Bridal Etiquette for the Modern Couple

When you think of etiquette do you think of a set of rigid rules that society feels obliged to adhere to? Actually, etiquette is quite the contrary. Etiquette gives us structure to makes things run smoothly and make others feel comfortable. I was able to attend a session with Peggy Post of the Emily Post Institute at the 2010 National Stationery Show and she provided great insight into etiquette for the modern couple. Below are some of the key points she discussed.

Invitation Wording
The invitation wording is a personal decision and I try to guide my client in the writing process, but ultimately leave the decision to the couple and their family. To my surprise, Peggy did say that RSVP by email was an acceptable method. There are a number of important key points to think about when writing your invitation wording.

A major consideration of invitation wording is affected by who is paying for the wedding. Traditionally, only those paying would issue the invitation. But in modern weddings there are usually multiple contributors including the couple and both the bride and groom's parents. There are various ways of including "families" or parents into the wedding wording and I suggest my clients visit for ideas.

There are also finer details to wording including grammar! A few of these examples include:
1. always spell out any numbers under 10
2. use "half after four o'clock" for times half past the hour
3. spell everything out completely including addresses, cities and provinces or states

Registry Information
This is a tricky topic that many clients ask me for advice. I discourage clients from including registry information, but some couples are comfortable doing so. According to Peggy, registry information should never appear anywhere on the formal wedding invitation. The invitation should strictly serve the function of inviting, focus on the gift can come later. The couple can use their family and bridal party to spread word of mouth details of where the couple is registered. If the couple has a wedding website, Peggy did say this is an appropriate place to include the gift registry information.

Guest Dilemmas
Adult Only: It's ok to have an adult only wedding, but Peggy says it is not alright to bluntly state "Adults only" or "No children" on the invite. She says to make a clear set of rules regarding children and to stick to those guidelines. Will you only allow children that are immediate family? Or children that are in the bridal party? Whatever the case, you need to be firm on your decision. The envelopes should be clearly addressed and if there are sticky situations they should always be resolved with a polite call explaining the situation.
Guest of a Guest: You are required to invite a guest of a guest if it is their spouse, fiancé, or live-in romantic partner. You are not required to invite a guest of a guest if it is their boyfriend/girlfriend or they are single. When inviting a guest of a guest you should always use their name whenever possible.
A & B List: It is acceptable to send "B list" invites if you receive declined responses from your first set of invitations sent. You do however, have to ensure the "B list" guests receive the adequate notice of 6-8 weeks.

Peggy says we look to tradition because we know it works, and it gives people comfort because they know what to expect. Peggy further explained how traditions change and evolve and that it's alright to leave a tradition behind. We do however have to realize how our decision to depart from tradition will affect someone else. Peggy also suggests to only choose traditions that are meaningful to the couple. Traditionally, wedding invitations could only use white paper, but this tradition has made a departure with current trends that suggest couples are looking for lots of colour to be incorporated into their wedding stationery.

Like tradition, etiquette has changed over time and will continue to do so. For example, it wasn't standard to send RSVP cards until the 1980s! I found that hard to believe! Just as trends change, etiquette evolves with culture. Will the inclusion of a registry card be next? Peggy hopes not!

Thank You Notes
Peggy shared key points on the anatomy of a thank-you note:
- send within 3 months of receiving the gift
- write at least 3-5 sentences
- thank for the specific gift and be sincere
- should only be written from one person (thank on behalf of your other half)
- always find something nice to say about the gift even if you don't like it!