Wedding and Engagement Party Etiquette

Etiquette and Advice from the Emily Post Institute
Wedding Traditions

Traditions can and do change. And, sometimes, traditions should change. Here are a few established wedding traditions that have taken on a fresh twist in recent years.

Old    The bride?s family pays for the wedding

New Today, just 27 percent of weddings are paid for by the bride?s family. Even a simple affair can have a significant cost, so it is not surprising that families attack this in different ways: the bride?s family may pay; the couple themselves may pay; or the groom?s family, the bride?s family and the couple may share expenses. What?s important is that the bride- and groom-to-be discuss the budget early to ensure a smooth path to the altar.
Old There should be no more than six bridesmaids and six groomsmen.

New You can have as many or as few attendants as you want: there is no maximum and minimum. Even at a big, formal wedding just one or two attendants on each side are acceptable. Because groomsmen/ushers have the responsibility of seating guests at the ceremony, the rule of thumb is one usher for every 50 guests, and it?s fine to have more ushers than bridesmaids.
Old The bridal bouquet must be white or, at the very least, subdued.

New Bouquets can be as beautiful and varied as the brides who carry them. Vibrant wildflowers, lavender roses that match the bridesmaids? dresses, the groom?s favorite flower: all are acceptable and wonderful. Brides, however, should consider guests who might have allergies to certain flowers.
Old The mother of the groom shouldn?t choose her dress until the mother of the bride has chosen hers.

New Traditionally, the mother of the bride chooses her dress and then notifies the mother of the groom of its style and shade so that she can purchase a dress that complements but doesn?t exactly match the bride?s mother and attendants. Today, the mother of the groom should select an outfit that she feels beautiful and comfortable in and that is appropriate for the time of day and formality of the wedding. And if the bride?s mom hasn?t contacted the groom?s mom, it is perfectly fine for mom o? the groom to initiate that phone call to discuss dress details.

Old Traditional household appliances and linens are the best wedding presents.

New Any gift is fine ? just choose thoughtfully. Some couples today have already combined households and may not need another kitschy blender, compact toaster oven or set of thirsty bath towels. Gift registries are now the norm, and handy things they are for guests who may not know the couple as well as they might like. And don?t be surprised by a registry that may contain non-traditional items like chipping in on vacations and mortgage payments.

Old Immediate family members of the couple should not host the bridal shower.

New The establish tradition inferred that a mother throwing a shower for her bride-to-be daughter might come across as self-serving. Today, family members don?t always live in the same state, let alone the same town, so for practicality?s sake, parents or siblings on either side may host a shower for a bride who?s visiting.

Old Guests shouldn?t wear white or black to a wedding.

New You can wear white as long as it doesn?t look like a wedding dress: it?s the bride?s day. If you wear black, it should look like you are attending wedding, not a funeral. Also consider: time of day, location, and any rules of attired specified by religion (for example, bare shoulders or too much cleavage or leg showing).

Old All guests should receive hand-written thank you notes for their gifts.

New Sorry, there?s no changing this one! All guests should receive hand-written thank you notes for their gifts. Save the e-mails for lunch dates and business-related thank yous.


About the
Emily Post Institute
The Emily Post Institute, created by Emily in 1946 and run today by third generation family members, serves as a "civility barometer" for American society and continues Emily's work. That work has grown to address the societal concerns of the 21st century including business etiquette, raising polite children and civility in America.
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