Wedding Stationery Etiquette
Below you will find some useful tips, general information and questions asked by people when choosing and ordering their wedding invitations. We hope these will help you to plan your wedding day successfully.
The bride chooses her bridesmaids from her close friends, her own family or her groom's family. Younger bridesmaids are usually referred to as Flower Girls and often have different dresses to the older bridesmaids.
Bridesmaids were traditionally unmarried women and a Maid of Honour was a married woman. This tradition has changed now and frequently a bride will choose to have a Chief Bridesmaid in addition to her bridesmaids. Today the Chief Bridesmaid takes on additional responsibilities such as planning the Hen party and is often asked to sign the register.
The bridesmaid's outfits were traditionally paid for by the groom but in recent years it is not unusual for them to pay for their own.
Flowers do so much for the atmosphere at a wedding so it is important to give some thought to your floral arrangements on the day.
Flowers not only add softness and brightness to the day, they also act as an important element in the overall design or theme of the wedding. Different flowers have different symbolic meanings which can help the couple to express their feelings for each other.
Traditionally, and even today, the Groom is expected to pay for the flowers in the church and for the wedding party and the bride's parents pay for the flowers at the reception venue.
The men in the wedding party should be given buttonholes, bridesmaids require a bouquet and the respective mothers receive a corsage.
Remember that some churches and other wedding venues hold more than one wedding ceremony per day, particularly in the busy periods of Spring and Summer. If this is the case with your wedding venue think about contacting the people getting married before and/or after you and sharing the cost of the floral decorations.
If it's a church wedding you may find that the people at the church will be happy to help you arrange the flowers and provide advice on where and how to arrange them, all free of charge. This should be considered when thinking about making a donation to the church.
Bear in mind, however, that a wedding venue may not have time during busy periods to change floral arrangements for each couple and may require all the weddings on that day to use the same displays. In this case the cost will be divided among the couples.
Although reception venues don't have more than one reception per day you may find that some venues include the cost of floral arrangements in their service. In this case you should make sure that the flower theme at the reception matches the rest of the day. Alternatively, ask them for a quote without flowers and use your own florist to decorate the reception venue.
For those venues which allow you to use your own florist to decorate, you should arrange a time with the manager for the decorations to be put in place. Ask the florist to double check with the management a couple of days before that the venue will be accessible on the morning of the wedding.
There are few hard and fast rules about floral decorations at the reception venue but generally there is a large arrangement on the top table and smaller arrangements on each of the guests' tables. There is usually also a large arrangement at the point where the reception line up is to take place at the point where the guests enter the reception venue.
Ask the florist to visit your reception venue with you and ask their advice on how to decorate the rooms. Smaller rooms are generally quite easy to do but large rooms, halls or marquees take a bit more planning and thought. Since those rooms have a lot of space it can be expensive to decorate them with floral arrangements, so consider using flowering plants and shrubs. Potted shrubs in season can be a very effective way to decorate the large spaces and can be planted in your garden afterwards. Flowering pot plants can be an ideal way to decorate a large space cost effectively and, like the shrubs, can be used to decorate your new home as a daily reminder of your wedding day. This is particularly lovely if these plants are in flower on your wedding anniversary.
Unless you are having a very simple wedding or you have a friend or relative who genuinely knows what they are doing, it is generally advisable to use a professional florist. Not only will they will co-ordinate the flower arrangements at all stages of the day they will also be able to advise which flowers are in season, and therefore less expensive, as well as being able to advise you on the symbolism behind your choice of flowers.
Finding a florist is usually one of the easier elements in organising the wedding. It makes sense to ask first at the wedding and reception venues, since they have weddings daily and will have seen the work of just about all the local florists. If you can't decide between a couple of florists ask if you can go along to see their work on the morning of a wedding. A good florist will usually be happy to oblige.
Choose your florist well before the wedding since good florists is usually booked months in advance. The exact choice of flowers and colours can wait until 1-2 months before and should only be made once the colours of the wedding have been chosen.
