Wedding etiquette

N-etiquette rose There are many etiquette sites on the web for wedding etiquette.  As different families, different cultures, different traditions and expectations must be brought together in harmony for a marriage to thrive and the partnership flourish, it is best to approach these challenges right at the start in a well thought out and non-emotional manner.  If the traditions and expectations of the two families cannot be reconciled, give serious thought to beginning a new tradition with this marriage - but always be conservative in such an endeavor. 


Gift Registry | The Meaning of Flower Colors | Reception Gift Table | Reception Toasts | Rituals History | Wedding Favors Invitations

Wedding etiquette is unique - from the giving of engagement rings, to choosing gifts for the wedding party, to the proper guest attire, there are precedents and acceptable customs.

Many brides (and grooms) are now choosing the newer option of having a wedding website.  This is not only acceptable, it is thoughtful of guests who may avail themselves of the many online options, such as being able to respond (R.S.V.P) online and having a printable map (with travel times) from their house to the wedding location and the reception location, and of having access to photos of the happy couple in a timely fashion. 

Gift Registry

It is important to remember that choosing a gift registry is for the convenience of guests who might be inclined to give a gift for momentous occasions such as weddings of those they love.  No one is under any obligation to give a gift to the bride and groom.  While it has become customary to present the happy couple with a gift - particularly when one is invited to the wedding - there is no quid pro quo, acknowledged or otherwise, in polite society.  A wedding invitation is an invitation to share the bridal couple's joy in a momentous occasion.  A gift is a heartfelt tribute and contribution to the joyful new life in marriage.

This will explain some of the more stringent rules regarding gift registries:

Gifts for the Wedding Party

Traditionally, the bride gives gifts to her maid of honor and bridesmaid (also flower girl if there is one) and the groom gives a gift to his best man and ushers (also ring bearer if there is one). Gifts are to be presented at the church, while dressing for the wedding.  These gifts are not only mementoes of the day, they are a small token of the esteem of the bride and groom for those dear enough to be invited to be in the wedding party.  As such, they need not be expensive, but they do need to be personalized keepsakes.

The Meaning of Flower Colors

Red:                   Romantic Love
I Love You
Job Well Done

White:                   Youthfulness
Spiritual & True Love
Keep A Secret
I Am Worthy Of You

Yellow:                              Joy
Welcome Back
Remember Me

Pink:                         Gentleness
Perfect Happiness
Please Believe Me

Peach:        Closing of the Deal
Let's Get Together

Pink / Peach:               Gratitude

Red / White:                  Unity

Two Roses joined together: Engagement

Whether you choose to go with FTD flowers delivery services, or to use any other professional florists, do send the arrangement ahead of time.  This courtesy gives the host/hostess a chance to display the arrangement. Include a simple note with your flowers; stating your sentiment will help avoid any misunderstanding on the purpose of the arrangement. Flowers are a wonderful expression of joy, love, and happiness.

Reception Gift Table

It was a lovely custom to have gifts delivered to the bride prior to the wedding.  If you can do so, it is still extremely appreciated by the wedding party (who must hurriedly cart them out after the reception and store them during the honeymoon for the happy couple).  It is particularly easy to do so when ordering the wedding gift online.  You may have the gift delivered directly to the happy couple.  Bringing a wedding gift to the reception is acceptable, however.  An out-of the-way yet secure location must be chosen to place a table for the repose of these gifts during the reception.  They are not to be opened at the reception.

Reception Toasts

I have known many,
Liked not a few,
Loved only one.
My toast to you.
          -Irish Toast
Were't the last drop in the well,
An I gasp'd upon the brink
Ere my fainting spirit fell,
'Tis to thee that I would drink.
     -Lord Byron
To my mother-in-law's daughter
And her father-in-law's son;
To the vows we've taken,
And the life we've begun.
May you have warm words on a cold evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill
All the way to your door.
May the love you share forever be as beautiful as the bride is today. To health, wealth, love and the time to enjoy them.
        - Spanish Toast

SPECIAL NOTE:  It is tacky to smear cake and icing on someone.  It is particularly common to smear someone's face with it.  There is no excuse for beginning married life with wedding cake smeared on one like a clown.

Rituals History

Attendants - originally were dressed in identical clothing to confuse envious spirits who might want to do mischief to the wedding couple.

Best Man - originally, when a bride was carried off by force, the best warrior was chosen to cover the line of escape and ward off the bride's family.

Boutonniere - the groom's flower on his lapel is supposed to come from the bridal bouquet.  This refers back to a knight wearing his lady's colors.

Honeymoon - was a hide-out time.  It gave angry in-laws time to cool off.

Wedding rings - worn on the fourth finger of the left hand; the ancient Egyptians believed that a "love vein" ran from this finger directly to the heart.

Wedding rings - circles are symbols of eternity from prehistoric times.

Wedding Favors

Any simple, inexpensive yet lovely and useful item may be made as a keepsake of the wedding.  The wedding colors should be used and as much of the theme as possible.  Some ideas:

Place dried flowers in clear glass ornament balls.  Tie a bow on top.  Ribbon may have the date and the couple's name written in silver or gold.

Bookmarks with the date and the couple's name written in silver or gold - a verse may be added.

Tiny boxes covered with gold or silver foils and wrapped with ribbon  or champagne glasses may contain mints - or personalized Hershey Kisses.


Contrary to popular opinion, weddings do not have to be stage productions involving limousines, tuxedos, and ballroom costumes.

