Wedding etiquette is a difficult subject. Even if you think you're following all of the "rules," it's easy to overlook these less discussed — but still important — guidelines. Take a look and see if you are following the rules.
1: The Importance of Creating a Budget
The first of the common wedding planning mistakes is not properly creating a budget. This is the first item on the agenda after couples get engaged. A carefully planned budget can spare you a nightmare of falling prey to impractical plans or of running up unnecessary debts. Base your budget strictly on what you or your parents can afford. A budget for a large wedding should include allotments for a well thought out list of every category of your wedding. A budget for a simple wedding should include the items you cannot provide yourself and intend to purchase, as well as the things you plan to do on your own or with the help of family and friends. As a St. Louis wedding planner, I can help with every item on your budget.
With imagination and good planning, a beautiful wedding can be held within any limits. Whatever you plan, stick to your budget, or the worry and insecurity will carry over to your relationship and you will start your marriage in a state of anxiety and stress.
2: Choosing a Wedding Date
Some couples book the venue and then realized their date falls on a holiday weekend. If you choose a resort, you may have competition with other groups or the general public. Also keep in mind that your guests may not get rooms at the resort for the night of the wedding because they are required a two night minimum that weekend. Just be aware! It’s important to consider the following when selecting your wedding date:
3: You're not making clear-cut lines on who’s invited and who’s not.
There are certain groups you need to invite; even if you see some of your aunts and uncles a few times a month and others a few times a decade, you really should include all (or none) to be consistant.
Regarding “plus ones,” the general rule is that couples who are married, engaged, or living together must be invited together, even if you haven’t met your friend’s significant other. After that, it gets a little less clear-cut. Some couples give a plus one to singles over 21. Others decide to include dates for anyone in a relationship, while others draw the line at just couples who have been together for a year or more. Whatever you decide, consistency is key. The exception is your bridal party members — if you can swing it, allow your single bridesmaids and groomsmen to invite dates if they choose to do so. This is totally up to you and your budget. If you want to keep the affair a little smaller, draw a line where you think the numbers will fit in your budget.
4: You're putting a false start time on the invitation.
If you’re planning to walk down the aisle at 7 p.m., the time on your invitation should be 7 p.m. Don’t leave your guests waiting just because you want to make sure no one misses your grand entrance. Most guests know better than to show up right at the invite time anyway, so if you put 6:30 for a 7 o'clock ceremony, some of your guests could be waiting around for as long as an hour before you begin.
5: You're using pre-printed labels on the invitation.
Your invitation sets the tone for your wedding — and that starts with the envelope. You don't neccessarily need to hire a calligrapher, but it adds such a personal touch to handwrite the addresses. Perhaps ask a friend or relative with nice handwriting to help out. Or, try this calligraphy cheat: Using a fancy font in a very light gray, run each envelope through your printer, and then trace over the printed address using a calligraphy pen. Your guests will never know your secret and they’ll think you are so talented!
6: You're having a cash bar.
In a perfect world, your guests won't have to open their wallets at your wedding. But you don’t need to shell out for a top-shelf open bar if that’s beyond your budget. It’s perfectly acceptable to offer just beer and wine, and it's a nice touch to add a signature cocktail or two. If you must have a cash bar, see if you can negotiate some drink specials with your venue to lessen the burden on your guests.
7: You're not feeding the band.
Vendors who will be sticking around through your reception — band/DJ, photographer, videographer and wedding planner — need to be fed. Think about it, they get hungry during the day. Most even state this in their contracts. Check if your venue offers a “vendor meal,” which typically cost about half as much as a guest’s dinner (the vendor meal usually includes just the main course, which lowers the cost). Or, you can sometimes provide subs, pizza, or another quick meal for your vendors (ask them!). Also, encourage them to grab some food during the cocktail hour.
8: You're not taking the time to greet each guest personally.
As “receiving lines” have gone out of fashion, more and more couples plan to visit each table during the reception instead. What you don't know is that most couples never make it around to every table — you'll get sidetracked when your favorite song comes on or when your cousin drags you off to the bar for celebratory drinks, and before you know it, it's time to cut the cake and say goodbye. You might consider having a receiving line at the reception, even if it feels outdated and takes away from photo time. Think about it this way: Would you rather spend 15 minutes having a receiving line during your reception or spend an hour (or more!) going around to every table? Whatever you do, do not make an announcement that guests who want to see you can come join you on the dance floor. You’ll spend the entire night dancing with your guests and not the more important people you want to spend time with.
9: You're skimping on bridal party gifts.
Considering that the average bridesmaid spends between $500 to $600 between the dress, the bridal shower, the bachelorette, and attending the actual wedding, this isn’t a place where you should trim your budget. No, you definitely don’t have to match what they’re spending on you, but plan on about $50-150 per bridesmaid if your budget allows. Also, don’t forget thank-you gifts for your parents and others in the wedding party!
10: Putting Off Thank You Notes
Order thank you cards before the wedding so you can start hand writing (yes, you should hand write) your notes as soon as possible. Don’t even consider preprinted thank you cards. You might even consider ordering them when you order the invitations, if you want them to match. In terms of when to send out your thank you’s, “Brides” has laid down the law: "Let's set the record straight: You do not have a year to mail your thank-you cards. Instead, for gifts received during the engagement party and shower, send a thank you within two to three weeks of the festivities; for gifts sent before the wedding date, send a card as soon as possible but definitely before the wedding; for gifts given on the wedding day itself, mail a thank-you note within three months; and for gifts received after your wedding, send one within two to three weeks.
There are oh so many more mistakes being made with wedding etiquette. Contact me with help on your questions.
Some information gathered from Peggy Post, author of Wedding Etiquette and Kristen O'Gorman Klein
Bar Photo Credit: D. Park Photography