ceremony etiquette | eight tips to remember as the bride

ceremony etiquette | eight tips to remember as the bride

Oh, “etiquette”. It sounds like something that belongs in the Deep South involving: how to fold your napkin, and “which side does the fork go on?”.

This isn’t an etiquette class, and it has nothing to do with forks. For the purposes of this wedding blog – we’re using “etiquette” as a fancy term for “how to NOT be a mean, rude bride” and/or “how to NOT piss off the moms and/or grandmothers because you didn’t do something in a ‘traditional’ way (because you didn’t know there was a ‘traditional’ way to do it – you were just trying to get ready and drink champagne and all of a sudden everyone is asking you about everything.)

Etiquette Question #1: Is it rude to ban guests from the bridal suite?
No, not rude at all. You’re naked in there! I mean, for the most part. Your hair is up in curlers and your make-up is mid-fake-eyelashes, and you’re probably wearing a robe. You are officially the “before” version of yourself, and you’ve put a lot of work into this day so that you can make an ENTRANCE once your transformation is complete.

Honestly, I wish I’d had this hard and fast rule at my own wedding. The “getting ready” period was hectic enough on its own (which I wasn’t expecting – how “crazy” can getting dressed be? Turns out, there’s a lot going on). Between bridesmaids also getting ready, the girls I’d brought in do hair, the make-up artist, the photographer and her second shooter, the florist popping in and out, the wedding coordinator…. no, we did not have room OR TIME for guests to pop in and say hello. There is a time and place for that after the ceremony, which is what your bridesmaid or usher can politely tell people once you’ve put them on door duty. It may also help to post a sign on the door that says “Mother of the bride and bridal party only”. Guests should certainly understand your need for privacy and will be just as happy to say their “congratulations” after the ceremony.

Etiquette Question #2: How do I say “no” to a family member who wants to speak at the ceremony?
Chances are, you have a very specific amount of time reserved for the “I do”s. When we got married, we were very specific that our ceremony couldn’t be longer than fifteen minutes (because we wanted to take pictures at sunset). Explain to your family member that you would prefer they speak at the rehearsal dinner, or even allow them to give a toast at the reception. This is traditionally when family and friends can share more informal memories and well-wishes for the couple.

Fortunately we didn’t have anyone itching to speak at our wedding. My maid of honor got so nervous to speak at the rehearsal dinner that she nearly talked our best man out of it altogether. So if you have someone itching to speak – by all means, let them go for it – just let them do it at a more appropriate time than the ceremony.

Etiquette Question #3: Should my fiancé’s sister be in the wedding party even if I’m not close with her?
According to Martha Stewart Weddings, you are not actually “required” to ask anyone to participate in your bridal party. With THAT being said – there are certain situations where you’re just going to hurt someone’s feelings if you don’t suck it up and let them into the club for a day. In this situation – consider how close your fiancé is with his sister. Is she going to be around at every family get together for the rest of your lives? Does she live nearby? Will she be hurt if you don’t ask her?

In all honesty, I wasn’t close with my fiancé’s sister either. It’s not that we dislike each other – we just don’t hang out outside of family gatherings. But I had still planned to ask her to be in our wedding, because my husband is close with her, and I knew that she was going to be a big part of my life since I was marrying her brother. (She found out she was pregnant and due to have the baby a week after our wedding, so she wasn’t able to fly out for our wedding for the ceremony. Otherwise she would have likely been in the wedding party.)

Etiquette Question #4: Is my twelve year old cousin too old to be the flower girl?
Probably. Granted – it’s your wedding, but according to The Knot, the average age for flower girls is between 4 and 8 years old. (Ring bearers are anywhere between 3 and 7). There are other ways to get cousins in this age range involved in your wedding though, you could ask her to do a reading, hand out programs, or even be a junior bridesmaid. (For boys in this age range, you could also ask them to be an usher).

Our ring bearer was two years old. He did great! But he also needed my father in law to walk with him down the aisle so that he didn’t get too distracted. Keep that in mind with toddlers under the age of three.

Etiquette Question #5: We’re hesitant to let our ring bearer hold the rings. What should we do?
I was also hesitant to let a two year old carry our platinum bands down the aisle (especially since we had a really long aisle, and the ceremony was outside on the edge of a cliff, and this little guy has a history of throwing things. As my mother would say, “he’s all boy!”) So we had the rings in a box that we purchased from Etsy that my father-in-law held right up until it was time for our little ring bearer to walk down the aisle, then it was immediately given to the best man.

You could also have him carry a less valuable item down the aisle, like a unity candle, flowers for the mothers, or a book that the readers will use. I’ve also seen a cute idea where – for example if the ring bearer is a nephew to your groom, he could carry a sign that says “Uncle (so-and-so), here comes your girl!”.

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Etiquette Question #6: My dad isn’t around to walk me down the aisle. Should I go it alone, or ask someone else?
This is your call, and you can’t make the wrong decision. Brides no longer need someone to “give them away”, which means you can walk down the aisle alone, or with anyone who plays an important role in your life – a brother, step-father, or even your new father-in-law. I’ve been to a wedding in the past where even the mother has walked the bride down the aisle. There is no wrong answer here.

Etiquette Question #6 1/2: I don’t believe in being “given away”, therefore I don’t want my father to walk me down the aisle. Is that okay?
Okay – so now this has gone from ‘your dad isn’t here’ to ‘you just don’t want him to walk with you’. Maybe you don’t have a good relationship, or maybe you’re. just a modern feminist independent kind of lady who can walk HER OWN SELF down the aisle. Either way – think about what this will mean to HIM. Your dad. The guy who has probably imagined this moment a time or two. It’s your call, since it’s your wedding, but I think it’s nice when parents can play a part in such a special day.

When my father walked with me down the aisle, I had never considered him “giving me away” like it’s a transaction where he’s selling my new husband a goat, I just thought it was nice having him by my side. It was nice to hold on to him when I was nervous in front of everyone, and walking around in heels. Plus it meant a lot to him.

Etiquette Question #7: How can we honor a step parent at the ceremony, since there is no set role?
Some brides ask both their dad and step dad to walk with them down the aisle. You could also ask them to do a reading or act as an usher. Either way, it’s important to include them with a corsage or boutonnière, and highlight them in the wedding program if you list family members.

** Bonus Tip** Make sure to get corsages for the moms and grandmas, and boutonnières for the dads and grandfathers. I did not do this, because I didn’t know I was supposed to, and felt like an idiot afterward.

Etiquette Question #8: How can we ask people not to take pictures during the ceremony?
Ughhhh. Those guests with their cell phones during the ceremony, getting in the photographer’s way. There is absolutely no way I’m going to want that picture from your iPhone when I’ve hired a professional photographer and paid her mega bucks to get the perfect shot, and you’re sticking your big ol’ arm out in the middle of the aisle holding your iPhone.

Insert a line in the program that says “no photographs during the ceremony please”. You can also have a sign beside the door with the same motto, and ask ushers to remind guests as they’re being seated.. If you’re feeling REALLY feisty, you can ask the minister to say a little reminder at the beginning of the ceremony. Just in case. We were fortunate that our ceremony was small enough, and everyone was pretty “with it” that they weren’t worried about whipping out their phones to take pictures. We’d invited them there as a guest, not to work as our photographer.

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