When you begin serious planning for the wedding, some of the first questions to ask yourself should involve who will pay for what, who you should invite, and what form the invitations should take.
Let's start the wedding process with who pays for what. For many weddings, lots of people assume a share of the burden and thus have some say in the proceedings.
Traditionally, the bride's family pays for invitations, announcements, photographs at the wedding and the reception, flowers for the wedding party, the cost of the ceremony itself (flowers, canopy, music, cars, and so on), and all the reception expenses.
The groom is responsible for the marriage license, bride's ring, his gift to the bride, the officiant's fee, gifts for his attendants, and the honeymoon. Sometimes the groom pays for the bride's bouquet and going-away corsage, the corsages for the mothers and grandmothers, and boutonnieres for his attendants and the fathers. The groom's family pays for the rehearsal dinner and hotel accommodations for the groom and his attendants.
But, tradition aside, the most practical and workable way to allocate wedding expenses is for the bride, the groom, and their families to sit down together and discuss the costs openly. This way, everyone will have the same picture of the event in his or her mind. Clear communication is essential from the start, especially about who should be billed for what as well as the billing and payment procedures.
The wedding guest list dictates the cost and size of the wedding, so it is a good idea to agree on some outer limits before you begin. Usually the two families—bride's and groom's—divide the number of guests equally between them.
Both families should determine their lists and then get together to combine the lists so that duplications can be eliminated. Be careful about assuming a certain number of no-shows. You could be in for some surprises. Friends from the past may consider your wedding an opportunity to renew acquaintances, and relatives or friends who live far away may decide to finally take that long trip they have been thinking about.
Formal wedding invitations conform to a formula. They should be engraved on the top half of a piece of folded white or off-white paper. A loose piece of tissue paper protects the engraving, and the invitation is put into an inner envelope. The recipient's full name is written on the inner invitation in black ink by hand. This envelope then is put into another envelope of the same paper quality, and the outer envelope is addressed and stamped by hand.
Although many people simply add “and guest” when they inscribe the inside envelope, it is a good idea to ask the person you are inviting whether you can send an individual invitation to the person who will be accompanying him or her.
A formal engraved invitation sends the message that your wedding will be formal. If your wedding is to be less formal, your invitation can send that message as well. You may, for example, choose to have the invitation printed rather than engraved, on colored stock. You might eliminate the extra envelope and alter the wording of the invitation to suit yourself.
If you and your intended are responsible for the entire wedding, you might want to send the invitations in your own name. Thus:
When the groom's family shares in the expense of the wedding, invitations are sent in the name of the groom's parents as well as the bride's:
(Note: Middle names and initials are not necessary but are considered more formal.)
When the bride and groom share some of the expense of the wedding, the invitation might say:
If you are inviting all the wedding guests to the reception, you can include the words “and afterwards at” following the wedding location on the invitation. Another option is to include a separate engraved or printed reception card with the wedding invitation.
By all means, send maps with invitations to those coming from a distance.
If you have fewer than 50 guests, you should write out your own invitations in the form of a note. The phrasing is up to you.
Replying to Invitations
There is no reason to reply or send a gift to a formal or informal wedding announcement unless you want to.
Although there is a correct form to reply to formal wedding invitations, few people know about it, much less actually use it.
Most invitations include a reply card, stamped and addressed by the host. In any case, the host would certainly appreciate a note from you saying that you will or will not attend. However, if you're invited to the ceremony, but not to the reception, a reply isn't necessary.
After a small wedding, you may send engraved or printed wedding announcements to friends and acquaintances. After a large wedding, you may send announcements to those who were not invited, for example, to business and social acquaintances who are in your Rolodex, but never make it to your dinner table.
The announcement does not need to mention where the wedding took place but should complement the style of the invitation in terms of paper stock and printing or engraving.
When couples plan their own weddings, they often send their own announcements. They are printed or engraved.
For the newspaper announcement, call to see whether a form is available. If not, give the following information:
- The bride's maiden name and the groom's name
- Hour, date, and place of the ceremony
- Name of the officiating person
- Names of people in the wedding party and their relationships to the bride and groom
- A description of the bride's dress and flowers and the bridesmaids' dresses
- Where the reception was held
- Names and occupations of the bride's parents
- Names of the bride's grandparents
- Where the bride went to school and college
- Where the bride is employed
- The same essential facts about the groom and his family
- Where the couple will live after the marriage
If the bride is keeping her maiden name, add this sentence to the announcement: “After the marriage, Ms. Michael will retain her maiden name.” Or “After their marriage, Mr. Reston and Ms. Michael will use the surname Michael-Reston.” Note that the use of hyphenated surnames is becoming less common these days.
You may send a photograph along with the announcement. The photograph may or may not get printed. Attach the caption to the back. Don't write on the back.
This explains how people generally or traditionally prepare for a wedding. Nevertheless, you should plan and carry out your wedding in a way that you believe is appropriate. Remember, too, that your wedding is something that will always be a part of your memories and deserves a great deal of serious thought and careful preparation.
More on: Planning a Wedding
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette © 2004 by Mary Mitchell. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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