All Your Wedding Etiquette Questions Answered
by Corrie McGee April 2
Now that you’re planning a wedding, your Google search history is going to fill up with things like, “How to address an invitation to two doctors?” Or, “Is 15 minutes too short for a wedding ceremony?” It’s amazing how many obscure questions can pop up during this process. From writing your own wedding vows to rules on inviting (or not inviting) children to your wedding, Jacy Mullings of Weddings By Stardust is here to help by getting you answers to some of the most popular etiquette questions, and more!
Photo // Ryan O’Dowd Photography
How long is a typical ceremony?
It truly depends on the type of ceremony you are having. For most secular and Christian ceremonies, they tend to last between 20 and 30 minutes from the time of the processional (the walk down the aisle) to the time of the recessional (the walk up the aisle after being pronounced). For other religious ceremonies, such as Catholic, Jewish and Hindu, they could last between 45 minutes and one hour.
What’s the proper processional order? What about the recessional?
There are many ways a processional can be composed depending on the family, attendants and any religious traditions. For a secular or traditional Christian processional, the officiant is often sent first, followed by family, wedding party, and then the bride and her escort last.
The groom’s side always precedes the bride’s, beginning with grandparents followed by parents. Unless you want your wedding party entering in as couples, the groom and groomsmen would typically enter at this point, with the bridesmaids entering single file, in reverse order, after them. The flower girl and/or ring bearer would be the last down the aisle before the bride.
Same-sex couples often like to enter a ceremony together or have both partners escorted in, but otherwise follow “traditional” processional and recessional guidelines.
What are the rules for inviting children to weddings?
Although there is no written rule for inviting or not inviting children, there are etiquette guidelines to follow when doing one or the other.
Making the decision to have children included or excluded from the wedding is up to the bride and groom and/or hosts of the wedding. If you choose to have children invited, you would include their names on the invitation envelopes (i.e. first line: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith; second line: Dylan and Katie OR simply address to “The John Smith Family”). To limit the number of children invited, you may choose to only invite the children of close family members and/or children of the wedding party.
By etiquette, the envelope dictates who is specifically invited, but if you are worried your guests will not get the memo, you can make a note of “Adults Only.” This would go on your details card in your invitation suite or on your wedding website since it is inappropriate for it to be written on your invitation. Whichever decision you all decide on, stay firm in it.
Can I walk down the aisle to any song I want or should it be more traditional?
If you are getting married at a church or house of worship, the selection of music may be limited since most religious sites forbid secular music and require their couples to use in-house musicians. If you are not having your ceremony at a place of worship, then you may select anything secular, classical, instrumental or recorded music for your walk down the aisle. Consider mixing traditional songs with instrumentals of pop music or classic love songs. Select things that are meaningful and have fun with it!
Where should immediate family sit?
Starting with the parents, the parents of the bride are seated on the left side of the front row with the mother in the center aisle seat and the father beside her. For the parents of the groom, it is reflected the same on the right side. In Jewish ceremonies, these sides are often reversed. If there are any divorces amongst the parents and new marriages or relationships, it is dependent on family dynamics where everyone would sit. If amicable relationships, they may all want to share the first row.
If there is any animosity, the mother would keep her seat in the first row and the father and partner would sit in the second row. Grandparents and siblings of the couple would be seated in the first row with other extended family seated in the remaining rows behind the parents of the couple. If a parent is widowed, then they have the option to choose a close family member or friend to sit next to them in their respective row.
Should we write our own vows?
This is another question to check with your officiant and/or ceremony site coordinator when planning your ceremony since most places of worship do not allow personal vows. For those ceremony sites that do allow them, now-a-days, more and more couples are writing their own. It elevates your ceremony by adding a more personal and emotional touch.
You get a chance to briefly tell your story and the reason you are standing in front of each other in that moment.
If you choose to write vows, I have two big pieces of advice. Be sure to really take the time to make it come from your heart. To try to put into words all the hopes, dreams and challenges you are excited to take on with your partner for the rest of your life in just a few short words is not an easy task.
Start the process early, take your vows through a few drafts and edits (and even verbal practice rounds!), and embrace the vulnerability that will become so cherished in the moment. It is an overwhelming process and can feel so much harder if you are on a time crunch.
Secondly, know and hold on to what you are vowing to. These are the commitments that you are verbalizing to your life-partner in front of all of your closest witnesses. As sweet as it is to promise the moon, it is more meaningful to give an actual commitment. This does not mean that all of your vows have to be heavy, you could still include bits of humor such as to always remember their favorite Starbucks order.
A special thank you to Jacy Mullings of Weddings By StarDust for sharing all these amazing insights on wedding etiquette and how to make the day truly personalized to the couple. To learn more about how Weddings By StarDust can help you plan your dream wedding, contact them directly through their Brides of North Texas vendor profile.
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