For decades, it seemed like wedding etiquette was pretty much carved in stone. It was easy to know who paid for what, the appropriate type of attire and jewelry for a daytime wedding (semi-formal and classic pearls), and even what to give the bride for her shower. All you had to do was pick up an etiquette book by Emily Post or your preferred doyenne of good manners, and follow the instructions within. Nowadays, though, things are not so simple. It feels like the rules have changed in a matter of a few short years (brides in black dresses?!). Despair not, confused brides and mothers of the bride; get up to speed with this quick wedding etiquette update.
The number question that comes up is who is supposed to pay for the wedding expenses now. It used to be so easy: the father of the bride wrote the checks for everything except the wedding rings, the bridesmaid jewelry gifts (bought by the bride), the honeymoon (the groom’s responsibility), and the bride’s bouquet (groom again). Given the huge financial burden put on the father of the bride, traditionally the groom’s parents hosted the rehearsal dinner. Things have really changed in recent years, and it is no longer assumed that the bride’s dad will be automatically footing the bill for everything. Now if he offers, that is great. However, many couples pay for all or most of their own weddings, with their parents contributing as they are willing or able to. So before you start planning a lavish no-holds-bareed extravaganza, it is best to get a really clear picture on how much money you will have to pay for the wedding.
Next wedding etiquette update: the bride can wear whatever she wants. (That said, she also has to be prepared for the reactions if she chooses something very nontraditional.) First and foremost, let’s dispel the myth that a pure white dress equals a pure bride. It doesn’t. Plenty of women who have not saved themselves for marriage wear white, and plenty of women who have don’t wear white. While most brides will still choose white or ivory bridal gowns, these days designers are making wedding dresses in red, champagne, pink, baby blue, and even black. While I am not personally a fan of a black wedding dress (being a bit of a classicist myself when it comes to wedding attire), if that is what you love, you can wear it on your wedding day. One rule of etiquette which does still apply is that the bride should dress respectfully for a wedding in a house of worship. While many churches would not blink an eye at a strapless wedding dress, please save the deep cleavage or micro mini for another occasion.
Not all wedding etiquette has changed with the times, and here is one thing that remains constant: you cannot ask your guests to help finance your wedding. This means no cash bar, no “wishing wells”, no demands for cash instead of actual gifts, and no requests for “sponsors” for the event. It is your wedding; how you pay for it is your business, but you cannot make it the business of your guests. The best solution is always to host the type of wedding you can afford. What that looks like will vary from one couple to the next. If you come from a big close-knit family, it could mean a cake and punch reception in the church hall so that everyone you love can be there. Or it could mean a smaller celebration with fewer guests, but hosted in an elegant fashion. There is no right or wrong type of wedding, unless it is one that is beyond your means to pay for.