Tricky Wedding Etiquette Questions Answered…

Bohemian Wedding, Blue Willow China, Beach Wedding Inspiration

Image: The LANE’s Bohemian Love Story Shoot by Trent Mitchell

Confused about all of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to planning your wedding? Which guests should you invite? Who is expected to cover the budget nowadays? Do we invite children? What needs to be considered when holding a destination wedding? We asked one of our favourite wedding planners, Victoria Cameron of The Little White Wedding Co to answer the tricky wedding etiquette questions that can cause stress for couples when planning their dream wedding…

I’ve found that one of the most confusing aspects of wedding planning for engaged couples, their families and on occasion guests is wedding etiquette. What should I pay for? What is expected of me? Where do we draw the line in terms of invited guests? All of these questions are commonly asked and the answers on occasion are drastically outdated. It’s important to remember that while tradition is a beautiful thing, we live in 2012…you can play by your own rules just remember to always be considerate and think things through.

What should a couple keep in mind when deciding on the number of guests?

The guest list…the first big stumbling block for most couples embarking on their wedding planning journey. I’ve not once heard a couple say that putting their guest list together was a breeze so take some comfort in knowing it’s a nightmare for everyone.

Where are you supposed to draw the line? Should you invite children? What about those “acquaintances” who assume they’re invited?! Make a game plan. Talk to your parents and each other about who is most important to you and how big you want your wedding to be. If you would prefer something with smaller numbers that’s brimming with intimacy I recommend limiting your guest list to very close family and friends however if you have a larger celebration in mind you’ll need a few rules.

1. Decide on whether or not you would like children to attend your wedding. If you are including children in your bridal party it’s a nice gesture to invite their siblings or any other young relatives to the ceremony as guests and then have a “no children” policy for the reception. If you would like children at the reception, designate children’s tables and style them appropriately. You’re approach here will vary depending on the age group.

2. Talk to both sets of parents and see if they have any “must invites”. These may be limited to their aunts and uncles or it could include some of their close friends.

3. My personal favourite was a rule my sister and now brother-in-law put in place for their wedding. To be invited, both of them had to have met each guest previously. If this wasn’t the case they weren’t on the list (particularly useful when you’re talking cousins of cousins!) It may seem a little harsh but when you want a wedding of 80 and your guest list is sitting at 120 you’ve got to cut it down somehow.

John Benavente sydney wedding photographerchildren wedding pictures john benavente

Image 1 & 2: John Benavente

What advice can you give couples who are having difficulties cutting down their guest numbers, due to pressure from parents to invite so many family members?

You’ll quickly discover that communication is key during your wedding planning process. Everyone involved needs to be on the same page and this applies to your family when discussing the guest list.

It’s important for everyone to remember that it is the engaged couple who is getting married not themselves. It’s very easy to get caught up in the hoopla so gently and politely remind them of this.

This situation can be a little harder to resolve if the parents are paying for the wedding. If this is the case it’s only polite for them to be able to have some input into the guest list but discuss this first and set some boundaries so the wedding is still filled with your nearest and dearest.

silvia antonio fairy lights wedding

Image: Silvia & Antonio’s Romantic Spanish Wedding by Jimena Roquero

Working out whether to invite a friend or family member’s partner if they’re in a very new relationship, is often a tricky area. What suggestions can you make to assist with this decision?

In this situation, tradition would dictate that you invite all partners however if you’re struggling with this decision ask yourselves the following questions: – How close are you to the friend or family member in question? – How long have they been in this new relationship for? – Have either or both of you met their new partner? – If you make an exception for this guest will you feel obliged to invite others you weren’t planning to? – Will your friend or family member be offended if their partner is not invited? As with everything else, discuss these questions and answers and you’ll come to a decision that you’re happy with.

If you do choose to not invite this partner, explain your decision to your friend or family member so there’s no misunderstandings as to the reason behind your decision.

Traditionally the bride’s parents cover the costs of a wedding. Do you feel this element of planning has changed in recent times? How do couples now decide who foot’s the bill?

Yes, absolutely! There has been a different financial agreement for most of my couples.

Almost all of my brides and grooms have contributed to the final bill in some way whether it’s the beverages or the venue hire however; the rest is really up to each family’s independent financial situations.

I recommend discussing your budget (with your family if they are pitching in) at the same time as your guest list as the number of guests you need to accommodation for filters through almost every aspect of your wedding plans.

hayley dylan tim pascoe, wedding photography inspiration

Image: Hayley & Dylan’s Romantic Palm Beach Wedding by Tim Pascoe

Is it appropriate to ask your bridesmaids to cover costs for their bridesmaid dresses and shoes (or groomsmen to pay for their suits)? What etiquette should be applied in this situation?

I personally think this is again decided on a case by case basis but I encourage you to weigh the following factors:

1. Do you have a particular dress and/or shoes and/or jewels (or in the case of men, suits) in mind? If the answer is yes think about the cost of these items. If you want your bridesmaids to wear couture in most cases it’s going to be unrealistic for your bridesmaids to happily fork out a large sum of money for something that is not of their choosing.

2. The style is also an important consideration and despite Katherine Heigl’s character in 27 Dresses repeatedly exclaiming  “…and I can totally shorten it and wear it again” this isn’t always the case. Is it something your bridesmaids/groomsmen would choose themselves or get repeat use of?