When choosing the bouquet, keep in mind the two essential features; colour and form.
The colours and type of flower for the bride's bouquet should ideally be chosen to match her natural colouring and personality. The base colour for the bouquet is traditionally white, to symbolise purity but the proper use of one or two elements of colour can really bring the bouquet alive. Bear in mind the colour of the bridesmaids dresses and the overall colour scheme of the wedding when ordering the bouquet.
The form of the bouquet can either be long and trailing or compact and bunched. The bride's body shape and style of dress should be major factors in deciding which type of bouquet to go for. Again, a good florist will probably be able to advise. Take a picture of the style of dress and, if possible, a bit of the material to the florist who should then be able to form a picture of which style would work best with that particular bride.
After the wedding it can be a nice idea to take a cutting from some of the stems of the bouquet and to grow plants for the house or garden which can grow along with the marriage.
Bridesmaids' bouquets: The bridesmaids usually carry smaller and much less detailed bouquets. The colour and form should complement the bride's if possible, but should certainly match their dresses.
The male members of the wedding party wear Buttonholes, which are usually a small heather arrangement bound with a tartan bow or similar.
The mothers of the bride and groom respectively wear Corsages, which are similar in idea to buttonholes but much larger and more detailed.
There are two distinct traditions regarding gifts at weddings; those given to the couple from friends and family and those given by the couple to the attendants; best man, bridesmaids, ushers and others.
Gifts for the Couple
The tradition of giving gifts comes from a time, not so long ago where a young couple would get married after having spent their lives living in their parental home. They would be setting up home together from scratch and the older, better off among their friends and family would contribute gifts of kitchenware, textiles and even furniture to help them start their new home.
Today, however few couples start married life from scratch. Most newly-weds already have at least one set of cutlery between them and to stop the same gift being given by 8 different people the wedding gift list developed.
It makes all round sense for the couple to draw up a list of things which they want or need and for everyone who is going to give gifts to use this list. This saves people wasting money and time by giving a gift which is either unwanted or unnecessary.
There are a number of different ways of organising the gift list. For smaller occasions the mother of the bride or groom may be asked to take charge of coordinating who gives which gift. In this case everyone should be informed by word of mouth to contact the person holding the list to find out which gifts still remain to be bought.
Where a large list has been drawn up the couple might find it easier to use the wedding gift services of one of the larger department stores who co-ordinate gift lists. Many of these are now computerised and some even make it possible to view the gift list over the Internet.
Generally it is good practice to imagine the amount of money that you would expect each guest to spend on a gift for you and add an item in that price range to your list.
It's not generally accepted to ask people to contribute cash towards a larger gift, although that does vary from case to case. People, quite naturally, like to give something individual from themselves, rather than paying for an eighth of a new dining table.
After the list has been drawn up and the gifts received, it is vital that you write a personal thank you letter to each and every person who took the trouble to send you a gift. The number of people who seem to accept gifts as their right and don't even have the courtesy to say thank you can be quite staggering. There is absolutely no excuse not to write a thank you note.
When you write the note is not really so important. If you have time you can write before the wedding; perhaps even immediately after receiving the gift.
Gifts for Attendants
The groom is expected to purchase gifts for the attendants on behalf of the couple. These are usually small gifts which the attendant will be able to keep as a memento of their part in the day - perhaps a picture frame or candle holder for the bridesmaids and cufflinks or a tankard for the best man and ushers.
It is not generally expected that great expense is incurred in the purchase of these gifts, but thought should be given to buying the sort of thing that will last and give the attendant a pleasant memory for years to come.
See 'Wedding Stationery Etiquette'
Wedding Photographs and DVD
You will have carefully budgeted for your wedding day and you may have had to rethink your budget once or twice. However your wedding photographs are all you will have left in the years to come to remind you of your special wedding day. For this reason it is essential to hire a professional photographer. Although many guests have digital cameras it is essential to dress your shots correctly and to ensure that everyone is looking in the same direction.
