Ask A Wedding Expert: All Your Etiquette Questions Answered

BY Carrie Goldberg and Myka Meier / Feb 2 2017 / 15:47 PM

Beaumont Etiquette founder Myka Meier weighs in on the modern ways to have manners

Ask A Wedding Expert: All Your Etiquette Questions Answered
Alexi Lubomirski

Ever find yourself wondering how brides do it? Planning a wedding, navigating your relationship as it transitions from dating to your engagement and from planning the big day to marital bliss is challenging. Here, US’s Weddings Editor and industry experts answer the questions of brides and grooms to be, bridesmaids, parents and guests struggling to elegantly navigate the style, etiquette, traditions, expectations and pressures of wedding planning and newlywed life.

Dear Harper's Bazaar US: My fiancé and I have started planning our wedding with the help of our families. We've heard nightmares about couples and families getting into all-out brawls about who is paying for what and all of the things that are expected of us and our event. A lot of these so-called "musts" aren't really our thing; I don't know if I even want bridesmaids, garters feel tacky to me (as does a bouquet toss...) and my parents definitely cannot afford this wedding on their own. What traditions are we expected to hang on to and which can we toss out? In today's more modern world, what's the proper etiquette for, well, everything?! — Anonymous

Image Via Alexi Lubomirski

Dear Anonymous: Take a breath. It's all going to be ok. We are always of the school that you should do what feels right and authentic to your style, and to you as a couple–but we understand that parental, religious or social expectations can get in the way of you doing you. We turned to etiquette expert Myka Meier to debunk all the myths surrounding your wedding day–and identify the traditions worth upholding–and those best left in the past.

"Today's brides and grooms are planning weddings with 21st-century sensibilities," Meier explains. But despite the fact that couples are no longer insisting that the bride's family handle all costs–and more on that later–it's important to understand the proper etiquette to navigate a situation that is causing a rift in what should be wedded bliss. Below, all of the answers the the specific etiquette inquiries that are bound to arise (if they haven't already).

Does the bride's family still pay for the wedding?

"Long gone are the days when the bride's family is expected to foot most, or all, of the wedding bill. Today, couples are contributing their own savings to the wedding, the groom's family is pitching in, and other relatives and godparents may offer some financial assistance to cover select details. For example, grandma may want to purchase your wedding dress–and that's ok.

But–never assume family will be paying for your nuptials. If your family has expressed that they wish to contribute, then it's best to have a discussion with both sets of parents and ask them what, if anything, they want to spend on the wedding. While you're discussing the budget, find out if there are any strings attached. You don't want to accept money only to find out that the giver insists you only use it in a certain way."

Should the bride buy her bridesmaids dresses?

"Not necessarily. The bride is under no obligation to pay for her bridesmaids' dresses, but if she can afford to and wants to she definitely can–and it would be much appreciated. Bridesmaids who can't afford the dress the bride chooses should feel free to speak up and explain to the bride that the dress isn't within budget; in this case, a bride may opt to cover all or part of the cost for this bridesmaid and considering how close they are, she may want to."

Should the couple cover the travel costs of guests for a destination wedding?

"No, a couple is not responsible for their guests' travel costs. When planning a destination wedding, or if guests are flying to your hometown, it's a thoughtful gesture for the couple to arrange for their wedding guests to receive a discounted rate at a resort or two by securing a room block. A typical room block discount is at least 10% off the regular room rate, and in some instances, a property may also include complimentary breakfast each morning. To further make their guests' travel planning stress free, a couple may want to work with a travel agent to coordinate all flights, room reservations and ground transportation. You can also have a travel concierge on-site to coordinate the daily activity schedule, including transportation to and from various locations. It's up to the couple if they want to host all of these experiences or just coordinate them for guests to opt-in if they choose to."

Image Via Alexi Lubomirski

Can a couple email their save the dates–or even their invitations?

"As long as it includes the important details, these can be sent by by mail or email. However, paper invitations are still more sophisticated. You can use a service like Paperless Post, have a graphic designer create something that you can mail from your email account, or opt for an email service like mailchimp. Also, your save the date does not have to match the design of your wedding invitation. A save the date should always include the date of the wedding and the city, state (or country if it's a destination wedding). You can also include a link to your wedding website. For destination weddings, you may want to include additional travel details, such as the name to use on the room block at the resort. NEVER include the gift registry on the wedding save the date or invitation. The only appropriate place to include the gift registry details is on the wedding website."

Who gets invited with a +1?

"Couples who need to limit their guest list should create general guidelines as to which of their single, or attached but unmarried friends, can bring a date to the wedding. General "rules" state that anyone engaged or living with their significant other should be invited as a couple to the wedding, with both names on the wedding invitation. It's also polite to offer those travelling in from out of state or country a plus one where possible too. After those, it's up to each couple to decide what limits to set.

Some additional guidelines can include: Guests who have been dating for at least 6 months or even a year may bring a date, or if only one or two friends are single the couple may allow them to bring a date so they don't feel like the odd ones out. Or, you could decide that only members of the bridal party can bring a date. If the couple has a lot of single friends, you may want to invite them to attend unattached and all the friends can mingle together. You can also remind them that a lot of people meet their future spouses at weddings!"

Image Via Alexi Lubomirski

Should you invite kids to your wedding?

"Children at a wedding can be adorable. All dressed up in party dresses and suits, they're sure to have a fun time, but will their parents have as much fun? Probably not. Couples need to set parameters as to whether or not they'll invite any kids to their wedding or limit them to nieces, nephews and godchildren. If some children will be in the bridal party, you can plan a kids room for them during the reception complete with a babysitter, kids menu and entertainment (like movies, video games, coloring books, etc.). Parents are close by in case an emergency arises, but at least they can enjoy dinner and dancing.

If it's decided that no children are invited to the wedding, explain to parents that you want to ensure that they have a great time at the wedding, and that you've decided that no kids will be invited. You can explain it this way: "while we love your little ones, this is an adult-only wedding and reception. We have included the phone number to a childcare service if you wish to have a sitter during the wedding festivities."

Can you ask guests to wear black-tie to a less-than-formal wedding?

"Traditionally at a black-tie or formal wedding, women are in floor-length gowns and men wear tuxedos. Black Tie is traditionally called for Saturday night only, but today you can get away with a formal wedding any night of the week. If you're worried that guests may not dress in the way you want them to, add a reception card to the invitation suite that reads "Formal Attire" or "Black-Tie" to make it clear. If you're having a formal wedding than the other details should align. Your wedding invitations should be printed and mailed, not emailed. The tables should be set with china, flatware and glassware that is not, shall we say, of the recycled kind. Food should be plated and served by waiters, however you can have some sides served family-style on the table if you wish."

You can learn more about wedding planning etiquette from Myka at The Plaza Finishing Program taking place on March 1st where she will be speaking along with several wedding industry insiders on wedding etiquette concerns, stationery basics and how to solve your most-pressing wedding dilemmas. To sign up for the course, visit

Via Harper’s Bazaar US