The Top 10 Biggest Wedding Etiquette Don'ts

Wedding etiquette is tricky stuff

Updated 11/20/17
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Planning a wedding is hard. Seriously, have you seen how long the to-do list is? And those are just tasks to check off. Add in the emotions, personal interactions, and potentially difficult situations you’ll encounter along the way, and having a guide to help you through it is downright necessary. That’s where our experts come in. We’ve rounded up 10 all-too-common wedding etiquette mistakes that you might not even know you’re making, as well as how to avoid them. So don’t do anything before you’ve read through this list! (And share it with your engaged friends, too—they’ll thank you!)

01 of 10

Don’t post a #RingSelfie before you call Grandma

Getty Images

It might be hard to keep the good news to yourself, but remember to share it directly with your family and closest friends before you update your status on social media. Tell your parents first (in person if you can!), then your siblings and grandparents. From there, you’ll probably want to call your BFFs to share in the good news—on FaceTime so you can flaunt your bling, of course! Once your VIPs are in the know, you’re free to post, snap, tweet, and share as you see fit. Though you might want to put your phone on silent once all the good wishes start rolling in! A day or two later, remember to follow up with a post thanking everyone who has sent love your way.

02 of 10

Don’t include registry information on your invitations

Wedding invitations

Photo by Sally Pinera

This is a major faux-pas that won’t be changing any time soon. Your wedding invitations are a way to let your guests know you love them and want them to be there to witness your wedding vows—not a place to ask for gifts. Sure, slapping the URL on the bottom would be easy, but your guests know that you’ve registered somewhere, so play it cool. There are two acceptable (and polite!) ways to spread the word about your registry. The first is totally old school: Word of mouth. Make sure those closest to you (parents, grandparents, and your wedding party) know where you’re registered so they can send guests in the right direction if they get questions. The second is a little more modern (and super easy): On your wedding website! Print the link to your site on an invitation insert so guests can easily find everything from your room blocks and weekend schedule to, of course, your registry. You can link directly to the registry site for extra-easy shopping, and keep all of those different stores in one place.

03 of 10

Don’t make guests wait too long to start the party

Guests at ceremony

Photo by Lauren Scotti Photography

The quickest way to make your guests feel forgotten is to leave a big gap in your timeline between the end of your ceremony and the beginning of cocktail hour. If everything is in the same venue, time it so the bar opens and appetizers get passed as soon as your guests leave your ceremony site. If they’re at two different locations, do your best to minimize the in-between time, allowing enough time for guests to travel from one spot to the other, but not enough time to sit around and get hungry (or worse, find a local restaurant and fill up on snacks instead of your wedding food!). If a longer break is unavoidable (say, between a late morning ceremony and an evening reception), give your guests the option of being entertained. Recommend outings and activities to fill that time, or go as far as arranging one on their behalf, like a sightseeing bus tour or a hospitality lounge at the hotel with drinks, snacks, and TVs playing the afternoon’s football games.

04 of 10

Don’t invite someone to the bridal shower (or bachelor and bachelorette parties) if they aren’t invited to the wedding

Bridesmaids holding train

Photo by Carmen Santorelli

These pre-wedding events have smaller guest lists and occur in a more intimate setting, so anyone who is on the list must also be invited to the wedding. Inviting them to only your shower would imply that they’re good enough to give you a gift, but not good enough to celebrate on your actual big day. Ouch! Instead, pull a bride card and insist that, even if your shower will be a surprise, you have final say over the guest list, ensuring anyone who is invited is included on your master guest list, too. The only exception? Office showers. These events are usually hosted by coworkers, who chip in and contribute to the celebration, with no expectation that they’ll get a wedding invite. However, if you work in a really small office, you may want to include everyone on your wedding guest list, anyway.

05 of 10

Don’t forget to take care of your wedding party

Bridal party shot

Photo by Lisa Ziesing of Abby Jiu Photography

Your friends are committing time and money to be a part of your celebration, so don’t forget to be a good friend right back! Do your best to keep the experience as drama-free as possible, which is really the greatest gift you can give them. However, that doesn’t mean an actual gift wouldn’t be appreciated! Depending on your budget, pick a token of appreciation that your ‘maids and groomsmen will love long after your wedding day. That could mean simple necklaces or cufflinks with their initials, monogrammed clutches, or a cool watch. A price point between $75 and $150 is a good place to start, especially considering how much they’ve spent on travel, hotel rooms, and the attire you’ve chosen! If you can afford it, it’s also nice to cover hair and makeup for your bridesmaids the day of the wedding—especially if you’re insisting that they have it professionally done. Last, but not least, don’t forget to feed them! If your girls are gathering early in the morning, make sure to have breakfast and coffee on hand, and arrange for a lunch delivery before everyone gets dressed. The groom and groomsmen may not need to put their suits on until the afternoon, so treat them to lunch at a nearby restaurant before they head back to the hotel to shave and shower.

