Dear Miss SOS:

My husband and I eloped in getting married. How should I word the announcement so it won’t offend people who were not invited?

Miss SOS extends her heartiest best wishes to you and your husband. You’ll want to share the happy news of the change in your marital status as quickly as possible, especially if family and friends were aware of your engagement and have been waiting for a wedding invitation.
Your announcement should be made in the same manner as a traditional wedding announcement, avoiding the word “elopement”. Depending on who is issuing the announcement (i.e. your parents, you and your husband), you may click on to Invitation page for examples.

Dear Miss SOS:

I married my fiancé when we were out-of-country. When we returned from our honeymoon, I sent wedding announcements to a variety of people. The responses were varied from just a card to a gift to cash. What should their proper response have been? P.S. I was not registered.

A wedding announcement requires only a letter of congratulations. You received varied responses because you sent your announcement to a variety of people. Family and friends close to you often take this opportunity to send a gift symbolic of their affection. That is how it should be and Miss SOS is not going to deal with any subtexts of hurt feelings that you were cheated out of more loot.

Dear Miss SOS:

My fiancé and I are getting married in a garden-style wedding with a photographer but no invited guests. I want to send announcements with a picture of us on our wedding day. First, is this appropriate to send a photo with an announcement?

Second, is ordering a wedding invitation card, with the same print, formality in wording, etcetera appropriate or should it have a less formal feel? Also we were previously married and already live together so how should the announcement read?

Miss SOS cannot think of anything nicer than to receive a wedding announcement that includes a photo of the happy couple on their wedding day. What a beautiful keepsake.

You may certainly use any card stock that you like in a wedding invitation album. This is an important change in your life and your announcements may reflect the formality of the occasion accordingly.

When couples who have been living together wish to send out their own wedding announcements, announcements are issued without social titles:

Elizabeth Jane Carlson
Scott James Payne
announce their marriage
on Saturday, the sixth of March
two thousand four
Prescott, Arizona

Dear Miss SOS:

On a wedding announcement worded from the bride’s widowed mother, first of all, should it be Mrs. or Ms. John Smith or Mrs. or Ms. Alice Smith. Secondly, is it at all pretentious to say “to Dr. John Brown” or should it be Mr. (the Dr. in question is a Ph.D. – a professor). Thanks.

A wedding announcement issued by the Bride’s widowed mother would read “Mrs. John Oliver Smith has the honour of announcing the marriage of her daughter …”. As to whether she is announcing the marriage of her daughter to Dr. John Brown or Mr. John Brown, it is totally dependent on how the gentleman socially prefers to introduce himself. Holders of academic degrees generally do not use the “Dr.” unless they are referred to that way, such as a professor at a university.

Dear Miss SOS:

There are certain friends and relatives we know will not be attending the wedding. Do we still send them invitations or are announcement cards more appropriate? Also, when should the announcement cards be sent?

Though you have been apprised in advance that certain guests will not be able to attend, still send them an invitation. Grandma might not be able to attend your wedding due to physical limitations, but you should ensure that she knows that she would be a welcomed guest, in addition to having your invitation as a sentimental keepsake. 

Announcement cards are sent to individuals that were not invited to your wedding but you wish to inform them of this important change in your life. The traditional announcement follows the same format as the wedding invitation but with a little rewording:

Mr. and Mrs. William Henderson
announce (or “have the honor to announce”) the marriage of their daughter
Laura Lynn
Mr. Kevin Johnson
Saturday, the first of June (date must be mentioned)
Two thousand and two (year must be mentioned)
First Lutheran Church (optional whether place is included)
Prescott, Arizona (city and state must be mentioned)

As announcements state that the marriage has taken place, they are to be mailed the day of the wedding (but after the ceremony) or as soon after the ceremony as possible.

Wedding Attire

Dear Miss SOS:
No one seems to know this answer and I’m hoping you can help me. My wedding is to be very formal. The attire of my Groom and his Groomsmen includes a top hat. Despite numerous inquiries, nobody seems to know the etiquette in wearing a top hat. What information can you give me?

Since men rarely wear hats for occasions, the proper etiquette involved in men’s hat wear is not commonly known anymore. These rules apply regardless what hat a man is wearing, whether top hat, western hat, or baseball cap.

Men are expected to remove all types of hats when entering a private residence, a place of worship, or similar building where respect is to be shown to either an individual (as in the case of a private residence) or an institution (as in the case of a place of worship).

Hats are removed during singing of a national anthem or the presentation of a national, state, or provincial flag.

Hats are removed during a prayer.

Hats are expected to be removed when sitting down, especially to eat, especially indoors.

In some regions, generally rural, the south, Texas, or the southwest, men are expected to “tip” their brimmed hats when meeting or approaching a woman. To not tip a hat is considered either uncultured (if it was out of ignorance) or highly offensive for implying that the woman is not worthy of a hat tip, that she is not a “lady”.

For weddings, a grey top hat is correct morning dress. The Groom and the Bride’s father should wear grey morning dress and the other gentlemen should wear black.

A black top hat is evening dress or to be worn with morning dress to a funeral. A formal top hat can be black silk or grey felt but should match the color of the attire.

If the Groom wants one of his Groomsmen or Ushers to hold the top hat for him while he is getting married, that would be fine, and then he, the Groom, could put it on when he leaves the church or synagogue. A top hat should never be worn in a house of worship or in formal photographs.

Dear Miss SOS:
My husband-to-be is in the military and plans on wearing his dress uniform at our ceremony. It’s not a military ceremony but civilian. One of his Groomsmen is also in the military (same branch of service) and he plans on wearing his dress uniform too. Would this be considered proper, even though the rest of the Groomsmen would be in tuxedoes? What about boutonnières?

It is extremely proper for a member of our armed forces to wear their dress uniform, regardless if Groom, Groomsman, or wedding guest, even for a civilian wedding. No boutonnières may be worn with a dress uniform. However, your fiancé and his Groomsman may wish to bring a change of attire for the wedding reception as military protocol does not permit the drinking of alcoholic beverages while in uniform.

Dear Miss SOS:
My fiancé gave me a piece of jewelry as his wedding gift to me. Is it permissible for me to wear it with my wedding gown?

Miss SOS can’t think of anything lovelier than you wearing your Groom’s gift to you. You are to wear it if you possibly can, even though it may be composed of colored stones.

Dear Miss SOS:
May my bridal attendants wear wrist-length gloves at a morning summer wedding? I love the look. Also, I’m the baby in the family but the first to get married. How should my older brother and sister respond if asked when they’re getting married without sounding rude? They don’t have anyone they’re seriously dating yet.

