You’re getting married and you’re thrilled, but you have one pertinent matter overshadowing your excitement – wedding party etiquette, ie. how do you assign roles to your nearest and dearest? Well, you simply need to consider who your favourite people are and who you despise!
Sadly, this is how some (conceited?) friends and/or family will view your choices. You’ve been warned… Read on to ensure you not only make the right decisions but also deliver the news to those closest to you with both firmness and diplomacy.
When making any decisions, it is imperative to keep your budget in mind and work within its parameters. Do not be tempted by the bridesmaids’ dresses that each cost an extra tenner – across six bridesmaids that mounts up, and can easily snowball.
Out of some (mis)placed loyalty to relations whose names you cannot recall without being prompted, you may find yourself shelling out on more and more people who are, essentially, strangers. Unless you’re made of ruthless mettle, there is likely to be at least one interloper who slips through that net.
Think of them as cuckoos, most often placed by interfering parents.
Do yourself a favour and, if at all possible without causing WWIII, nip this in the bud early on – remember, for every unwanted flower girl you are staunch enough to reject, that‘s one more massage/facial/bottle of champagne on honeymoon!
When up against presumptuous and cavalier family, standing your ground can seem more trouble than relenting. Making the cousin you’ve not seen since you were four an extra bridesmaid, simply because you have chosen the other two cousins who you grew up with, may seem the easy option. But it is a slippery slope. Try to keep in mind that this is your day, at your expense, and the images immortalised in the beautiful album by the disgustingly exorbitant photographer will reside on your bookshelf.
Also bear in mind, particularly in terms of bridesmaids’ ages and shapes, whether you are likely to find a flattering dress to accommodate all requirements. This stuff sounds heartless, but when shopping with a pack of women with vastly differing opinions, you’ll appreciate the heads up.
It is usual for the Groomsmen and both fathers to wear the same formal suit as the groom; however, you may also include brothers, brother-in-law, etc. It is normal practice for the bride and groom to cover this cost where budget allows, though it is becoming less of an expectation and more a pleasant gesture. You could invite extended family to join you at their own cost, but this is a personal decision.
Some couples differentiate between the groom, best men and ushers with style and colour of waistcoats and cravats. This can of course be extended to all parties wearing formal suits (a fun way, perhaps, to play off against each other the two most arrogant family members).
It has become common and acceptable to have more than one best man; of course special mates just slightly lower down the hierarchy can instead take the role of ushers. (If only the same option were available for the ‘ladies’, many fallings-out may be avoided – traditionally, the maid of honour is married and there is only one.)
Father of the Bride
There are some circumstances in which it is not possible or feasible for the father of the bride to ‘give away’ his daughter. In this situation, you may like to consider a close male relative to stand in, or perhaps the bride’s mother.
Perhaps somewhat controversially, you could buck tradition altogether with the bride choosing to walk alone or with her husband-to-be.
Mother of the Bride
For female guests wondering when the ‘correct’ moment to take off their hats is, etiquette dictates it should be following removal of the mother of the bride’s headpiece. Fascinators are different and may be worn all day (unless you are forbade from wearing one by your partner as they are ‘ridiculous’, in which case this is not applicable to you).
The mother of the bride should find an outfit to subtly coordinate with the general theme and/or colour scheme of the wedding. Etiquette grants the mother of the bride the prerogative to choose her dress first, and to then inform the mother of the groom the style she should adopt.
Mother of the Groom
She should take her cue from the mother of the bride in terms of her outfit. Hopefully both mothers will be gracious in this area, and (particularly if this etiquette is outdated and not strictly adhered to) avoid a situation of one-upmanship – especially in the hat department. For the sake of your sanity, don’t bank on this and you won’t be disappointed.
The groom wears a buttonhole to set him apart from his groomsmen; however, you may choose to invite some of the others to join him. You could extend the invitation to the entire wedding party, the groomsmen only, or any combination of male relatives and both sets of parents.
It’s a relatively inexpensive way of including wider family in the occasion without the comparably high cost of hiring a suit (though you may wish to do both if your budget stretches that far).
So once you have both made your decisions as to who will be assigned which roles for your nuptials, how do you break the news to your loved ones? Well, in terms of the happy news, I’ll let you figure out your own special ways to share this. And in terms of letting down the unlucky few who didn’t make the cut? It’s quite simple really: you don’t.
Your parents go back a long way with your family, utilise their affinities and let them take that stress off you.
And if it’s your parents applying the pressure in the first place? You’re an adult: tell them straight how you feel. If that still doesn’t work, point them in the direction of my blog post The Smart Bride’s Guide to Planning a Wedding – they will soon back off when they see your passive aggressive threat of elopement. Yep, I went there, but in certain circumstances this is totally necessary!
While some elements of wedding etiquette are simply good manners, many are now outdated and unnecessary customs. Some protocols (traditional or otherwise) can help to ensure the day runs smoothly, whilst others seem to be archaic and obsolete, serving no purpose at all. Rebuffing old-fashioned ideas and setting your own rules instead seems to be a growing trend: we are lucky enough to live during a time that far from being a faux pas, choosing not to follow etiquette is in vogue.
For any specific etiquette-related questions, leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you.