When it comes to wedding etiquette and planning, countless questions may come to mind. When do you send invitations? Who do you invite? What is an acceptable gift value?
Minted has written dozens of articles on these topics, but we wanted to put everything in one wedding etiquette guide.
This article will cover everything from what to wear to what the mother-of-the-groom should be doing…and answers some of the top wedding etiquette questions we get all the time!
You’re ready to tie the knot, bride and groom — congratulations! This is a warm, fuzzy time for you, but you might feel a little overwhelmed. After all, a wedding isn’t just the reception.
You’ll have to manage invitations, seating arrangements, and more for the ceremony, reception, rehearsal dinner, and engagement party (if you’re choosing to have one). And everything on that list comes with proper wedding etiquette expectations.
Let’s start with wedding etiquette for engagements.
Don’t post on social media the day of your proposal
Maybe you planned a photographer to capture your proposal. It’s a beautiful memory, and we promise you can share it — but fight the urge to post on Instagram immediately.
Your closest family and friends will want to hear the good news from you and your beau first! So send a quick text, make a few calls, or visit in-person first and then start playing with dreamy filters.
To make it more special, you can send an engagement announcement card to your close circles using those beautiful photos! Breaking the news on social media with lovely quotes and captions is usually the last thing to do because it is less personal.
Start talking budgets
It’s time to discuss your wedding budget. Don’t worry — talking about it early doesn’t break any wedding etiquette. In fact, delaying the conversation almost assures chaos later. You might even choose to plan your budget before an engagement and that’s also great! While talking about budgets, you might need to go back and forth to determine how many people you should or can invite to your wedding.
Traditionally, the bride and her family were responsible for covering the wedding. Today, that tradition is no longer fair or realistic. The couple should sit with their families and discuss budget allocations transparently to avoid any issues.
Need a starting point? Here are some budget allocations that some modern couples employ:
Groom and family:
- Accommodations for the bride, groom, and wedding party (even for destination weddings)
- Bouquets and corsages
- Rehearsal dinner
- Wedding rings
- Marriage certificate
- Groomsmen suits (though many modern couples have the wedding party pay for this now)
Bride and family:
- Accommodations for bride’s party
- Wedding reception, including food, drinks, venue, videographer, photographer, and decorations
- Stationery and invitations
- Wedding transportation
Propose…to your bridal party
After your engagement, it’s easy to jump the phone and gush to a good friend. You might let it slip that you’d like them to be your best man or maid of honor.
Our advice? Hold back just a bit longer. When you’re planning your budget and guest list, you might have a different bridal party than you originally thought. Take a month or so to decide on your bridal party, so you don't make any empty promises.
Once you have your list, show your bridal party respect by respectfully requesting their presence. Avoid a boring social media message. Instead, check out these adorable “Will you be my bridesmaid” cards and consider including a cute personalized gift.
If you don’t include a gift when you ask them to be part of your bridal party, you may consider giving one on the day of the event. After all, they’ve given a lot of time and effort to make your day special. Choose something that they can treasure long after the wedding.
Alternatively, you may decide you don’t want a wedding party. Traditionally, the wedding party helps arrange the wedding shower and bachelor/bachelorette parties. If you’re planning on still having these events, then you’ll have to plan them yourself or enlist the help of friends and family.
While we’re on the topic of wedding showers, a big faux pas is to invite friends to the wedding shower who aren’t invited to the wedding. This is an insensitive move that could cost friendships – don’t do it.
Engagement party do’s and don’ts
Traditionally, wedding etiquette has the bride’s parents hosting the engagement party. If they’re not game, then you can go to the groom’s parents.
But these days, brides and grooms often host it on their own or with friends — this is perfectly acceptable as long as you let everyone know.
Here are some quick do’s and don’ts for the party:
- Don’t invite people who you won’t invite to the wedding.
- Don’t request gifts – though know you’ll probably get some anyway. If so, make sure to send out thank you notes right after.
- Do make introductions. Some of your guests might not know each other, so help them have a good time.
- Do thank your guests for coming! A handwritten thank you is the most appropriate wedding etiquette, but a carefully thought out, illustrated email is acceptable too.
- Do treat the hosts if it’s not you and your partner. A nice bottle of alcohol or a dinner out is in order for your hardworking hosts.
Wedding Invitation Etiquette
Decide on plus ones
Ah, the age-old debate of wedding invitation plus one etiquette. The truth is, there’s no golden rule for this aspect. The bride and groom just need to be absolutely clear about their preference in the wedding invitation.
At Minted, our stance is that married, engaged, cohabitating and long-term couples should get a plus one. Also, the bridal party is allowed to bring their plus one. For everyone else, we suggest a blanket rule, i.e., only immediate family can bring a plus one.
You do have a few options:
- Plus ones for every guest
- Plus ones for guests that are married or in serious relationships
- Plus ones for guests of whom you’ve met their partner
- Plus ones for the bridal party
- Plus ones for immediate family
- No plus ones at all
Whatever you decide, ensure you indicate whether a guest gets a plus one by listing it on their invitation. They can then mark the response card appropriately.
