Weddings can be a complicated old business, with the question of etiquette never too far away. So with the matrimonial season now well and truly underway, we’ve put together a basic guide to the traditional dos and don’ts of a modern wedding. Take note or ignore as you see fit…
Okay, so it’s not exactly etiquette, but for the bride her wedding is all about the organisation. She should be – and will want to be – involved in all the decision making in virtually every aspect of her big day. So whether it’s the cake, the dress, the flowers or simply the type of ceremony, expect the bride to have a major say in it all.
It is, however, important that the bride remembers that it’s also a big day for the two sets of parents. They’ll definitely appreciate some consultation, particularly if they’re paying, while their opinions on certain stuff may also prove beneficial.
There’s a funny stigma about grooms taking a backseat throughout the whole business of wedding preparations. It’s rubbish. And if it’s not, it’s because the bride has scared him into inactivity! So assuming this isn’t the case, what exactly are the groom’s main duties?
First of all, there’s the small matter of the engagement ring. And after that he should be involved in choosing the venue/s and stuff like the photographer and videographer. According to tradition, it’s also his responsibility to come up with the guest list, which he then presents to the bride’s mum. Now personally, we’ve never heard of this before. Ever. But if you’re determined to do it ‘properly’, that’s the custom.
So what else? Well, on the day itself, the groom and his best men should arrive at the venue a good 30 minutes before the scheduled start. And once the ceremony gets under way, his bride should always be on his left.
After this, it’s onto the reception, where tradition dictates he and the bride should meet their guests. The groom is then expected to introduce his wife to friends and relatives who haven’t met her before. But again, these are two points rarely adhered to these days, so don’t take too much notice unless, of course, you really want to do it the classic way…
Later on – following the father of the bride’s speech – the groom should thank the bride’s mum and dad for their daughter. This should be done during his own speech, which is based primarily around a list of thank yous. He should toast the bridesmaids and tell them how nice they look.
Lastly, and this is really weird, the groom will traditionally ask the bride’s mum to have the first dance with him. The bride’s father then steps in to take over, allowing the groom to dance with his wife. Now we can safely say we’ve never seen that happen. And thank God for that! It sounds very odd. But if it floats your boat…
The Best Man/Men
Tradition suggests that the role of a best man is something akin to a wedding planner. He’s pretty much responsible for everything, from arranging the stag do, to organising the collection of wedding presents. So for those of you who really want to do it the old-fashioned way, here’s what a best man should expect to carry out…
• Arrange the stag
• Pay any church fees on behalf of the groom
• Make sure the groom arrives punctually for the ceremony
• Give out the buttonholes
• Give out the Orders of Service
• Organise the seating arrangements
• Escort the bridemaid/s down the aisle
• Remember the wedding rings and be ready to present them when asked
• Witness the signing of the register
• Sort out the transport from the ceremony to the reception
• Organise the ushers
• Speech at the wedding breakfast, including any messages from absent invitees
• First dance with the bridesmaid
• ‘Breaking the ice’ among guests, so that the party quickly gets into full swing
• Collection of wedding presents
• Make sure guests’ transport arrangements are sorted
Now should any best men be reading this, don’t panic. Today’s reality is a long way from what we’ve included above. Basically, best men should sort out the stag do, make sure they’ve got the wedding rings on the day, be prepared to help herd the crowds and have a funny speech ready for dinner. That’s really about it, along with being available to generally make sure the day runs as smoothly as possible.
As you’d expect, the role of the bridesmaids revolves around taking care of the bride. So before the big day, this will typically entail helping choose a dress, going with the bride to the fittings, helping her shop for all the other bits and bobs, and organising the hen do. On the day itself, their job is to make sure the day runs without any hiccups, in much the same way as the best men. They’ll also be expected to help the bride get ready and sort out her dress, before preceding her up the aisle.
Having said all that, this is what the traditional take of the role of a bridesmaid looks like…
• Helping the bride choose her dress
• Attending the subsequent fittings and helping her shop for the other bits and pieces
• Organising the hen do
• Helping the bride keep tabs on accepted and declined invitations
• Making the final checks with the florist, photographer, reception and whatnot
• Going with the bride to the hairdresser on the morning of the wedding
• Making sure the bride’s transport is running to schedule
• Meeting the bride at the entrance of the ceremony venue
• Carrying the bride’s bouquet to the ‘alter’
• Witnessing the signing of the register
• Helping with any ‘running repairs’ on the bride’s dress throughout the day
• Helping the best men with getting everyone acquainted at the reception
The Bride’s Parents
Traditionally it’s been down to the bride’s parents to pay for the majority of the wedding. However, in more recent years the cost has been more evenly split between both sets of parents and, in some cases, the couple themselves as well. That said, there are some key responsibilities that the bride’s parents still undertake…
First of all, it’s their job to discuss and agree the plans with the groom’s parents. Secondly, they tend to help their daughter with the guest list and the invitations. And thirdly, in terms of the day itself, they witness the signing of the register, before playing host to the reception.
Then of course, there’s the role of the father of the bride. In fact, the tradtions given to the bride’s dad are perhaps the ones that have best stood the test of time. He travels to the ceremony with his daughter, escorts her down the aisle, gives her away and witnesses the signing of the register. Later on, he gives the first speech at the wedding breakfast and raises a toast to the bride and groom. And finally, at the end of the party, he bids farewell to the departing guests. He’s usually the last to leave.
The Groom’s Parents
There are no traditional roles for the groom’s parents to worry about, although as we touched on above, it’s widely accepted that nowadays they’ll help the bride’s parents with the cost of the day.
In addition to that, it’s therefore now customary for the two sets of parents to meet, discuss the arrangements and agree the plans among themselves.
The role of the ushers hasn’t really changed much over the years, so their main tasks generally involve making sure people know where they’re meant to be and when. This means showing people to their seats at the ceremony, making sure people know where they’re headed to for the reception, and so on and so forth. This can sometimes mean the ushers act as unofficial masters of ceremonies – ensuring everything runs to schedule.
The Pageboys and Flowergirls
You don’t tend to see quite so many pageboys and flowergirls these days, but for those of you who are having them, the flowergirls’ main ‘role’ is to simply follow the bridesmaids down the aisle. They’ll sometimes scatter flower petals or confetti as they go. As for the pageboys, they’ll traditionally help carry the bridal train (if it’s a long one). In some instances, they may also carry the rings.
There’s no two ways about it, when it comes to weddings it’s the guests who get the best deal, as all they really have to do is turn up! That said, they do have a few little things they need to remember. First off, they need to accept the invitation and RSVP in good time. Secondly, they need to buy the couple a gift. And thirdly, they need to make sure they arrive on time. But that’s about it.