Navigating your way through the sea of confusing wedding etiquette can be tricky, but now that many weddings are moving away from traditional rules, it is less of a faux pas minefield than it used to be and you can pick and choose which traditions you want to honour and which you want to put to one side to make your day your own.
In order to make an informed decision about what you want to include in your day however, it is useful to know what traditional etiquette is, from who sits where to what to wear, to which side your dad walks down the aisle, so here are a few of the most important.
‘Pick a seat, not a side’
We see this sign at many weddings, meaning that the couple have chosen not to seat the Bride’s family on the left (when looking towards the front from the back of the ceremony) and the Groom’s on the right. Traditionally, female guests are escorted to their seat by an usher. Whatever you decide to do with your ceremony seating, make sure you let your ushers know so that they can direct guests accordingly.
Who will walk you down the aisle?
I’ve seen any number of combinations from the traditional Father of the Bride, to both parents, to a brother or best friend, to the family dog! Choose whoever you want to support you at this important and significant moment, whoever will give you the support you need. Traditionally the Father is on his daughters left hand side.
It is sensible to give guests a couple of weeks to reply before your set deadline, giving you a bit of extra time to chase any late replies before your venue/catering deadline. Familiarise yourself with your venue’s deadlines and let that guide you, adding a bit of extra time as a buffer for any of those who need to be chased. It can really be as far in advance as you wish, but make sure you give yourself plenty of time to organise your table plan and get it printed without it being a last minute rush. With email now being a main way to stay in touch with friends and family, most people will get back to you pretty quickly anyway, or even create a wedding website where your guests can reply online!
How many Bridesmaids/Ushers/Best Men
In terms of bridesmaid/usher/best man numbers, again it is up to you – how many best friends do you have who you would like to be involved in your day? Some people have a couple of absolute best friends, others have a large group of really good friends. We’ve had weddings at Lillibrooke with no Bridesmaids/Ushers, or just a couple (often sisters/brothers, cousins or nieces/nephews), and others choose to have 6 of each. Traditionally, the number of Bridesmaids was a sign of your wealth, so a Bride from a wealthy family would have more attendants. Having two best men is now also fairly common.
Top Table Seating
Seating order at top table is again your choice, traditionally the bride and groom are in the centre, with the Bride’s Father next to the Bride, the Bride’s Mother next to the Groom, the Groom’s Mother next to the Bride’s Father, the Groom’s Father next to the Bride’s Mother and then the Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid at either end of a long top table. In America, the parents host their own tables and the top table is for the Bride and Groom and Ushers and Bridesmaids. Modern families often aren’t this simple, so although the Bride and Groom are pretty much always at the centre, they are surrounded by whoever they most want to talk to during the meal!
Running order for Speeches
The Father of the Bride usually kicks off with an emotional speech, then the Groom traditionally thanks everyone involved in the day, then the Best Man finishes off, with a funny, witty speech! Often this is still often the order of speeches, because it is quite a sensible way to go, ending on a light point, but again, there may be more people involved wanting to speak (a second Best man, a Maid of Honour), so work out an order that works for you – who wants to start things off and who wants to finish up are the main decisions.
Cutting the Cake
The majority of weddings do still have cutting of the cake, but the form the cake takes is changing. Sometimes it is a traditional tiered wedding cake, sometimes a cheese wedding cake, cupcakes or a variety of different cakes. More often than not, it is a sponge cake rather than a fruit cake, or different flavours for different tiers. Again, choose your favourite type of cake and make it look pretty!
I feel like I end most of my blogs with something along the lines of ‘It is your day, so do it your way’ and once again, that is my advice here – I am a big believer in this being a really key day in your life and it should be all about you and you should have an amazing time and wake up the morning after with a massive smile on your face. Think about the kind of wedding you want, whether it is traditional or relaxed and be guided by that, involve whoever you want to be involved and surround yourselves with those who mean most to you and will help support you on your special day.
Photo credits: Ilaria Petrucci, Faye Cornhill, Hannah Mcclune
Blogger & Events Manager
Having worked in London for most of her career, Alys discovered & fell in love with Lillibrooke Manor in 2012 and has never looked back, delivering hundreds of events and ensuring that each one is special and perfect in every way