The phrase wedding etiquette basics makes us think of fancy silverware, finishing school, and prescriptive stuffy rules: wear white, walk on the left side of your partner, pray to the spaghetti monster to bless your marriage, etc. Maybe instead of “wedding etiquette basics” we can use the term “nice things to do to show your guests you appreciate them.” Likely the folks you're inviting to your wedding love you and support you enough to take time out of their schedules to celebrate with you. Let them know their efforts aren't lost on you!
Here are a few wedding etiquette basics to know, even for offbeat and nontraditional folks…
Or rather, thoughtful things you can do to make your guests feel loved and taken care of, regardless of how traditional or offbeat you might be
1. Communicate your plans clearly
If you're planning a non-traditional wedding then you need to know this wedding etiquette rule. For any wedding that might be outside the norm (for instance, you're doing an improv show in lieu of a traditional ceremony, or the guests will be expected to go on a scavenger hunt as part of the wedding, or the wedding will take place from sunset to sunrise — these have all happened!) it's extra important to communicate very clearly to your guests.
Not only does it help them know what to expect in terms of dress code and ceremony format, but it puts them in the right mental state to receive your nontraditional wedding.
For example: When my partner and I had our interactive sketch comedy/improv wedding, we made sure to communicate to our guests that this ceremony was going to be unlike any wedding they were used to. Here's what we wrote in our invitation to mentally prepare them:
Two paths converge. Two flames become one. Two wardrobes are shoved into one closet, because that’s the only one we’ve got! Perhaps you’ve known one of us a long time and lovingly thought, “That one is an odd duck.” Well, birds of a feather flock together, so this ceremony is going to be anything but typical. It’s the kind of spectacle you won’t want to miss. Not in the “bride floats in on a hot air balloon” kind of way but the, “Did they even plan this out? Who cares; it’s fun,” kind of way. So please join us in celebrating the strange, the bizarre, the unexpected–and the happiest day of our lives (so far).
Had we just surprised our guests with the improv ceremony, we'd be met with a lot of “WTF is this?” And since this was an improv comedy wedding, we wanted our guests to be laughing with us. You want your guests to enjoy your non-traditional wedding, not get flustered trying to process what the heck is going on!
So go ahead and have the wild and wacky celebration of your dreams…Just make sure you give the guests a thorough heads-up first about what to expect.
2. Send out save-the-date cards
As soon as you lock down your wedding date, send out save-the-date cards to your guests. It gives them the courtesy to get their ducks in a row–making travel arrangements, setting up child care, etc. Most save-the-dates go out 6-8 months before the wedding.
3. Consider guest comfort
You could be having the most heartfelt, tearjerking ceremony ever! But if your wedding guests are in physical discomfort (too hot, too cold, in pain somehow), that's all they'll be able to focus on.
Do your best to try to forecast the attire they'll need to have the best experience at your celebration, and let them know about your wedding dress code. If the venue is known to get random chill winds, encourage them to bring layers or provide blankets they can warm up in. If the wedding is outdoors at peak sun in Florida you can provide fans and cold water to help cool down.
Don't forget about footwear! If you're having your wedding somewhere not conducive to certain types of shoes, let your guests know in the attire section of the invitation. You don't want a guest to have an uncomfortable experience because they wore heels without knowing the reception would be outdoors on grass, or dress shoes to a camping wedding with a lot of dirt paths.
4. Send thank you cards
Now for some basic guest thank you etiquette 101! Send thank-you notes to your guests and anyone who helped make your wedding day awesome. To make it extra personal, you can include a special memory you had with them during the wedding day! For instance, “We couldn't stop smiling when you were vogue-ing with Aunt Carol!” Thank you notes are a simple and personal way of letting your guests know you their presence was meaningful.
Plus, who doesn't love receiving a little surprise snail mail filled with warm and fuzzies? If you don't know what to say, we've got copy-and-paste thank you templates here.
See? Talking about wedding etiquette basics doesn't have to be boujee or frou-frou!
It's as simple as letting your guests know you appreciate them. Taking care of them before, during, and after the wedding won't just benefit your wedding day but your relationships long after the celebration!