Etiquette for Weddings
Weddings are one area of etiquette in which we observe much of the same ritual and traditions today as did generations past. Perhaps it’s overly sentimental, but for me, it was important to have a ceremony that paid tribute to some of these rules. Doing so helped me feel connected to family that I could never meet through the shared, holy experience of a wedding ceremony. One of my favorite etiquette resources, written in the early 20th century, shares some of these considerations (some of which I observed and others I did not) as they pertain to some of the do’s and don’ts of the wedding ceremony.
“But happy they, the happiest of their kind! Whom gentle share unite, and in one fate their hearts, their fortunes, and their beings blend.” — Monson
The bride’s family should bear all the expenses. This means: invitations, announcement cards, trousseau, decorations for the home or church, wedding reception, and carriages.
The groom pays for the marriage license, the preacher’s fee, the bridal bouquet, the flowers for the bridesmaids, and the boutonnières for the ushers. If the church is opened for the rehearsal, he tips the sexton. He pays for the conveyance that takes him and the bride from the church to the railway station. He also pays for the wedding trip and for furnishing the home. However, the bride is expected to bring household linen.
The bride usually wears white, no matter what time of day the wedding takes place. If at high noon or in the evening, a veil is usually worn, at other hours a hat. At a simple day wedding a traveling dress, or afternoon dress with hat in harmony is correct. The bride’s flowers are usually white, preferably a shower bouquet. With an afternoon gown, she may carry colored flowers.
For the wedding that takes place before six o’clock the groom and his best man should wear the cutaway or morning coat of black with gray-striped trousers, and black waistcoat. His tie may be a four-in-hand of black silk with a narrow white stripe or of gray silk. Gray suede gloves are usually worn. Black socks and shoes complete the costume.
The ushers wear practically the same costume as the groom and best man. It is very important that the ushers be dressed just alike and attention should be paid to the smallest details, such as collars, cuffs and shirts.
For the evening wedding full evening dress is the universal rule.
The costumes of the bridesmaids are usually exactly alike, unless a pastel or rainbow wedding is arranged. The maid of honor is gowned differently from the bridesmaids, usually in contrasting colors. The bride decides on the color of these costumes even to slippers and stockings. The expense of these costumes is born entirely by the maids themselves. It is customary for the bride to give her bridesmaids some very attractive present. The number of maids varies from four to eight.
The ushers seat the various guests in church, offering the ladies their left arm as they conduct them up the aisle. The first two pews of the church are generally reserved for the families of the bride and groom.
For the ceremony, there may be soft music by a soloist, the choir, or the organ, while the clergyman, followed by the bride, groom, best man, and maid of honor, slowly ascend to the altar. Arrived there the minister turns and faces the bridal couple. At this point the bride hands her bouquet to the maid of honor who is standing to her left just behind her.
The best man produces the ring and at the proper time hands it to the groom, who passes it to the bride who in turn hands it to the clergyman. He, according to some rituals, blesses it before handing it back to the groom. The ring is slipped on the fourth finger of the bride’s left hand. The bride should see that the engagement ring, which has been worn on this finger, has been moved to the same finger on the right hand prior to the ceremony. The ring finger and ring hand should be bare.
At the conclusion of the ceremony… the bridal couple are followed by the maid of honor. She may leave with the best man or alone, the best man following the minister to the vestry where he hands him the wedding fee. In leaving the altar, the bridesmaids sometimes leave with the ushers… or two by two as they entered, followed by the ushers who, as soon as the church door has been reached, may return to escort all the ladies who were in the first pews.
It is bad form for the guests to crowd out of the church before all those seated within the ribbons have departed.
Wedding presents are always sent to the bride, even though the person sending them is a personal friend of the groom. As soon as the presents are received, the bride should enter them at once in her gift book, or on a list. Notes of thanks should be sincere, and written without delay. The bride may thank her friends in person for their gifts, but this does not excuse her from writing a note of thanks in addition. And in no case should the bride let more than two weeks after the wedding elapse without acknowledging every gift received.
At the end of the wedding reception it is customary for the bride to throw her bouquet to the group of bridesmaids. The one catching it will be the first to be married, so they say.
What tradition or custom was important to you for your wedding ceremony?
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