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Old School Wedding Etiquette: From Outdated Advice to Timeless Tips

Which rules still ring true—and the ones that don't.

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Photography by: Tec Petaja

Emily Post's first book about American manners and etiquette was published in 1922 under the title Etiquette and is now on its 18th edition, written by the original author's great-great-grandchildren. This go-to guide to all forms of social, business, and wedding decorum has produced some real cornerstones of etiquette advice that have been passed on from one generation to the next. While each edition is a genuine reflection of its publication date, there are a few tidbits of advice that have stood the test of time. And yet, there are some passages that are downright laughable by today's standards.

 

Old School: The Hope Chest

Traditionally, this collection would've been accrued by a mother over her daughter's lifetime. The most recent iteration of this would be a cedar chest filled with bed linens, towels, tablecloths, monogrammed handkerchiefs, etc., all to be handed over to the bride as a wedding gift. Though even this version is a bit outdated, as most brides register for those items now.

 

In the original 1922 version of Emily Post's book, she recommends "her mother buys her, as lavishly as she can, and of the prettiest possible assortment of lace-trimmed lingerie, tea gowns, bed sacques and caps, whatever may be thought to be especially becoming." This in particular probably wouldn't fly in the 21st century, but it's pretty hilarious to think about your mom stuck in Victoria's Secret trying to figure out what a bed sacque is!

 

Still Great Advice: Introduce the parents before the wedding

In Elizabeth L. Post's 14th Edition of Etiquette (1984), she explains that the tradition of a groom's family "calling on" a bride's parents may be outdated in terminology, but the concept is a nice one to uphold. Either before or after becoming engaged, it's a lovely gesture to get both families together and introduce the parents. In many cases, couples have already casually introduced their parents to each other during holidays or dinner parties. However, if that's not the case, you'll certainly want to get everyone together prior to kicking off the wedding festivities.

 

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Old School: No white allowed if the couple already lives together

While this circumstance would have been improper to acknowledge in 1922, Elizabeth L. Post's 14th Edition of Etiquette mentions what's "appropriate" for a wedding of a couple that is already living together. Apparently, white was unacceptable for the bride or any attendants to wear in the eighties, and with that, the use of white flowers in arrangements or bouquets would have been taboo. The bride in her off-white gown could wear a veil, but was not supposed to cover her face with it. Of course, none of this is off-limits in modern day weddings, especially seeing how many brides have taken to the all-white wedding trend of asking attendants and guests to wear all-white attire.

 

Still Great Advice: Morning weddings are adorable

In the First Edition of Etiquette, Emily Post writes, "a simple early morning wedding where everyone is dressed in morning clothes, and where the breakfast suggests the first meal of the day—could be perfectly adorable!" And we couldn't agree more with this tidbit! Check out this adorable morning wedding on a Sunday in Toronto for real wedding inspiration if you're considering a morning ceremony.

 

Old School: The double wedding

It's a struggle to wrap our heads around this concept, but a double wedding is a wedding ceremony and reception a mother puts on for her two daughters simultaneously. It's hard to believe this was ever in good taste, as it sounds more than a little complicated to host a wedding of this proportion. If you're interested in how the seating, processional, and reception would work, check out the 14th Edition by Elizabeth L. Post. One perk: At least each bride gets her own wedding cake!

 

Still Great Advice: Saying goodbyes to both sets of parents

Ghosting is never good etiquette at any party, yet it's become the expectation at most weddings that the couple won't have time to say proper goodbyes. While that may be okay for casual relationships with friends, it's still important to pull parents aside and thank them for a wonderful night before heading out of the venue as a married duo. As Elizabeth L. Post's 14th Edition advice goes, "this small gesture pays many dividends in ensuring the bride a warm place in her new in-laws' hearts."

 

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