Only the bride can wear white. For every wedding gift received, send a ‘thank you’ card. As you set out on your wedding planning journey, it can seem like there are a million etiquette rules to remember. While some of these rules are negotiable, some are in place for good reason. You deserve full creative rein on your big day — but you also want to make sure everything runs smoothly and everyone has a good time. Read ahead for a complete guide on how to master wedding etiquette for everyone, from engaged couples to attendees on the guest list.  

What’s the importance of wedding etiquette?

With so many wedding day details, decorum guidelines are in place to make sure everything runs like clockwork. It’s all about balancing the needs of the couple with guest comfort and enjoyment. And it can be helpful to have standard practices to reference when you’re wondering things like who needs a plus one. 

The most important wedding etiquette essentially prioritizes respect. It reminds couples of all the things they need to do to make sure every guest enjoys their time. And it ensures guests honor all the hard work that went into your big day. 

Wedding invitation etiquette

Of all the pre wedding courtesies to be aware of, invitations are at the top of that list. For the couple, sending invitations, and save the dates if you choose, in a timely manner is essential. You want your guests to have time to plan and for your vendors to have ample heads up so they can properly prepare. Two to four months prior to your wedding date is typical, but if your friends and family live far away, consider giving guests some extra time to book flights. 

Your wedding invitations also offer a great opportunity to communicate the guidelines you want to set early. In addition to basics like time, date, and location, list your dress code and if the reception and ceremony are adults only or kid friendly. The goal here is to give your guests all the information they need to adequately plan. 

Mastering Wedding Etiquette

Etiquette for paperless invitations and save the dates

Wedding websites have become popular, since you can lay out every last detail a guest would need to know — and they’re a lot harder to lose than the card that comes in the mail. They’re also great for providing more essential information that’s hard to fit on an invitation. For example, you can use a wedding website to provide information about travel and lodging accommodations. And if you want, you can even include a section about your love story and what brought you to this magic moment. 

If the idea of an online guide to your special day appeals to you, you may even want to send virtual invitations. Guests can easily RSVP with just a few clicks and then go directly to your wedding website to book from your hotel block. 

You can spam-proof your invite with a few tricks to make sure your guests see it after you hit send. Keep your subject line short and sweet, and embed images instead of attaching them in your message. If you’ve got tons of friends and family to invite, there are services specifically for handling digital wedding invitations. And whether you’re sending your invitations via email or post, follow up with guests who haven’t responded before your RSVP deadline to make sure it was received.

Wedding guest etiquette

It’s a wonderful gift to be invited to watch your loved one say “I do.” And as a guest, it’s always good to remember who are the stars of the show. Yes, you want to have a good time, but you’re there to celebrate the couple. That’s what wedding guest etiquette is all about. 

Even if you can’t attend, always extend the courtesy of an RSVP, so the couple isn’t caught off guard with empty seats. If you do attend, be mindful of the couple’s wishes detailed in the invite, including dress code, and don’t bring any uninvited plus ones. Be punctual, so you don’t disrupt the ceremony, and enjoy the reception responsibly. 

When it comes to the wedding gift, it’s a good idea to start with the wedding registry to see what the couple is requesting. That’s not to say gifts from off the registry aren’t ever allowed. You may have a particularly thoughtful gift in mind that will mean a lot to the happy couple. But you do want to avoid a situation where the couple ends up with two toasters, so do your due diligence before you buy anything. 

Wedding party etiquette

In the wedding party hierarchy, the person of honor, sometimes called the best man, maid of honor, or matron of honor, is captain. They take the lead on pre wedding festivities such as the bachelor party or bridal shower. On the big day, they’re a huge support to the couple, taking care of things like holding the bouquet during the ceremony or watching over the wedding rings before the big moment. And they’ll usually write a speech to toast the newlyweds at the reception. The rest of the wedding party may be less hands-on with planning these activities. But they are expected to attend all big day related functions, including fittings and the rehearsal. 

The wedding party members may have the most active role out of all the wedding guests. But the general etiquette guidelines are still very similar. If you’ve committed to supporting the couple, always show up on time and prepared. Be as communicative as possible, and be on your best behavior when you’re dancing the night away. 

Wedding Ceremony Etiquette

Ceremony etiquette

It’s finally time to walk down the aisle, and you want everything to go off without a hitch. If your wedding ceremony includes any particular cultural or religious traditions, consider including information in your programs so guests can follow along. The more included everyone feels, the more everyone can enjoy this special moment. 

Running the ceremony on time makes for a better experience, not just for the couple. It also shows everyone else, from guests to vendors, that their time is respected too. Establish a timeline to keep the ceremony moving. 

Of course, etiquette around punctuality and decorum are reciprocal. If you’re a guest, unless you were asked to participate in the ceremony, your role is just to be an audience member. You should be in your seat before the wedding party begins the procession down the aisle. Refrain from making noise during the ceremony, and definitely silence your phone. Think of it like the etiquette you would follow if you were attending a play. With no disruptions, everyone can enjoy the ceremony the couple worked so hard to craft. 

Reception etiquette

With the right planning, the party after you make it official will be a memorable experience. As the couple, one of the most important steps in planning out the night is the seating chart. You’ll know best from personal experience which guests fit into which groups. Make it easy for guests to find their seats, with a system such as name cards with table numbers, so everything can flow smoothly. 

It’s typical for each person of honor to make a toast at the reception, sometimes followed by speeches from the couple’s parents. If this honor falls under your responsibility, your speech only needs to be a few minutes. Make sure you’re ready to go on schedule and wow the crowd with a short, to the point poignant moment. Save the roast and off-color jokes for another time.

For the rest of the guest list, being mindful of the reception’s scheduled program is essential. For instance, if an usher tells you it’s time to wrap up cocktail hour and take your seat for dinner, don’t wait too long to head to the dining hall. Just like with the ceremony, it’s important to be quiet and attentive during speeches and toasts. And though you may be eager to start dancing, wait until all traditional dances with the couple are complete and all guests are formally invited.

Etiquette for Non-Traditional Weddings

Etiquette for non-traditional weddings

It’s your wedding day, and the number-one rule is that you get to make the rules. If you’re following a non-traditional format, the key to keeping guests happy is strong communication, just like with a traditional wedding. For some couples, a non-traditional format could look like a wedding that ends with a ceremony, or a ceremony held weeks or months before the reception. Make sure your guests know what’s going on, and in turn, your guests will follow along with the program that best fits your vision.

Tech etiquette

It’s important to respect the couple’s wishes about sharing photos of their celebration online. Are there signs throughout the reception hall with a custom hashtag? Be sure to use it in your social media posts, so the couple can easily find them later. 

If the couple has explicitly requested you refrain from social posts, though, be sure to respect their wishes. They may want to wait until the professional photos are ready. Or they may want to make sure guests can enjoy themselves without worrying about videos of them doing the chicken dance circulating. Either way, it’s their call to make. 

Follow wedding etiquette for the perfect modern wedding

Proper wedding etiquette has evolved over generations, but the core principle remains true. Follow the guidelines that balance good behavior with a good time, so everything goes according to plan and everyone has fun. If you prioritize respectful communication, you get to write the rules for everything else. And when you’re ready to design your perfect wedding, Trademark is here to help plan a celebration that’s uniquely you.

Reception Wedding Etiquette