So you’ve agreed to get married; now what?
With so much thought, time, and effort going into planning the proposal, and after the initial high of shamelessly posting ring selfies to Instagram and calling up your friends and family has worn off.
It’s easy to feel a bit deflated and not to know how to act now that you’re a fiancé/fiancée, and supposedly planning a wedding.
Thankfully, men and women have been getting married for centuries now, and you can learn the basic wedding etiquette from those who came before you!
From etiquette coaches to overly-involved aunts, everyone’s got an opinion on wedding etiquette rules for the bride and groom; we believe that everyone, however, can agree on the following fundamentals.
– The Groom –
As the groom, you may have breathed a huge sigh of relief the minute she said “yes”, and you slipped the ring onto her finger; perhaps thinking that your role in the entire affair was now just about over. Boy, have we got news for you; this is only the beginning.
Herewith follows the cliff notes version of Wedding Etiquette for the Groom to be:
Selecting Your Groomsmen & Choosing Your Best Man
Now that you’re planning a wedding it’s important to give a little thought to not only who you want to be there on your special day; but who you’d like to have a front row seat to the whole shebang, so to speak. It’s time to start thinking about your groomsmen.
While for some the decision is easy because they have 4 brothers and they’ve all been groomsmen for one another and they’re not going to buck tradition; there are some factors that can complicate the decision of just who’ll stand up with you on the big day.
Perhaps you have no brothers, but you have 3 sisters with whom you are very close and who you would like to have in the wedding. This could necessitate a conversation between you and your bride-to-be.
It is not uncommon or unheard of for brides and grooms to have bridal party members of the opposite sex, especially when it is important to the bride or groom to include family members or close friends in the bridal party; however, there is more than one way to peel a peach.
For example, if you have sisters and your bride has brothers, you may choose to have her brothers act as groomsmen for you, and have your sisters act as bridesmaids for her.
It is also important to bear the aesthetics in mind, and to discuss your respective visions for the big day and your wedding photographs with your bride. Is it important to either of you to have an equal number of groomsmen and bridesmaids?
If so, you’ll have to make your lists together!
Is it important to you that there are an equal number of female bridal party members and male bridal party members regardless of whose side they’re standing on? Again, you’ll have to make your lists together if aesthetic balance is a priority to either of you.
Ultimately, this is not a decision you want to rush.
There is nothing worse than looking back on your wedding photographs one day down the line and realizing that you can’t even remember your Best Man’s name; or that your only fond memory of him is of having kicked him in the man-business after you caught him black-out drunk with his head up your sister’s skirt round the back of the bar at the reception.
Pro Tip: Remember that your best man is the one who will have to give a speech at the reception. It pays to pick someone who is comfortable with public speaking, and who is not likely to try and embarrass you or act otherwise inappropriately for a laugh.
Who’s Invited: Wedding Etiquette for Inviting Guests
The bride and groom are equally responsible for compiling the guest list, and this is a discussion that should be had relatively early on; as the size of the guest list will ultimately impact everything from the wedding venue to the catering.
The groom is responsible for compiling a list of all his immediate and extended family who need to be invited to the wedding. The groom can work in collaboration with his parents to ensure nobody gets left out.
The groom is also responsible for adding to his list any co-workers he should like to invite, or any friends who require an invite but who are not mutual friends of his and his bride’s. The bride and groom can create a third list, together, of mutual friends who they would like to invite.
Finally, it is the groom’s responsibility to get his guest list to the bride’s parents in good time to have the invitations drawn up and sent. He must also provide the relevant contact details and postal addresses for all his guests.
The “Thank You” Speech
If you’re someone who hates public speaking, I’ve got some bad news for you, it is the groom’s responsibility to give a “thank you” speech at the reception; thanking your bride’s parents for raising such a wonderful woman, your new bride for agreeing to be your wife, and everyone involved in the planning of the wedding for their involvement.
It is also polite to thank your guests for attending, and to thank your family for their support.
Pro Tip: If a way with words isn’t really your strong suit, have a friend, a parent, or your bride help you write your “thank you” speech – this is not the time for jokes, chuckles, or inappropriate innuendos. The “thank you” speech should be short, but heartfelt.
Picking Out The Wedding Ring
No, you didn’t read that wrong. The engagement ring is only the first ring you need to pick out on your journey to making your girlfriend your wife. It is the groom’s responsibility to select and pay for his bride’s wedding ring.
Nowadays, the bride and groom may select the wedding ring together, or design one together to have it made, and the groom simply pays for the ring. This is also acceptable; but it is important that you lead the charge and take responsibility for the process – your soon-to-be-wife will have a lot of other admin matters to attend to; best to take this matter off her plate and into your own hands.
Pro Tip: Hopefully you got her ring size right when you purchased her engagement ring, but, if not; make sure to pay attention and to log away her ring size when you go to get it resized, so that you can make sure you order her wedding band in the correct size!
This article may also be helpful – 11 Ways to Pick the Perfect Wedding Ring
Planning The Honeymoon
Traditionally the groom is responsible for planning the honeymoon, and he will often surprise his bride with the travel plans only after or at the wedding reception. This means that the groom takes responsibility for all travel arrangements; flights, visas, passports, accommodation, the works.
Pro Tip: It is the groom’s responsibility not only to plan the honeymoon, but to make sure his bride is packed accordingly. She’ll be furious if she ended up packing a bikini and sarongs for a ski trip because you didn’t think to help her pack for the surprise vacation. Brownie points if you buy her all the specific clothing she needs and it actually fits.