Give your photographer a list of the shots you would like to ensure that you don't miss anyone out. For example:
1. Bride and Groom with both parents
2. Bride and Groom with Bride's family
3. Bride and Groom with Groom's family
Consider having a drink with your guests before you disappear for photography and it is usual to plan taking photographs of the larger groups first so they are freed up to mingle among themselves.
Many couples choose to have a DVD of their wedding day and this captures all the special moments such as the bridal party getting ready, the Groom arriving and having the speeches recorded is fantastic as these are usually forgotten in time.
DVDs range in cost with the more expensive ones being set to your own choice of music which is usually a compilation of all the meaningful music since you have been together.
The Wedding Breakfast
In the United Kingdom it is often close family members that are invited to the wedding breakfast with a larger reception open to more guests in the evening. This is up to the bride and groom. The wedding breakfast can be as large or small as you wish but often will come down to your budget as this is usually the most expensive part of your wedding.
An older tradition is to have a line up at the reception which gives the bride and groom the opportunity to greet all their guests individually but again this may not be required with smaller more informal weddings.
Seating arrangements are very important and will depend on the type of ceremony you choose to have. There are formal seating arrangements where you have a top table for the bride and groom, their parents and the wedding attendants. For informal weddings you can have a table in the middle of the room so that all your guests can see you at all times. Table plans are very helpful and will guide your guests to their tables.
Following the meal speeches usually take part along with the cutting of the cake, although this can be saved for the evening reception if you choose to invite additional guests.
1. Father of the Bride. Traditionally the father of the bride will toast the bride and groom and then go on to talk about his daughter. As with all speeches, a mixture of affectionate anecdote and humour generally works well.
2. The Groom. The groom will then respond on behalf of himself and his new wife and then propose a toast to the bridesmaids. He then goes on to thank those people involved in helping them in the planning of the wedding and distributes gifts to the mother of the bride, his own mother and any other guests who require an extra special thank you for example the florist if present, or anyone who has helped with the wedding.
If the bride is to make a speech it should take place following the groom's. A more current trend is for the bride and groom to do a joint speech but like any speech this needs planning beforehand.
The best man's speech is generally the last one. He usually thanks the bridesmaids, reads out any messages from friends and relatives who couldn't be at the wedding. He will then go on to talk about the groom and this often becomes the light-hearted speech.
The Wedding Cake
The bride and groom should make the first cut of the cake together, after which it is taken away by the staff at the reception venue and divided into portions which are then distributed among the guests at the reception. It is common to keep a number of portions back for people who were unable to attend the wedding.
A wedding cake is usually made of fruit and then topped with royal icing. Fruit is selected because it can keep for much longer and the top tier was traditionally saved for the christening of the first born child. These days many couples opt for chocolate or sponge cakes and some couples choosing elaborate cakes can serve in the place of dessert.
The wedding ring circle is the symbol of the unending commitment of one person to another and being made up of a valuable metal represents the value of the relationship.
Once put on to the finger, the ring should only ever be removed in exceptional circumstances.
Remember when choosing a ring that you will hopefully be wearing it for the rest of your life, so make sure you choose one that you are completely happy with. Cost should not be a factor when choosing the ring since you will be wearing it long after the cost has been forgotten.
Roles and Responsibilities
On average a bride now spends 18 months planning the most important day of her life. Her planning will include every aspect of her special day from the venue, the outfits, flowers, menus, seating plan and music. Today's modern couples often pay for the entire wedding and therefore tend to plan and make the arrangements together.
Generally the groom will plan and organise the honeymoon.
On the Day
The bridegroom and the best man are expected to arrive at the wedding venue before the bride and her bridesmaids and approximately twenty to thirty minutes before the service is due to start.
After the photographs the next event is the reception. The bride and groom stand at the end of the reception line up (if you are having one) and at this time the groom should introduce the bride to members of his family or his friends who she has not already met.
