Although weddings are delightfully fun occasions, they also come with a set of rules and traditions that can sometimes be tricky to navigate and keep track of. What rules of etiquette should you follow? What cultural traditions should you consider incorporating? Will people throw rice, and if so, when? Add family traditions on top of these types of questions and the situation becomes even more complex. Not to worry, though; we’ve got you covered. Knowing the do’s, the don’ts, and the options will help you navigate the occasion smoothly. Let’s explore the world of wedding etiquette and traditions.
Familiarize yourself with these rules in order to avoid any unintentional faux pas and ensure a harmonious celebration.
Invitations and RSVPs
The wedding invitation sets the tone for the entire event and provides essential information to guests. Proper etiquette dictates that invitations should be sent out well in advance, allowing guests ample time to RSVP. Aim to send them out 6-8 weeks prior to the wedding. Clear instructions regarding the RSVP process should be included, making it easy for guests to respond promptly. Remember, a well-organized guest list is crucial for planning seating arrangements, catering, and overall logistics.
Cultural and Religious Considerations
Weddings are deeply influenced by cultural and religious backgrounds. Especially if you’re marrying outside of your own culture, it’s crucial to be aware of, attentive to, and respectful of the cultural and religious considerations that are important to your partner’s family. From attire choices to rituals and customs, you should make it a point to understand and incorporate any important cultural and religious traditions. Get your own family in on any unfamiliar customs as well. Involving them will go a long way towards facilitating bonding between your two families.
Dress Code and Attire
Dress code and attire expectations vary depending on the wedding style and formality. It’s essential to communicate the dress code clearly on the invitations, helping guests select appropriate attire. From black-tie to casual beach weddings, specifying the dress code ensures that everyone feels comfortable and appropriately dressed for the occasion.
Ceremony and Reception Etiquette
During the wedding ceremony and reception, certain etiquette guidelines should be followed. These include being punctual, refraining from disruptive behavior, and following any specific instructions provided by the couple or the wedding planner. If it’s your wedding, have a member of your wedding party on hand to politely remind guests who don’t follow these guidelines of anything they might have overlooked. Additionally, be mindful of the fact that everyone and their Mom (literally) will want to talk with you, so don’t spend too much time with any one guest or party.
Seating arrangements play a crucial role in ensuring a smooth flow of the wedding reception. Careful consideration should be given to seating family members, close friends, and acquaintances strategically. Thoughtfully-arranged seating fosters a comfortable atmosphere and encourages conversation and mingling among guests. Try to seat people with those they know and like, and also consider who doesn’t know one another yet but might get along famously if seated nearby each other.
Send out registry information with the invitations in order to make it easier for guests to choose a gift that aligns with your preferences. Additionally, it’s crucial that you send thank-you notes promptly after the wedding to express gratitude to guests for the gifts received as well as for their presence.
Speeches and Toasts
Speeches and toasts are a major highlight of many a wedding reception. It’s customary for the best man, maid of honor, and sometimes close friends and family members to give speeches or toasts. Make sure everyone who is expected to say something is aware of this, and remind them to keep their speeches heartfelt, concise, and appropriate for the occasion, to practice beforehand, and to check with you regarding any jokes or stories about which they’re unsure.
Wedding favors are a small token of appreciation given to guests as a way to thank them for attending and celebrating the special day. They could be personalized trinkets like keychains or coasters, edible treats, succulents or plants, candles, mini alcohol bottles, homemade soaps or bath bombs, seed packets, or anything else you think your guests will find meaningful. In place of physical wedding favors, some couples choose to make a charitable donation on behalf of their guests. In this case, they provide guests with a card or a small token that represents the donation made to a cause that’s close to their hearts.
Social Media and Technology
In the age of smartphones and social media, it’s important to establish guidelines regarding their usage during the wedding. Some couples opt for an unplugged wedding, where guests are politely requested to refrain from using their devices during the ceremony and reception. Alternatively, others encourage guests to share their experience on social media using a designated wedding hashtag. Clear communication is key to ensuring everyone respects your wishes when it comes to tech.