A great article to help you plan the perfect honeymoon – Planning a Honeymoon – What To Consider
– The Bride –
Choosing Your Bridesmaids & Maid of Honour
Just like for your groom, choosing your bridesmaids and selecting your Maid of Honour is of vital importance. Your bridal party are like your support staff; they’re the ones who are supposed to help you DIY wedding decor, and help you pick out your wedding dress, and help calm you down when you’re hyperventilating over your touchy-feely uncle actually accepting the wedding invitation you’d hoped would get lost in the mail.
Your bridal party are your tribe, and it is important that you choose accordingly.
While your groom may have a sister he’d like you to include, or you may have a brother you’d like to stand up with you anyway (instead of with your groom), it is important to bear in mind that this is ultimately best approached as a joint decision.
It is important that you and your groom communicate with one another about your visions from day one so as to avoid any arguments and/or nasty surprises. At the end of the day, if his sister doesn’t want to be your bridesmaid, or if your brother is uncomfortable being the only male bridal party member on the bride’s side; best not to force them into it either – remember, your bridal party need to be happy to help you.
Pick your battles.
When selecting your bridesmaids, make sure you choose the kind of women who are really going to do their utmost to be there and to support you; who really care for you and who are going to be excited about helping you craft your dream day.
The friend who’s been making everything about herself since preschool but you’ve kept her around anyway because she’s fun will make a great wedding guest; but it’s advisable you think twice before making someone who hogs the limelight like that your bridesmaid.
Once upon a time your Maid of Honour traditionally had to be an already-married woman. These days, this is not the case. Your Maid of Honour can be whoever you want her to be. If you’re uncomfortable with singling out one friend, or sibling, you can always appoint a “chief bridesmaid” for admin purposes but make no distinction between your bridal party members on your wedding day.
Dressing Yourself and Your Ladies
It is the bride’s responsibility to sort out both her own wedding dress, and her bridesmaids’ dresses (or bridal party members’ attire). The responsibility may fall to you to make your own appointments to try on wedding dresses, especially if you haven’t yet selected your bridal party, or appointed a chief bridesmaid to take care of these admin responsibilities.
It is the bride’s responsibility to pay for her wedding gown (though her family may offer to purchase it for her as a gift), and to pay for her bridesmaids’ dresses; unless they have offered to pay for their own dresses as their gift to the bride.
These days it has become popular for the bride to dictate a colour palette for her bridesmaids’ dresses, but to allow them to wear mismatched dresses they already own, or purchase dresses they select themselves; which they really are likely to wear again.
If you let your bridesmaids choose their own dresses, you are not obligated to pay for them though you may certainly still offer to contribute to the cost of the dresses up to a certain point.
The Guest List
Just like your it’s man’s responsibility to compile a guest list for his family, it is your responsibility to compile a guest list for your side of the family, as well as a list including any friends who are not mutual friends, and any co-workers or colleagues you’d like to invite to the wedding.
It is also your responsibility to collect the contact information and any relevant postal information for all your guests so that you can send your invitations out in a timely fashion.
Pro Tip: Create an Excel Spreadsheet to keep track of everybody’s contact information and adhere to the basic RSVP wedding etiquette. You could even use a mailing system to send out your save the dates, or to track electronic RSVPs using this information.
Picking Out His Wedding Ring
It’s your turn to spoil your soon-to-be-husband and surprise him with a ring!
You may want to have a discussion with your groom about the kind of wedding ring that might best suit his lifestyle.
For example, if he is a surgeon or a nurse, there will be strict rules about what kind of wedding band he is allowed to wear to work. Similarly, if he works with his hands, and there is a risk of injury to the hands, he may prefer a wedding band that can be cut off in case of an emergency; as opposed to a band of a metal that cannot be cut off – which could result in the loss of the ring finger if the finger swells due to an accident!
You never know, he may not have considered wearing a wedding band at all; and if it’s not important to either of you it’s not unheard of to forgo a ring completely after the initial symbolic exchange, which can be done with a cheapie or a borrowed wedding band.
Whatever the two of you decide is best, it is your responsibility to: a) make sure your groom is fitted for his wedding band, and b) pay for his wedding band.
Read more about choosing the Groom’s wedding ring – Men’s Wedding Bands: The Complete Guide
In truth, the bride is involved in practically every major decision pertaining to the wedding day from start to finish; so it is important to make sure that you are delegating where you can so that none of the finer details escape you.
You can create Pinterest boards for the wedding bouquet, the wedding cake, the decor, the invitations etc., with notes of what you like and don’t like about particular pins; and then ask your bridal party to meet with some of your vendors for you if the admin becomes too much for you to handle.
Pro Tip: If the budget allows; always hire a wedding planner. There is no other one thing that makes wedding planning as enjoyable and as easy as taking the plunge and hiring a professional. Your wedding planner will also be your go-to guide when it comes to proper wedding etiquette for everyone, from the bride and groom to the officiant!
On The Big Day: Enjoy Yourself
“On your wedding day your only responsibility should be to enjoy yourself!”
At the end of the day, wedding etiquette and the traditional rules dictating the roles and responsibilities of the bride and groom have become far more relaxed, less prescriptive, and less clear over the years.
These days, couples are far less likely to prescribe to gendered expectations or norms in their marriage, and so they are less concerned with fulfilling gendered roles in their wedding planning.
Ultimately, it is up to the two who are getting married how they would like to divvy up responsibilities when it comes to wedding planning; the etiquette guides of old are, after all, only that: guides; to be followed or deviated from as it suits the individual couple.
Featured Photographers: Vizion Photography & Films | Joe/Daniela | Jean-Pierre Uys | Zara-Zoo | Shanna Jones | Yolande Marx