The unspoken rules of weddings

We’re coming into March, one of the biggest months of the wedding season. I have two to go to.

Weddings have never been more eclectic, borrowing from this culture and that tradition but something has remained the same – the unspoken rules. You know, the stuff you should ‘just know’.

Im not just talking about the bride and groom, and it’s not just about thank you notes and taking family politics into account with the seating plan.

Some things haven’t changed, such as don’t wear all-black or all-white to a wedding (especially the guys) and don’t try to garner more attention than the bride (again, guys), but some things have changed that the ye olde etiquette books haven’t caught up on yet. It’s called 2012.

So this is a print off and keep quick reference guide to the modern wedding.

If they pay, they get a say

If you’re paying for everything, then skip this bit.

If parents, bridesmaids or anyone else chips in for anything at your wedding, I believe that whatever they’re chipping in for is totally up for negotiation.

If you’re paying for the bridesmaid’s hair, makeup, dresses and shoes, you have every right to make them look and gorgeous or as heinous has you like.

However, if your folks are contributing some cash to the wedding. Guess what. You might just have to bend and invite your weird cousin or racist old uncle or your pompous-ass aunty Beryl.

It’s all about the price of admission. It’s also a reason why Im not having bridesmaids. Too hard.

Deciphering the invitation

Read the invitation carefully. Whose names are on it? Yours and your brother’s? Then guess what? You and your brother are invited.

Oh dear, your brother can’t make it? You may not put your best friend’s name in lieu of his.  If he can’t make it, you need to call the bride and ask if you can bring your friend, but keep in mind that the bride may have a standby list of invitee’s that are just waiting for a first-round regret to ensure they get a seat. If she says no, you’re going stag.

If the invitation carries your name ‘plus guest’, do bring someone.

If the invitation just carries your name and your name only, this does not mean you automatically assume a ‘plus one’. It means you’re going alone.

Additionally, if you have only been seeing your partner for a short time, say 3 months or less, they will be at risk of being vetoed.

‘No children’ is not meant as an insult. Don’t take it as one.

You must RSVP.

*Hey brides, guess what? Some people won’t RSVP on time. Shockingly, it’s true.  I know, even with pre-stamped return envelopes. How dare they. Don’t be surprised if you have to chase them up. But it always happens. Expect it.

Great expectations – what an invitation should get you

If a guest receives an invitation, they will expect it is for both the ceremony and the reception.

If it’s just for the ceremony, why are you wasting money on a formal invitation? Just tell them the day and time and that you would love it if they stuck their heads in to have a look.

It’s happened to me where I have prepared for a whole evening of fun and frivolity and found out, embarrassingly at the very last minute, through another guest, not even the happy couple, that I wasn’t on ‘the list’ for the reception. Let’s just say that I still have their kick-ass present meant for them in my kitchen. It works wonders.

Your presence is your present (and other vague terms)

If they have a registry, use it. At the very least you know that your gift is wanted.

Asking for money is now not considered rude. And in fact, it’s pretty convenient. Remember to pop it inside a nice card and don’t leave the ATM receipt in there.

If you going to ask for money, one of my friends piped up with a ‘stop with the lame poems’. She means this… and this is an actual poem from an invitation…

Our home is quite complete now,
We’ve been together long.
So please consider our request,
And do not take us wrong.
A delicate request it is,
We hope you understand.
Please play along, as it will give
Our married life a hand.

The tradition of the wishing well,
Is one that’s known by all.
Go to the well, toss in a coin
And as the coin does fall.
Make a wish upon that coin,
And careful as you do.
Cause as the well’s tradition goes,
Your wishes will come true.

So on this special day or ours,
The day that we’ll be wed.
Don’t hunt for special gifts
But give money is it’s stead.
And as you drop the envelope,
With money great and small,
Remember, make your wish
As you watch your money fall 

or what about this corker

Please drop in a token of love
for this special Groom & Bride,
as they start their life united by God
to live forever side by side.


If you want cash, just say that cash is appreciated. HOWEVER pleeeeese don’t casually refer to it the ‘cocktail sinking fund’. You’ve needed it enough to ask for it, don’t make your cash-giving guests regret slipping you that extra $50.

If you’re giving money, how much to give? A good rule of thumb is ‘how much would this cost me if I had bought a ticket?’

Don’t re-gift. Dying to offload that extra toaster/ mini pie maker/ soda stream you got for Christmas? This is not the time to palm it off. Save it for the housewarming.

Making the I do’s into an ‘Oh no she di’nt!’

