There's no denying the fact that etiquette is important—especially when it comes to an event that's as important as your wedding. It not only ensures guests remain on their best behavior, but it also creates a general understanding of what you should wear, what you should give as a gift, and what you should (and shouldn't) say to the bride and groom. While some etiquette rules of the past still remain, many have changed over the years. We talked to wedding planners to find out which rules no longer dictate wedding protocol.
The couple doesn't have to wait until the ceremony to see each other.
Some couples still prefer not to see each other until the precessional, when the bride's father walks her down the aisle and gives her away to her groom. But more and more couples are instead opting to do a "first look," a private moment between the bride, groom, and photographer so they can capture photos before the ceremony begins. "The opportunity to see each other before the ceremony lessons anxiety for the couple and allows them to relax in front of their closest family and friends," explains Deborah L. Erb, owner and event planner for Simply Events Inc. "Plus, taking photos during a first look gives the couple time to join their cocktail hour."
The bride doesn't have to walk down the aisle with her father.
While it's still fairly popular for the father of the bride to escort his daughter down the aisle, modern brides are switching up this tradition. "Some brides choose to have both her mother and father walk her down the aisle together while others choose their step-father to begin the processional and then meet the biological father half-way down the aisle," says Erb. "A bride who lost her father, or whose father is no longer in her life, may choose to have her brother, uncle, grandfather, or mom walk her down the aisle."
The bride's parents don't always pay for the wedding.
Back in the day, there was a general understanding that the bride's parents would pay for the wedding. "While remnants of this rule remain, especially in more traditional parts of the country, the reality is funding a wedding now takes on many different shapes and forms," explains Jung Lee, co-founder and wedding designer at Fête. "Many couples are paying for their own wedding, sometimes both parents and their children are contributing, or just the groom's parents."
You can skip the receiving line.
"Traditionally, a newly-married couple, along with their parents and sometimes siblings, would line up after their ceremony to greet their guests and thank them for coming," explains Lee. "This 'receiving line' was often very long and guests had to wait for an extended period of time to say hello." Today, families are forgoing the receiving line and making their greetings in a less formal manner. "It may be walking from table-to-table during dinner or mingling with their guests during cocktail hour," she adds. "It seems to be a much more agreeable solution for everyone involved."
Your wedding doesn't have to be in a house of worship.
"Wedding ceremonies were almost always reserved for church settings that identified with the appropriate religious component," Sheila Camp Motley, owner of Sheila Camp Motley Event Design + Management, points out. "But today, couples see themselves being married in any number of settings that mean something to them—from outdoor vineyards to rustic barns."
The bridal party can definitely wear black.
"For many years black dresses for the bridal party was forbidden, as the color is associated with sadness and grief—not ideal for the joyous celebration of marriage," explains Farah Saint-Jean of Spectacular Affairs, LLC. "Furthermore, tradition is that bridesmaids wear white so that they look like the bride in order to protect her from evil spirits that may try to harm her." But, as Saint-Jean points out, present day culture embraces gorgeous black-and-white-themed weddings where the bridesmaids are donning black gowns.
Brides can wear white to a second wedding.
"Etiquette rules of the past said that these brides could not wear white, but today plenty of my encore brides are ignoring this antiquated rule and donning beautiful white gowns," says Lauren Chitwood, wedding and corporate event planner and owner of Lauren Chitwood Events. Bottom line: Just because you've taken the marital plunge once before doesn't mean you can't do it again in a classic white wedding dress.