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Let's brush up on our wedding manners...shall we?

Wedding EtiquetteEtiquette for Wedding Invitations and Replies

An invitation to a wedding is one of the most personal invitations we receive. In most cases a lot of care has gone into the design and wording. For this article, we'll focus on a ‘traditional’ family where the bride’s parents will host the wedding, the groom’s parents will host the rehearsal dinner, and the Maid of Honor or bridesmaids will host the bridal shower. The groomsmen are off the hook thus far except for the bachelors’ party but in my personal experience, more often than not, proper etiquette and decorum is circumvented at such occasions (including bachelorette parties) so we’ll leave them alone for now.

The formality of the wedding usually dictates what sort of wedding invitation one sends. For large formal weddings of over 100 people, an engraved or specially designed and printed invitation is very suitable. The invitation states the basic information:  who the brides parents are, who the bride and groom are, date, time, location and an RSVP contact. There is no mention of gifts on any invitation – ever.

Often times, there is a reply card and envelope inserted into the invitation. These can be used for RSVPs. In this case, you generally reply with your name and name of your guest, if one is invited. If no guest is invited do not indicate you will be bringing one. Uninvited guests are never welcome.

In the case of a reception following the wedding ceremony, the location is indicated on the card. If there is a dinner, a check off box for choice of entrée may well be included. Here is a good place to indicate any food allergies – not preferences, but real allergies.

Such insert cards come in very handy when not all of the guests from the ceremony will be invited to the reception. The reverse is true as well. Some wedding ceremonies are quite small including only immediate family members, and then a large reception with friends follows. In this instance, the main invitation goes to all the guests of the larger event and the insert card would be for those guests being included at the smaller one.

Be sure to respond to any invitations you receive as quickly as possible – preferably within 48 hours. If you are not sure if you’ll attend, you have two choices. One would be to phone the host and explain the situation. Let them know that you will have a firm reply no later than seven days prior to the date of the event. If you are still unsure then, you must regret the invitation. The other choice is to regret the invitation immediately.

Rehearsal dinners are generally hosted by the groom’s parents. These events are a wonderful opportunity to entertain out of town guests and also serves a great time for the families of the bride and groom to get acquainted. For more formal events, the invitation to this is sent out by the host and hostess. Often a reply card is included to select the main course as well as an RSVP. Be prompt in replying to this invitation. The host is customarily charged for the number of dinners ordered and the final head count is often requested by the restaurant or club seven days in advance to insure the proper amount of food is ordered. For informal parties, a telephone call or simple hand written invitation is appropriate.

Bridal showers are generally given by either the Maid of Honor or the bridesmaids. Traditionally this is a party for ladies only. Gifts are of course expected but never mentioned on the invitation. These invitations tend to be less formal and are almost always hand written or delivered by telephone. This is one gathering, either before or during, where gift registries are mentioned.

Today, email seems to be taking over many forms of communication. I receive as many invitations by email as by snail mail. I don’t think wedding invitations should be delivered in this manner, no matter how informal the event. Treat wedding with the respect they deserve.

Many questions abound around the topic of gifts. Brides are sometimes registered at various specialty stores. They have selected specific patterns for their silver and china, both 'everyday' and 'special'. Brides also need certain things. It’s all true. But in no circumstance is it ever okay to include a hint of a gift on or in an invitation. The solution to spreading the word is word of mouth. It takes very little time for word of mouth to spread. Most people invited to a wedding are close friends of either the bride or groom or both and know how to find out what they might like. Call the Best Man or Maid of Honor. Call the mother of the bride or other close family member. Even ask the bride or groom. Just don’t include such information on the invitation. Being invited to anything should not come with a price of admission (unless of course it’s a fund raising event for a non-profit organization). Good manners dictate that a gift is generally in order however, and finding a personal appropriate gift shows not only the deep respect you have for the couple but reflects well on the respect you have for yourself.

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Meet Stage of Life's Etiquette Coach

Meet Jay Remer - etiquette expert on StageofLife.comOur Etiquette Expert

Why Jay?  It's simple...Jay knows etiquette. 

For years Jay has planned and managed royal, corporate, political and social events and parties, some of them for up to 500 people.  As a graduate of the Protocol School of Washington, he offers workshops on business, social and dining etiquette, as well as international protocol for a variety of audiences.  From teenage students to corporate clients, Jay teaches everything from the basics of a handshake to the subtleties of developing a business relationship during a networking dinner.  His course on self-esteem in youth, in particular, has been encouraged by Dr. Piet Forni, founder of the Civility institute at Johns Hopkins University.  Originally from Delaware, Jay now lives in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada  where he has written a weekly etiquette column in the National Post and is a current columnist in New Brunswick’s Telegraph Journal.  He is a Social Etiquette and Good Manners expert on and has answered over 1,000 questions from people around the world...and we post his content here on Stage of Life.  

You can read more about Jay on his website,

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