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Updated: Jun 9

Things have changed considerably when it comes to the expected protocol before and after modern day wedding events. It's definitely nothing like the movie "The Wedding Planner" Jennifer Lopez starred in back in 2001. I had my eyes opened wide last year when my first niece to get married organized her big day. It got me wondering how many of us in the 50+ demographic are aware of the differences in attitudes and behavior about what is considered acceptable, and what is not. Another niece of mine will be getting married this year and I am ready for pretty much anything. Many of you may already be aware of the differences in wedding protocol between when we were young and now, being parents and grandparents, but for people like myself who aren't, read on because you may be a little surprised!

Paper Invitations May or May Not Be Mailed Out

Things are very informal today and some couples are just not into that. What was once expected when it comes to an invite is completely out the window. You may be invited on Facebook or Instagram, or on either's Messenger platform. You could be invited on Zoom. You may be invited verbally, in person or over your cell phone. Don't be surprised by the way you find out you have an invite, whatever form it may present itself!

Not Everyone Will Be Invited

Unlike the traditional small town weddings of old where every resident had an automatic invite, today couples are telling parents they won't be inviting their cousins! Just because you are related, even closely, means nothing to today's practical couples. If you don't see them or speak to them often you probably won't be offered an invitation!

Bringing An Escort

Here's another thing I am surprised about. If you are currently a single family member and receive a paper invitation in the mail with just your name on it, don't think it's alright to bring your new partner when the day of the wedding rolls around, because it's not. I was really surprised to overhear a conversation from a bride who wasn't happy about her own sibling bringing a new partner to her wedding ceremonies. "And Escort" wasn't written on the sibling's invitation but they brought the new partner anyway assuming it would be okay. Although in years past it was expected, and even welcomed, that a single person bring an escort to a wedding, today it's not viewed that way at all.

One scenario I still consider rude and unacceptable is a formal invitation that does not include the name of a partner who has been co-habitating with someone for at least one year. I had this happen to me eighteen years ago and have never forgotten it. I had been living with my partner for seven years at that point and the bride was fully aware of it. I was a friend of her groom-to-be's family so this was quite the slap in the face to me. In her mind, because we were unmarried, I was a "non-entity". She addressed the envelope to my common-law partner "plus Escort", completely disregarding me. This was not acceptable wedding invitation protocol back then, nor is it today. Unless one person in the household clearly states to the bride or groom beforehand they will not be bringing their common-law partner, the names of both people must be written on that envelope.

Registry Not Required

Most couples getting married today have been living together for quite some time. They are also marrying much later than us so have already purchased everything they require. They usually don't want a physical gift, much to my disappointment and love of shopping! All they want is money and they often clearly state that on the invitation! Today it is perfectly acceptable to put cash in a card and bring it to the reception. If you're worried about it being stolen, a VISA or MasterCard gift card is perfectly acceptable with their names written on it, or you can send them an e-transfer close to or on their wedding day. If you're wondering how much to give Vogue World Paris has got that covered. According to them, relatives and friends should give $75.00 to $100.00. Really close relatives and friends should give a little more, anywhere from $100.00 plus. Co-workers and distant relatives are good to give $50.00 to $75.00.

Wedding Websites

Wedding websites are hugely popular now and I think they're a great idea. Once you are invited the couple are likely to have already set it up and will let you know about it. You can access it regularly to keep track of what is going on. Everything will be on there; upcoming showers or bachelor/bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners and details about the ceremony and reception venues. They will usually state whether it's formal or informal and may even mention which colours they don't want you to wear! Whether to bring a gift or if they prefer cash is often noted, especially if no formal invitation was mailed. It's a super way for out of town guests to keep up with what's happening and to leave messages for the bride and groom before they leave town.

The Bride's Family Is Not Expected To Pay

You read that right. I don't know when this changed but today the bride's family is not expected to foot the bill for the entire wedding. This is a really great thing because it takes a huge amount of stress off the bride and her family. It allows for everyone to contribute and have the elaborate wedding both families want to.

Dress Code Protocol

The dress code for weddings was clearly known by everyone years ago but today pretty much anything goes if the couple is alright with it. You can wear black, which used to be a big no-no. You can wear a jumpsuit if you feel more comfortable. You can wear a floor-length dress if it doesn't resemble the bridesmaid gowns. Some couples don't even mind if you wear jeans. As long as it is okay with the bride in particular, you can wear pretty much anything your heart desires.

As a Style Coach TM, however I feel I have to say something. One thing to remember is that anything you wear is a direct reflection on you. If you dress too ostentatiously you will outdo the entire bridal party and communicate to others you don't respect their day. Also, if you're the mother of either the bride or groom please don't wear white. It is never really acceptable and will cause resentment for years to come. It's also not a good idea to wear the same colours as the bridal party, even if the bride says it's okay. It's still somewhat disrespetful, in my opinion, unless you are part of the immediate family.

Cell Phone Photo Protocol

Unlike when I was young, everyone has a cell phone and everyone wants to take photo's. It's not acceptable to take photo's in the church with your cell phone under any circumstance, however. This is one particular protocol that has never changed. It's also not okay to take cell phone photo's during a less formal ceremony in a community hall while the Justice of the Peace is talking. You will need to wait until dinner is over at the reception or you will definitely be scolded!

Seating Arrangements

Some wedding receptions will have clear signage on the tables indicating where you can be seated. Others will not. It depends entirely on the couple today and what type of wedding they have arranged.

There May Not Be A Cake

What, no cake? What do you mean? I had a cake with a built-in fountain that ran all night! What is going on? Well, the three-tier cake with the little couple on top is no longer a thing. They charge too much for them and not everyone gets a slice. Instead you will probably find some cute little cupcakes beautifully decorated, or several tiers of petit-fours. Don't expect too much more!

She May Not Throw The Bouquet

I was surprised and disappointed when my niece didn't throw her bouquet. This has always been one of my favorite traditions so I waited all night for it to happen. I even asked her what was going on! She just laughed and said she wasn't going to so I put my tail between my legs and sat back down. After speaking to my sister about it she enlightened me on the reason. The flowers are so expensive today brides are choosing to hold on to them.

Cash Bars

I was horrified the first time someone told me there was going to be a cash bar at a wedding reception. This was just not done when I was young and considered extremely tacky! Things have changed though and too many people have lost their lives because of people consuming too much alcohol at weddings, then refusing to take a cab. People tend not to drink as much when their liquor comes at a cost, even if the cost isn't that much.

If You Are Unable To Attend

There are even protocols that apply if you are invited but cannot attend. It is considered good etiquette to still send a gift to the wedding reception or to the couple after they return from their honeymoon. If you are only invited to the reception the rules of etiquette state that you are not required to give a gift, however I have a problem with this because the meal is a really large part of the expense. If you are told you are welcome to come after the dinner and stay for the dance then no, you do not have to bring a gift. This is perfectly alright.

Destination Wedding Etiquette

A lot of weddings are being held at tropical destinations now and it's something that wasn't the norm when I was young so a lot of people are unsure about the protocol. Basically, if an invitation states "your presence is our gift", then you don't have to bring one. It's totally your choice. If you still wish to give a gift but are completely tapped out because of the expense of the hotel and flights, let the couple know you would like to give them a gift as soon as you are able. They may tell you it's not at all necessary and are just glad you can make it.

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