A THOROUGHLY MODERN WEDDING ETIQUETTE GUIDE
Whether Debrett’s is your bible, or you make your own rules, it can be hard to break away from the tradition of weddings. There are, after all, some formalities that it demands; invitations, wedding outfits, exchanging vows, wedding photography, ‘thank you’ cards – all usually expected. The rest can be amended or tweaked as you see fit. Here is your guide to modern wedding etiquette.
In recent years the modernisation of marriage, influence of overseas trends and advances in technology have changed the way we do things. An essential read for any bride-to-be.
The Wedding Announcement
Back in the day, you’d take an advert out in The Times to announce your engagement. While this is still deployed in well-heeled circles, social media has become a much quicker way to respond to the excitement and immediacy it demands.
But first; immediate family, work colleagues and close friends should be told in person. There’s nothing worse than finding out important news on Twitter.
Secondly, choose your platform well. Twitter and Facebook are more conversational than self-promoting, as such Instagram is the ideal outlet for telling the world you’re getting married.
The Engagement Photo
Such is the world that we live in, that ‘just engaged’ photos are eagerly anticipated by social media followers. As with above, Instagram tends to be the best outlet for this.
When considering your announcement photo, tasteful is the theme. Wedding etiquette experts Tatler advise against single close-up photos of the rock, as it looks to “smug and braggy”. Similarly, a ring slideshow is a big no-no.
Instead, they suggest opting for a picture of the happy couple with the ring clearly in shot. This should be accompanied with a cute and uplifting caption that doesn’t need to state the obvious.
The photo you use should be in keeping with your wedding photography style. Classy, sophisticated and telling a story. If in doubt, check out Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s engagement photo, and how it oozes timeless elegance.
When it comes to formal materials, such as invitations and ‘thank you’ cards (yes, they are still very much expected), these should always be delivered by post to guests. While your Mum might use electronic greeting cards, and yes, we know it saves the planet, it’s still considered poor form.
Thank you cards should be given extra attention to, since these will linger longer in the households of guests. It’s always a nice touch to choose one of the wedding photographs from your big day to include, or use on the cover.
Don’t be an over-sharer
We all know the kind. The exercise freak that has done a 10k run before you’ve even got out of bed, already posted working out images on Facebook, and bragged about it in the office. Don’t be that girl.
Whatever your wedding workout regime entails, wherever your wedding planning takes you, even if you’re excited to be visiting the Manolo Blahnik shop for a shoe fitting – keep your excitement in check. Ask yourself if the world really needs another #YOLO image, or if wedding fever is taking its grip.
As Tatler concur, subtle previews of the odd cake here and flower arrangement there are fine, but “try not to give too much away”. If in doubt, get a Pinterest account and pull together your inspiration on a mood board here – a far better way to channel your enthusiasm.
Hen nights have tripled in production values in the last few years, in no small way thanks to the scale of ‘Bachelorette’ parties in the USA.
Yes, of course you have every right to party like it’s 1999, but it’s always important to be mindful of others. Budgets can only be stretched so far, weddings can be costly experiences for guests too. In the excitement of wedding planning, try to make your hen night accessible, fun and affordable for all. And needless to say, in this day and age, inflatables and ‘bride-to-be’ sashes are awfully crass and should be avoided at all costs!
On the big day itself, there’s a few social media wedding etiquette rules to be followed. First, anyone that truly matters will be there with you. As such, there’s no rush to post photos or give a running commentary. If anything, it serves to remind all those you didn’t invite, how low down on the list they are!
Being present is something that many of us struggle on a daily basis. This couldn’t be more important on your wedding day. Resist the urge to check your phone every few minutes, or heaven forbid, respond to an email.
If capturing photos on the day is important to you, be sure to give a detailed brief to your wedding photographer in advance. A top wedding photographer will instinctively know all the shots to take anyway, allowing you to enjoy the day as it unfolds.
As one Bride magazine notes, try not to have a “sea of smartphones” on display in the church, this distracts from what should be beautiful wedding photographs. Also, it’s important for your wedding photographer to have the space and canvas they need to work their magic.
Many couples today chose a hashtag for their big day. Creatively this is usually their surname, such as #Debrettsgetmarried or with a date such as #Nixonwed19 – the bride shouldn’t be the first to post this, instead ask a bridesmaid.
On that note, be clear about social media guidelines around your wedding day. If you don’t want people to post pictures, then don’t have a hashtag. If you don’t mind but would rather embargo them for a later time, make this clear to guests.
- The Honeymoon
After the exhaustion of wedding planning, and your life as newlywed ahead of you, thoughts turn to the honeymoon.
While it’s lovely to share some of the photos from your exotic location, no-one at home wants to be spammed every five minutes with another sunshine selfie!
Tatler advises posting no more than one photo per day and even that’s a lot. And Insta Stories aren’t an excuse for overflow either. Keep captions limited, photos interesting, and avoid being too boastful or smug.
- Married life
The post-wedding-honeymoon comedown is no fun. However, there are always wedding photos to look forward to!
A selection of the best wedding photographs is worth sharing on your Instagram page, but keep this down to four or five. Resist the temptation to do this more than once, it just counts as wedding spam.
- Mr and Mr
One final consideration; with changes in the law bringing equality to same-sex marriages, this may be new territory for many.
The great thing is that you can make your own rules. Fathers can walk daughters down the aisles, or fathers can walk son’s down the aisles. Two brides can have two maids of honour, or two best men – it’s an entirely personal choice and should always be whatever makes you feel comfortable and happy.
One of the more challenging wedding etiquette quandaries is name taking. Much like in traditional weddings, this is once again a personal choice.
You can keep your names, decide on taking one of them, go for the double-barrelled approach or come up with the totally new moniker, perhaps a hybrid of them both.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this modern wedding etiquette guide! Let me know what you think!
Gary is a professional wedding photographer in Aylesbury, covering weddings throughout the UK and Europe.