Questions such as “And when are you getting married?” do not deserve to be answered. Should your brother or sister feel pressed to respond, they should reply with a smile “Oh, I don’t know” and change the subject.

Questions about wrist-length gloves do deserve an answer, and it’s yes.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am getting married for the second time. For my first wedding, I wore a simple street dress as my (ex-) husband and I exchanged vows in front of a Justice of the Peace. Now that I am getting married again, I want a full-blown out wedding. I saw a gorgeous wedding gown with a long train that I want to wear on my special day. Someone told me that it wouldn’t be proper as I’d been married before. Why is that?

Long trains and veils are still considered to be the prerogative of first-time Brides only as it symbolizes the maiden’s first true love.

Dear Miss SOS:

I don’t like the idea of wearing a veil over my face. Is this necessary?

What you are referring to is called a blusher, and in most cases, it isn’t necessary. However, there are some religions that do require the face being covered at some point during the ceremony, so check with your officiant before deciding against a blusher.

Dear Miss SOS:

If I am wearing a sleeveless wedding gown, should I wear gloves?
Generally, elbow-length gloves are worn if a wedding dress has short sleeves or is sleeveless. Otherwise, short gloves are worn. This applies for Bridesmaids too.

If you decide to wear short gloves, you are to take the left one off during the exchanging of rings. With long gloves, prior to the ceremony, split the seam of the glove for your ring finger. The seam can be re-stitched later. If you choose to wear your gloves during the reception, they can be worn at all times except when eating.

Dear Miss SOS:

Some time back my daughter married a man with two older daughters. One of the daughters is getting married and would like to wear my wedding dress. I am, of course, the step-grandmother. Would it be all right for her to wear my dress?

You must be a very loved and special step-grandmother. Of course she must wear your gown, and Miss SOS bets you will be more radiant than the Bride.

Dear Miss SOS:

Though this isn’t an etiquette question the lead-in for your column says that you provide practical advice. Please help me. I found a wedding gown that I fell in love with but as I’m a size 18, I’ve been told that the designer doesn’t make dresses in my size. Am I doomed?

Not at all. There are a number of designers that create gorgeous fashions for those of us who aren’t a size 4. The following designers offer collections of large-size gowns: Alfred Angelo, Bianchi, Bonny, Bridal Originals, Eden, Forever Yours, Jasmine, Jessica McClintock, Jim Hjelm, Mary’s, Mon Cheri, Monique, Moonlight, Mori Lee, Private Label, Sweetheart, and Venus. If you still can’t find a gown you love, consider having a seamstress make one for you.

Dear Miss SOS:

Hi! I am getting married in April ’06. We wanted the groom to wear white tails and were wondering if the best man should match? There is only the groom, best man and two little boys on his side that are in the wedding. I thought about him being in white and the other three in black. We don’t really know what we should wear. Please help.

Gentlemen’s attire in a wedding party follow a definite pattern from which little deviation occurs, being governed by tradition, style and the time of day of the wedding. The Groom and his attendants wear the same formalwear. Accessories distinguish the Groom and Best Man – they wear matching ties, cummerbunds, and vests that differ from those worn by the other male members. Ring Bearers are permitted to wear black or midnight blue suits, or matching long pants and jackets, with boutonnieres similar to the ushers or fathers.

If the ceremony is scheduled for five o’clock in the afternoon and the reception will follow at six or seven o’clock, your fiancé may wear white tails – but only if the reception is very formal.

Dear Miss SOS:

I’m getting married for the second time this November at the Hassayampa Inn and am wondering what is OK to wear. Would a strapless cream-colored wedding dress be OK, and can I wear a veil? Thanks.

You may certainly wear a cream-colored wedding dress. Though you did not indicate the formality or time of day of your ceremony, for an evening wedding, a cocktail-length or floor-length dress would be appropriate. For daytime, you may wear a dress that is any length, from long or high-low to ballet-length or short. As Miss SOS is familiar with the weather in Prescott during the month of November, she would also suggest a small jacket or wrap to ward off any chill in the air.

The long train and veil are still considered symbols of the first-time bride, however you may complete your outfit with a small tiara, or delicate flowers in your hair, or a hat with a blusher veil.

Dear Miss SOS:

I would love to wear gloves with my wedding dress. What can you tell me before I go out and buy some?
Generally, elbow-length gloves are worn if the dress has short sleeves or is sleeveless. Otherwise, short gloves are worn. This rule applies for your bridesmaids dresses too.

If you decide to wear short gloves, you are to remove the one during the exchanging of rings. With long gloves, split the seam of the glove for your ring finger prior to the ceremony. The seam can be re-stitched later. If you choose to wear gloves during the reception, you may wear them at all times except when eating.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am getting ready to go to a formalwear shop and reserve the tuxedoes for the men in the wedding party. Does each tuxedo or suit have to match?

Yes. All the men in the wedding party should wear the same style and color attire. If the men are wearing tuxedoes, the groom often wears a different color tie and cummerbund or vest than the rest of the men. Also, the groom wears a different flower in his boutonniere.

Dear Miss SOS:

What exactly does black tie appreciated mean? Is it proper to wear a dark suit?

Though the word appreciate means “value or to be grateful for”, Miss SOS can only hope that this was not intended by the host and hostess. Perhaps they were of the opinion that the word appreciated was more genteel than the word optional (defined as voluntary, not obligatory, elective). This is one of the reasons Miss SOS does not favor invitations that state “black tie optional” or “black tie appreciated”. Either an event is or isn’t black tie. Regardless, you may certainly wear a dark suit to the occasion.

Dear Miss SOS:

My father (who will be giving me away this August) has worn a hat ever since I can remember. He is balding on top and VERY sensitive about it. He puts on a hat first thing in the morning and takes it off right before bed. No one ever sees him without it. I am concerned that he will be uncomfortable at the wedding having to take his hat off in front of all the guests. We are having a non-formal wedding at a beautiful Wisconsin resort; however, I want my fiancée and the fathers to wear tuxedoes.

I would love to purchase a classy, black cowboy-like hat for my father and present it to him ahead of time and let him know he could wear it with his tuxedo. BUT I don’t want to make him feel like he needs to wear one. By all means if he decided to just grin and bear it and not wear a hat that would be fine also. What should I do?

