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Engaged couples are by their nature extremely happy. But as you know, after the honeymoon, marriage is hard work. We offer many options for marriage prep at many price-points(and wedding discounts from vendors who want to help!) Encourage your adult child to visit our website.Learn more


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Wedding Etiquette


Wedding etiquette is a moving target these days, if it exists at all. Ask any wedding vendor and they'll nod in agreement. Wedding invitation companies have seen it all and if you ask for their honest opinions, hopefully they can teach you some tricks. And we have a great article on wedding thank you note ideas.


Today is an anything goes culture out there and this is in part why we believe weddings have become so stressful and in some cases pretty toxic for family and new marriages. Wedding coordinators play a delicate balance between letting their clients have their way and trying to gently push back, hoping that the spirit of etiquette comes through the wedding: hospitality and putting everyone at ease because they know what to expect and they know their role.


I have read two books, by two highly regarded "wedding etiquette experts." The information provided by each wedding expert often contradicts itself between experts. One small example...did you know the grooms family is supposed to pay for the flowers? At least according to one top wedding etiquette expert. Some etiquette experts still hold that the time of day should dictate the level of formality and other wedding etiquette experts say that is not true. It can make your head spin!


The problems with wedding etiquette today?


  • "My day, my way" is the overriding theme of weddings today and that will always contradict the more egalitarian notion of etiquette, which is about social grace, respecting others and being as full of hospitality as you can. Everyone knows what to expect in the land of "pure wedding etiquette", but todays bridal culture is ALL ABOUT YOU, irregardless of family, of friendships, of anything but what you want.


  • Nobody really knows about the proper etiquette today. We know how expensive weddings are. We know how draining weddings can be and how many choices there are. So when we run into problems with our family or friends we immediately run to wedding etiquette books to "solve" our problems. This rarely works because...



  • Etiquette frankly doesn't do much good if nobody else knows that is what you're trying to do by subtly including only the names of the people on the wedding invitation, thereby "excluding childrens names" is an unspoken way of saying "don't bring your kids!" Nor does it help if a parent is "old school" and believes they are the host and hostess of the big day even if they aren't paying. Excluding them from the wedding invitation can make them feel really embarassed or upset because their view of the world is set in a different time and place. They may feel horrifed that their friends will think they have lost control of their adult child who doesn't know proper etiquette!


  • Wedding etiquette grew out of the mass production of what was once high end weddings for high society. Weddings started out for lower income people as the two sets of parents, in the living room of the bride. That's it! Honeymoons used to be the time when the couple went around to visit all the relatives and introduce each other to the extended family. High society knew how to do a wedding with unspoken rules that you were raised knowing. As weddings became bigger in the middle and lower income levels, you had a whole generation of people who had no idea what was socially proper. (Did you know, true wedding etiquette says guests are supposed to write a formal letter stating whether they are able to come or not? RSVP cards, to some etiquette matrons, are an atrocious sign of the times.)


So there you have some reasons why relying on wedding etiquette may not help, and may actually cause more harm than good. Who do you invite to the first dance? What the etiquette says doesn't really help in todays complex families, as I write about in the First Dance in Todays Complex Families.


Because we believe parents play a very important role in your life and your new marriage, we have put together Principles for Parents to help couples and parents navigate the complexity of todays bride and groom, their older ages, their independence (financially and physically) from their parents. Our principles are designed to help:


  • how to clarify wedding plans and decisions between parent/child
  • reduce wedding planning conflict
  • prevent wedding planning conflict
  • avoid "assumptions" that cause problems down the road


For more on avoiding unknown traps, and to engage in deeper dialouge as a couple, check out our book, Take Back Your Wedding, available on Amazon or instant e-book download. The rest of our website is also filled with great advice. We also have a lot of options in our marriage preparation section to get the ball rolling.


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Elizabeth Doherty Thomas, is a co-founder of The First Dance, along with Marriage and Family therapist father Bill Doherty. The First Dance is a 2007 Modern Bride Trendsetter award winner for taking on the complex family dynamics of wedding planning. See what engaged couples and wedding professionals are saying about our book Take Back Your wedding. Our entire website is dedicated to offering advice on working through the people stresses of wedding planning as a couple, with your families, and how to strengthen your upcoming marriage through this enormous first task of married life.