So You're Tying The Knot? Top 5 Tips Of Proper Etiquette

5 bits of advice on why you don't have to follow every wedding tradition on your special day.

Okay, so you've set a date, changed your status to "engaged" and are now looking at the dress that will make you "Queen for a Day" or the price of the venue that will make you "in-debt" for a decade. What now?

Let's start by stating that in the United States today traditions vary. There are no black and white rules, but generally speaking there is always an etiquette or protocol for special events. If President Obama visits Japan for a wedding, even he would adhere to tradition. Respect for culture and tradition is crucial for good relationships, whether they are political, familial, or social. So what are the general rules to follow in order to have your dream come true without seriously offending anyone? 

Here are my top 5 bits of advice from the experts around the globe.

1. Bridal Guide magazine has excellent recommendations that include, sticking to a "specific" budget, involving the groom, being grateful to everyone who offers to help, and staying organized. It is an issue sometimes to stick to a budget, or even to motivate a groom to participate. But, responsibilities need to be set early on. A division of labor is best decided upon while the glow of the diamond still shines! If the bride agrees to choose colors, venue, and wedding dress, then the groom can select the menu, music, and tuxedos.  There are no specific boundaries. Each couple must establish their own boundaries so expectations are met, and arguments are avoided. Each responsibility must be noted with a deadline, so no one gets bent out of shape if "he hasn't" picked out his tux yet. Let's be realistic with deadlines too. If the cake colors don't need to be picked until 30 days before the wedding, no one should be harassing each other about whether they are done with their share. Stay in the moment, always graceful, always grateful.

2. Woman's Day magazine explains in their article that lots of things are negotiable. You don't have to do a wedding cake. A cupcake tower might be just as beautiful. There are no gender rules for those that are part of the wedding party. A bride's Maid of Honor can be a brother, and the "best man" can be a great female friend. You don't "have-to" register, you can ask for cash gift cards only. And, don't take it personally if your BFF doesn't want to stand with you at your wedding! Sometimes your selection of colors, prices of dresses, or even your fiancée is just too much for someone to bare. Standing with the couple is a sacred vow that one is fully accepting of the union. It is an implied promise to the community, family, and God (if in a church) that you agree with it all.

3. Martha Stewart Weddings indicates that the proper etiquette for the invitations means that the sooner you notify everyone, the better. "Save-the-dates" should go out 3-4 months in advance, but allow more time if family members are traveling far, or flying in, in which case 6 months notice should be sufficient. The invitations should include the names of the bride and groom if they are hosting, but in the case of many Latin and Mexican weddings, if the parents of the bride and groom are helping out or hosting, their names should be included on the invitations. According to A-Wedding some Latin invitations include the full bridal court as well. "Godparents" or "Padrinos" often share in some costs and their names are included as an honor and courtesy to their participation. And, who pays for what? Traditionally the bride’s family pays for the wedding reception in most cultures. However, with older couples things can vary. Sometimes they pay for their own reception. Generally speaking the bride's family provides all details for the wedding reception, and the groom's family hosts a rehearsal dinner, and pays for corsages and boutonnières.

4. Who to invite or sit, and where? According to The Knot, divorces and step-families pose a whole new dynamic for today's bride and grooms. Who gives the bride away? Where to sit the divorced parents in church, etc? As The Knot recommends, show courtesy to all. Let yourself be guided by common sense. How would you feel? Usually biological parents whom were always there to raise their child to age 18 get first dibs, because they are owed that respect and gratitude. Be kind. Sit divorced parents far apart. Mother of the groom gets first pew in church… father of the bride gives her away, unless the bride and groom are not close to them. First dance is for the couple, next is bride and father, up next mother of the groom and groom.

5. The "dreaded" bridesmaid dress:  This is always an issue. The price, the color, the style. In the end the bride can select the color and style, but if her very best friend can't afford it, then a decision should be made whether to help her pay for it or select another dress everyone agrees on. Most bridesmaids don't know what to say or do. So be gentle, be kind. Remember, the people of the "inner court" are supposed to be there for you throughout your married life.  The experts at The Knot suggest you discuss it, and let bridesmaids have some say. Maybe with the dress model number they can order it from a different website, or maybe she can have a personal seamstress make it for less? After all, the only wardrobe the bride gets to decide is her wedding dress and her bridesmaid's dresses (and children in the court), with some input on the tuxes. Therefore she should have the last word on that. In the end, a wedding is a celebration of love. We do what we can to make it beautiful, but "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".


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