The attire for gentlemen participating in the wedding party for a informal summer daytime wedding are dark trousers with a white linen jacket, or white trousers with either a navy or charcoal jacket, and a soft shirt with a conservative four-in-hand tie. If the wedding is to be held in the evening, the gentlemen may wear tuxedoes if the Bride wears a long gown.

Having said that, there is no set rule that dictates the attire of the Bride’s father (although because he generally escorts his daughter down the aisle, it is common for him to wear the same outfit as the Groom and his attendants). Your father is most comfortable wearing a hat and family and friends are used to seeing him wear one. As the wedding will be taking place at a resort and not in a house of worship, present him with your gift of a classy, black cowboy like hat with your love.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am 5 months pregnant and will be getting married soon. I want to wear white. Is that OK?

Miss SOS cannot think of anything more OK than a mother-to-be getting married. Today the color white no longer symbolizes virginity but instead represents “new beginnings”, a very appropriate statement in your condition.

Dear Miss SOS:

My daughter is getting married after living together with her fiancée . She has not been married before. Is it OK for her to wear white?

You will be pleased to know that there is no special color for Brides to wear denoting if they have been living together, married before, or are virgins. Though the color white was designated by the Christian faith at the turn of the 20th century to signify purity, this custom no longer holds true. Today, white symbolizes a new beginning, appropriate for any Bride to wear.


Editor’s Note: For more on receptions, check this page and for more on keeping wedding costs under control, check this one.

Dear Miss SOS:

I’m planning my wedding by myself and have an established budget that I can spend in pulling it all together. I am already starting to feel overwhelmed by how much I should allocate for each category. Can you help?

Congratulations on already determining how much you are going to spend on your wedding. Regardless what your budget is, use these percentages to determine how much you can spend in each major category. You can play with the numbers according to your priorities – just make sure that they add up to 100%.

Reception (Location Food, Bar, Cake and Rentals) – 50%
Gown (And other attire for the Bride) – 10%
Music (Ceremony and Reception) – 10%
Photography (Photographer, Videographer, Albums & Prints)  – 10%
Flowers (Centerpieces, Bouquets, Floral Decorations) – 10%
Miscellaneous (Invitations, Favors, Guest Book, etc.) – 10%
Total – 100%

Dear Miss SOS:

When should we cut the cake?

At a sit-down reception, the cake is cut right before the dessert (if any) is served. If the reception is a buffet, the Bride and Groom cut the cake later in the reception, usually about an hour before they leave on their honeymoon.

Dear Miss SOS:

I wish to have a wedding cake with chocolate icing for my wedding cake. My mother has told me that etiquette would not permit it as it had to be white icing. Is she right?

Sigh. Miss SOS wishes people would stop beginning sentences “etiquette requires…” when the matter involves personal choices. In the Middle Ages, white icing was a sign of wealth, since refined sugar was so scarce. But, in answer to your question, there is no rule of etiquette that states wedding cakes must be iced in all white.

Dear Miss SOS:

Our caterer is telling us that we should not serve champagne with our wedding cake. Why?

Though many people serve champagne with a wedding cake, it is not considered an ideal match because champagne is dry and wedding cake is sweet. As champagne is a “high acid” wine, it does not go well with foods that are sweet and rich. Your caterer is correct to suggest a dessert wine, such as a sauterne, however Miss SOS is aware that tradition is strong and most Brides opt for champagne anyway.

Dear Miss SOS:

What is a Groom’s Cake?
In the past, the Groom’s Cake was a single-layer dark fruitcake that accompanied the Bride’s Cake, which was white. A slice from the Groom’s Cake was placed in a festively decorated box and given to all single ladies attending the reception. When she went home, the lady was to place the box under her bed pillow so that she could dream of her true love waiting for her.

Groom’s Cakes today are often baked in the Groom’s favorite flavor, such as chocolate, and may be in a shape symbolic of his favorite interest or hobby, such as a fish, football or vintage car. It may be served at the reception along with the wedding cake or boxed and given to all guests to take home as favors. Fortunately, it’s no longer necessary for them to sleep with it.

Dear Miss SOS:

How did the tradition of smearing wedding cake on each other’s faces at the reception start?

Tradition: an inherited, established or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or social custom). Custom: a long-established practice considered as unwritten law. – Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

Smearing cake on another’s face is neither a tradition nor a custom. It is a vile practice that has somehow wormed its way into the wedding reception. Though you would correct and discipline the manners of a two year old attempting such an action, for some misguided reason brides and grooms think that they are exempt from displaying proper manners on their wedding day. Miss SOS prefers not to imagine why.

Dear Miss SOS:

I recently attended a wedding reception where, after the cutting of the cake, the Bride and Groom smashed the cake in each other faces. The Groom got carried away and frosting was smeared all over the Bride’s face and into her hair, making her cry. I felt extremely uncomfortable witnessing this. Is this now proper at weddings?

Oh, pul-eeze. You already know the answer to this one. Miss SOS has no idea where such a vulgar custom originated but it must stop immediately. It is neither cute nor funny and is considered a direct insult. The cutting of the cake and serving it to your new spouse symbolizes that “whatever I have, I gladly share with you all the days of our lives”. Smearing cake all over the face, and at such an important moment, is one of the worst of all actions, showing mega-disrespect to your partner.


Dear Miss SOS:

Neither my wife nor myself believe in God. When we are invited to a religious wedding, we skip the wedding and just attend the reception, always making sure to say hi to the bride and groom and bringing a gift. Recently a father of a bride told me rather pointedly his opinion of our actions. Are we obligated to go to church if we only wish to attend the reception? Who’s ruder? The host of the wedding or us?

Though Miss SOS never condones rudeness, she can certainly understand the host’s patience being stretched beyond endurance. Attending a religious ceremony, wedding or other, is not an endorsement of another’s belief or an expression of one’s own. It is a participation in a ceremonial milestone in the lives of people who are important to you. By not attending, you and your wife display no understanding of customs of society, and give every appearance that you attend parties but not more serious events.

Also, wedding gifts are never to be brought to a wedding reception or to the ceremony. They are to be mailed or delivered prior to the wedding day or after the happy couple has returned from their honeymoon.

Catholic Ceremonies

Dear Miss SOS:

We’re Catholic and want to get married in my parent’s garden. Can a priest arrange this?

It is Miss SOS understanding that if you are a practicing Catholic, you must be married in a church. While your priest may sometimes be able to get a dispensation (approval to bend the rules), it can be difficult in some dioceses. Ask your parish priest about the possibility, but don’t be surprised if the answer is “no”.

