8 Old-School Etiquette Rules That No Longer Apply

Let's break some rules, shall we?
The Knot
Updated Jul 06, 2020

There are a lot of old-school traditions and etiquette rules attached to the word "wedding." Yes, some of those so-called "rules" were made to be broken, but it's still helpful to know what traditional wedding etiquette states. Below we've answered some of your frequently asked questions regarding which wedding rules to follow and which you can stray from.

Best Tips for Following Proper Wedding Etiquette

A big part of proper wedding etiquette is simply being aware of the traditional rules, regardless of whether you choose to follow them or not. Below, we outline what's known as "traditional wedding etiquette" — but remember: You can take or leave any of these "rules" as you so please.

Who pays for the wedding?

Today more than ever, couples fund their celebration in different ways. It's true the majority of weddings are paid for by the bride's parents (according to The Knot Real Weddings Study) — however, unlike in the past, where the bride's family was expected to foot the whole bill, they're in no way obligated to now. Grooms' parents and the couples themselves chip in nearly as often as brides' parents do. Many couples split costs evenly with both sets of parents or even pay for the entire thing themselves. It all depends on you two and your families' financial situations and preferences.

Does my dad have to walk me down the aisle?

While the father of the bride traditionally walks down the aisle with the bride, you are not obligated to follow this wedding rule. Some couples prefer to choose someone special in their lives, such as a grandfather, mother or brother, while others like the idea of walking down the aisle solo. This is certainly a personal choice.

Does everyone get a plus-one?

If you want and can afford to give all of your guests plus-ones, go for it. However, once you've invited all guests who must be considered package deals (a quick refresher: spouses, engaged couples and couples who live together, or have been dating seriously for a year or more), you aren't obligated to offer other single guests dates. The only exceptions to this rule are members of your wedding party and single guests who are coming from far away or really won't know anyone there.

Is an adults-only wedding considered rude?

An adults-only wedding is completely acceptable, and it's your prerogative to go that route if you prefer it. Leaving the kids at home will make for a sophisticated affair and can really help you trim down the guest list. What isn't acceptable is to go about it tactlessly. (If you've always envisioned an adults-only wedding, here's all the proper etiquette to follow so you don't step on any toes.)

Am I expected to invite my coworkers to my wedding?

No, you are not obligated to invite your whole office, but be mindful of the way you invite them and talk about your wedding at work. Send their invitations to their homes and avoid discussing your wedding in front of those not invited. You don't want to make anyone feel left out for not receiving an invitation.

Is it tacky to ask for cash as a gift?

This is one old-school wedding rule we couldn't be more excited to rewrite. Requesting cash contributions instead of, or in addition to, tradition presents is not only acceptable but hugely popular among today's couples. Thanks to The Knot Cash Fund, couples can ask for classy cash to put toward experiences (maybe a trip to Thailand) and big life milestones (like IVF). So while traditional retail registries aren't losing favor any time soon, there's definitely a new registry sheriff in town (and its name is cash).

Am I allowed to create a gift registry even if this isn't my first wedding?

Yes, of course. There is no wedding rule around not asking for gifts regardless of what number wedding this is for you. And chances are, your guests will want to celebrate your marriage by giving you gifts, too. Still feeling uncomfortable about it? Consider creating a honeyfund with The Knot Cash Funds instead.

Can the mother of the bride host the bridal shower?

Traditionally, it was considered gift-grabby if members of the bride's immediate family, like her mom, planned and hosted the shower, which is why you'd often see the maid of honor, entire wedding party, a family friend or the in-laws commonly play host. But that's not really a thing anymore. Really, it comes down to who wants to throw the shower—the bride's aunts, in-laws, family friends, college roommates or even coworkers—as well as who lives where.

Do I have to host a rehearsal dinner?

You're going to want to rehearse your ceremony, but as for what you do before or after? Totally up to you. Traditionally, when most couples lived separately before tying the knot, and engagements were only a few weeks long, the rehearsal dinner would be the first time both sets of parents could meet. Having a rehearsal dinner is still a fabulous idea, but if there's no time or room in the budget, it's fine to skip it, especially if your ceremony rehearsal has to take place on a weekday or the morning of your wedding. And it also doesn't have to be a dinner—ever considered a rehearsal brunch or roaming cocktail party including any early guests?

Can I only invite my wedding party to my bachelor/bachelorette party?

No. The only wedding etiquette rule you have to follow at your pre wedding bash is that anyone invited to it must also be invited to the wedding. After that, go nuts.

Do I have to tip my wedding vendors?

When it comes to this wedding etiquette, typically you are expected to only tip your vendors who are not under contract with you, such as the musicians or servers. The couple should also pay for their meals on the day of, too. However, that doesn't mean you can't tip your other vendors like the florist and wedding coordinator, especially if you were particularly happy with their service. Small wedding vendor gifts or any amount of cash is always appreciated.

Do I have to leave for my honeymoon right after my reception?

It's your honeymoon—you can leave whenever you want! Heading straight to your honeymoon can be very romantic, but it can honestly be a logistical nightmare. Whether you jet off immediately following morning-after brunch or wait six months, your first newlywed trip should be completely tailored to you two—not tradition.

When am I expected to send out thank-you cards?

Sending out thank-you cards is an absolute must when it comes to following proper wedding etiquette. The general rule is to send out your thank yous within three months of your ceremony. To prevent them from piling up, some couples begin writing thank-you notes for the gifts they receive prior to their wedding.

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