7 Wedding Ceremony Etiquette FAQs: Answered
Weddings are all about tradition – especially the ceremony. Since most couples have never a planned a wedding before, navigating the do’s and don’ts can be tricky. Luckily, many of the time-honored rules can be broken depending on your wants and needs.
“In a lot of ways, the ceremony is a religious thing, but then we’ve also adopted it to be a state thing. It’s not like table manners, which really is just etiquette based. It wasn’t born purely out of etiquette,” explains Lizzie Post, co-president for The Emily Post Institute. “Your religion and your regional customs and your family customs are probably going to dictate what you choose to do more than anything.”
Here are some answers to common questions about the ceremony, answered by etiquette experts.
1. How big is too big for a wedding party?
The limit does not exist, says Post. “The awesome thing about weddings is it’s your day, so it’s your choice. You want those 27 bridesmaids? You can have those 27 bridesmaids.”
2. Can I skip the wedding party all together?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can also forgo the bridesmaids and groomsmen all together. All you really need is you, your partner, some to officiate and a witness or two.
3. Do I have to ask my partner’s sister to be a bridesmaid?
This is another common concern Post hears from engaged couples. While it’s certainly not required, “we always say that even if you don’t particularly care for the person, it’s a really nice olive branch to extend.”
4. Can I my guy friend be a member of my bridal party?
It’s increasingly common to see all genders represented on both sides of the altar. So, if your bestie happens to be a dude, feel free to ask him to be your man of honor. This is also a great solution for people with opposite gender siblings who want their bro or sis by their side on the big day.
5. How do we tell people we want a kid-free wedding?
If you want to have an “adult’s only” wedding, share that information on your website and pass the word through family, advises Diane Gottsman, author of “Modern Etiquette for a Modern Life” (Page Street Publishing, 2017) and founder of The Protocol School of Texas.
“You mustn’t pick and choose,” she adds. “If some people ask if their children can attend with a special exception you have to do let them know kindly but firmly that you have to stick to your original request so you don’t hurt other people’s feelings.”
6. Can I have my mom/step-dad/no one walk me down the aisle?
While it is customary for the father to be the bride’s escort, it is ultimately up to you! Some brides choose to have an older brother walk them down the aisle, while other brides are joined by both of their parents. This can be an emotional choice, so talk it over with your loved ones before making a decision.
7. During the procession, who walks down the aisle when?
Traditionally, in American weddings, the bridal party proceeds down the aisle first, sometimes with the groomsmen. Then the flower girl and ring bearer enter followed finally by the bride. However, like many other etiquette rules, you’re welcome to change it up.
Ultimately, this is your day. So, while you should be sensitive to your family’s desires, try not to worry about the “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts”.
“Relax and let the moments that happen, happen. If the flower girl in the middle of the ceremony runs to her mom in row 5, don’t worry about it,” advises Post. “At my sister’s wedding, they forgot to do the ring exchange. They did the vows and the officiant just was like ‘I now pronounce you man and wife.’ It was just something they could laugh about. Laugh off the little mistakes.”
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