Civil Ceremonies

Dear Miss SOS:

For reasons I won’t go into, I was married in a civil ceremony and now I want to have a full-blown wedding ceremony with bridal attendants, groomsmen, and a large number of guests attending. My mother says that this is not appropriate. Is she right? I feel that I have missed out not having the wedding of my dreams.

Though perhaps your wedding ceremony was not what you had initially visualized, your mother is correct. Many couples that have been married in a civil ceremony wish to have a religious ceremony to bless their union. With the approval of your church, such a marriage service may be conducted with the minister saying, “Do you acknowledge (rather than take) this woman …”.

The Bride is not given away nor does the Groom give the Bride her ring again. There are no attendants and the guest list is limited to family and close friends. This is, after all, a blessing rather than a celebration of marriage. The Bride may wear a beautiful street dress and carry a bouquet of flowers or wear a corsage; the Groom wears a dark suit and may don a small boutonniere. Music may fill the church and flowers may decorate the altar. It is a charming service and most pleasing for couples that wanted a religious wedding. Following the ceremony, you may have a wedding reception with all the trimmings and a large number of guests to share in this special day.

Jewish Ceremonies

Dear Miss SOS:

In what order do attendants walk down the aisle in Jewish ceremonies?

Orthodox, Conservative and Reform processions vary according to the families’ preferences, devoutness, and local custom. A traditional religious Jewish processional may begin with the Rabbi and Cantor (with the Cantor on the Rabbi’s right), followed by the Ushers walking one by one, and the Best Man. The Groom then walks between his mother (on his right) and his father (on his left). The Bridesmaids then walk one by one, followed by the Maid of Honor, the Page, and the Flower Girl. The Bride is the last to enter, with her mother on her right and her father on her left.

Nondenominational Ceremonies

Dear Miss SOS:

What does a nondenominational wedding ceremony mean?

This is a spiritual ceremony without the structure and restrictions of traditional religions, typically resembling a traditional Protestant ceremony. It is offered through nondenominational ministers and groups who perform marriages for non-members of any particular faith.

Interfaith Ceremonies
Dear Miss SOS:

My fiancé is Jewish and I’m Protestant. Can a rabbi and a minister both preside over our marriage?

Miss SOS has attended many beautiful interfaith ceremonies. By coming together in marriage, both people have agreed to celebrate each other’s beliefs, throughout their lives together as well as during their wedding ceremony. However, you should be aware that not too many rabbis and ministers will accommodate a request to co-officiate. You will also have to decide beforehand who will be the “lead” officiant as only one of them can officially sign your marriage certificate.
After Living Together

Dear Miss SOS:

My fiancé and I have been living together for more than two years. We want a large, traditional wedding but feel it might be in poor taste. What do you think?

You must excuse Miss SOS as she stifles a small giggle. How she loves modern couples thinking. Living together is considered respectable but having a wedding is in poor taste. Regardless of Miss SOS amusement, there is nothing inappropriate about planning the marriage of a well-acquainted couple. It may surprise you but it’s been done for centuries.

Children – Including in Ceremonies

Dear Miss SOS:

I am a divorced mother getting married to a man also with children. We are merging a new family with the old. Do you have any suggestions how to introduce guests to each other and to members of my new family? Also, can you suggest any ceremony roles for children?

Introductions are handled adroitly and with sensitivity to all parties involved. Introduce a former in-law as a “friend” rather than as an ex-sister-in-law. Introduce your ex-mother-in-law as “Cindy’s grandmother”. If your new husband’s children refer to you as their stepmother, introduce them the same way: “This is my stepson, Rob.” Let guests know how you met other guests. Present your “neighbor from back home” to your “co-worker”.

There are many ways to include a child in the wedding. Dependent on their age, you may ask them to be a flower girl, ring bearer, bridesmaid, usher, or honor attendant. You could also ask them to pass out hymnals or programs before the ceremony begins.

Other ideas include assigning them a special seat and having them escorted there before the seating of the Bride’s mother. You may decide to order special flowers for them to wear – a wrist corsage or boutonniere. Their names could be mentioned in a special prayer. After you have exchanged rings, have the children join you at the altar for an affirmation of the family unit. At that time you might wish to give to each child a gift – perhaps a family medallion (three raised, interlocking circles symbolizing the uniting of families) accompanied by a pledge to love and care for them. By incorporating some of these ideas in your service, don’t be surprised if your children refer to the wedding date as “the day we all got married.”

Dear Miss SOS:

I am planning to have my daughter walk me down the aisle. At the time of my wedding she will be eleven years old. When I tell people this they have a strange look. My father is still alive and very much in my life. This is my first wedding. I was planning on my father walking my mother down the aisle, my soon-to-be-father-in-law walking my soon-to-be-mother-in-law down the aisle, and my daughter walking with me. Does that seem OK or am I way off base?

The Bride may be escorted down the aisle by her father, her mother, both parents, stepparents, her brother, her sister, a favorite uncle or aunt or cousin, her godfather, her godmother, her daughter, her son, her future stepchildren, or if the Bride prefers, she may walk down the aisle solo without an escort. One of the loveliest ceremonies Miss SOS ever attended included the Bride’s grandmother and mother escorting her down the aisle, symbolizing the continuity of the women in the family.

By all means, have your daughter escort you down the aisle as you start your new life together. Rather than the wording “who gives this woman to this man?” (which would be awkward for a young lady to respond “I do”), Miss SOS suggests the phrasing “who supports the union of this woman and this man?” Your daughter would still be able to respond the same (“I do”) and adds a beautiful richness and meaning to the service.

In the order of the seating of the parents, the Groom’s mother and father walk down the aisle first. Your mother, escorted by your father, follows them. Please note that the Mother of the Bride is the last person to be escorted down the aisle before the processional starts. It is her honor and her distinction. No other person is to be escorted once she is seated. Late-arriving guests are to be quietly instructed by the Ushers to seat themselves in the rear so not to further disturb the proceedings.

Shower & Wedding Gifts

Dear Miss SOS:
If I thank everyone for their gifts at my bridal shower, do I still need to send written thank-you notes?

Of course! You need to send a hand-written thank-you note (no commercial pre-printed note) for every single gift you receive, regardless how much you gushed over it at your bridal shower. This also holds true for any engagement gifts you may have received.

Dear Miss SOS:
I’m really steamed. I was recently married to the man of my dreams and have yet to receive very many wedding gifts. When I asked some of my family members why they hadn’t sent a gift, my aunt for one responded that since it was my fourth marriage she felt that a congratulation card was more than appropriate. Granted, she had sent presents for my first marriages but I can’t help but feel that she’s slighting my new husband. How can I let people know that their actions are wrong?

