Wedding Etiquette

Your Wedding Ceremony


Marilyn Woodman
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These articles on wedding etiquette are not designed to cover every single situation that come up during a wedding, but to point out the general principles of wedding etiquette and offer some tips in dealing with awkward situations that often arise. 


We would appreciate your sharing your experiences, and with your permission, we will be glad to publish them on this page, if we feel that it would be helpful to our visitors.  Please write us at to share with us.


Wedding etiquette is really just a guideline based on tradition.  It actually the art of making those around you feel comfortable and accepted.  The most important part of etiquette is the latter--making those around you feel comfortable and accepted.  That requires putting yourself in their shoes, and it can be an especially tough thing to do when you are up to your elbows in wedding preparations.  It's a necessity, though--with the merger of two families, this is a big day for your friends and relatives too and your behavior, good and bad, will be remembered for years and years to come.



Well, you and your groom are finally standing together in front of the official who will marry you and make it legal!  You have done your homework, you were prepared, and so far everything has gone off wonderfully!  Now . . .

The mothers of the bride and groom are to light the unity candle, and no one has remembered matches.  The flower girl and ring bearer are acting up and disturbing the ceremony.  You didn't think things like tissues or handkerchief were necessary--or you forgot them--and since the tears flowed from all of you at one part of the ceremony or other, you all now look like circus clowns.  Have you ever seen mascara run?  You asked two or three people to be "readers" or "presenters" at the ceremony, but failed to follow up with a phone call a day or so before the wedding--and they forgot.  Because you and your groom went over and over the marriage vows you wrote to each other, you didn't bring a written copy with you--and one or both of you forgot half the words.  You forgot to let the official marrying you know that you intended to say special words to each other, so he proceeded without them.  The vocalist sang the wrong songs, both he/she and the organist studied at the Butcher Institute of Music and when they performed your guest cringed.

You turn to walk back down the aisle with your groom and forget to reach your hand out for the bouquet from the Maid of Honor, so you walk down the aisle without it.  When you turn to walk back down the aisle, you trip on your train, because your Maid of Honor didn't realize that she was supposed to look out for you and help you with it.  Had she handed the bouquet to you, she would now have her hands free to help you!

 In addition, either you or someone you appointed forgot the umbrellas, and now there's a sudden downpour.  The minute you and your party went outside your hair started to "frizz up" and definitely doesn't look the way it did when you started!  Your running mascara, your frizzy hair, your trip, your tangled train, and the fact that you don't have a bouquet are all being immortalized by a photographer for your grandchildren to laugh over in years to come.

So, how can all this be avoided?  Very careful planning and equally careful communication!  Let's take these situations one by one.  The person you have appointed as your assistant, who checked the church 1/2 hour in advance should have a list of what to check and who to call if it's missing, and matches should be on her list, along with the placement of the unity candle in the first place, so it doesn't set the curtains on fire when it's lit.  Think I'm kidding?  I just saw a film of a minister in full robes who had his sleeve set on fire!

Instead of trusting that your assistant will remember the essentials, you should have assembled the required items days in advance of the ceremony and handed them to your assistant along with your list.  Your assistant is already doing you quite a favor by being your proxy before you arrive--you should not trust or depend on her to assemble items you may need.  That would tend to eliminate not having tissues or handkerchiefs, and of course, you also need to note when she should be handing them out on her To Do list.  The umbrellas should be with you when you and your wedding party go to the church, and left with your assistant during the ceremony to hand out if necessary. 

Phone any participants in the ceremony including the bridesmaids and groomsmen a week and then the day before the ceremony to make sure they understand their part in it and to see if there are any problems you can resolve.  Also add a call to the minister or other official who is to preside the day before the wedding to confirm the fact that you will be using your own marriage vows.

Type in LARGE LETTERS both of your wedding vows to each other on a slip of paper, and ask the florist to pin it to the underside of your bouquet.  If your groom forgets his, you will be ready.  Be sure to note checking your bouquet for the slips of paper on your assistant's list, and have a duplicate copy of both vows--your and his--in the kit you have assembled that she is to bring with her.  The flower girl and ring bearer should be seated with their parents after they walk down the aisle, and there should be seating reserved close to the font directly behind your family for this purpose.  If it is necessary for the parents to retrieve their children, they should call to their children from the left, not in the aisle you just walked down. 

Your Maid of Honor should understand her duties, including both holding your bouquet as well as her own during the ceremony and helping you with your train after the ceremony, and while this should be discussed in advanced, it should also be casually mentioned in the last phone call the day before the wedding.  The most tactful way to handle it is to say that you're so nervous you're afraid that you'll forget something, go over those parts of the ceremony, and ask for her help to remember.  Make sure that the two mothers know when and how they are to light the Unity Candle together.

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© 2003, by M. A. Woodman


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