Wedding Information: Traditional Etiquette

If you're interested in a traditional wedding but aren't sure of the proper etiquette, here are some tips for those getting married and their guests.

Weddings are joyous occasions, rich with traditions passed down from generations. Lately, many couples have decided to stray from tradition and hold a wedding where the customary roles don't apply. Other couples embrace tradition but get confused by the rules and the roles.

The Engagement - The first people who should receive the happy news are the parents of the bride and groom. This can either be done individually, with each person telling his or her own parents, or as a couple. The only exception to this is if one of the betrothed has any children. Children should be told before parents or anyone else so as not to receive the news second hand. Once parents and children have been informed, the couple may tell anyone else they so desire. This can be done via formal engagement announcements or via email, over the phone or in person. It doesn't make a difference. The parents of the bride may also submit an engagement notice to the newspaper at this time if they're so inclined.

Planning - Once the engagement has been announced, the planning must begin. This is where it gets tricky. There are so many things to do, and so many expenses, it's difficult to make sure no one's toes are stepped on. When it comes to paying wedding expenses, different family members have different responsibilities.

The bride pays for her gift to the groom, gifts to her wedding party, the groom's wedding band and accommodations for any bridal party members who are arriving from out of town.

The groom pays for his gift to the bride, the bride's engagement ring and wedding band, accommodations for any groomsmen who will be arriving from out of town, gifts for his groomsmen, the clergy, the bride's flowers and going away corsage, corsages for the mothers, grandmothers and any other "special" women, boutonnieres for himself and the best man, the limousine, and last but not least, the honeymoon. The groom's parents have their expenses to pay as well. They handle the rehearsal dinner, a gift for the happy couple, wedding favors and their own attire.

The parents of the bride bear the bulk of the expenses. They pay for almost everything else including, the brides gown, veil and accessories, the wedding flowers (with the exception of the flowers the groom will be paying for.) their own attire, the reception, the photographer, videographer, band or disc jockey, invitations and thank you cards and a gift for the bride and groom. Members of the wedding party purchase their own clothes and accessories as well as paying for a bridal shower and bachelor party.

The wedding party - The members of the wedding party are special people in the bride and groom's lives and they have been chosen to be a part of the joyous occasion. Their roles are simple, but important:

The groomsmen - Help with the bachelor party, seat the wedding guests and decorate the wedding getaway vehicle.

The best man -Plans the bachelor party, arranges the groom's transportation to and from the wedding and makes sure the groom gets to the church on time, holds the bride's ring, the marriage license and the fee for the clergy, acts as a witness to the wedding, toasts the happy couple and returns the groom's tuxedo.

The bridesmaids - Assist with the showers and invitations, help decorate the wedding getaway vehicle and mingle with the guests at the reception.

The maid/matron of honor - Plans the bridal shower, assists with invitations, helps the bride dress for the wedding, holds the bride's bouquet during the ceremony, acts as a witness to the wedding, and takes the bride's dress to the dry cleaner.

The guest list - You can't properly decide how many guests to invite until you've decided how much money you will be spending.Once you decide on a budget, it will be easier to know whom to invite. First on your list should be immediate and other family members. Be sure to include any cousins or aunts and uncles who might be hurt if not included. Once family is taken care of, special friends of the bride and groom should be added. Only after the special people are on the guest list should friends of the parents, acquaintances or co-workers be invited. If you do want to invite co-workers, remember that you can't always invite everyone. Make sure other people with whom you work won't feel snubbed because they weren't chosen to attend. This can make for an uncomfortable working environment.

Gift registry - Originally, a couple registered to receive gifts of china, silver and household items they might need for their new home and life together. Nowadays, folks usually live on their own for a while before they are married.Still, registries are a good way to find out what the couple needs. You are under no obligation, however, to purchase any item on a gift registry. Word of mouth is proper when informing others of registry information. It is never good etiquette to put this information in a wedding invitation.

The shower - The wedding shower is usually held in the last month or two before the wedding.Traditionally, the bridal party will host the shower, but they are under no obligation. A close friend or relative who's not in the wedding can also host this event. It's not proper etiquette for either the parents of the bride or groom to hold the shower, however. The shower guests should also be wedding guests. It's very bad taste to invite someone to a shower, where a gift is required, but not invite her to the wedding.

Invitations - Wedding invitations are traditionally sent out six to eight weeks prior to the glorious event to everyone on the guest list. If the parents of the bride will be paying for the wedding, the invitation should be worded as such:

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith

Request the honor of your presence

at the wedding of their daughter

Any responses or RSVP's should be sent to the home of the bride's parents who should have provided postage-paid return envelope for this purpose. If the bride and groom are paying for the wedding, they can request the honor of a guest's presence rather than their parents. The response cards can be sent to the bride in this case.

The rehearsal dinner - It is customary to hold the rehearsal dinner on the night before the wedding, just after the wedding rehearsal. The parents of the groom traditionally host this event. The guest list, in most cases, includes the bride and groom, the members of the wedding party and their spouses or guests, the parents of the betrothed and immediate family members. It is also customary to include the clergy person and any out-of-town guests. The rehearsal dinner can be held at a banquet hall, a restaurant or in a private home. This is all at the discretion of the groom's parents. It's customary for the groom's father to toast the couple and for the bride and groom to pass out gifts to the members of their wedding party.

The Ceremony - It is the job of the ushers to show the guests to their seats. Guests of the bride will sit on the left and guests of the groom will sit on the right. Immediate family and those closest to the bride and groom will occupy the front couple of rows. After that, guests are seated on a first come, first served basis.When the wedding is about to begin, the groom's mother is escorted to her seat by one of the ushers, while the groom's father follows behind. The bride's mother is escorted down the aisle and seated last, signaling that the wedding is to begin. No one is to be seated after the mother of the bride.The order of the processional varies depending on the church; traditionally, the ushers will walk down the aisle followed by the bridesmaids with the maid of honor walking down the aisle last, just before the bride. When all of the attendants are in their designated places, the bride will walk down the aisle on the arm of her father.

Receiving Line - Traditionally, once the ceremony ends, the bride and groom, their parents and the attendants may stand in a receiving line to greet their guests who would like to offer their congratulations to the newlyweds.

Reception - In most cases, the reception follows an hour or two after the wedding. A certain amount of time should be allotted between the two events in order to give the bride and groom ample time to get the wedding photography out of the way, but also to give guests a chance to rest a bit and drive to the reception location.In many cases, a cocktail hour is provided so guests have something to keep them occupied while waiting for the newly married couple to arrive.

To open the reception, the Master of Ceremonies (usually the band leader or disc jockey) will ask all the guests to be seated while he introduces the wedding party, the bride and groom. The traditional order of announcements is as follows: Parents of the bride, parents of the groom, attendants, maid of honor and best man, bride and groom. There are no firm rules as to what comes next. Included in the reception is usually a toast from the best man, the bridal dance, father and daughter dance, throwing of the bride's bouquet, throwing of the groom's garter and cutting the wedding cake. They are to be done in no particular order and each event is optional.

When it's time for the reception to end, the bride will change into a going-away outfit and the couple will say their good-byes. From there, they will either embark on their honeymoon or to a hotel close to the airport if they'll be departing the next day. Getting married is overwhelming enough without knowing proper protocol. While every wedding is different, it's nice to have a few traditional rules to follow.

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