This generally doesn’t happen in church weddings as people know to ‘pull up a pew’, however at a beachside/park or other non-denominational ceremony you probably won’t be ushered to a seat. Sure, while it’s normally provided for close family or the oldies, if it gets to the point that the bride starts to walk down the aisle, and the chairs are empty, sit down in them. The bride will thank you later on, as the photos look so much better when the seats are full.

 If petal cones are provided, make sure that you throw them – on the celebrants cue. On that, throw them up in the air, not directly at the bride and groom, tempting as that may be.

If you are giving a reading at the ceremony, take your sunnies off. Like completely off. Hand someone your sunglasses as you go up to the lectern or pulpit. They should not be on your head at all.

Ooh, I just have to ‘check in’ and other social (media) graces

One trend that is emerging is the ‘unplugged’ wedding. If the couple has expressed that you keep your devices away this, fight the urge to ‘slide to unlock’ and put the camera phone down. I’ve gotten late to a wedding once, stood up the back and all you could see was the glow of the viewfinders all around the room. Sure, you’re shooting it, but you’re not really living it. Take one or two photos and put it away.

It’s a really smart thing to check with the bride about how she feels about social media on the day. If you want to upload your own photos to Facebook, does she want you to not tag her straight away? Is it OK to upload before she does?

Do ask the tech-savvy bride what the Twitter hashtag for the day is and if they don’t have one, offer to create one if they would like. I had one for my engagement party which was #bp4eva.

Ask beforehand if you can Tweet or Facebook the ceremony or reception. Think of the people that weren’t invited and whether they would appreciate it. They may, but they also may not want you clogging up their feed, especially on Facebook.


 Surprise! It’s a cash bar!

You can’t expect people that have forked out for your pressie, a sweet outfit, have perhaps travelled a long way and paid for a hotel to fork out more for alcohol.

While you don’t have to include top shelf deliciousness, do provide at least the usual beer, wine and soft drinks. Don’t be stingy.

If you’re having a straight-edge or dry wedding, make it very clear on the invitation. Some people may only bring enough money to get home. Don’t make them fish out their wishing well money for the cash bar. Awkward.

 While we’re on the subject…

Control your drinking during pre-drinks while the bride and groom are getting their photos taken. This is a really good chance to have a small snack and lots of water. They’ve spent a lot of money on this day. Don’t be a bad human and ruin it before the reception has even started.

Do not get drunk within the first hour of the reception.

Do not get inappropriately drunk in the second hour.

Once the dancing has started, and only once it’s started, does drunkenness become almost expected.

Do eat the food that is provided. Especially if you’re drinking.

It’s a reception, not the Big Day Out

A wedding planner has told me that it is the height of rudeness to change the table place cards around. She says if you do, ‘you’re a selfish wiener’, her words, not mine.

OK, call me a selfish wiener, but I’ve done this. I mean I haven’t literally moved a whole chair over to another table (which I see all the time), but I have changed a name card or two. I really didn’t think it mattered. Especially if you get to the table when no one is around and you do the ol’ switcheroo. But apparently it’s not cool. I say if no one minds, why not?

Brides, to risk the above not happening, really think about who is sitting next to whom. You wouldn’t seat your grandma Joanie with your rowdy work friends (unless she’s like Betty White), nor would you put feuding uncles on the same table. Give them a break. Put some real time and effort into this balancing act. Perhaps put the oldies closer to the amenities and the rowdy friends next to the dancefloor.

Do not heckle the speeches. This is just a note to self.

What I do agree on with the wedding planner is that if you are wearing heels, discreetly bring a pair of flat shoes to change into. These are are a great idea too. You can generally sneak into the reception before the ceremony, find your seat and place them there. This will save you from being that girl that’s on the news after a big day at the Perth Cup. You know the one. Don’t be her.

Do not leave the reception before the bride and groom. Unless you are old or dying. If you are really drunk and tired, find a quiet corner under an unoccupied table and have a glass of lemonade. Don’t be chucked out for being too pissed.

Yes. You must do the nutbush. No you do not have to dance to anything by Jivebunny or Rednex. Nor participate in any ‘megamix’.

Take your bonbonniere home with you. The couple have spent good money on those sugared almonds or bespoke stubbie cubbie, it’s bad form if you leave them behind.

Don’t steal alcohol at the end of the evening. If you do, be stealth about it.

If you remember only one thing…

If you’re going to ignore all this – there is just one word of advice.

If you can possibly help it, do not cancel painfully close to the wedding, like the day before.

That goes for everyone, including the bride and groom.

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