Common Wedding Traditions in the USA
Consider which of these, if any, you want to include in your wedding. Feel free to mix and match or get creative and come up with your own customs and rituals, instead.
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue
This age-old tradition is a superstition that is believed to bring good luck to the bride. She is encouraged to wear or carry something old, symbolizing continuity; something new, representing a fresh start; something borrowed, usually an item from a happily married friend or family member as a symbol of borrowed happiness; and something blue, symbolizing purity, love, and fidelity.
White Wedding Dress
The tradition of wearing a white wedding dress originated in the Victorian era and has since become the standard choice for many brides in the USA. The white dress symbolizes purity, innocence, and the bride’s transition into a new chapter of her life. However, modern brides are also embracing non-traditional colors and styles, allowing for more personal expression. You do you.
Walking Down the Aisle
The tradition of the bride being escorted down the aisle by her father or a significant male figure is deeply ingrained in American weddings. This symbolic gesture represents the father giving away his daughter to her new life with her partner. However, today, many brides choose to walk down the aisle alone or accompanied by both parents, reflecting changing family dynamics and personal preferences.
Exchanging Wedding Vows and Rings
The exchange of vows and rings at the altar is a central and heartfelt custom in which the couple expresses their love, commitment, and promises to each other in the presence of their loved ones. The rings symbolize the eternal nature of their love and the unity they are forming. This part of the ceremony can be personalized if you so choose; write your own vows, and/or personalize your rings with custom engravings.
Traditionally, the couple takes the dance floor before anyone else begins dancing for their first dance as a married couple. It is typically a romantic and intimate moment shared between the newlyweds, accompanied by a special song of their choice.
Cutting the Wedding Cake
This tradition symbolizes the couple’s unity and their first task together as a married couple. The two of you could hold a knife together and cut the first slice of cake, which you then share with each other as a gesture of your commitment to provide for one another. The act of feeding each other the cake also symbolizes the care and support you will provide throughout your married life.
Throwing the Bouquet and Garter Toss
The bouquet and garter toss are playful traditions that get guests more actively engaged. The bride tosses her bouquet into a group of unmarried women, and it is believed that the woman who catches the bouquet will be the next to marry. Similarly, the groom removes the garter from the bride’s leg and tosses it to a group of unmarried men. The man who catches the garter is thought to be the next to find love.
As the celebration comes to an end, you’ll make your grand exit from the wedding venue. Exit traditions typically involve guests showering the couple with rice, flower petals, confetti, or blowing bubbles as they leave. Think about which exit tradition you’d like to employ or whether you’ll come up with something entirely your own. Whatever you choose will signify your departure into your new life together, filled with love and well-wishes from family and friends.
Wedding traditions in the USA are a beautiful blend of cultural influences, personal preferences, and regional customs. While these traditions hold significance and add charm to the wedding celebration, you’re free to choose which to include, which to omit, and which to put your own unique spin on.
Minority Group Wedding Traditions
Here are some traditions common amongst our country’s minority groups. If you or your partner come from one of these backgrounds, consider incorporating some of these traditions. Even if the two of you aren’t particularly connected to your background(s), your families might appreciate seeing their lineages honored on your wedding day.
Jewish Wedding Traditions
Jewish weddings are steeped in rich traditions and rituals, some of which date back thousands of years. Some of these include the following.
Ketubah: A ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the couple. It often includes provisions related to love, respect, support, and companionship. Additionally, it lays out financial arrangements and responsibilities as well as conditions for divorce. It is relatively similar to a modern-day prenuptial agreement.
Chuppah: The chuppah is a canopy under which the couple stands during the ceremony. It symbolizes the home they will build together and the presence of God in their union.
Breaking of the Glass: At the end of the ceremony, the groom breaks a glass under his foot. This act symbolizes the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem; it also serves to remind the couple of the fragility of relationships and the importance of never taking one another for granted and instead treasuring and nurturing their bond long after the wedding day.
Indian Wedding Traditions
Indian weddings are known for their grandeur, vibrant colors, and rich cultural traditions. Some notable traditions include the following; however, Indian wedding traditions vary widely by region.