Contrary to popular belief, family members, friends and wedding guests are not obligated to give a wedding gift to the happy couple, even for a first wedding or any subsequent ones that may follow. Your actions in contacting individuals regarding the whereabouts of any gift that you were expecting are unbecoming at best, and crude at worst.

Your wedding is not a fundraiser nor is it to be a method in which to furnish your home or obtain personal items. A note extending congratulations and best wishes for a long and happy life together is considered sufficient, especially in the circumstances you described.

Dear Miss SOS:

I’m freaked out. I peeked at my bridal registry and about 75% of the items are still there. What can I do to kick-start it?

This is what occurs when a Bride takes the position that her bridal registry is a shopping list and not a convenience for friends and family who are seeking ideas for a wedding gift. A giver is not required to purchase any item that’s been registered and may instead opt to gift you with another item altogether that they believe you may appreciate or enjoy.

You are to do nothing to “kick-start” the registry but merely express your deepest appreciation and gratitude for any present that you may receive, whether it be an item you registered for or a hand-crafted afghan that your grandmother made.

Dear Miss SOS:

My fiancé’s mother thinks we should display the gifts we’ve already received at the reception. I don’t think this is proper. Who is right?

You are! Gifts may be displayed at home before the wedding, but they should never be displayed at the reception site. Also, monetary gifts should never be displayed and all checks should be deposited as soon as they are received.

Dear Miss SOS:
I was invited to a wedding of a good friend which will be held in Mexico. I’m not going, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is I’m not convinced the wedding will actually happen (the groom-to-be isn’t officially divorced yet, although Mexico may have different laws). Also, even if the marriage does happen, I’m not convinced it will actually last.

Regardless, I do know that Miss SOS would tell me to keep my trap shut (which I am) and buy her a gift anyway (which I will). And, since I know her through business, I’m pretty sure I can write this off.

My friend has sent me her bridal registry filled with things I could buy them to make their honeymoon special. Again, I’m not sure about the whole wedding thing happening so I didn’t want to do that. I’ve attached a copy of her invitation. Can you figure out something, as inexpensive as possible, that I can mail her without me looking cheap and that can be returned so I can either get my money back or use myself? Let me know. Thanks.

It is difficult for Miss SOS to refrain from responding as she initially would have liked other than to comment what an interesting view of friendship you have.
You, as one of the Bride’s friends and confidants, will only wish her the very very best, regardless of any personal misgivings or doubts about the wedding and/or the single status of her fiancé.

Unlike a bridal shower, a wedding gift is never mandatory but is instead at the option of the individual, and can be sent up to 12 months after the wedding has taken place. In purchasing a gift, one does not cross-reference it to the invitation in determining how much money should be spent. That is totally dependent on you, your finances, and your relationship to the person.

Once the gift is given, it is exactly that – a gift – and may be used/disposed/returned by the recipient only. In other words, if your friend doesn’t like your gift, she returns it to the store herself, to either exchange or obtain the money/credit for the item.

Dear Miss SOS:

I have been invited to a bridal luncheon and the invitation requests a gift for a groom’s wishing well. I know what a bride’s wishing well is, but I am stumped as to what to bring for a groom’s. Can you give me any suggestions?

When the words “wishing well” are on a bridal shower invitation, it means that in addition to bringing a regular gift, each guest is also to bring a simple present, such as a wooden spoon or measuring cup.
For a groom’s wishing well, Miss SOS would suggest something appropriate for a handyman’s tool box, such as a measuring tape, screwdriver, picture hangers and hooks, or even duct tape (Miss SOS’ husband’s cure-all for everything). You could also purchase something for his car, such as a flashlight or a small emergency first aid kit.

Dear Miss SOS:

I have received an invitation to a bridal shower with the words “wishing well” written in the bottom left corner. What does that mean?

When the words “wishing well” are on a shower invitation, it means that in addition to bringing a regular gift, each guest is also to bring a simple present, such as wooden spoon, a bottle of detergent, or a set of measuring spoons. The wishing well gifts may be wrapped, or tied with a ribbon, or left unadorned. The items are placed in a cardboard replica of a wishing well that the hostess has either made or rented. At some wishing well showers, the hostess asks the guests to write a note to the Bride, which is wrapped around the gift and then read by the Bride when she pulls out the item.

Dear Miss SOS:

What do you think of guests who leave the price tag on a shower gift in order for the Bride to be aware of their generosity?

That the least they can do is to scream when the Bride opens the present, lean over and pull the price tag off, and then drop it into a nearby ashtray where everybody can examine it later at their leisure.

Dear Miss SOS:

We are looking for help on our wedding reception invitations. We are an older couple and have both been married before. We are having a very casual luncheon celebrating our recent private wedding. We want our friends and family to come and celebrate with us but we do not want gifts. Their presence is all we want. Is there any tactful way to word this on the invitation? Thank you!

In the past, Miss SOS has been very strict adhering to the standards of etiquette that forbids any mention of a gift on an invitation celebrating a wedding. She understands the basis of such a position and 99.99% of the time concurs whole-heartedly. However, etiquette was never meant to be a rigid set of rules that are not to be adapted when certain situations apply. Yours is among them.

One of the loveliest ways for you to say, “No gifts, please” would be the phrasing, “Your love and friendship are cherished gifts. We respectfully request no others.”

Dear Miss SOS:

One of my close friends is getting married two weeks before me and, due to the cost of flying to the state that she is getting married in, I am unable to attend her wedding. I’m wondering what I should do about a wedding gift for her and her husband. I sent her a bridal shower gift even though I was unable to attend. Should I send her a gift for the wedding too? If so, how much should I spend on their gift? Help!

Though it is not required to send a wedding gift, it is a lovely gesture to do so as one of the Bride’s closest friends and confidants. As to how much to spend, the formula is to take one month’s gross pay earnings, divide it by the number of years you have been friends, multiply it by …. no, Miss SOS is just kidding.

A wedding gift should be something you believe the happy couple would enjoy that is affordable to your budget. Should your finances be stretched due to your own wedding plans, consider something hand-made. Miss SOS has seen charming gifts that were a labor of love from the giver – from homemade quilts (quite time-consuming to make) to an assortment of homemade preserves and jellies (yummy) to a framed collage of photographs that have special meaning. Whatever gift you decide to give, if it comes from the heart, you have given the best gift there is.

