Though getting married to your soon-to-be spouse is one of the most exciting milestones life has to offer, planning a wedding is easier said than done. Not only do you have to budget for your big day and get a handle on an exhaustive to-do list, but you also have to follow some seemingly arbitrary etiquette rules. After all, does anyone know exactly why brides should sport something old, new, borrowed, and blue? (Actually, you can find out here.)
As the world changes, the wedding industry has adopted a new set of etiquette rules that better reflect modern times. To keep you up to speed, we interviewed a few wedding experts about the rules couples should follow—and avoid—now and in the years to come. Whether you are in the midst of planning your special day or attending a string of nuptials, you’ll want to keep these dos and don’ts top of mind.
Do Think Before You Post
In a time when posting life’s biggest and smallest moments on social media may feel like second nature, you might be excited to tell your followers about your engagement. But, before you get swept up in double taps and heart emojis, share the exciting news with your inner circle first.
“It is important that those closest to you are notified of the engagement before posting those fun ring shots on Instagram,” explains Stephanie Teague, a wedding planner in northern California. “No one wants to hear big news via social media or [through] the grapevine.”
As a general rule of thumb, think about the people who will play a special role on your big day. Will your childhood best friend be your maid of honor? Are you thinking about asking your uncle to officiate the ceremony? Share the big news with these key players before you click that share button.
Don’t Feel Pressured to Invite Everyone
Your former colleague who invited you to their wedding years ago. Your dad’s college roommate. Those family friends you haven’t seen in a small eternity. Building a guest list used to be about fulfilling a “more is more” sentiment. But thanks to the rise of micro-weddings, couples are beginning to keep their lists to a minimum.
“There are many factors that go into building your guest list. Just because someone else invited you to their wedding does not meet you are obliged to return the invite,” Teague explains. “Venue capacity, budget, and your priorities for the event may be different than theirs.”
It's not only more acceptable to keep your guest list small, but couples are starting to invite guests to stream the big day from their homes. “Traditionally, the thought of live-streaming a wedding is unheard of,” explains Emilie Dulles, etiquette expert and founder of Dulles Designs. “However, given [the pandemic] and its variants, live-streaming a wedding privately to those unable to attend in-person is not such a bad idea.”
Do Be Inclusive
Your wedding day allows you and your partner to celebrate your big milestone with the people who are closest to you. But, while couples might keep their guest list to a minimum, everyone who is invited to the wedding should be included in the rest of the festivities.
“As an engaged couple, you should still follow the rule that anyone invited to a bridal shower or engagement party should also be invited to the wedding,” shares Dulles. “Since more and more guest lists are shifting due to COVID-19 and its variants, micro weddings are becoming a viable trend and safe option for fun, more decadent celebrations.”
If you want to celebrate with a larger crowd—but want to keep your bridal shower and engagement party to a minimum—Dulles recommends hosting a post-nuptial celebration.
Don’t Ditch the Registry
Today we can pay for anything with a touch of a button, so it’s easy to assume that guests can simply send the happy couple a present via Venmo. But, according to Tami Claytor of Always Appropriate Image & Etiquette Consulting, a registry can ensure the happy couple and their guests are adhering to proper etiquette.
“Ask if there is a wedding registry,” she tells guests. “If one has not been created, then a card with a check enclosed is acceptable. With the exception of donations to charity or honeymoon contributions, where links are provided, you may not send money via Zelle, PayPal, Venmo, or any other electronic money transfer platform.” And, as she puts it, gift cards are a no-go.
Speaking of registries, Claytor also encourages couples to include a variety of gift options. “Be thoughtful of your guests’ budgets [and select] items at different price points,” she shares. “You don’t want your guests to resent you because they can’t afford all of the expenses associated with attending your wedding.”
From booking flights to finding the perfect outfit to match the occasion, weddings can get pricey quickly. And, the very last thing you want is to indirectly pressure your guests to spend well beyond their means.
Do Communicate Expectations
A wedding should be a joyous occasion for both the happy couple and their inner circle, so it’s important to keep stress levels low. And, for couples who are getting married in during the pandemic, that means communicating any mask, vaccination, or testing protocols with their guests beforehand. Not only will this move help your big day go as smoothly as possible, but it will give your guests some peace of mind as they celebrate.
“If the couple is requiring vaccinations or testing, it's important that you get them your proof of vaccination or test results so that the couple can plan accordingly,” Teague shares. “If guests are being asked to wear a mask when not eating or drinking, please don your cutest mask. The couple is setting forth guidelines based on local regulations, but also knowing their guest list and what would make their guests feel the most comfortable.”
Whether you’re planning a destination wedding or getting married at a venue with limited cell service, being upfront with particular expectations will be appreciated long after the pandemic.
Don’t Confine Correspondence to Snail Mail…
Despite living in an increasingly digital world, printed save-the-dates and invitations remain an industry staple. Not only does this snail mail offer important information about the big day, but it can also set the mood for the nuptials. But, due to the ongoing pandemic, safety protocol and guest restrictions can change in the blink of an eye. Instead of sending out a new batch of printed invitations every time there’s a change of plans, you can resort to more informal modes of communication.
“There's a need for more flexibility with guest communication,” says Eliana Nunes, a North Carolina-based wedding planner. “While traditional wedding etiquette dictates that communication with your guests be done via mailed material, it’s perfectly okay to email or even call your guest list if you need to communicate a sudden change within a short timeframe.” Or, if you’re looking for an efficient way to keep everyone on the same page, create (and update) a wedding website.
...But, Do Stick With Handwritten Thank You Notes
That said, just because you’re taking wedding updates beyond pen and paper doesn’t mean you should abandon handwritten thank you notes. According to Claytor, this is one etiquette trend that will never go out of style.
“A handwritten thank you note is still proper etiquette,” she explains. “It should be sent to your guests as soon as possible-at least within the first six weeks after the wedding ceremony.” Not sure what to say? Have a look at our failsafe guide to writing the perfect thank you note.