Your Wedding Day--Preparing to Walk Down That Aisle
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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.
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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.
It's your wedding day, and you are the star of the show--but with every privilege comes responsibility. Your obligation to your wedding party and parents doesn't stop with things like the selection of the dresses! You need to mentally put yourself in their places to make sure that everything is in place, because you are responsible for their welfare and comfort on your big day.
It should start well in advance of your wedding date with a mental checklist. You should pretend that you're a bridesmaid and work back from the time they are to walk down the aisle, to the time they are to get up that morning. After you have identified each destination and the tasks that will go with it, work out how much time each will take. Then go back, add at least 15 minutes to each task, and try to imagine the worst. The word for this is logistics and you will need plenty if you don't want all your careful plans to fall apart because a bridesmaid hasn't shown up in time, with a torn hem or ripped pantyhose, or your wedding party got stuck in traffic on their way to the ceremony!
You need to consider when your bridesmaids are going to assemble at a central meeting point; it is preferable that you all meet and go to the site of the ceremony together. You need to consider how they are going to get to the meeting location, and how they are going to get from there to the ceremony. How are they going to get there--particularly if some members of the party are from out of town and don't have their cars with them?
Typically, the bridal party will meet at the home of the bride, where pictures are taken. Confer with your photographer regarding what time he's coming to the house or meeting point and who he plans to photograph. That will give you a start. Decide whether or not the bridesmaids will dress at your house, or arrive at your house already dressed. Assembling the party before the ceremony should be at least an hour or two before the ceremony in case one or more of the party run into difficulties. Otherwise, if a situation develops at the last minute, you simply will not have the time you need to deal with it.
Limited refreshments should always be provided, if at all possible, at the gathering point. At the very least, chilled water should be provided, but ask the bridal party to be careful about how much water they're drinking if they don't want to interrupt the ceremony later! Small finger sandwiches, fruit already sliced, miniature egg rolls, etc. are also a nice touch. It is very likely, especially if the wedding is scheduled in the morning or early afternoon that the attendants may have not had a chance to eat, and as a result may faint during the ceremony--it's happened! Be careful about anything with sauce or something that can readily drip--you don't want to have to deal with stains, either. It is probably not a good idea, though, to serve anything alcoholic before the ceremony. You might think about inexpensive dusters you can buy at Wal-Mart or K-Mart that the bridesmaids can put over their gowns after they are dressed.
Assemble your emergency supplies days in advance of your wedding day. Your kit should include at least two pairs of stockings in a neutral color and purchased with an eye to the sizes your bridesmaids may require. A small pair of scissors, several straight pins, several sewing needles (they can get dropped if you're nervous, and you probably will be), definitely thread in black and white and in the color your attendants will wear. Smelling salts, combs and hair brushes, bobby pins and the small travel size of hair spray should be available. Make sure you have an adequate supply of umbrellas in case of rain.
We have seen some gathering and dressing points in a side room at the church itself. If it is at all possible--don't dress at the church, if you are planning to marry in a church. The facilities will simply not be adequate to deal with any emergencies that arise, and you may have trouble with the refreshments issue, which is a must. You will be concerned with cosmetics and hairdos, and a room in a church, usually with inadequate bathroom facilities, is simply not the place to deal with those. If your pastor insists that you gather before the ceremony, at least assemble and get dressed at someone's home before you arrive there. About 10 minutes before you all leave for the ceremony, make sure everyone has a chance to visit the bathroom one last time. That especially includes the bride.
You can ease last minute crises by enlisting the help and support of one or two people not in the party with cars who are willing to provide rides at the last minute--you will find that you will need them! If they are willing, they can also be the people in charge of decorating cars during 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 while the bridesmaids are dressing. They would be in charge of replacing torn pantyhose, mending torn hems, fastening zippers, passing the hairspray, putting out the bottled water and refreshments and seeing that there is enough, etc. Look around your family and friends and try to locate someone who can sew--even if it's only a hem. It is unfair to expect that your mother to be able to do these things for you on your wedding day. She is the mother of the bride, and has her own duties to perform.
That said--it's time to leave for the ceremony!
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© 2003, by M. A. Woodman
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