Wedding Etiquette & Tips

It’s the 21st century and rules certainly have relaxed from that of our grandparents and great-grandparents. However, some things such as good taste and manners never go out of style. Experience is still the best teacher so we would like to pass along some of our acquired knowledge to you.

Some classic wedding “courtesies” are still in place and some new, modern ones have come to light as we’ve traveled through our collective wedding experiences. Please share this knowledge with your wedding party, family and friends. As you read on, we hope you will find a helpful tip or two from our collection.

Response Cards

Return response cards in a timely manner even if you do not plan to attend. Couples must give their caterer an accurate guest count and they need the response cards to do so. Do not assume that your children, a date, or visiting relatives are automatically invited if their names do not appear on the invitation. Many venues, not to mention budgets, are not large enough to accommodate unlimited numbers of guests. If you are unable to attend the wedding, it is customary to still send a wedding gift.

Dress Appropriately

If the ceremony will be held in a church, guests may not be able to wear sun dresses, short skirts, shorts, and other revealing or casual attire, including baseball caps. Do not wear caps, jeans, or shorts to any wedding except a very informal outdoor gathering.

Invite Your Officiant

By custom, you invite your officiant to your rehearsal dinner as a guest. You also invite the officiant and his or her spouse to your reception with a formal invitation, just like other guests. Unless the officiant is an old family friend, he or she may decline to stay, but an invitation is proper. You aren’t expected to invite the officiant’s children

Be On Time

If you receive a wedding invitation that says the ceremony begins at 3pm, please arrive about 10-15 minutes before the start of the ceremony. It’s considered poor manners to arrive after the ceremony has begun. However, better late than never. If you do arrive late, please take care. Just opening the door to the church or other venue can interrupt and ruin photos during the processional. If the processional is underway, retreat and avoid the temptation to watch while peeking through a crack in the doorway – your late arrival will be captured forever on the wedding photos and video! Once the processional is complete, enter as quietly as possible and remember to find a seat using the side aisles, not via the main aisle. If you’re cautious enough, the bride and groom may not even realize you arrived late!

Turn Off Your Cell Phone

It goes without saying that a wedding ceremony is to be taken with all seriousness and is a sacred event. A cell phone ringing (especially with the choices of ringers out there today!) or other electronic device going off during the ceremony detracts greatly from the atmosphere surrounding such a special event. Please remember to silence these devices upon arriving at the ceremony.

Reserved Seating

Reserved seats are for immediate family and other VIP’s. Generally the front three rows of seats are reserved depending on size of immediate family and the number of out-of-town guests the couple is expecting. Use bows, decorations or in some other manner rope off and mark the seats that are reserved. Let your ushers know who will be sitting in those reserved sections. For a very special touch, you can enclose “Within the Ribbon” cards with the invitations to your VIP guests. Have these guests bring their card and show it to the usher at your ceremony.

Bride’s side, Groom’s side

The left side of the church or other venue (facing the altar) is typically the Bride’s side and the right side belongs to the Groom, opposite if you’re having a Jewish wedding. Many couples forgo this old custom and allow their ushers to seat guests wherever they would like. This works out well for the guests, as they can sit near people they know no matter what side they may be on. It also often works out well to balance the amount of people sitting on either side, as people tend to “fill gaps” instinctively. Remember to instruct the ushers to observe the Bride’s side-left, Groom’s side-right custom while seating VIP’s in the reserved section at the front of the church.

Bride On Left

The bride traditionally walks on her father’s left side as they proceed down the aisle however, again, things can be altered to fit circumstances. If the bride has a large train, she may elect to walk on her father’s right side. That way her father doesn’t have to step around her train to take his seat. This also places the bride face to face with her groom as she approaches the altar, as the grooms side is the right side.

When to Stand

At most ceremonies, the guests stand when the bride enters. Take your cue from the mother of the bride or from the officiant. Remain standing until the officiant asks you to be seated.

When to Sit

When the ceremony ends, remain in your seat until the ushers dismiss you, or if there are no ushers, until the mothers of the bride and groom have been escorted out. Allow family members of the bride and groom, who will be seated near the front, to exit first.

Bringing Children

If you bring children, keep them under control. If they become disruptive during the ceremony, take them out. Many churches have a cry room with a window and sound where you can still observe the ceremony. During the reception, don’t allow the children to run wild. Don’t expect the photographer, coordinator, or DJ to supervise them for you. If your children cause damage, be prepared to pay for it. Otherwise, the bride and groom will be held responsible and friendships could be ruined.

On Drinking

While a wedding is a time to enjoy your self, no one appreciates a drunken guest embarrassing themselves. . You are there to celebrate with the newlyweds, not embarrass yourself and them. Drink alcohol in moderation.


The wedding day is the bride and groom’s special day. If each guest displays courtesy and thoughtfulness, the day will be a smooth and enjoyable experience for everyone in attendance.

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