefully this goes without saying, but if the reception has a bar, drink responsibly. Nothing ruins a reception faster than “that guest” that has too much to drink and needs to be taken care of.
Gifts- If you are invited, it is expected that you will send a gift. Although there is no rule about how much money to spend on a gift, here are a couple do’s and don’ts:
- Send the gift to the couple prior to the wedding, or bring it to the ceremony
- The gift does not have to be from the registry, the registry is simply to help suggest potential gifts to guests
- Feel free to brainstorm with other wedding guests and give the couple a gift as a group.
- Cash is a perfectly acceptable gift, especially if you know that the couple is saving up for something special such as a home, etc.
- Gifts are not required at the engagement party
- Be conscious that you may end up giving the couple a duplicate gift, so do not be offended if you find out down the road that your gift was returned or exchanged.
- Give the couple three months after the wedding to send a thank you note. Time elapsed between the ceremony and receiving the note has no bearing on how much they appreciate your thoughtful gift, and how much it meant to them to have you there on their special day.
*image from craftyprincess.wordpress.com
RSVP- Respond within two weeks of receiving the invitation as a general rule of thumb.
- If the invitation does not include a response card, call, email, or write the couple, letting them know if you will be attending.
- Do not plan on bringing a date unless specifically invited to do so on the invitation. In such circumstances, it will read “Mr./Ms. Smith and guest”.
- If your plans change and you can no longer attend, let the couple know as soon as possible. Not only is not showing up on the day of the wedding very rude, it results in money wasted by the couple.
Destination Weddings- Destinations have many of the same etiquette rules as local weddings, with a couple twists.
- Even though you are spending money in order to attend the wedding, etiquette dictates that you should still get the couple a wedding gift.
- If you cannot attend the wedding, still send a gift
- Do not assume the couple will pay for hotel or travels costs unless specifically stated in the invitation. If it is stated in the invitation, double check with the bride or groom before booking, and send a thank you note after the wedding.
*etiquette tips from emilypost.com, wedding.theknot.com, marthastewartweddings.com, laurenconrad.com, and vogue.com