When planning your wedding, there’s absolutely no need to turn into a bridezilla. Ranting, raving and generally misbehaving isn’t becoming to any bride. Accept every piece of advice—no matter how silly or offensive—with grace. Deal calmly with dress disasters and keep smiling when your future mother-in-law adds yet another obscure acquaintance to the guest list. A bride should never let her veneer of poise and elegance slip and spoil the day for herself or others. “Wedding etiquette is sometimes fraught with minefields,” says Jennie Hallam-Peel, chairman of The London Season and an expert in the art of manners. In fact, after receiving a high volume of emails from around the world asking for advice on the subject, Hallam-Peel is hosting a series of one-day wedding seminars at The Ritz London as part of The London Season’s series of high-society summer events. “A wedding ceremony is a tradition that has been followed for hundreds of years,” says Hallam-Peel. “The most common pitfalls couples fall into is when the bride and groom—and often both sets of parents—have differing ideas of formality and accepted social codes. It is vital that there is an open discussion of this as soon as possible after the engagement, and that a compromise is reached before matters become contentious. The wedding day should be as stress-free as possible and arrangements should be made—and agreed upon—to ensure that everyone is able to relax and enjoy it.”
On the Day, Ceremony and Reception
- Wedding gowns traditionally don’t bare the shoulders, especially in church. If you’ve got your heart set on a strapless dress, you could wear a bolero and remove it after the ceremony. Too much cleavage is frowned upon, as are very short gowns.
- Morning suits are the accepted British dress code for weddings—for both the groom and guests. A navy blue, mid-grey or charcoal grey suit is an alternative, as is an outfit traditional in a particular country.
- The groom should arrive 45 minutes before the start of the ceremony and the bride approximately five minutes before. This way, you can follow tradition by walking up the aisle a little late, once the official photographs have been taken and you’ve gathered your wits.
- Keep your composure and avoid tears by practising controlled breathing exercises a few days before the wedding, advises HallamPeel. “Take four or five deep breaths before you walk up the aisle. A tiny drop of Bach’s Rescue Remedy on the tongue calms the most anxious of brides,” she says.
- It’s also important to make sure you know your vows by heart and have practised walking up the aisle, so you can avoid nasty surprises such as grates, steps and uneven flooring.
- Once you are married, the groom may now kiss the bride—but this should be brief rather than passionate.
- Ensure those all-important family photographs are taken to avoid hurt feelings afterwards. Discuss this comprehensively with your photographer well in advance and offer a list of must-haves. On the day, designate someone to ensure all pictures on the list are taken.
- At the reception, it’s traditional to have a receiving line. “It ensures that every guest is made to feel important, and has an opportunity of thanking the host personally and greeting the new bride and groom,” says Hallam-Peel.
- Seating plans are one of the most difficult aspects of a reception to get right, so plan ahead carefully. “Mismanagement of placement can cause family rifts or someone having a perfectly miserable time,” she says. “Older relatives usually feel happiest among people of their own age group. Awkward or shy guests are best seated between two gregarious guests, who will ensure that the conversation is kept flowing on either side.” If possible, each guest should be flanked by the opposite sex and know at least one other person on the table. Names must be spelled correctly on the seating plan and on tables.
- It’s traditional to have a top table, but this is not compulsory. “In between courses, it is very nice for the bride and groom to visit each table informally,” says Hallam-Peel.
- A bride should never be drunk nor be seen smoking in her wedding dress. The groom and best man must be sober—at least until after the speeches.
- “It is so important that everyone remembers the speeches favourably,” says Hallam-Peel. “Deeply embarrassing recollections of either the bride or groom is inappropriate—both sets of parents like to hear pleasant recollections and anecdotes of their offspring. It is offensive in the extreme to the hosts to make vulgar comments or crude anecdotes.”
- It is protocol to thank the wedding team— traditionally the groom buys something for the best man, bridesmaids, ushers and mothers.
(Text by Elisabeth Galvin, Illustration by Angela Ho)