How to Avoid Common Etiquette Errors While Wedding Planning

The great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post reveals nonnegotiable rules every couple should follow.

Find out which parts of wedding etiquette are non-negotiable, even for modern weddings!

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Photo: The Brenizers

When asked if it’s okay to wear a pink wedding dress or serve pie instead of cake, I answer, “Yes!” Other questions, such as “Do I need a receiving line?” require longer responses that start with, “It depends.” There are not many “musts” in this day and age. Don’t want traditional wording on the invitation? No problem. The couple might see each other before the ceremony for "first look" photos; the bride’s mother may walk her down the aisle; and the newlyweds might opt for table visits instead of a receiving line. All of this is fine when done in a respectful manner – it’s about what ultimately makes sense for the hosts and their guests. With that said, a few queries do get a “must” or definite “no,” regardless of circumstances. 

Guest-List Musts

“We aren’t inviting anyone we don’t know to our wedding” is a guideline many couples give their parents when forming guest lists. Generally, it’s a good one, as parents should be able to include some of their friends, but select those who the bride and groom are also acquainted with. The trouble arises when couples take this too literally and subsequently invite only the half of a couple with whom they are friends. Once someone is married, engaged, or living together in a committed, romantic relationship, they become a package deal. This remains true whether or not you like the other half or know them at all.

In addition, keep in mind that anyone who is invited to a pre-wedding party (i.e., engagement, shower, bachelor(ette), or rehearsal dinner) in your honor, should also be a wedding guest. Thus, it’s a good idea to limit the attendees of these celebrations to individuals you are certain will be on the wedding guest list. Make sure that party hosts have access to it to avoid inviting anyone who isn’t on the guest list. (This is one of the reasons surprise showers require good coordination to be successful.) The one exception is for coworkers who attend an office shower – there is no obligation to invite them to the big day.

Registry Cards

If you manage to complete your registry prior to mailing your wedding invitations, you might find the companies with which you registered offering handy-dandy little cards printed with a link to your wish list for you to enclose with your invites. Or you may be prompted to share your registry via email, Facebook, and Twitter. Smart and helpful, yes?

Unfortunately, no. Use these little cards to bookmark ideas in wedding magazines instead and simply ignore the suggestions to present your wish list on social media. Though it’s useful for guests to have gift information, it shouldn’t be mentioned on or included with your invitation. The same is true for the often-used phrase “no gifts, please.” It’s important to keep the focus on asking loved ones to share in the big event, without a hint of the presents that may follow. Instead, give the details to close friends and family, as other attendees will likely ask them about it. You can also post related links on your wedding website, which is acceptable to indicate on an enclosure, as other important information is found there, too.

The Cash Bar

It’s no secret that weddings are expensive – with the bar tab usually being one of the pricier components. Keeping the guest list small is the best way to control costs, followed by limiting the amount and kinds of alcohol served. What is offered is completely up to the host. It’s not rude to only have beer and wine or a Champagne toast, or even no alcohol at all. Whatever libations are selected, it’s the host’s responsibility to provide them – attendees should never be asked to pay for their own drinks. 

The Mythic Year

There is no mythic year in which to send thank-you notes for presents. Instead, mail hand-written cards within three months of returning from your honeymoon (an immediate one that is, not belated!). Ideally these would be sent within a day or two of receiving a gift, but the pressures of planning a wedding often don’t make that possible – especially as presents begin being delivered in piles. Rather, aim to complete a note per day and call, email, or text to let guests know their gifts arrived safe and sound. For example, “Just received the beautiful knit blanket – note to follow, but wanted to say thank you right away!” This way, loved ones won’t be left wondering if their gifts were lost. Keep in mind, enlisting the assistance of grooms with this task will also speed up the process! 

For more wedding planning etiquette tips and advice, discover the rules of etiquette for the wedding party and discover the wedding etiquette mistakes you don't even realize you're making.