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11 Wedding Etiquette Dilemmas & Rules Every Bride-to-be Should Know

Wedding planning can be a minefield – especially navigating the politics of wedding etiquette in 2022. Here we discuss all the wedding etiquette rules every bride-to-be should know and answer your dilemmas.

Credit: Jakob Owens via Unsplash

Who should pay? Should you have a free bar? Should guests test for Covid? These are just some of the most common dilemmas faced by brides in 2022.

11 Wedding Etiquette Dilemmas & Rules Every Bride-to-be Should Know

Industry expert Lisa Forde, who founded her wedding stationery business Tree of Hearts almost two decades ago, has seen it all and is here to answer all your wedding etiquette dilemmas.

What’s the best way to ask for cash in lieu of gifts at your wedding?

A lot of couples wonder how you can possibly ask for money without sounding rude but equally don’t want to end up with a pile of unwanted gifts – and it can be a tricky conversation to navigate.

With many couples living together before tying the knot, they have often got all the household essentials traditionally brought for a wedding gift. This is where gift list registries come in, such as Prezola, as you can specify exactly what you’re going to spend the cash on – be it a new sofa or honeymoon fund!

You could even go one step further and specify the exact activities the money will pay for during your honeymoon – whether that’s a private dinner or kayaking trip. Your guests will then know exactly what they are contributing towards and feel like they’ve got you a more personal gift.

Should the happy couple stump up the costs or should parents pay for the day?

Whether the bride’s parents should pay for their wedding or not has become quite a controversial topic! Traditionally, the bride’s parents would pay for her whole wedding and reception. But as the average wedding now costs more than £32,000 and couples are getting married later in life, a lot of couples pay for their weddings themselves – but often with a little help from family members.

For parents that do choose to contribute, research shows that the bride’s parents tend to contribute around 45%, whilst the groom’s parents contribute around 15%. You may also find that other relatives, such as grandparents and aunts and uncles, want to contribute, too; they might choose to pay for a specific element of the wedding like the wedding stationery.

Should the bride’s father still be ‘giving her away’ in 2022 and should she take her husband’s name?

These traditions are based on ancient Roman times and the days of arranged marriages when women were considered property. It symbolises the act of the father literally giving his daughter to a new owner – usually for a price! Of course, in the 21st century, women aren’t seen as property, and there is no reason for a father to ‘give’ his daughter to another man – and definitely not in exchange for money!

It is however still a very common tradition that many 21st century brides uphold. Today, it may be seen more as a sign of respect for your father, or a way to include them in the celebrations. Another similar tradition which some 21st century brides struggle with is taking their partner’s surname, which historically again is symbolic of the bride being given to a new family or owner.

Many couples in 2022 may choose to continue this tradition but others have adapted it to suit their own needs. For example, double-barrelling a surname to represent the joining together of two families, or even mixing names together to create a brand new family name.

Should you offer a free bar for your guests?

Credit: Micheile dot Com via Unsplash

This is of course dependent on budget, and while it’s a lovely addition, is certainly not expected by guests during weddings today. Some couples may opt for only certain drinks to be free – such as wine and beer, rather than spirits or cocktails – to save on costs but still offer an element of a free bar.

Covid and weddings – do you ask guests to test?

No one wants to hear the words Covid and wedding in the same sentence – and it’s understandable why brides-to-be are anxious after the effects the pandemic has had on the industry for the past two years.

While restrictions have been lifted, and there are no laws in place for those organising or attending weddings, some engaged couples are still considering asking guests to take a test just to be on the safe side.

Maybe you have elderly relatives or vulnerable family members at your wedding that you want to feel comfortable when mixing with others, and asking people to test may give them peace of mind. However, you’ve got to be prepared that guests may refuse to test themselves – and be ready to decide what to do if that’s the case.

Who’s on the top table? Does it have to be parents, or can it be the wedding party?

Credit: Photos by Lanty via Unsplash

Table plans can be one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning – you need to make sure your guests are with someone they know and like. Plus, you need to navigate politics of who is on the ‘top table’ alongside you and your new husband or wife.

Tradition goes that it’s the parents of both the bride and the groom along with the best man and the maid of honour. But when you add step parents and siblings into the mix, it can get tricky.

We’re seeing a huge increase in what’s been dubbed a ‘sweetheart table’, where it’s just the two of you. This concept negates the need for any awkward discussions about who makes the cut and offers a blissful opportunity to actually spend some quality one-on-one time with your new spouse on the happiest day of your life. At the end of the day, it’s your wedding and it’s your choice. Who do you want sitting next to you on your big day?

What should you do if a huge sports event or TV moment clashes with your wedding?

Unfortunately big sporting matches often take place on a Saturday – and so do weddings! If you and your partner are both football fans, could you embrace the fun and ask your venue for a screen to show the match? You could even have some bubbles ready to toast the team and yourselves at the end.

You can easily add lots of little footballing nods to your day if you’re true fans – whether that’s mini chocolate footballs as wedding favours, having your page boy in football boots, setting up some kickabout games outside or even playing ‘Football’s Coming Home’ during your evening!

If you don’t want to have the match or TV show playing, you’ll still need to accept it’s happening – but if it’s during the time of your reception then it might be an idea to nominate a member of the bridal party or your MC to keep the room up-to-date with any goals or updates (FYI, the Euros will take place 14 June-14 July 2024!).

Guest list: do you invite partners of guests, and their children?

Credit: Leonardo Miranda via Unsplash

Weddings are more expensive than ever and it’s led engaged couples to make difficult decisions when it comes to cutting costs – one being decisions on guest numbers. Micro-weddings were introduced during the pandemic but more and more couples are deciding to downsize their wedding guest lists for many reasons.

Consider if you really need to invite your friends’ partners who you’ve never met just because it’s wedding etiquette – as well as their children. They may be happy for a night off! While this can lead to really difficult decisions and conversations, it’s worth it if you need to save on costs, or simply want your nearest and dearest there. Remember to make it ultra-clear on the invitation to avoid confusion and use kind but firm wording – such as ‘we love your little ones, but this is an adults-only event’!

Who makes the speeches?

The bride’s father, groom and best man are traditionally responsible for making speeches and there is a set format to follow regarding the order of the speeches, and who needs to be thanked as part of each speech.

But, in 2022, more than ever it’s common for the bride, mother of the bride or mother of the groom, maid of honour or bridesmaids to make speeches, too. It’s your day, after all!

How should people sit in the ceremony?

Credit: Jeremy Wong Weddings via Unsplash

It is traditional or the bride’s family to sit on the left of the aisle and the groom’s on the right for the ceremony.

However, in the modern day, it’s very common for couples to have an open seating plan, with guests ‘choosing a seat, not a side’. This goes with the sentiment of two families becoming one.

How should I walk down the aisle?

It is traditional for the bride’s father to walk her down the aisle or, if he is unable to, a close family friend, brother or uncle. However, in 2022, it’s more common than ever for the bride to walk with her mum – or alone – if her dad isn’t there on the day.

If you want to stick to tradition, the bride always walks on the left side of her escort so that his right hand is free to draw his sword to protect her, as tradition goes! As she walks towards the alter, she will be on her family’s side of the church for support, and as she returns on her new hubby’s arm, she will be on his side of the church, symbolically being introduced into his family.

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About the Author: Ezra Menez