The One Thing You Need To Know About Proper Wedding Etiquette
When it comes to planning your ultimate celebration of love, you don’t need to follow any rules but your own.
I’m guessing that you, the savvy individual that you are, began your wedding planning journey with the vision to create a unique celebration, something that truly represents you and your partner. Excitedly you began to explore what that might look like, reading various wedding blogs, researching ideas and filling up your wedding Pinterest boards for inspiration. But before long your spidey senses start tingling; even though you’re searching for “unique wedding ideas” it sure feels like the results returned are actually kinda the opposite, with a subtle but undeniable sense of uniformity.
It sure feels like you simply must send paper invitations with matching hand-addressed envelopes. You must invite all of your cousins and anybody who ever invited you to their wedding. Open bar? Non-negotiable. And don’t even think about not giving every single one of your guests a “Thank You For Coming To Our Wedding!” gift for them to take home.
You want to plan a wedding that’s meaningful to you but there’s this overwhelming feeling like there’s a lot of stuff you simply have to do in order to do your wedding right.
Do you ever find yourself wondering where these so-called “rules” came from? Yeah, me too. In fact it was during my time working as a wedding planner when clients would ask me whether they “had to” do certain wedding things that I began to question who the real wedding authority was. It definitely wasn’t me, but that didn’t stop couples from looking to me for permission to break away from these “compulsory” wedding details, which left me thinking “Who the hell made up these ridiculously over the top set of wedding norms anyway??” Like, is there some kind of illuminati wedding counsel that gathers annually in secret to discuss important matters such as when the bouquet toss should actually take place, and the proper amount of people you should have in your wedding party?
Let’s just clear something up before we carry on; etiquette should not be confused with manners. Manners are polite behaviors that reflect an attitude of consideration, kindness and respect for others. V important. Etiquette on the other hand is about following convention and rules, often arcane and meaningless when ported from one generation to another because the reasoning often does not travel. You can think of etiquette as the rules put in place to create order in society, which by nature are exclusionary, focusing on the elite, or those who fit into the mold of what our Western world determines to be “normal” (aka not very representative of the world we actually live in today).
The rituals of etiquette are sometimes so ingrained in our lives that they become second nature—you don’t even question where something comes from or why you feel the need to do it. Maybe you even participated in cotillion or a debutante ball in your youth and you actually kinda enjoyed it (what teenager doesn’t love getting dolled up for the night?) but if you had stopped to think about the origins of such events you may have reconsidered joining in. Although debutante balls used to be “considered...a family’s announcement that their daughter was of good breeding and of marriageable age” today, we’re told they are “more about fostering community, supporting charity, and appreciating the maturation of teenagers into young adults.” And yet young women are still presented by their fathers. Oh yeah, and the young men are not presented at all. Go figure.
The same can be said for many of the wedding customs and rituals we practice today. We’ve accepted them as status quo because we have developed a sentimental attachment to them, but we don’t always question why we do them. The result is a feeling that there are mandatory wedding requirements that must be followed in order to keep with tradition and to uphold proper etiquette, because it’s not really a wedding unless your gift registry includes fancy new dinnerware, right?
I acknowledge that it can feel challenging to consider leaving out some of the more sentimental moments we are used to seeing at weddings. I am personally quite sentimental and love tradition and ritual too. But the point I want to make is that whenever you feel pressured to do anything that is framed as “proper wedding etiquette” or as something you simply must do (think: having a bridal party, being given away, sending paper invitations) you can, and should, question it. This is really the one and only thing you must know about proper wedding etiquette.
On your journey through planning an intentional wedding celebration that not only reflects the two of you, but also your purpose for having a wedding in the first place, you will need to forget traditions empty of personal meaning and purpose, and the pressure to please other people. Easier said than done? Maybe. But my money’s on you, friend. Your wedding, your rituals.