The original 1928 version of the Emily Post etiquette book

Happy #MannersMonday everybody! The rules of wedding etiquette gradually change with the times. But lately, the times are changing so fast that hard lines on what brides and grooms should and shouldn’t do are really hard to find. There seems to be an awful lot of different standards of manners being applied by different couples, and it’s hard to know what’s acceptable, and what’s not, when you plan your own big day. There’s no truly defined standard of “modern” wedding etiquette available to turn to when you have a question.

Emily Post, the doyenne of traditional wedding etiquette, never dreamed of a world where all communication could be instantaneous. That’s the biggest difference in our lives across the board. So there are a whole lot of questions about what to do with technological developments regarding invitations, thank you notes, RSVPs, wedding registries, social media, and a host of other things that weren’t in her rulebook that earlier generations of brides followed. Her institute has continued to update her books, but most brides feel the rules continue to be too stringent for “modern” couples.

There’s a void there. Because although there are tons of self-proclaimed wedding etiquette experts posting all over the Internet, there are few solid, universally-accepted “modern” etiquette rules for brides and grooms to follow. When they’re not sure what to do, and their parents aren’t modicums of decorum, they look to their friends for guidance. But their friends aren’t always right.

I have the pleasure of participating in several bridal groups on social media, and I regularly see brides asking for tips on the etiquette of how to seat divorced parents, or who needs to be invited to a bridal shower, or who gets a plus-one for the wedding reception.

The key here is that the bride is asking for the ETIQUETTE – in other words, she wants to know the proper way to do something.

But over and over again, other brides pop in and tell her to do whatever makes her feel good, even if some guests may think it’s rude. Because she’s the one paying for it. But that’s not the answer to the question she asked.

If she didn’t care how her manners would be perceived, she never would have asked the questions about the proper etiquette of handling the situation in the first place. That bride doesn’t want to blow off proper wedding etiquette. She wants to follow it, even if that means learning along the way. And isn’t this the time when many young men and women learn manners they never needed to have before? How many couples have thrown an event of this magnitude before? Some of your wedding party and guests may be doing a manners brush up, too. It’s not that you have to be the etiquette police for your wedding, but rather, you have the opportunity to present your wedding in a way that tells the world you both have manners. And that’s not a bad thing.

People do notice.

One grandmother of the bride expressed her opinion to me and an intern on the new wediquette she experienced during her granddaughter’s wedding planning, after a few glasses of wine at the reception. She said “Let me assure you that when I have yet to receive a thank you note for a lovely bridal shower gift I took time to purchase and bring to her shower, I haven’t rushed to worry about what to get her as a wedding gift. You’d think she’d make time for more than a two-line text to her grandmother.” And then she sort of growled, and asked for more wine.

Look, I know that a lot of things that people tell you are wedding etiquette rules may not fit into your everyday lifestyle. It depends on where you live, and what you do for a living. Yes, there really are people who do live by those etiquette standards that seem unrealistic the vast majority of the time, but most modern Americans do not. But if there’s ever a time in your life that you want to up your manners game, and be as proper as you possibly can be, it’s for your wedding.

Why? Because there will probably be people from all parts of both of your lives invited – and because etiquette is also for how you deal with those who are in your life but not invited. This is the one day where planning to do things the right way means you can sit back and relax and enjoy it when it’s actually happening, and guarantee yourself a minimum of snark from those who are watching what you do. And yes, there are those who are watching. There always are.

Some etiquette has not changed under the “modern” definitions. Consider these five rules that remain the same to date:

  1. You cannot invite somebody who isn’t invited to your wedding to your engagement party, bridal showers, or any other pre-wedding events.
  2. Wedding registry information may be shared on bridal shower invitations sent by the hostess, and passed by word of mouth, and nowadays, you can put the links on your wedding website, too, but you cannot include the information in a wedding invitation so that it appears to be a solicitation for gifts.
  3. All parents in attendance at wedding events should be treated equally. All mothers, fathers, stepparents, grandparents, and step-grandparents should receive the same flowers, seating preference, etc.
  4. Married guests, engaged guests, and guests in long-term relationships get an automatic plus-one invite. Everybody else is at the couple’s discretion.
  5. Members of the wedding party are doing the wedding couple the honor of being attendants, and the wedding couple should give them a gift as a thank you that is not a part of what they have to wear for the wedding.

I know some of you reading those were saying “But but but…” in your heads… don’t worry, I’m going to take each of topic and write more about them in future blogs. Are there exceptions? Sure. There are caveats to almost every rule. But it’s how you apply them that makes the difference between whether you’re completely ignoring etiquette or not. So we’ll talk more about that.

Just because the times have changed doesn’t mean that the premise of basic manners has changed. It just means we need to revise and adapt. I’m going to be blogging more about wediquette and how to integrate modern convenience into your wedding without offending anybody who’s still following the old rules.

Good luck and happy wedding planning!

Sandy