3. What are the financial situations of each of your bridesmaids/groomsmen? You’ve asked them to be a large part of your wedding day so I’m going to assume you have a close relationship with these women/men. You probably don’t know their bank balance but you’ll have some idea of how they’re sitting financially. Perhaps it’s better to ask them to pay for their shoes and accessories and you purchase the dress. Assess each of the individual cases. 

white bridesmaid dresses tim pascoe

mismatched bridesmaid maxi dresses

Image 1: Hayley & Dylan’s Romantic Palm Beach Wedding by Tim Pascoe

Image 2: Sarah + Ben’s Vintage, Travel-inspired wedding by Jane Allen

Holding a destination wedding is often at the risk of loved ones not being able to attend. What advice can you provide for couple’s deciding on a destination wedding?

A destination wedding can be a sneaky way of reducing the number of positive RSVP’s but you never want those not attending to include some of your most loved family members or friends.

If you are fearful that this may be the case ask yourselves what it is about a destination wedding that appeals to you and how far you want to travel. Perhaps a destination wedding means simply escaping your everyday surrounds. If this is the case don’t forget there are several great options for you interstate. This approach is always going to be a more affordable option for you and your guests however, if it’s a foreign land you’re dreaming of, talk to those guests you are concerned about and see if there are any ways you can help them out.

Another option which is not to be forgotten is block accommodation bookings. Many hotels and resorts will offer discounted rates if you can guarantee a booking of a certain size. Airport to hotel transfers can also be organised for your guests which will help them save a few pennies.

Whitehaven Beach Destination Weddingfrancine & clive possitano destination wedding

Image 1: Julia & Artemy’s Intimate Island Escape by Lisa Michele Burns

Image 2: Francine & Clive’s Italian Summer Wedding by Cinzia Bruschini

Often, deciding on a wedding location can be difficult for a couple who grew up in and have family living in different counties. What suggestions can you make to help couple’s arrive at a suitable choice?

Start by writing a list of those family members whose attendance at your wedding is a must for you. Then consider where they currently reside and look at the distribution of these people.

The way I see it, you have three options:

Option One

Have your wedding where the two of you currently reside. If this is a different country to both of your families and there are no financial concerns surrounding their attendance it will be a great opportunity for them to experience life in the country where you have established yourselves.

Option Two

Hold your wedding in one or the others home town. Perhaps one of you has a larger family than the other and it would be more difficult for one side of the family to travel than the other. There’s also a chance that you may not have travelled to this country which will give you great insight into their childhood.

Option Three

Choose a destination in the middle of your guests or more likely somewhere you’ve both been eager to visit. While all of your guests will have to travel, at least it’s for a good cause!

Regardless of your approach some of your guests will have to travel either interstate or overseas but I’ve found it’s all in the delivery. Pitch your wedding as a chance for an adventure and design daily itineraries for your guests so they can fill their spare time by soaking up the local culture and exploring their surrounds or alternatively hint at lazy days by the beach with cocktails in hand and sand between the toes.

santorini weddings

Image: Kim & Luke’s Elegant European Wedding by Nikole Ramsay

It’s not usually customary for the bride to deliver a speech at the wedding reception. In your experience, has this tradition changed? What advice can you give brides who are planning to make a speech?

From what I’ve seen this is slowly changing. For my brides their decision to speak or not to speak hasn’t been so much about customs and traditions but more about the stage fright associated with public speaking!

That being said, some of my brides have felt very strongly about giving a speech at their wedding and for these lovely ladies their decision has come from a place of wanting to thank their parents and guests at their wedding as they are one half of the happy couple after all.

I only have one tip for brides planning on giving a toast or speech…watch your alcohol intake. There is only one thing worse than watching someone stumble and mumble or saying inappropriate things and that’s when that said person has a microphone!

We’ve all heard an awkward best man or matron of honour speech. What are some general guidelines for those preparing a speech should keep in mind at a wedding?

The same rule applies to any members of the bridal party or guests giving speeches at the reception. Be careful of how much alcohol you consume before your speech. If you would like to enjoy the wines and champagne on offer alternate these with a glass of water.

Also remember that while an entertaining speech may include stories of the mischief (to put it nicely) you got up to when you were younger or embarrassing tales of the couple, their parents, aunts/ uncles and grandparents are usually a significant part of your audience so make sure it’s not inappropriate.

john benavente, wedding speech photography

Image: John Benavente

For more wedding planning tips & advice, head over to The Little White Wedding Co’s Secret Diary of a Wedding Planner & sign up to the Wedding Whispers newsletter. Victoria Cameron is a wedding planner & stylist based in Australia but available for destination weddings worldwide. See more of Victoria’s beautiful weddings here.

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2 Responses to “Tricky Wedding Etiquette Questions Answered…”
  1. girl friday. says:

    Hi Karissa, just wondering if you could address whether you invite a guest to the ceremony and not the reception and vice versa? I know the ceremony is meant to be intimate… but you want to invite someone to your wedding day for fear of them being rejected… but can’t afford to pay for their place at the reception? Any ideas? Thanks, Kim.

    • Hi Kim, It’s a difficult one! I personally wouldn’t invite a guest to the ceremony and not the reception as I feel it would be quite an awkward conversation to have! Instead I would look at trying to reduce the costs of the reception in other areas to accommodate extra guests, or not invite the guest altogether. Often for destination weddings, couples will have a very intimate wedding & reception & then hold a very relaxed wedding ‘party’ at a later date for a larger number of guests.

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