Proper Wedding Etiquette: Attire, Invitations and Gifts

Your Etiquette Questions are Answered in this Wedding Guide

Bride and groom

At no time is etiquette more necessary than at a wedding. Because of all of the people involved, it's best to follow the proper protocol so toes don't get stepped on and people don't get hurt. What follows are some wedding tips for how follow proper wedding etiquette for everything from the invitations to the toast. 

Here's an overview:

  1. Once the happy couple becomes engaged, proper etiquette dictates that the parents of the bride are told the happy news first, then the parents of the groom. If the groom's parents might be hurt at being told the news second, plan a dinner for all parents and tell them at the same time.
  2. It's tacky to make guests feel as if they're paying for the wedding. Wedding gift etiquette states that you should never request cash gifts, and never hint that a guest should bring a gift equivalent to his "per head" cost at the wedding. Cash bars, dollar dances or anything else requiring wedding guests to open their pocketbooks are tacky and can be considered serious breaches of etiquette.
  3. When seating parents at the wedding ceremony, it's very important to seat the parents of the bride last. Once the mother of the bride is seated, the wedding is to begin.
  4. Don't advertise wedding gift registries on the wedding invitation. There are many rules of wedding etiquette in invitations. Telling your guests where you are registered is considered asking for a gift. While it's proper for each guest to bring a gift for the happy couple, it's considered impolite for gifts to be requested.
  5. Never invite anyone to the wedding shower who isn't invited to the wedding. It's very poor etiquette to receive a shower gift from someone who won't be attending the event on the big day.
  6. Even if a gift arrived early, it's not proper to use it until after the wedding. If the wedding is cancelled, gifts should be returned. This includes shower gifts.
  7. Guests should never assume they can bring a date. Besides the bride and groom, there is also wedding guest etiquette. However, the guests aren't always aware of the rules. Unless the words "&guest" are listed next to your name on the invitation, it's a good indication you'll be flying solo.
  8. Guests have up to one year to send a wedding gift and don't need to do so on the big day. That isn't to say a guest should wait so long however; it's preferable to bestow gifts upon the happy couple within 30 to 60 days of the wedding.
  9. The happy couple should send thank-you cards within 30 days of returning from the honeymoon. To not do so will leave guests wondering if the gifts were liked or even received.
  10. Even though more people seem to be doing it lately, it's very bad form to wear white unless you happen to be the bride.
  11. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Unless the wedding is on the beach, the proper wedding attire is as follows: Men should wear jackets and ties and women should wear dresses. Clothes should be tasteful and not provocative.
  12. Children generally don't belong at weddings. If yours are invited, please see to it that they are properly behaved. Nothing ruins a wedding like unruly children.
  13. If you arrive at the wedding and the processional has begun, do wait until the bride has reached the altar before seating yourself. The last thing you want to do is ruin the grand entrance.
  14. Everyone in attendance is well advised to turn off cell phones, pages, personal computing devices and handheld electronic games.
  15. If you won't be attending the wedding, you are not obligated to send a gift. It's good etiquette to do so, however.
  16. Guests should RSVP for the wedding prior to the date printed on the invitation. Wedding invitation etiquette doesn't only apply to the bride and groom. Guests need to do their part as well. This will help the hosts give the final "head count" to the caterer.
  17. The family of the bride should pay for out of town wedding attendants. Guests who will require lodging are obliged to pay their own lodging costs.
  18. It's very bad form for wedding guests to overdo it at the bar. An open bar is not an invitation for drunk and disorderly conduct.

It really doesn't take much to practice proper wedding etiquette. This wedding guide hopefully answered all of your questions. Just think of how you yourself would like to be treated and do the same for others.


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