Photo by Andrew Bondarets
Send a Save the Date
Think of this as your pre-wedding invitation. Your beloved guests need a heads-up for your engagement party, wedding ceremony, and other pre-wedding events. Send your save the date cards about six to eight months before the wedding.
But, don’t ask for an RSVP! Save the Dates are a courtesy for your guests and aren't as formal as a wedding invitation. However, feel free to embellish with details and design. That being said, some guests might tell you whether they can or can’t come to the wedding just after receiving your save the date. Regardless of any initial response on your save the date, you should send the wedding invitations to all guests on your save the date recipient list.
Send thoughtful, clear wedding invitations
Send your invitations eight weeks in advance. The main invitation should include time, location, dress code, and guest details. Include a clear RSVP instruction –through a response card or online RSVP on the website. If you prefer the traditional RSVP response card to be mailed back to you, make sure you include a stamped envelope with your address in each invitation suite. If you are expecting RSVP to be done online, include your website address and password (for password-protected websites). You can also simply include a QR code in your invitation suite. Ask your guests to fill out any dietary restrictions together with the RSVP response.
What you absolutely must not include in the invitations is the gift registry. Your invitation is to let them know that you want them to share in this celebration with you. The registry details can be left on your wedding website for them to access at their leisure. Make sure to check our article about Wedding Invitations Wording and Etiquette.
Rehearsal Dinner is not mandatory
Having a rehearsal dinner isn’t required, though it can be a really nice way for family and the wedding party to socialize and get to know one another more intimately before your big day. It also doesn’t need to be an actual dinner. It could be a breakfast, brunch, lunch, or even a happy hour. Traditionally, the groom’s parents, or those that are not paying for the bulk of the wedding, pay for the rehearsal dinner but these days more couples are paying for their own rehearsal dinners (and weddings).
Check out Minted’s complete guide to rehearsal dinner etiquette for more info.
Wedding Invitation Etiquette
Walking down the aisle with your dad is optional
While it is tradition for the father of the bride to walk the bride down the aisle, it is by no means necessary. In fact, today it is not unusual for brides to walk themselves down the aisle. In other cases, brides are opting to have someone else give them away. Think mother, grandfather, brother, son, or best friend.
Photo by Authentic Collective
Create, communicate, and rehearse with your wedding party and parents regarding the procession and recession
Wedding parties typically walk in a specific order on ceremony day, which is:
- Bride’s mother
- Best man
- Flower girl
- Ring bearer
- Bride accompanied by her father
If the father of the bride is walking with the bride, then who does the mother of the bride get accompanied by? Good question! There are several options, the most traditional being one of the groomsmen. If it is more fitting, have one of her sons walk her down the aisle. Another good choice is her brother.
Photo by Asha Bailey
When it comes to the recessional order, there are slight variations, but when it comes to practicing best wedding etiquette, you should be in the clear if you stick loosely to the below breakdown.
- The Couple
- Flower Girl and Ring Bearer
- Maid or Matron of Honor and Best Man
- Parents of the Bride
- Parents of the Groom
- Grandparents of the Bride
- Grandparents of the Groom
Make sure to go over this in the rehearsal, or ask the order if you don’t. Or, read our guide to wedding processionals here first!
Create and communicate the ceremony order
Please don’t try to wing your wedding ceremony. It might sound fun, but it can turn into a nightmare on the day itself.
Make sure your guests know what to expect. Plan out your seating chart, schedule, processional, vows, and more with our complete wedding ceremony guide.
Create thoughtful vows
Take time to create meaningful vows before the ceremony. Don’t rely on over-the-top cliches or copy movie vows. And let’s set the record straight: inappropriate jokes during your vows are a wedding etiquette faux-pas!
Seating arrangements during the ceremony
Traditionally, the family of the bride sits on the left side and the groom’s family on the right. However, this depends on the number of guests present and the seating available.
Parents typically sit in the front row of each side, along with the members of the wedding procession (bridal party, ring bearer, flower girls, readers, etc.). Grandparents, other family members and close friends sit behind that group in the succeeding rows.
Photo by Gloria Torres
Wedding Reception Etiquette
Drink slowly and don’t forget to eat
You’ve been running around all day, probably not eating too much, maybe even taking tons of photos in the hot sun. So while it can be tempting to finish that glass of champagne, prioritizing food and water first before indulging quickly is often smart. Also, make sure to enjoy some food whenever you can.
Greet your guests quickly
This is especially true for lengthy weddings. Proper wedding etiquette doesn’t necessarily mean saying hello to every table. Consider a receiving line in the beginning or saying hello to guests organically throughout the night.
Photo by Jill Sahner
“First Dance” Comes First
It’s called the “first dance” for a reason! The couple’s first dance is traditionally the first introduction to the dance floor, which is performed by the newlyweds. Wedding reception etiquette is that the father/daughter dance follows, and then the mother/son dance.
Don’t put all the singles together at one table
Being single may be the only thing they have in common with one another and feel ostracized from the rest of their friends and families. If there’s a group of coworkers coming, they’ll likely feel most comfortable seated together.