The meal and speeches are next and the groom's speech follows that of the bride's father. His speech should thank everyone who helped organise and who contributed to the wedding, to thank the bride's parents for giving him their daughter and should always end with a thank you and toast to the bridesmaids.
Following the meal and the speeches comes the cutting of the cake, and then shortly afterwards the first dance.
After this, the bride and groom have no more duties and can spend the rest of the evening mingling, dancing and chatting.
The Best Man
The best man's responsibilities are many and are listed below:
Organise the stag night. (ensuring the groom comes to no harm)
Take care of the rings.
Ensure the groom arrives on time.
Ensure that the ushers, page boys and flower girls know what they have to do, and check that they do it.
Escort the chief bridesmaid down the aisle following the ceremony.
Best Man speech
Toastmaster (if there is no professional toastmaster present)
Ensure security of any wedding presents given on the day and safe delivery of those presents afterwards.
Return the groom's hired clothes (if he has gone on honeymoon.)
Act as host, introducing people to each other, getting conversations started and generally making sure things go smoothly.
The Chief Bridesmaid tends to be the bride's sister or her closest friend and she undertakes many of the same duties as the best man for the groom, but unlike the bestman is not required to make a speech.
The Chief Bridesmaid responsibilities are listed below:
Help the bride with the choice of her own dress and with the choice of outfits for the other attendants.
Organise the hen night.
Arrive at the bride's home early and go with her to the hairdresser.
Help her dress for the wedding.
Arrange her dress, train, veil and head flowers before the bride enters the church.
Ensure the flower girls are prepared and know what they are doing.
Stand behind and to the side of the bride at the top of the aisle, Take her bouquet and when she is standing beside the groom at the altar, lift her veil.
Work together with the best man at the reception to break ice and introduce people to each other.
Ensure her dress is secure and put away carefully if the bride is changing at the reception venue.
Return any hired dresses or clothing.
Be on hand to help the bride with whatever needs to be done.
The ushers are chosen by the groom and are usually chosen from among the brothers or cousins of the bride or groom. Just as the bride chooses her bridesmaids' dresses, the groom chooses the attire of the usher. In the case of a Scottish wedding this can mean that the groom chooses which tartan is worn.
The main duties of the usher are to show people to their seats and distribute orders of service. Apart from that they should work with the best man to ensure things run smoothly by helping with the organisation of transport from one venue to the other if required and generally being on hand and attentive to the guests.
It's generally a good idea to have at least one usher from either family as this helps when introducing people to the wedding party line up at the reception venue.
Mother of the Bride
The Mother of the bride's role has changed considerably, particularly since most couples pay for their own wedding. However she should support her daughter, respect her daughter's decisions and ensure the smooth running of the day where possible.
The Mother of the bride travels to the wedding venue with the bridesmaids and is met at the entrance by the usher, who escorts her to her seat. She should be the last person to take her seat before the bride arrives.
It is usual for the brides' parents and the attendants to witness the signing of the registry. When leaving the venue the bride's mother walks alongside the groom's father behind the best man and chief bridesmaid.
The Father of the Bride
The father of the bride will travel with the bride to the wedding and will escort her down the aisle.
After he has delivered his daughter to the side of the groom he may retire to his seat which is usually at the front of the other guests.
The father of the bride usually delivers the first speech of the day and may cut in on the groom during the couple's first dance.
As the official host of the wedding reception, he is expected to bid farewell to the departing guests and is traditionally the last person to leave the reception.
Parents of the Groom
Once news of the engagement has been broken it is expected that the parents of the groom should contact the bride's parents to offer their congratulations, welcome their future daughter-in-law into their family and to arrange a time for both sets of parents to meet to discuss arrangements for the wedding.
Both sets of parents should discuss and agree very early on who does what and who pays for what. The mothers, for invariably it is the female who communicate best, should keep in regular contact to keep each other up to date as to the progression of the organisation, to discuss any difficulties that arise, to avoid any misunderstanding or duplication of work and to complain about the selfishness and ingratitude of their respective offspring.