Dear Miss SOS:

I read your advice that wedding gifts are to be sent before or after but not brought to the wedding itself. Could you please advise me on the proper way to address the name on a gift to be sent ahead of time to the home of the bride (who is living with the groom)?

All prewedding gifts are addressed to the Bride-to-be. After the ceremony, gifts are addressed to the happy couple. Some individuals may take this as a sign of inequality however nowadays some people will take offense at anything. Fortunately, sending people presents goes a long way toward mitigating any perception of offense.

Dear Miss SOS:

I want you to settle a dispute between a work colleague and me. She says that weddings gifts are to be brought to the church. I say that gifts are to be brought to the reception. Who’s right? There’s a $5 bet on this.

Please immediately abandon this concept that bringing a wedding gift to either event is the price of admission for your attendance. Neither of you are correct. It is considered extremely rude and discourteous to force the happy couple, on the busiest day of their lives, to take full responsibility in making arrangements in securing and transporting all gifts without breaking them, losing them, or misplacing gift cards. Gifts are to be sent to the Bride or Groom’s home prior to or after the wedding, but never on the day itself.


Dear Miss SOS:

I wish to make welcome guest baskets for those guests arriving from out-of-town and have them placed in their hotel rooms. What would be some ideas for what I should put in them?

This is a gracious addition to add to the enjoyment for your guests. In addition to a hand-written note thanking them for being present at your joyous event, you could include your region’s special foods (peanuts, cheeses, or fruit), soda, juice, cookies, crackers, chocolate, or candies that they might enjoy to snack upon after their arrival and during their stay.

Dear Miss SOS:

Since sending out my wedding invitations, I have heard that a very unwelcome person might show up to disrupt my wedding or create a scene. What can I do to ensure this doesn’t happen to spoil my day?

It’s always unfortunate when adults refuse to act accordingly. Most well-bred individuals know that they are not to attend an event unless they have received an invitation however, as Miss SOS must sadly admit, there are those individuals whose sole intent is to mar the festivities for whatever childlike or immature reason they may have.

Alert the Ushers that you are concerned that an uninvited guest might attend and disrupt the proceedings. If at all possible, provide a picture of this individual with other identifying information (age, height, weight, etc.). Instruct the Ushers that this person is to be turned away at the door as quietly and unobtrusively as possible. If safety is a concern, consider hiring a professional security guard.

Dear Miss SOS:

Please advise on how to treat the following situation: A small ceremony with less than 25 guests, a photographer, a videographer, and a notary public as officiant. A small dinner afterwards for family at a restaurant. Do we invite the photographer, videographer and notary public to dinner (finances are limited)? And do we give a gratuity to each of these vendors (all vendors are their own proprietors)? Thank you for your time.

Unless they are personal friends or family members, the photographer, videographer and notary public are not invited guests to the reception. Gratuities, though always appreciated, are not expected nor required to these individuals.

Guests’ Attire

Dear Miss SOS:

Is it proper for guests to wear white or black to a wedding? At a recent wedding I attended, I saw a number of women wearing those colors. When I was younger, white or black was considered taboo. Have times changed that much?

In general, women guests should not wear white dresses (or off-white or ivory) or multi-colored dresses in which white is the dominant color. This is because white is the color reserved for the Bride, and any guest wearing it is considered to be competing with her. Black, however, can be an appropriate color for a formal evening when worn with colored or metallic accessories – shoes, belt, jewelry, handbags. Avoid all black, black veils, or heavy, somber fabrics like black crepe.

Dear Miss SOS:

I have been invited to a 4:00 PM outdoor late spring wedding in Connecticut. The dress I plan to wear is sleeveless, knee-length, in a black and white print – somewhat 1960’s. As the weather has been rather unpredictable and I am not sure of exactly how formal the event is, I also plan to wear a jacket or cardigan. My question is: would it be inappropriate to also wear a hat? I think it would look good, but I don’t want to appear eccentric (I am in my 20’s) or overdressed.

Be assured that you will look absolutely charming. Miss SOS personally loves hats and welcomes the appropriate occasions when she may wear hers.

Ladies may properly wear hats to a church service or to any afternoon wedding, whether it be indoors or outdoors. If your hat is of the size or style that it would block the view of those seated behind you, it would be thoughtful to remove it and check it, or hold it for the duration of the wedding ceremony. Otherwise you may wear it for the duration.

Dear Miss SOS:

I’ve been invited to a wedding that will take place in September in NYC at 11 AM. What is the appropriate dress for a close relative?

For a formal daytime wedding (before six), women relatives and honored guests may wear dresses of the same length as those of the mothers of the bride and groom (usually a dressy afternoon gown with long or short sleeves), or an elegant short dress, or silk pantsuits. If the wedding is informal, then a fashionable dress or luncheon suit is appropriate. Don’t forget to accessorize with jewelry and a stylish pair of shoes.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am attending an afternoon wedding. Is it permissible for me to wear a long white dress?

Of course you can my dear, and may Miss SOS extend her very best wishes for your continued happiness throughout the years. Miss SOS is assuming of course that you are the Bride for no properly reared guest would even consider wearing a long dress, white or otherwise, to an afternoon wedding ceremony.

Dear Miss SOS:

I have an urgent question regarding the attire at our upcoming wedding and the text of the invitation related thereto. We are getting married at the end of September in New York State. The ceremony will be at 3 PM with a brief champagne toast immediately thereafter. After a break of 1 1/2 hours, at 6:30 PM, we will have cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and then dinner and dance.

We want our guests to wear formal attire at the reception and will note on the invitation “black tie optional”. However, we want to avoid that some of the guests will show up in tuxedoes at the church. I am from Europe and more than half of the attending guests as well. In Europe, it is clearly against the etiquette to wear a tuxedo at the church since it is evening attire. At a ceremony, the men usually wear either a coat or a suit and will change later into formal evening attire.

In the past, I have attended several weddings here in the U.S. where a lot of the guests wore their tuxedoes at church. How can I give a hint on the invitation to our guests from the U.S. that we do not want that without offending anybody? Our invitation will have a separate sheet with the exact procedure, schedule, etc. We plan on explaining that the break can be used to change into formal attire. Or should their be a separate note regarding the attire during the day (i.e. suits); and how would such a note look like? Your help is very much appreciated. Thank you very much.

