Wedding Etiquette

Your Wedding Day--Getting to the Church


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.  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.


    Transportation of your bridesmaids is a big issue, and is often not thought of until the last minute.  You need to make sure that the bridesmaids have transportation to your house or the gathering point and also to the church.  You also need to ensure that the bridal party has transportation to the photographer's, if you're taking studio pictures after the ceremony, and to the reception.  While the bride thinks of her transportation, she often forgets the transportation the bridal party and parents need.  By the way, do the parents of the groom know where the church is?  They may have never seen it, and may get lost on the wedding day.


    You should also consider liquid refreshments immediately following the ceremony in the limo, bus, or trolley that will transport the party.  They, too, will have been nervous or excited with all the preparations that day, and iced bottled water and/or Champaign (but not an unlimited supply) is a nice and considerate touch.  If necessary, have someone in charge of handing members of the wedding party something to drink as they get in the vehicle that is to transport them to the reception.  Remember, they have spent lot of time and money on your behalf--you should consider their welfare at all times!


    You can ease last minute crises by enlisting the help and support of at least two people not in the party with cars who are willing to provide rides--you will find that you will need them!  They can also be the people in charge of decorating the cars and handing refreshments to the bridal party after the ceremony. 


    You will also need at least one person not in the party who is willing to tend to last-minute crises and duties that arise.  They would be in charge of replacing torn pantyhose, mending torn hems, fastening zippers, passing the hairspray, perhaps also putting out the bottled water and other refreshments after the ceremony and seeing that it is cold and there is enough, etc.  It is unfair to expect that your mother and father will be able to do these things for you.  They are the parents of the bride, and have their own duties.

Ideally, your mother should travel to the church in the car preceding the limo, not in the limo itself.  You should travel to the church with your father.  In the past, this was a hard-and-fast rule for a formal or semi-formal wedding, but today it is often broken.  If it turns out that the bride's mother travels in the same car with the bride, it is not any longer considered a social gaffe, but if you can possibly plan it differently, do so.


    If the church has a separate room out of sight of the guests to assemble in, by all means arrive 15 to 20 minutes before the ceremony.  If, however, there is no out-of-sight space and you would have to wait in the vestibule or anteroom of the church in public view, plan on arriving just in time or even a few minutes late.  In those circumstances, if you arrive early, remain in the limo until it is time to walk down the aisle. 


    Do not allow yourself to be cajoled by a nervous officiate who insists that you be there 45 minutes before the ceremony, whether or not there is a waiting room for your bridal party!  You will end up hanging around, wrinkling dresses, building up a giant case of nerves and being thoroughly bored, all for his benefit.  From his point of view, he has been held up in the past by at least one wedding party who was up to an hour late, and he wants to avoid this.  That is why there are a few officiates will pressure the bridal party to come to the church so far ahead of time.  It simply isn't necessary or desirable.  Remember, they can't start without you!


    Your flowers and aisle runner, if you have ordered a runner from a florist, should be taken directly to the church, so that you and your bridesmaids don't have a chance to damage the flowers.  If there is a waiting room, they should be left there; if there is not, there will be a small place that has been set aside--after all, you're not the first wedding they've had!  There should also be corsages for the mothers and possibly grandmothers of the couple and boutonnières for the fathers.


    While there is more information about this in a later article (see The Processional) you should have asked one of your friends or relatives--someone who is not in the wedding party or processional--to be your assistant.  Her first task should be to arrive at least 1/2 hour before you and your party do to check that the flowers and aisle runner--if you have ordered one--have been delivered, the ushers have arrived and are performing their tasks, the programs, if you have them, are readily available, and to check on other any necessary details.  She should have a cell phone, and have a list of phone numbers (like the florist, the couple's parents, the groomsmen's cell phone numbers) that she can call if there is a problem.  You should have discussed with her in advance what the arrangements for the church are supposed to be so that she can check. 


    She should have with her umbrellas in case of rain for both the bridal couple and the wedding party, sewing kit with thread in black, white and the colors of the bridesmaids gowns, safety pins in medium and small sizes, scissors, extra panty hose, tissues in the little travel packs to hand to the mothers, bridesmaids and the bride, and/or handkerchiefs for the same purpose.  These should be handed out just before the wedding party goes down the aisle.  Her job is to act as your proxy to make sure everything is in place, and you should make sure that she has the information she needs to do this well in advance of the ceremony.

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© 2003, by M. A. Woodman


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