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Wedding Day Etiquette

A wedding is neither the time nor the place to ditch the decorum — so mind your manners and win your wedding guests over with UKbride's education in etiquette...

Weddings are an ancient custom steeped in tradition, and thus should be celebrated with equal measures of enthusiasm and etiquette. If you're flummoxed by formalities, and puzzled by polite protocol, read on to discover the dos and don'ts of decency!

For guests:

In the first instance, guests should accept, or decline, the wedding invitation by the RSVP date stipulated on the invite. Once you accept, you are obliged to attend  — no last minute changing of plans (unless there is an emergency of course!)

When choosing an outfit, it is vital to remember that a bride is the star of the show. It's her day — and as a guest you must not outshine her! Wearing white — or anything remotely bridal in style for that matter — is a big no-no!

Arriving punctually for the ceremony is another must — it is extremely rude to walk in after the bride, and what's more, you'll miss the best bits of the marriage itself!

It is also considered polite for guests to buy the couple a gift, often from a gift list compiled by the bride and groom prior to their wedding.

For bride and groom:

The groom and his best man should arrive at the venue at least 20 minutes prior to the ceremony's start.

The bride travels to the church with her father. The father of the bride also has the responsibility of making the first speech, and traditionally he should be the last person to leave the reception.

Your vicar will normally advise on the correct order of service, but usually the ceremony progresses as follows:

Introductory medley; entrance of the bride, (or processional); hymns; marriage vows and prayers; hymn or psalm blessing; signing of the register; recessional.

Upon leaving the ceremony, the exit of the wedding party should be in the order of: bride and groom, chief bridesmaid and best man, mother and father of the bride, mother and father of the groom, bridesmaids and attendants, followed by the remaining guests.

At the reception, the groom is expected to introduce his bride to any friends or family she has not met before. He must also always thank the bride's parents in his speech and include a toast to the bridesmaids.

Seating your guests however, is perhaps the toughest task when it comes to wedding etiquette, and tackling the top table can be particularly tricky! A traditional format seats the bride and groom together in the centre. The bride is seated on the groom's left. To the bride's left is her father, the groom's mother, and the best man. To the groom's right is the bride's mother, the groom's father, and chief bridesmaid.

Alternatives for weddings where the bride's parents are divorced, still seats the bride and groom in the centre, but to the bride's left, is her father, the groom's mother, the best man, and the bride's stepmother. Similarly, to the groom's right sits the bride's mother, groom's father, chief bridesmaid, and, on the far right the bride's stepmother. A similar model can be applied if it the groom's parents who are divorced and re-married.

If you have a more 'unconventional' family arrangement, feel free to adapt the setup in order to best suit your needs!

The cutting of the cake should take place after the speeches, and guests should not take to the floor until the bride and groom have had their first dance.

Voilà — now there's no need to sweat over wedding etiquette!

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Have you got any tips or advice for wedding day etiquette? Let us know on our Forum!