06 of 10

Don’t designate a “Singles Table.”

Photo by Olivia Rae James

The jury is out on whether weddings are actually a great place to meet people, especially if you’re in the thick of wedding season and all of your friends are tying the knot, too. Instead of haphazardly putting all of your single friends at the same table (which can feel like a forced blind date, especially if they don’t actually have anything in common!), seat any single friends just as you will the rest of your guests: Based on whether or not they’ll get along. Group friends and family members based on similar interests, whether your cousin and your college bestie work in similar fields or you know your old roommate will love your coworker’s toddler.

07 of 10

Don’t make guests pay for their drinks

Photo by Lauren Fair Photography

Yes, the bar bill will be one of the biggest expenses at your reception. You might not be able to afford hours upon hours of open-bar boozing, but there are ways to cut those costs without asking your guests to pony up. Instead, consider these options:

Serve signature cocktails

In addition to giving guests a taste of your personalities, signature cocktails cut back on how much booze you’ll buy by limiting it to specific recipes. Pair these with a few beer and wine offerings to make a dent in the liquor order.

Skip liquor altogether

Mixed drinks really add up, since there are mixers, garnishes, bartending costs, and liquor involved. Instead, choose a few beers and wines that will pair well with your menu, and make those the evening’s only choices.

Have a limited open bar

If you can’t imagine nixing the cocktails altogether, break the evening up into two parts. Have a full open bar during cocktail hour, then serve beer and wine during dinner. Most guests will naturally make that switch anyway (you’ll see way more beers in hand on the dance floor than cocktails!), and you’ll spend less on liquor.

Buy it yourself

If your venue allows you to bring in your own liquor, purchase cases yourself from a liquor store that accepts returns of unopened bottles. Ask a pro to help you make sure you purchase enough, and know that you’ll be saving a hefty percentage by not ordering through your venue -- and possibly getting some money back at the end of the night.

Go thematic

Depending on your menu, you can easily choose a bar package that supports the theme and eliminates the extras. If the meal will be Italian, opt for red and white wines, plus an Aperol Spritz. Serving Mexican food? Pair it with Coronas and a margarita bar.

08 of 10

Don’t forget to feed your vendors

Photo by Monica Leggio

These are the people who will be working all day to make your wedding happen, so take care of them! Most vendors stipulate in their contract that the client must provide a hot meal, so make sure your caterer knows how many people you’ll be feeding. You’ll need meals for your wedding planner, photographer, videographer, DJ or band, and any assistants. (You won’t however, need to feed your florist, baker, or the ceremony musicians). Talk to your caterer about their vendor meal policies. Most have pre-set options or serve a “chef’s choice,” while some serve vendors the same entrée the guests will be eating. Be sure to ask your vendors about any dietary restrictions (big ones like allergies or vegetarianism should definitely be noted), and make sure there’s a quiet place for them to sit down and eat that’s still close to the main room so they don’t miss the action. Feed the band or DJ before your guests sit for dinner so they can cue big moments, and arrange for your planner, photographer, and videographer to eat while you’re eating so they don’t miss toasts or the first dance.

09 of 10

Don’t skip out on greeting your guests

Photo by Rachel May Photography

While a formal receiving line is waning in popularity, it’s still important to try to greet all of your guests over the course of your wedding. Share a hug and a quick chat during cocktail hour, then move on to the next group of guests. Make sure you’re served dinner first so you can eat before circulating among the reception tables. And hop from group to group on the dance floor so you can boogie with different sets of friends. Guests will understand that you’re trying to make the rounds, so don’t worry about keeping it short. But don’t stress: Try to see everyone, and make a mental note of who you didn’t talk to so you can say “hi” and give them a hug during the morning-after brunch.

10 of 10

Don’t wait a year to send thank-you notes

Photo Courtesy of Papel and Co on Etsy

You’ve probably heard this myth before, but let us set the record straight: No, you do not have a year to mail thank-you notes to your guests! Not only is it impolite, it actually makes writing thank-you notes harder, not easier. Instead of letting those gifts pile up and turn into a marathon evening of note-writing (hello, hand cramps!), stay on top of the task. Keep a running list of who sent you what, and write a thank-you note within a week or two, whether it was an engagement present or a wedding gift. Don’t forget to check it off your list once the note is sent! For gifts received on your actual wedding day -- yes, people still bring gifts to weddings -- you’ve got a little more leeway, but we’re talking two or three months, tops. By keeping good records and sending notes early, you’ll show guests you care and avoid the possibility of forgetting who the giver was or whether or not you actually sent that card.

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