Brides who choose to intentionally ignore traditional wedding etiquette always have excuses ready for when they get called out on it. That’s because they know they will get busted, and somebody is going to question their judgment in choosing to ignore the rules that most of society considers de facto.

Photo Credit: Saul Padua

Common excuses for ignoring wedding etiquette:

Wedding etiquette is outdated, and doesn’t apply to me.

It’s too expensive to follow traditional wedding etiquette.

The rules don’t apply to me because I’m paying for my own wedding.

Unfortunately, for the brides and grooms using these excuses, none of them hold water. Wedding guests who do care about using proper etiquette will see straight through these flimsy excuses and realize what’s really going on. You think the normal rules of wediquette don’t apply to you, plain and simple.

Let me be clear before you explode reading this: I’m not saying that you can’t do anything you want for your wedding day. You can. There’s nothing actually stopping you going the 100 percent non-traditional route, and flagrantly ignoring the wedding etiquette that goes along with all of those little niceties. That is your prerogative. But there will be consequences.

There are some very good reasons most brides don’t actually want to see wedding etiquette go the way of panty hose. The biggest reason is that the rules of etiquette go both ways. Yes, the rules say you’re supposed to behave in a certain way and do things in a certain way, but they also tell your wedding guests what to do and how to do it. The rules are totally reciprocal, folks – think about that for a second.

Busting the excuses

Wedding etiquette doesn’t apply to me

The rules of etiquette aren’t laws in a legal sense. But they are socially-accepted guidelines for how to behave in various situations. It’s traditional wedding etiquette that dictates that guests should send a gift even if they’re not able to attend your wedding. And that goes for your bridal showers, too. Etiquette also requires guests to RSVP by the deadline on your invitation – and you know EXACTLY how irritating it is when some guests don’t bother to respond. The rules of etiquette say that it’s uber-tacky for wedding guests to show up wearing a white or ivory dress at another bride’s wedding. But if you don’t care about wedding etiquette, none of this should matter. Right?

If a bride and groom subscribe to the philosophy that the rules of wedding etiquette do not apply to them, then they’re releasing their guests from following wedding etiquette as well. And whether you mean to or not, that is the message you send to people when you don’t take the time for the niceties that most people have learned to expect when they put time and energy into being a good wedding guest.

When a bride and groom choose to totally eschew the rules of wedding etiquette, do their guests have the option to ignore common the rules as well? Absolutely. Most of them won’t because they won’t let their own standards for manners drop just because yours have (that’s called taking the high road). But for those who don’t RSVP, send a gift, or dress appropriately, it’s a free pass. How can you complain about them not following the rules when you started things out by ignoring them yourselves?

Good etiquette is too expensive

Good news – most wedding etiquette is free. It is a guideline for good manners during your wedding. And that doesn’t hurt your budget at all.

And for the things that aren’t free, you have options. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars making engraved wedding invitations to follow proper wedding etiquette. There’s more to a wedding invitation than a piece of paper.

A wedding invitation that arrives in the mail serves as a formal announcement of your intent to wed (because I’m willing to bet only a fraction of brides today send out formal stand-alone announcements). It’s an indication of who, exactly, is invited to the wedding, if you follow the rules on how to properly address the invitation. And it serves as a reminder to the invitee that they need to respond (hopefully with a provided RSVP), and purchase a wedding gift.

Choosing to take your invitations completely online is still a risk for most couples. Many recipients won’t realize they’ve received the actual wedding invitation in the form of a link, and won’t read it in a timely manner. My clients who’ve gone entirely paperless have all reported a much bigger problem with missing RSVPs than brides and grooms who do it via snail mail.

There are lots of inexpensive wedding invitations available online. You can DIY wedding invitations pretty easily if you have more time than money. Keep your postage costs down by making sure you purchase invitations that are standard USPS sizes (this is a really common complaint from brides who choose beautiful invitations with creative envelopes that don’t fit First Class stamp standards), and doing postcard RSVP cards for guest to return. If you’re really stretching to pay for postage, doing a paper invitation with an online RSVP proves to deliver far better results than paperless invitations. But nothing is more effective than the old-fashioned pre-stamped, self-addressed RSVP card and envelope (or post card).

Wedding etiquette only applies when parents are paying

This excuse is probably one of the most popular, and most horrifying. On what planet do your wedding manners depend entirely on who is picking up the tab? True, a lot of focus is put on who pays for what in traditional, Emily Post-type etiquette books. But if you want a free pass on all the other etiquette just because the times have changed, you must allow for the fact that etiquette still applies despite the fact that who pays for what has changed over generations.

Most engaged couples pay entirely for their own weddings. That fact has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of acceptable wedding etiquette. You are still expected to invite certain people, feed and water your guests appropriately, write your thank you notes in a timely manner, and thank your bridesmaids and groomsmen with a gift, regardless of who signs the checks. You’re still expected to invite your family, the wedding party, and out of town guests to a formal rehearsal dinner. Even if you’re paying for it all yourself.

There are some grey areas – if your parents paid for a part of your wedding, you have to let them invite some guests. If they didn’t contribute financially to the wedding, the couple controls the guest list entirely. With that said, it’s considered traditionally courteous to extend invitations to a reasonable number of guests of their choosing. And if you can’t afford to invite everybody who would traditionally expect to be invited to your rehearsal dinner, don’t publicize it. They can’t feel left out if they don’t know it’s happening.

You can probably get away with skipping the thank you gift to your parents if they aren’t helping with the wedding, but you shouldn’t. If you can afford it, or DIY it, the significance of the gift on your wedding day would make the tradition well worth your effort – even if you didn’t get anything for it. Again, wedding manners don’t depend on who picks up the tab.

Lots of wedding etiquette bolsters wedding traditions, but not all wediquette is traditional, nor can it be ignored by a non-traditional wedding couples. To ignore all the obligations of wedding is to say you release your guests from following wedding etiquette as well, and that just leads to mayhem. You want guests to respect your wishes and leave their kids at home for an adults-only wedding, and you need to know how many people are coming ahead of time for the caterers and rentals. Should you choose to have an unplugged wedding, you’ll want your guests to respect your wishes, right? But really, that’s all just good weddings manners. And you don’t care about those, right?

Something to think about.

Until next time, happy wedding planning!

Sandy