Thursday, August 21, 2014

Etiquette expert helps plan the big day

One clue to how formal a wedding will be is the location of the ceremony and/or reception. A fancy hotel indicates that guests should expect to wear more formal attire. CanStock photo

[ File # csp2198574, License # 2355073 ] Licensed through in accordance with the End User License Agreement ( (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / hollandphotos

From page A5 | February 19, 2013 |

By Rebecca Black

Two people fall in love, wed and live happily ever after. Sounds ideal. However, in the real world, planning the wedding to involve both sides of the family, including the “steps” and “exes” can be difficult, if not nearly impossible. Excluding some might be hurtful, especially when children are involved. As an etiquette professional, I answer wedding etiquette and planning questions like these every day. Here, I answer the top five most asked wedding questions.

Who is seated where and when?
Steps, exes, and mothers oh my! Encore weddings are increasingly more common. This leads to even more exes and stepfamily on our guest list. Add this into the planning blender and sometimes we get a toxic mix. To avoid a mess, it’s best to know where and when to seat “honored guests” like our parents.

If parents are on friendly terms, all may sit in the front row. However, how often does that happen? To keep everybody happy, separate and seat them in the proper order.

First: Groom’s father and stepmother (third row)
Second: Bride’s father and stepmother (third row)
Third: Groom’s mother and stepfather (first row)
Fourth: Bride’s mother and stepfather (first row)

Who foots the bill?
The days of the bride’s parents footing the wedding bill are over. Yes, it has been traditional for many years, but things change. Young people have more choices than in the past. If they decide to marry, they should expect to pay for it.

That is not to say that it is wrong to ask if parents might want to contribute. Nevertheless, parents shouldn’t be pressured to do so. If they contribute, it is considered a gift with no planning rights attached. Conversely, it is polite to allow parents to plan and invite guests if they have contributed, which can be a slippery slope. So, consider this before asking for wedding cash from parents.

How can a couple invite guests to the wedding and not the reception?
Since the wedding is the gift-giving event, this would not be polite or fair. To invite some and not all is classifying one group as “good enough” to entertain and others only good enough to give the couple a gift. The set-in-stone rule is that we invite all wedding guests to the entire reception.

How is one to determine the formality of a wedding?
We begin with time of day and venue. Evening weddings tend to be more formal and if the site is formal, the wedding should be too. Religion plays a part as well. Catholic and Jewish weddings tend to be very formal, although civil ceremonies also could be formal.

Formal wedding invitations convey formality with heavyweight ivory, cream, or white paper, engraved and written in third-person style using classic fonts. For informal weddings, there is more freedom to customize invitations using informal language and style.

Nevertheless, the bride decides formality through her dress choice. If she wants a long, beaded, embroidered formal gown with veil and cathedral train, she wants and plans a formal wedding.

Bottom line, the couple decides formality by the gown/bridal attire, time of day and venue. Therefore, guests guess formality by the invitation, time of day and location.

How does a couple inform guests that the event is child-free?
To exclude children, it is best to include an inner envelope with the wedding invitations and listing only those invited. Unfortunately, guests often ignore this and tend to “invite” their own guests, especially their own children. So, use word of mouth to spread the word as well.

Be prepared for some to abide by these wishes and some not.

— Reach etiquette expert Rebecca Black at



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