The main financial outlay for the groom's parent was traditionally gifts for the couple and possibly a rehearsal dinner. These days however, the increasing cost of weddings means that the groom's parents are expected to contribute in many other areas, which are best agreed with the bride's family well in advance.
The groom's mother is generally responsible for informing the bride's mother of the number of guests to come from the groom's side of the family.
On the day itself the groom's parents have few duties or responsibilities other than welcoming the guests to the wedding, circulating and chatting at the reception and making sure things go as smoothly as they can.
Flower Girls & Pageboys
Flower girls and Pageboys are usually nieces and nephews or young brothers and sisters and are generally no younger than about 5 nor older than 9 or 10. Children under 5 are unlikely to understand much of what's going on and may decide to start playing hide and seek just as the vows are about to be exchanged.
Flower girls walk in front of the bride carrying posies of flowers or bunches of thorn-less roses, which they can pass out to the guests as they go. They can also strew rose or other flower petals before the bride as she walks down the aisle.
Pageboys traditionally carry the bride's train if she is wearing a dress with a long one. They can also be used to carry the rings on a cushion to the couple.
The Wedding Dress
The most well-known superstitions about wedding dresses are that they should not be seen by the groom until the bride appears in church and that it's bad luck for a bride to make her own dress.
Like a surprising number of wedding traditions, the veil may also have its origins in Ancient Rome and, like the custom of dressing bride and bridesmaids alike, it was intended to protect the bride against evil spirits by concealing her identity until she was safely wed.
The First Purchase
Tradition has it that whichever one of the newly-weds makes the first purchase will rule in the relationship. This is why brides often give a coin to the chief bridesmaid who would sell her a pin in exchange
Confetti, which is the Italian word for 'sweets' has its origins in Italy where sweets were thrown over the newly-weds as they left the church. The throwing of sweets was intended to bestow fertility on the couple as was the rice used by many poorer villages. Other substitutes include raisins, flower petals and nuts. Our modern urban society has gradually replaced these with paper confetti.
Although bridesmaids today are dressed more simply than the bride originally the maids and the bride were dressed identically in order to confuse evil spirits.
The honeymoon is believed to have its origins in the period of time a couple would hide from the bride's parents before marrying, i.e. one month. During this time they would drink Mead, or honey-wine. Yes, we think its sounds implausible, too.
Something old, Something new,
Something borrowed, Something blue
This most famous of all wedding rhymes is thought to originate from Victorian England
The bride should carry one of each on her person during her wedding to ensure future happiness and prosperity.
Something Old was traditionally a piece of clothing or a garter given to the bride by a happily married woman, who would transfer her happiness in marriage through the symbol of the old item.
Something New could be anything of the bride's choosing and is meant to symbolise the new and hopefully prosperous future of the young couple.
Something Borrowed was usually a family heirloom or a prized possession of a close female friend. If the bride fails to return the item, bad luck will follow.
Something Blue can be any piece of clothing, often a garter or undergarment. Blue is often believed to symbolise faithfulness and loyalty.
The Wedding Cake
The Wedding Cake was originally a Roman fertility symbol which, rather than being eaten was broken over the bride's head.
The cake idea developed over the centuries into several cakes sat on top of one another. When the tower of cakes was sufficiently high to present a challenge then the bride and groom would stand on opposite sides of the cake and attempt to kiss while trying not to cause the tower to fall. Good fortune could be expected if the kiss was successful.
This tradition is carried over to today's wedding cake which often sees the cakes in tiers with the kissing couple on top.
Carrying the bride over the threshold
The tradition of the groom carrying the bride over the threshold of their new marital home may have its origins in the time when grooms would steal their brides away. Carrying the bride into the home symbolises this medieval 'kidnapping' when they enter for the first time.
Another explanation is that if the bride were to enter the home with her left foot first, she would be visited by bad fortune. In order to avoid any disaster being caused by his bride's inability to walk properly, the groom simply lifts her into the room.