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Wedding Etiquette

Wedding Etiquette 101
What to Wear - Wedding Party & Guests  
Wedding Gifts
Wedding Toasts


Wedding Etiquette 101

A marriage is generally deemed to be about two people – two people who have decided to spend the rest of their lives together. A gentleman may even assume that the impending nuptials will be a joint effort – merely a first glimpse of a cooperative effort that will last for years to come. If that is the case, a gentleman may wish to think again. In a traditional wedding, which very easily can slip into being “her wedding,” rather than “theirs,” he may even seem like the forgotten man of the hour. He has a role to play, nonetheless.

n  The prospective groom discusses the finances of the wedding with the bride-to-be, and does his best to help them stick to their budget.

n  As a groom-to-be, a gentleman does his best to run interference between his own mother and the mother of the bride.

n  A gentleman selects his best man carefully, knowing it will be his best man’s job to corral all the other members of his wedding party, make sure their tuxedos are rented, and, most important, make sure they show up for the ceremony.

n  A gentleman acquiesces to his bride-to-be in regard to almost all aspects of the wedding. He stands his ground however, when it comes to the color of his tuxedo or tailcoat, which may only be black. He also declines to wear a tuxedo before 5 p.m., or a tailcoat before 7.

n  A gentleman understands that, in a traditional wedding, it is the responsibility of the bride’s family to pick up the tab for the ceremony and the reception. It is his responsibility, meanwhile, to pay for the bride’s ring and her bouquet, the ties of all the gentlemen in his wedding party, and the wedding trip.


What to Wear - Wedding Party & Guests  

n  A gentleman may attend any wedding ceremony held in a public place, since all weddings are public events, sanctioned by some governmental authority. He may not attend the reception, however, unless he has been specifically invited.

n  A gentleman only brings a guest to a wedding reception if he has been asked to do so. If his invitation does not indicate that he may bring a friend along, he goes stag and does not ask if he may go otherwise.

n  If a gentleman is only invited to the wedding, and not to the reception, he need not feel obligated to give a gift. He may wish to do so in any case, of course.

n  A gentleman sends his gift to the bride’s residence before the wedding day. He does not bring it to the ceremony or the reception.

n  If a gentleman is not familiar with the order of service at a wedding he is attending, he simply stands and sits along with the rest of the congregation. He feels no need to kneel, bow or cross himself, unless he chooses to do so.

n  If a gentleman is uncertain as to the dress code for a wedding, he simply calls the mother of the bride and asks, directly, “What do you think the other gentlemen will be wearing?”

n  A gentleman does not participate in any actions that might embarrass the bride or groom.


What to Wear

For the Groom, the Best Man and other Gentlemen in the Wedding Party & Wedding Guests

The Wedding Begins…. The Invitation was… The Reception will be held… The Groom & His Party wear… The Guest Wears…
11 a.m. Engraved or Thermographed A university club, hotel or private/social club Morning coats (grey tailcoats, with striped trousers, broad ties and dove grey waistcoats) Suit & Tie
1 p.m.  Engraved or Thermographed A university club, church parish hall, hotel reception room or private/social club "Strollers" or "Boulevards" (sport-coat length jacket, striped trousers, with dove grey waistcoats and simple broad ties) Suit & Tie
4 p.m. Handmade by the Bride The home of the Bride's parents or the beachhead overlooking the sea Linen jackets or whatever guise the bride and groom have decreed Sports Coat & Tie
5:30 p.m. Printed A university club, a church hall, a hotel reception hall, or a private/social club Dark suits or matching blazers and slacks, depending on the time of year Suit & Tie
5:30 p.m. Engraved   A private club, a private home, or a hotel reception hall Black Tie Suit & Tie
7 p.m. Obviously Engraved A private club, a private home, or a hotel reception hall White Tie Black Tie


Wedding Gifts

n  If a gentleman is invited to a shower for the bride and groom, or a gift-party for the groom alone, and if he knows he will be invited to the wedding reception, he brings along a modest but thoughtful gift.

 - A bottle of wine is always appropriate, if the bride and groom are wine drinkers. 

 - Sturdy pool-side drink cups are always useful.

- In any case, it might be fun to come along with a handful of disposable cameras that the couple can use to document the events leading up to their wedding.

 n  If he is invited to the wedding and reception, and if he is actually a friend of the bride or groom, or of their parents, a gentleman sends the most handsome gift he readily afford.

 -  A piece of china or crystal, or some other gift that the bride and groom have registered at a store or online.

-    A set of six or eight double old-fashion cocktail glasses (which can also be used for juice or iced tea), perhaps monogrammed with the bride’s initials

-    A set of eight or a dozen plain-white linen or heavy-cotton cocktail napkins

-    A simple silver picture frame, or a small silver tray

-    Hard-to-get tickets to an upcoming show or concert, or season tickets for a favorite sports team

A gentleman never gives personal items, such as bed linens or matching bathrobes, as wedding gifts. He is also very careful about giving items such as pieces of furniture or works of art, since they may not fit in with the couple’s taste. Or, to make matters even more awkward, the new couple may simply have no place to put them.


Wedding Toasts

n  The father of the groom traditionally serves as host at the Rehearsal Dinner, since he traditionally is paying the bills for that event.

 - When making the first toast of the evening, he welcomes the guests and then says something kind about the new couple.

-  He might say: “Maddie, Trip’s mother and I have always wished for a beautiful daughter (or “another beautiful daughter”). Now we have one, in you. Please know what a treasure it is for us to have you, your parents, and the rest of your family now as part of our lives.”

- At a post-dinner party, for the bridal party and their friends, the Best Man traditionally acts as master of ceremonies. He does his best to organize, and edit, the evening’s speakers; but he gives the first, good-hearted toast of the evening, no matter what:

He might say, “Hank, I’ve known you since those first days at the Psi Phi House (or “those first days at the office, when you didn’t know how to make the coffee”). We’ve partied a lot, and had a lot of fun, but far as I can tell, this is just about the best day you’ve ever had – except for tomorrow – and the days after that, which will only get better.”

 n  The father of the bride traditionally serves as host for the Wedding Reception. If there is no seated luncheon or dinner, there will probably be no need for formal toasts, unless it happens at the cutting of the cake.

If there is a need for a toast, the father of the bride might say, “Hank, I can give you no greater gift than my beautiful, gifted Maddie. She has given herself to you; what else could I do? Let us go on with the celebration of your lives – and the celebrating of this night.”

The father of the groom might respond, in kind, thanking Maddie’s family for their hospitality, but there really is no need for any other toasting. Once the toasting back-and-forth gets started – either at the Rehearsal Dinner or at the Wedding Reception -- all danger lurks.



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