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Wedding Etiquette: How to keep up on changing wedding trends in the 21st century

Updated on August 11, 2009

Wedding Etiquette

Have you ever been to that wedding where there were people dressed in clashing outfits? Or how about the reception where the drunk relative was an embarassment to himself?

Are you planning a wedding yourself and would like to know the ins and outs of wedding etiquette? Or do you just want to know the unspoken rules of a formal wedding for when you attend?

There's no doubt about it- today's wedding etiquette has rapidly evolved from previous years. There are still, however, many things about today's weddings that have been traditionally handed down over the years.

Sorting between the two can make a difference in the enjoyment of the wedding you attend or the wedding you will plan!

Wedding Etiquette Defined

Wedding etiquette is a vague term that could be taken many ways, so let's attempt to define it.

Since a wedding has traditionally been a formal event, there have always been rules or expectations for guests, participants and others involved. Think of a wedding as a black tie event or a formal business meeting. Certainly in these situations one needs to carefully determine which sorts of behaviors are acceptable and which should be avoided.

Put simply, wedding etiquette is the socially acceptable dos and donts for the event.

Common Wedding Etiquette Questions

Probably one of the most common questions is who pays for what in the wedding. There are a ton of expenses to consider for a wedding (and other things related to a wedding), such as:

  • Wedding invitations and announcements
  • Bridal party attire
  • Church rental (or similar)
  • Floral arrangements
  • Reception (food, location rental, catering, etc)
  • Honeymoon

There are also many things to consider when choosing wedding attire, including:

  • Wedding gown options
  • Color scheme
  • Accessories of bridal party
  • Reception outfits (if different)

Other commonly asked etiquette questions include:

  • How do I properly word my wedding invitations?
  • Who should I invite to my wedding?
  • Who should be in my wedding party?
  • What should I do with everyone who doesn't get invited but still know us fairly well?
  • Is it tacky to ask for money instead of gifts?
  • What role does the wedding party play?
  • Which wedding themes are acceptable? Which are not?

Answers to these questions will follow in hubs to come. In the mean time, take a look at this article on specific wedding trends that today's weddings are making. And remember, even if you don't know about them, there are unspoken rules and behaviors for weddings today. Keep up with them so you don't get left behind.

Wedding etiquette says this is a more acceptable pose at a destination (beach) wedding.
Wedding etiquette says this is a more acceptable pose at a destination (beach) wedding.


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    • Shannon Paigah profile image

      Shannon Paigah 5 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Great hub! Very informative, thanks!!

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California

      Hello! Thanks for the Hub. I wanted to ask about gifts - my guy and I were looking at the "Honeyfund" concept where guests contribute to a trip/vacation instead of buying gifts. Is that tacky?

    • WeddingConsultant profile image

      WeddingConsultant 9 years ago from DC Metro Area

      haha wedcon sounds devious, but I've been called worse :)

      As to your question, regardless of whether or not it's a destination wedding, gift-giving etiquette is the same. So whether or not you give a gift is up to you (and often based on your relationship to the bride/groom, what you can afford, etc).

      If you can't attend the wedding, the best thing to do would be to mail a gift to the house of the bride before they leave for the destination wedding.

      And the cost of college is pretty high these days, so it's a toss up as to which is more expensive (college vs. wedding). Luckily, you get to pay for both since you have daughters :)

      You're right that the economy is having it's effect on weddings. There's no doubt in my mind that couples are looking for more cost-effective weddings. But that is a topic for another hub...

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 9 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Hey WC... hmmm.   WedCon sounds better, eh?  Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.  Kids home, etc.  Yes, I have two daughters... could this be more expensive than college?  Cringe... Anyway, I was asking what I do if I am invited to a Destination wedding and cannot attend?  Do I send a gift?  I assume the answer is yes, as I probably wouldn't be invited to such a wedding if I am not close to the bride or groom.  Actually, I probably could only afford the gift IF I didn't attend, haha.  How is the economic situation affecting weddings this year?  Any clue at this moment?  That could make for an interesting hub.  Thanks!

    • WeddingConsultant profile image

      WeddingConsultant 9 years ago from DC Metro Area

      Hi Storytellersrus, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Yes, destination weddings are becoming more and more popular these days. It's good and it's bad at the same time- beautiful location but less guests attend. Personally, I think this trend is here to stay as more and more couples seem to be doing it. There will always be the "standard" weddings locally, though, as the destination weddings are often quite costly!

      Unfortunately this might mean more costs for YOU since you say you have two daughters approaching that time in their lives :)

      As far as gifts are concerned, are you asking whether it's expected that you give a gift even though you can't attend the wedding (and even though you received an invitation)? Or are you asking something totally different and I'm just not understanding correctly?

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 9 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Yes, I checked your website- didn't notice it the first read- and there it is, destination weddings. Again, what do you recommend? Are you actually a wedding planner? I have awhile, as there are no young men in sight. But my nieces keep me up on things and they both have boyfriends. Less guests could be a good thing, lol. What about gifts if you aren't able to attend but receive an invitation? Is it the same as traditional wedding etiquette in that respect?

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 9 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Hey Weddingplanner, I have been paying a tad of attention to this, as I have two daughters approaching that hyper time in their lives, haha. I read that the new thing is destination weddings, trading etiquette for adventure and even relaxation. That idea appeals to me, considering the witch I was at my wedding- way too many family expectations but, who knew? What do you think of this trend?