The most important part of a wedding is the solemnization of vows of loving partnership between the happy couple.  A wedding may very properly be informal, joyous, and light, as long as the dignity of the ceremony is preserved.  Invitations may be as formal or informal as the ceremony and reception are planned to be.  Many excellent choices of wedding invitations may be found online. A wedding invitation is an invitation to share the bridal couple's joy.

If a formal ceremony is planned, however, the invitations must be done correctly:

Find 6 things wrong with this invitation: Answers:


Mr. And Mrs. John and Jane Doe
Request the honor of your presence
At the marriage of their daughter
Janie (Sissy) Doe
Galvin I. Joe
On Sunday, April 3rd, 2002
At eleven in the morning
At Saint Peters Church
101 Maple Ave.
Hometown, WV 26456


 Use of first names and titles incorrect
 Honor spelled the modern way
 First letter of each line capitalized
 Redundant use of bride's last name
 Should be "t"
 Incorrect date format
 Overuse of "at"
 Abbreviation of address
 Zip code not needed

Generally, the double invitation envelopes are for the more formal occasions.  They will be printed, possibly engraved, invitations:

The inside envelope should be addressed as though it were to be delivered by your footman. Just kidding, but originally, this is how mail was delivered. By a servant or a friend or a member of your household who would make a personal delivery for you. So this envelope is addressed fairly formally - names only - no address.

Mr. and Mrs. Doe (Please Note: no first name is used here)

The names of children to be invited would be listed below this in age order.

Mr. and Mrs. Doe
(Please Note: No nicknames are used for the children)
If this is an extremely formal occasion, a child over the age of 18, who is to be invited, must receive a separate invitation, whether they still live at home or not. If it is not extremely formal, they may be included as long as they live at home

These inner envelopes are left unsealed, as a matter of courtesy. This tradition also flows from the time of personal delivery. To ask someone to deliver an envelope for you and then seal it, would have been a grievous insult to their integrity.

These inner envelopes should be hand addressed. Use your best handwriting. If you have learned calligraphy, this is the time to use it. :)

As postal service became common, these unsealed envelopes were inserted into larger envelopes that could be sealed. This was generally done by a social secretary or another member of the staff.

Outer envelopes were generally addressed by staff, not the person issuing the invitation. Consequently, addresses on these envelopes may be typed or printed.

Names on the outer envelopes must include full names and / or titles. Do not use initials. It is unnecessary, and, in fact, is poor etiquette, to write the common "and family" on the outside envelope. The inner envelope will give them that information.

Everything on this envelope is spelled out formally and correctly. Even in the address, there should be no abbreviations or shortcuts. i.e. "Apartment Number 7" not #7, "West Boulevard Terrace Place" not "W. Blvd Terr. Pl.", and, the Post Office will not like this<G>, but states should be spelled out: "Arizona" not "AZ".

So, you see, you do not have to know the husband of your co-worker. "Mr. and Mrs. Jeremiah Brown" on the outside envelope and "Mr. and Mrs. Brown" on the inside will never reveal that you do not know if he is called Jerry, Jemmy, or J.B.

Now, what you will have to find out is if there are any titles. What does he do for a living? If he is a doctor, for example, it would be "Doctor and Mrs. Jeremiah Brown" or if she is, then it would be "Mr. and Doctor Jeremiah Brown" As silly as it looks, if they both are, then it would be "Doctor and Doctor Jeremiah Brown" unless she uses a different professional name, in which case it would be separate lines, such as:

"Doctor Jenifer Bakely" or "Jenifer Bakely, M.D."
"Doctor Jeremiah Brown" or "Jeremiah Brown, M.D."

An unmarried couple, residing at the same address may be sent a single invitation. Place the names on separate lines in alphabetic order if they are the same sex, or lady's name first if not.

Miss (Ms.) Roberta Trent
Mr. Robert Williamson

You may also do this for a married couple, if the wife has kept her maiden name or if the professional titles are awkward otherwise. Note: Do not use the word "and" if the names are going on separate lines.

Divorced women may be addressed formally by their maiden name and married name or by their first and married name, as in "Mrs. Bakely Brown" or "Mrs. Jenifer Brown".

A widow is entitled to use her late husband's first name as in "Mrs. Jeremiah Brown".

Titles and honorifics are a very broad subject. Generally when addressing correspondence, the person with the higher title would be listed first. Yes, this is why traditionally men are listed first (Mr. and Mrs.). It was considered that maleness itself was a higher title than femaleness. "The Reverend Doctor Jenifer Bakely and Mr. Jeremiah Brown," would be correct.

If there will be dignitaries invited, such as the Governor, Bishop, President, etc., these titles should be checked and double checked. The military has its own protocol also. (I recall as a child, calling a lieutenant Colonel "Lieutenant". My mother was horrified and sent me to bed<G>  She asked later if I intended to call Rear Admirals "Rear". LOL A lesson well learned.)

{Please note:  With postage escalating at an alarming pace, the newest option of a wedding website, such as available at, becomes not only more convenient, but more affordable.  The postage on the R.S.V.P. envelopes alone is frequently, and unfortunately, a waste.)

Mailing:  One final word on formal invitations. Please take them to the post office for mailing and have one weighed so that your postage amount is acceptable. Choose stamps that do not have cartoon characters or other inappropriate subject matter. Never send formal invitations with the postage strip from the office or the post office.

See Also:

Baby  or Bridal Shower  Etiquette Internet Forum Etiquette
Birthday Party Etiquette Internet List / Group Etiquette
Business Etiquette Other Opinions
Cemetery Etiquette Personal Etiquette
E-mail Etiquette Website Etiquette


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