A Bride may determine the attire for her bridesmaids, flower girl, groom, groomsmen, ring bearer, ushers, candle lighters, and even both hers and the groom’s parents, but what she cannot do is command the attire that guests must wear for the wedding ceremony and post-nuptial celebration. Miss SOS can only ask that you reconsider including a separate sheet included with the invitation specifying for guests the exact procedures, schedule, etc. Your wedding is not a stage production nor may it be used as a mini-school of etiquette. Guests are not directed to change their attire during the “intermission” nor are they to be provided guidelines on what is expected from them.

Miss SOS favored approach is to have the words “Black Tie” printed on the reception cards. Let the formality of your invitation speak for itself and trust your guests to dress and act appropriately.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am attending a wedding at the beach in Florida. The wedding begins at 4:00 pm and is over at 10:00 pm. Would it be appropriate to wear a black dress? Thanks.

For a late afternoon wedding (four o’clock or later), although colors are preferred, it is appropriate for women guests to wear a “little black dress”. Unless the invitation reads “Black Tie”, the hemline should be cocktail or street-length and your attire may be an elegant fabric, i.e. brocades, lames, and velvets. Outfits with glittery sequins and its like are proper only after six o’clock. Don’t forget to accessorize with smart heels or pumps and a small evening handbag to complete that perfect look.

Dear Miss SOS:

I just read one of the ( articles of men standing as an attendant for the Bride. In our case, the man is a fiancé of one my good friends we have recently lost to cancer. Is there a way we can do some sort of a memorial for her, also explaining why there is a man on my side? My Maid of Honor mentioned putting something up where people would sign the guest book, but I’m not sure if that is appropriate. Please let me know your feelings on this. Thank you.

Please accept Miss SOS deepest condolences on the loss of a dear friend. She can understand why you would wish to commemorate her memory; however, unless your wedding ceremony is a religious high mass, it would not be the appropriate time or place.

Instead, at the reception following your nuptials, you may consider placing a single rose in a bud vase next to the guest book. Should you feel a card is necessary for guest’s to read, Miss SOS asks that you avoid any mention of “In memory of …” and instead consider the wording along the lines of “In celebration of all we love and who have loved us in return.”

As to the other part of your question, guests require no explanation as to why you have a male attendant in your bridal party. They automatically assume it is because this person is important to you and that is more than sufficient.

Military Ceremonies

Dear Miss SOS:

My fiancé is in the military and will be wearing his uniform at our ceremony. Some of his attendants are also in the armed forces and plan on wearing their uniforms too. However, some of his groomsmen are civilians. How should they be attired? Also, should I plan on each of them wearing boutonnieres? My florist says yes.

A wedding party may be mixed, with some groomsmen and ushers in uniform and some not. Those not in uniform are to wear whatever is appropriate to the formality and time of day of the wedding. And Miss SOS suggests that you not rely on any etiquette advice from your florist. Men in uniform never wear a boutonniere.

Dear Miss SOS:

My fiancé is in the armed services and we want to get married before he is deployed overseas. What should I know about a military wedding?

There are so many distinctions pertaining to military wedding ceremonies that Miss SOS could write a small book. Instead she will limit her response to just basic information. Military weddings are held when the Groom is a commissioned officer in the regular United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard, or is a reserve officer on active duty with any of these forces. The wedding may be ultra-formal, formal, or semi-formal but never informal.

The Groom’s attendants may be his fellow officers or his civilian friends, however only officers may take part in the arch of sabers (Army) or swords (Navy). An enlisted man may have a formal military ceremony with rifles used (instead of swords) for the arch.

No boutonnieres or flowers are worn with a military uniform. With a regulation uniform, medal ribbons are worn. With a dress uniform, large medals are worn. Miniature medals are worn with the mess or dinner jacket. The Bride and her attendants dress according to the formality of the wedding.

If the Bride’s father is an active member of the armed forces, the chaplain of the father’s post should perform the marriage ceremony, otherwise the Bride may select the minister of her choice.

Mother’s Attire

Dear Miss SOS:

My niece’s May, 6PM wedding is a black and white theme. Her mother insists she can, as the mother of the bride, wear a black dress. How do I convince her that besides matching the tablecloths, it isn’t appropriate for the mother of the bride to wear black, ever! I am going to forward your response to her so I can’t wait to hear from you.

It used to be in the not-too-distant past that neither the bride’s mother nor the groom’s mother would ever consider wearing black or white to their child’s wedding. The color black symbolized grieving and white was reserved for the bride.

Today, both mothers may certainly wear black, especially if it is a “Black and White” wedding where the entire wedding party wears black and white. White may be worn if it is a “Snowball” wedding where the entire wedding party is dressed in white.

Both mothers may wear the same color, but not the same dress, although their attire should reflect the same degree of formality, and preferably, be the same length.

Regardless, if the bride and groom have no objections, there is no reason why the mother of the bride or groom shouldn’t wear black. The only time it would be considered incorrect is if the mother wore black to express her displeasure of the nuptials taking place.

Practical Matters

Dear Miss SOS:

One of the vendors that will be working in my wedding has offered me a discount if he’s allowed to leave his business cards on the reception tables. I really would like to pay less but was wondering if this would be acceptable.

Despite the cost advantages you would receive, your wedding is a social event and not a business affair. Your guests are present to enjoy the celebration of your nuptials and not to drum up future clients for the servicers and suppliers working behind the scenes to make your day memorable. Business cards and flyers are not permissible at guest tables nor are they to be handed out.

Dear Miss SOS:

This subject may be indelicate and indeed I have never seen it addressed in any etiquette book but I truly believe that it should be. Recently I was at a wedding held at a family home. When I went to use the restroom, I couldn’t believe the condition is was left in by others that preceded me. Though it’s too late for the wedding I attended, could you please issue instructions for proper bathroom etiquette.

Miss SOS can empathize with your plight. She too has found herself in similar surroundings. The rules are simple. After flushing the bowl and ensuring waste has been properly disposed, the lid is to be closed (this applies to both men and women). Hands are to be washed with the soap provided by the host, even if it’s the fancy sculpted soap. Wipe your hands on the finger/guest towels provided. If both paper and cloth are provided, you are to use the paper (for hygiene purposes), tossing the damp soiled towel in the bin provided.

Dear Miss SOS:

I’ve looked and looked and can’t find the answer to my question. I’m hoping you can help. I plan on walking down a white aisle runner for my wedding. When is the proper time to unroll it and who should do it?

If a white aisle runner is used, it is to be unfurled by the ushers immediately after the Mother of the Bride has been seated. At that point the wedding has officially begun. No one else may be seated after the Mother of the Bride. Late-arriving guests are asked to quickly take their seats in the back of the sanctuary.