If there are people invited that don’t have an inherent group, consider whom they’d get along with. Be kind and intentional. Check out our wedding seating FAQs for more details.
Photo by Julieta
Feed your vendors and wedding party
Don’t forget to feed your vendors throughout the day. Some of your team will be working all day to ensure your event runs smoothly. They’ll need to stay nourished and hydrated to keep up the good work. As a rule of thumb, you only need to take care of anyone that is working for both ceremony and reception, such as photographer and videographer, wedding coordinator, DJ/MC, plus their assistants.
Make sure to ask your venue for a room that your vendors can use to eat and coordinate with the catering service on the meal. Don’t forget to ask the vendors about their dietary restrictions and preferred time to eat. This is crucial for them to fit this in the day-of schedule.
You and your wedding party also need to eat before the ceremony. It’s easy to forget food when you’re getting ready for one of the biggest moments of your life, but hydration and nourishment are important.
Photo by Dani Nicole Photography
Don’t ask guests to pay for their own drinks
If you’re worried about cost, consider offering a smaller drinks menu; soft drinks, a signature cocktail, beer, and wine.
Photo by Haley Richter
“Thank you for coming”
- The post-wedding thank you card is your opportunity to express your heartfelt gratitude to guests for sharing your special day. Send a card to everyone, regardless of whether they gave a gift or not.
- For a truly personal touch, handwrite your thank you notes and customize them to each individual. Recall special moments that you shared with them at the wedding, or thank them for their gift (specify what they gave you), and let them know how much you and your spouse look forward to using it or how much it means to you.
- If someone sent a gift before the wedding, ensure you send them a thank you note within a couple of weeks.
- For gifts received at the wedding, you have a few months to send one.
- Send a thank you note to your vendors as well.
- And finally, you don’t have to wait a year to send out thank you’s. Send them while the event is still fresh in your mind, and it’s easier to recall all the special moments you want to make note of. Check out some examples of thank you wording to inspire you.
Support the bride and groom
The wedding party is a VIP list of people tasked with not only having a good time, but also having the bride and groom’s back. Help them prepare for the wedding and be there for them to mitigate any last-minute tasks and issues. Offer to manage the wedding emergency kit, bring water and small bites for the wedding party, or coordinate with wedding vendors.
Keep the receiving line moving
Thank guests and place their reception gifts in a designated area. Keep a lively face and encourage the line to keep moving, allowing your bride and groom more time to enjoy the evening.
Photo by Jenna Borst
Follow wedding invitation instructions
RSVP promptly, and only bring a plus one if the invitation outlines you can. We’ll go more into this below. This also includes following the dress codes.
Check the registry early
Check which items your bride and groom requested and do your best to send them to their address before the wedding. Otherwise, a handwritten note and monetary gift are always welcome.
Photo by Laura Palacios Photography
Follow the dress code
Wedding attire has evolved significantly, but one thing remains constant: the class! The bride and groom should always include the dress code of the wedding on your invitation and wedding website. If you are not sure, you can always confirm with the couple if there are any colors in particular to avoid. In general, as long as you’re dressing to impress, you’ll fulfill all wedding etiquette around attire.
If the wedding is a formal event, there are more concrete expectations around what to wear. Formal attire can include a tuxedo or formal dark suit with a white shirt and a conservative tie, a long dress, pretty separates, or a formal cocktail dress.
Check out our article on everything you need to know about wedding dress codes for a full breakdown of the difference between white tie, black tie, and so much more.
Consider getting a wedding gift for the couple
There isn’t a hard and fast rule on how much a guest should spend on a wedding gift. The only thing you definitely don’t want to do is spend more than you can afford to. Things you can consider are approximately what your meal cost (plus more if you are bringing a guest) will be, what you’re spending to attend, how close you are to the couple, etc. If you’re considering a gift for a destination wedding, this is really up to you and your budget. Some couples forgo a registry given the costs guests will incur to travel and attend their nuptials.
You don’t necessarily have to purchase your gift from the wedding registry either. If you’re thinking about wedding gift etiquette and want to purchase a gift from elsewhere, taking a look at the registry to get a sense of the couple’s style is a good idea. If you want to give the wedding couple cash, that is perfectly acceptable, just make sure it includes a note so they’re not confused about who it’s from.
Photo by Indiee Fox
- Don’t bring a plus one without prior approval
- Don’t forget to RSVP and list your dietary restrictions
- Don’t bring a physically large gift to the wedding. Do send it directly to them before the event.
- Don’t be late!
- Don’t wear white, ivory, or other very pale colors that are close to white. Even if a white dress has florals on it, it’s a no-go.
- The bride and groom are off limits before the wedding. Don’t text them on the day of the ceremony.
- Don’t use your cell phone and other mobile devices (including smartwatches) during the ceremony. Be present and don’t
- Don’t obstruct the photographer during the ceremony (and reception) especially if it’s designated as “unplugged.”
- Party hard and have fun, but don’t get too drunk or cause a scene.
- Don’t monopolize the bride and groom.
- Don’t forget to sign the guestbook!