Gaucherie No More: What's Changed in Wedding Etiquette

See what former faux pas have been made more than acceptable in modern times.

Gaucherie No More: What's Changed in Wedding Etiquette

Photo: Kristina Lee Photography

For many, weddings are the most formal event one will attend in their lifetime. Engaged women spend hours listening to their mother and grandmother explain traditions and the reasons they exist; whether they’re family customs or the general societal rules for couples tying the knot. However, as with all popular culture, practices that were once seen as the height of nuptial decorum have fallen from grace – and, in some cases, their decline goes unnoticed. This causes a conundrum for modern brides, grooms, and wedding goers: is it still inappropriate to ask for money instead of a gift? Are there still color restrictions for female guests? What is the expected timing of the mother-son dance?

After doing some homework, we have decided to announce, formally, the trends that have come “in” and the ones on their way “out.”

-   IN: Announcing the bride and groom under separate names. Though this convention has long left the ceremony zeitgeist, we felt its departure was worth noting. In the past, wedding officiants would marry the couple, ask them to kiss, and announce the pair to the world as “Mister and Missus John Smith.” This was, of course, when women were referred to as having their husband’s first and last name – tacking on the Mrs. in the beginning to create a distinction. Nowadays, if the officiant announces the newlyweds, he or she will typically use the bride’s first name. In many cases, the bride doesn’t take her husband’s last name and thus, will be announced accordingly (a good way to let others know she is keeping her maiden name), or the couple may not want any announcement at all.

-   OUT: The typical ‘beef, chicken, or fish’ menu items. With an increasing amount of health-conscious Americans – and a rise in food allergies – engaged pairs began looking beyond the usual list of wedding meal choices and thinking outside the box. It may have begun as an effort to add variety to the usual vegetarian option, but it has caught on as the new “it” trend: exciting, gourmet menu items that don’t fall into predetermined categories. Caterers can do a play on macaroni and cheese, large plates of ratatouille, fusion creations; whatever your hungry heart desires. If you're stuck on ideas, check out these tips for creating an unforgettable wedding menu.

-   IN: Dark colors for wedding guests – and brides themselves. Previously, funerals had a monopoly on the color black: but it seems that former faux pas has turned itself into the trendiest new thing. With the variety found in today’s marital celebrations, guests are no longer confined to wearing pastels – within reason. If you’re going to a spring wedding with a light color scheme and an afternoon tea theme, we’d still recommend avoiding the navy and charcoal hues. However, if you’re going to a black-tie fête downtown, don’t be afraid of that LBD in the back of your closet. Similarly, if you're an engaged woman with a penchant for red, it is more common than ever to stray from the alabaster gown and go with your gut. If you're attending a wedding and feel unsure regarding what might be appropriate, ask a member of the bridal party!

-   OUT: The bouquet toss. This isn’t to say brides aren’t doing this anymore, but in recent years, this trend has been on the decline. With increased awareness about the sexism that plays into many wedding traditions, modern gals have opted out of this ceremony on principle; many ladies feel strange about the concept of watching their female friends vie – and sometimes fight – for the symbolic title of “next to wed.” Plus, after spending money on floral arrangements, why would one blatantly throw a bouquet into the air, effectively ensuring its demolition?

-   IN: Use of the internet for wedding-related events. It is still preferred you distribute your wedding invitations via standard mail. For such a special life event, when else would be more appropriate to send beautifully crafted, personalized invites? Remember, they are the first glimpse of the big day that loved ones will see – and a great way to introduce the theme of the event. And although it’s best to include a response card in the mailed suite, you might also want to include information on how to RSVP via the internet. For most, it’s incredibly convenient and an easy way for you to manage seating. However, you may not want to request online RSVPs exclusively, as it may not work best for elderly guests. For other pre-wedding events, it is sometimes more practical to use online invites, social media, or even to invite family and friends via personal phone calls – depending on the size and scope of the soirée.

-   OUT: The sweetheart table. More and more newlyweds are deciding to sit with their parents or bridal party during their reception instead of isolating themselves at a tiny table all evening. The idea behind the sweetheart table is actually quiet lovely: being able to get away from the madness of the wedding and simply relax with your partner during meals. However, this ends up causing a few issues: the biggest of which is the unapproachable nature this gives the couple. As a guest, greeting the bride and groom can seem dauntingly invasive when they appear comfortable and undisturbed.

-   IN: Other unique dances. It should be noted that this does not mean father-daughter or mother-son dances are “out” or even on the decline: it is simply becoming more popular to include other important people in on the fun. Sometimes there are children – together, or from previous relationships – that should be honored or a special grandparent or aunt that deserves recognition, or even a pre-arranged choreographed number from the bridal party.

Opening photo by Jana Williams Photography