The P’s and Q’s of Your Perfect Day: Understanding Wedding Etiquette
As you plan your wedding, you might be asking yourself some big questions like, “Who should pay for everything?” or “What is the proper order of the ceremony?” These questions all have to do with wedding etiquette. Below, a wedding planner helps couples sort out some of the four most common topics.
It is no surprise that most weddings cost a pretty penny these days, but traditionally—who should pay? Not only are there venue expenses, you must also consider attire, food, flowers, decorations and gifts. Knowing the proper etiquette can alleviate unnecessary stress and potential conflicts.
“The bride’s family typically pays for the wedding,” said Connie Amos-Parsons, owner and CEO of At Your Service Events Planner. “The groom’s parents pay for the rehearsal dinner, and if the bride’s parents are not able to pay for the entire wedding, then sometimes if the bride and groom are both working full-time, they offset it by helping out with some of the costs.”
To prevent strain for both families, budgeting is essential.
“That’s the most important thing for the bride and groom to discuss,” Amos-Parsons said.
Without a budget, planning can become very stressful. She recommends that the bride, groom and the bride’s parents sit down and discuss the budget prior to starting the planning process.
“To try to wing a wedding without a budget is a recipe for stress,” she said.
Jenny Cardinale, who is planning her wedding for May 2017, said her parents are helping with the wedding costs, and her fiancé’s parents are paying for the rehearsal dinner. However, she is covering the cost of specific things she wants.
“Photography is very important to me, so I want to get a good photographer,” Cardinale said. “I’m going to be paying for that myself, and there are a couple other things that are important to me that I’ll pay for myself because it’s something more that I want versus the normal wedding cost.”
Also, typically, the groomsmen, best man, bridesmaids and maid of honor, will pay for their own attire.
“Sometimes the bride will treat the bridesmaids and maid of honor to hair and makeup,” Amos-Parsons said.
Psst! See our budget checklist on page 48 to stay on track financially.
“The proper thing to do is to give gifts to your bridal party and your groomsmen,” Amos-Parson said.
The groom should purchase gifts for all the groomsmen and best man, and the bride is expected to purchase gifts for the bridesmaids and the maid or matron of honor.
“If she wants to, sometimes they buy for the mother of the bride and groom as an extra touch, and then they present it to them usually at the rehearsal dinner,” Amos-Parsons said. If the budget allows, some brides and grooms will also give gifts to others who are involved with the wedding.
“You can give a tip to the vendors if they provide excellent service,” she said. The appropriate time to give a tip is at the end of the wedding.
The Alcohol Debate
The average bride is not required or expected to have an open bar due to the high cost. It is more common for brides in this range to provide two or three drinks per person at the reception. The high-end bride, having a wedding that is budgeted at $30,000 and up, will most likely offer an open bar with a variety of alcohol.
“The way that some of the brides are going now, the brides that are on a budget, they will have beer and wine,” she said. By providing a red and white wine, and two or three different types of beer, alcohol can be provided to guests and still fit into a budget. However, offering any alcohol will drive costs up significantly.
“Alcohol is expensive,” Amos-Parsons said. “If they decide to have an open bar, that would probably add…10 percent to the reception, at least.” You’re not only paying for the alcohol itself but also for the bartenders. If you choose not to have alcohol, whether for financial reasons or personal reasons, there is always the option of serving a “sparkling” beverage as an alternative for the toast.
Amos-Parsons said that watching reality TV and weddings on TV is not necessarily a good thing, as it does not always portray traditional and proper wedding etiquette.
“There are several different ways you can practice going down the aisle for rehearsal, but the bride is supposed to be traditionally on the right, not the left,” she said. “I see it (incorrectly) all the time on TV, on the reality shows, and even soap operas.” Placing the bride on the right symbolizes a place of honor.
“Proper etiquette would be for the bridesmaids to go down by themselves, starting with the tallest one on the end, and then going inward until you get to the maid of honor,” Amos-Parsons said.
If the bride has a matron of honor, she walks before the maid of honor, keeping the maid of honor closest to the bride so she can hold her bouquet. A junior bridesmaid should stand next to the maid of honor, and the flower girls stand slightly in front of the maid of honor. The groomsmen can either enter down the outside aisle or from another room, coming in with the groom, best man and the officiant.
“It looks better and not as crowded for the bridesmaids to go down alone,” Amos-Parsons said.
This traditional method symbolizes singleness as each bridesmaid and the bride walk down the aisle. At the end of the ceremony, each groomsmen escorts a bridesmaid down the aisle, symbolizing unity.
“There are definitely some traditional aspects that I think everyone should have at their wedding, but I think that there’s a certain amount of uniqueness and creativity that you can have based on the couple,” Cardinale said.
By Megan L. House