Mehendi Ceremony: Otherwise known as the henna night, this custom involves the application of intricate henna designs on the bride’s hands and feet. It is a joyful celebration filled with music and dancing.
Saptapadi: During the wedding ceremony, the couple takes seven steps together, representing their seven promises or vows to each other. Each step symbolizes a commitment they make as they embark on their journey of married life.
Garlands Exchange: The exchange of garlands between the bride and groom signifies their acceptance and acknowledgment of each other as life partners.
Hispanic Wedding Traditions
Hispanic weddings are traditionally full of liveliness and cultural customs, such as these.
Las Arras: The groom presents thirteen gold coins to the bride as a symbol of his commitment to supporting and providing for their future family.
La Hora Loca: Towards the end of the reception, a lively and festive hour known as “La Hora Loca” or “The Crazy Hour” takes place. It involves upbeat music, colorful costumes, masks, and props.
Money Dance: During the reception, guests take turns dancing with the bride or groom and pinning money onto their attire as a way to contribute to the couple’s future.
African American Wedding Traditions
African American weddings often incorporate traditions honoring their African roots and celebrating their heritage. Some notable traditions include the following.
Jumping the Broom: Jumping the broom is a symbolic act in which the couple jumps over a broomstick during the ceremony. It represents their entrance into a new life together and pays homage to African ancestors.
Libation Ceremony: A small amount of water, wine, or other liquid is poured out to honor and remember ancestors who have passed away.
Soul Food: Soul food, a culinary tradition rooted in African American culture, often plays a significant role in wedding receptions. Dishes such as fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and sweet potato pie are commonly served.
These are just a few examples of the diverse wedding traditions practiced by minority populations in the USA. These traditions highlight the importance of cultural heritage, family values, and community bonds within these communities. Take some time to recall or research what traditions your ancestors and married family members employed in their weddings. You just might find some meaning there.
Navigating Family Traditions
One of the challenges couples often face is navigating family traditions and expectations. When blending two families together, it’s important to find a balance that respects both sides as well as your own wishes as a couple. Prepare yourself to potentially encounter some conflict in this area, and commit to communicating clearly, being willing to compromise on some points, and remaining as open-minded as possible. While it’s important not to sacrifice anything that’s truly important to you or to participate in any rituals to which you’re vehemently opposed, bear in mind that family relationships going forward are far more important than the specifics of any one day.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Wedding Etiquette and Traditions
Q: How far in advance should wedding invitations be sent?
A: Wedding invitations should be sent out six to eight weeks before the wedding date to give guests ample time to RSVP.
Q: Should thank-you notes be handwritten?
A: Handwritten thank-you notes add a personal touch and show appreciation. While it may take more time, it’s worth the effort to make each note heartfelt and sincere.
Q: Do I need to invite all my coworkers to my wedding?
A: Although it’s not mandatory to invite all your coworkers, it’s generally recommended to invite those with whom you have a close relationship or work closely. However, if you choose to invite some coworkers and not others, be sure to maintain professionalism and avoid discussing the wedding extensively in the workplace.
Q: Can we have a cash registry instead of a traditional gift registry?
A: Yes, you can! Many couples nowadays prefer cash registries or honeymoon funds, as these allow them to choose how they want to allocate the money. However, it’s important to approach the topic tactfully. Instead of directly asking for cash, consider using a platform that specializes in honeymoon funds or create a small section on your wedding website where guests can contribute if they wish.
Q: Should we invite children to our wedding?
A: The decision to invite children to your wedding ultimately rests with you and your partner. If you envision a kid-free celebration, it’s acceptable to state it explicitly on the invitation by addressing it to the adults only. On the other hand, if you are open to having children attend, make sure to consider their needs by providing suitable activities and accommodations.
Navigating wedding etiquette and traditions is both exciting and challenging. Now that the two of you understand the foundations of wedding etiquette and have some idea of the traditions at your disposal, you’re well-equipped to put together an event that honors your styles, personalities, guests, families, and heritage.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]