bride and groom walking across lawn after ceremony
Photo: Hello Love Photoraphy

Does the person who is paying for the wedding get to make all the decisions?

This is probably the trickiest and most popular wedding etiquette question from brides (who are generally frustrated that their parents are implementing their own vision for the event). The reality is that, yes, the person signing the checks is playing a significant role. Ideally, though, decisions will be a series of compromises that can satisfy everyone involved. The parents paying the bill should always try to coordinate an event that will make the couple happy, and the bride and groom should make concessions for things like additional guests and other small details.

Who traditionally hosts the rehearsal dinner?

Usually, the rehearsal dinner is hosted by the family of the groom. For all sorts of reasons, this may not be possible. Ask them first, and if they have to decline, the dinner can be hosted by another family member, close friend, the bride's family, and even the couple themselves.

Can we simply ask for cash instead of registering for gifts?

This is a common question, especially over the last few years when couples are getting married later, and need help with a down payment, not extra barware. While the "appropriate" response to this question might shift during the next decade, for the moment, it is still best to use a registry. If you don't want to register for traditional gifts, register for your honeymoon instead. Because a honeymoon registry is itemized, it doesn't feel like a blatant cash grab.

father walks bride down aisle
Photo: Merari Photography

Who should walk me down the aisle?

Especially when your father isn't available, or when your relationship with him has been problematic, this can be a deeply personal concern. But simply put, anyone can walk you down the aisle. It is a meaningful role, so choose someone who you have an important relationship with. But that can be anyone from your mother to a beloved friend. And don't forget that it is perfectly fine to take that walk solo.

What should I call my future mother-in-law?

Both brides and their future in-laws know how important (and stressful) these new relationships can be. The best policy is to simply ask if your spouse's parents have a preference with what they would like to be called. Ask your spouse ahead of time what they think their parents would like, so that if you receive a response of, "Whatever's fine, " you'll be prepared.

How should I seat my divorced parents?

Divorced parents can cause all sorts of problems for wedding planning couples. If they are at odds, don't hesitate to have a conversation with them about how their behavior is souring this happy event. Generally, parents know how to put their feelings for each other aside and keep the focus on your needs. Traditionally, you should seat the mother in the first row on the aisle and the bride's father directly behind her. If however, everything is amicable there is no reason they couldn't be seated together. Although, if they both have dates or are both remarried, all parties involved might feel more comfortable with the former solution.

How do I write a proper thank you note?

Unfortunately, anxiety over thank you notes often leads to them going completely unwritten. They are actually incredibly simple to master. First, you should make sure to write them within 3 months of receiving the present. You might find it easiest to pre-address and stamp the envelopes so that you can tackle the task quickly once you are ready. The note itself doesn't need to be very long. Write an introductory sentence or two, mentioning how much you enjoyed seeing them at the wedding or how sunburned you were on your honeymoon. Then thank them for their specific gift (and make sure to actually name what that gift was). For example: "Thank you for the glass Pyrex set. Those bowls will really come in handy when I bake mom's birthday cake next week." Then, you can sign off.

wedding party laughs on front steps of church
Photo: Amber Vickery

What traditions and rituals are we allowed to "skip" at our wedding without offending anyone?

A good rule of thumb when evaluating all wedding traditions is their purpose. Anytime the purpose is to thank or welcome your guests, it's usually a tradition that should be adhered to. If it is simply a ritual, it's entirely up to you. For example, you should at least attempt to greet every guest at your wedding, but that doesn't mean you need a traditional receiving line. Instead, you can visit from table to table, etc. A traditional cake cutting is just a ritual, and if you want to skip it, you should. Remember that the goal for proper wedding etiquette is showing your appreciation for others, not making you stick to a series of traditions just because.

Do I have to invite children or plus ones?

You should extend plus ones to spouses and long-term partners of those you are inviting. Other than that, you aren't "required" to allow guests to bring a date (although it is certainly appreciated). Children are also completely up to your preferences, budget, and venue. One thing you shouldn't do in both of these cases is to "break the rules." If you say that you don't want anyone under 12 at your wedding, you should apply that across your whole guest list (and not provide exceptions for your favorite people), unless you want to deal with disgruntled friends and family.

Should we turn away unexpected guests?

Some people love to break the rules. This is why you should always have a contingency plan for seating and food. Inevitably, someone will show up with their uninvited child or plus one. While you certainly have the right to turn them away, it won't make you look very hospitable in front of your other guests, nor will it make you feel any better. One of the most successful talents a bride can have is the ability to roll with it. Set another place at the table, and smile through it. You can deal with them later, and you will.