Dear Miss SOS:

My fiancé and I are getting married outside during the monsoon season. What do I do if it rains?
You will have checked the weather forecast a week in advance, with a tent already on reserve. If needed, the tent should be set up the morning before, preferably with side panels to the ground to maximize rain damage control. You should also have some umbrellas waiting for guests just in case they need to run for cover.

Wedding Programs

Dear Miss SOS:

Help! I have looked through etiquette book after etiquette book and cannot find any reference to the wedding programs that are given to guests prior to the start of the ceremony. I want my programs to be correct and yet am unable to learn whether the order of the ceremony is to be on the right side and the listing of attendants on the left, or should the order be reversed, or ??? Plus where to I put the acknowledgements in thanking the people who have helped me pull this wedding together? Has etiquette forgotten about this important little matter?

No, etiquette hasn’t forgotten about wedding program booklets that are the love and boon of stationery and printing stores. It’s a simple matter of not approving nor sanctioning wedding programs and therefore is not referred to in any reputable etiquette book.

Etiquette takes the firm position that your wedding is not a stage production where the actors need to be identified, the sponsors recognized, and the acts of the play outlined. It is not necessary to provide an order of the service for a wedding ceremony. The minister or rabbi directs the service. Nor is a wedding program needed to identify for guests who the players in the wedding party are. That’s the purpose of the receiving line. Individuals that are to be acknowledged and thanked for assisting you in the wedding preparations should to be contacted personally with additional appreciation mentioned in your written thank you note. 

Have a question? Write Miss SOS at Prescott

Receiving Line

Dear Miss SOS:

I am having my wedding in my parent’s home. Is there any protocol of who should greet the guests when they arrive?

At a house wedding, the Bride’s mother is to stand at the door of the room in which the ceremony will be held to receive people as they arrive. The Groom’s mother may stand next to her, or she may take her place near the altar with the rest of the immediate family. If the room or backyard is large enough for chairs to seat all of the guests, then the ushers would escort them just as they would if the ceremony was being held in a house of worship.

Dear Miss SOS:

We are throwing a lavish wedding for our only daughter. Because of everything else planned, I thought it would be best after the ceremony to immediately greet our guests and then have the rented limousines take us from the church to the reception. The limo driver says that this isn’t right and that we should do it at the reception. He’s getting paid by the hour so it’s not like he’s not going to get his money for waiting around. Why wouldn’t it be correct for the receiving line to take place at the church?

Because only the hosts may formally receive guests. As your daughter’s wedding ceremony is being held in a church of God, it is therefore He, or by extension, His clergy alone that may receive people after a religious service. Your receiving line should properly be held at the reception site.

Dear Miss SOS:

My husband and I are hosting the reception for his daughter by a previous marriage. It will be quite an elaborate affair. Though his ex-wife has remarried, and quite well too, she is not contributing a single penny for the party. The groom’s mother and father are also not contributing a dime. In short, we’re picking up the entire tab for this event. In what order should the receiving line be and should the other parents even be in it?

Miss SOS supposes that she is to respond that the order should be in direct correspondence to monies paid. Actually, money has nothing to do with the order of a receiving line. The mothers of the Bridal couple are to receive guests along with the Bride and Groom.

The correct order should be (1) the Bride’s mother; (2) the Bride’s father (optional); (3) the Groom’s mother; (4) the Groom’s father (optional); (5) you; (6) the Bride’s stepfather (optional); (7) the Bride; (8) the Groom; (9) the Bride’s honor attendant (optional); and (10) the Bridesmaids (optional).

Dear Miss SOS:

With 150 guests invited to our wedding, I don’t believe in a receiving line either at the church or at the reception. It would take much too long and anyway, I feel it is much more personal to say hello to everybody at the reception. Don’t you agree?

Miss SOS will agree with you but only if you guarantee to her that all the key members of your wedding will greet and welcome every single one of those 150 guests personally, making sure not to miss anyone.

How is that to be done you ask? Well, you, your Groom, and at least some of the parents from both sides would stand by the door to greet people as they are entering the room. Congratulations. You have reinvented the receiving line. Now perhaps you can tell Miss SOS why you would continue to object to such a simple and gracious institution in welcoming guests.

Dear Miss SOS:

I wish to have a receiving line immediately following my wedding ceremony. Is this proper and if so, who stands in the line and in what order?

The receiving line is indeed considered proper and is a wonderful way to accept the good wishes and congratulations from your guests. In fact, Miss SOS prefers it over the increasingly common practice of the Bride and Groom forgoing the receiving line and just mingling with guests during the reception. Not all guests can attend the reception and this affords them the opportunity to express their felicitations to the happy couple. It is a good idea to go over the RSVP’s a few days prior to the ceremony to familiarize yourself with the names of the guests who will be attending, especially those of the Groom and his parents.

The order of the receiving line is as follows:
1.    An announcer (optional)
2.    The Bride’s mother
3.    The Groom’s father (optional, see note below)
4.    The Groom’s mother
5.    The Bride’s father (optional, see note below)
6.    The Bride
7.    The Groom
8.    The Bride’s Honor Attendants
9.    The Bridesmaids, in the order they walked down the processional
Note: The fathers of the Bride and Groom may step in and out of the receiving line. This provides them the opportunity to circulate with the guests and to tend to other matters that may arise.

The order provides the opportunity for the Bride’s mother to introduce their guests to the Groom’s side of the family. The Groom’s parents stand between the Bride’s parents to introduce their guests to the family.

If the Bride’s mother is deceased, and the father has not remarried, the father takes the mother’s place in the receiving line or he may ask a woman relative to receive with him. Unless the woman relative is a member of the household, the father is the first in line to greet the guests.

If either set of parents have divorced and since remarried, generally the stepparent does not stand in the receiving line. However, if the stepparent is close to either the Bride or Groom, they may stand in the receiving line next to their spouse, providing the Bride acquiesces.

No children attendants stand in the receiving line nor do the Groom’s attendants, unless the Best Man is also the Groom’s father. Then he stands in the receiving line next to the Bride’s mother.

Dear Miss SOS:

Please take my question seriously. I am a very shy person getting married in a few months. My mother has insisted that we have a receiving line and I am scared enough as it is without thinking about meeting people that are strangers to me. What do I do or say when I meet them for the first time?

When introduced, all you have to do is to smile and say “hello” or “I’m pleased to meet you”. Your guest will take it from there, either welcoming you into the family or telling you how beautiful you look. When you receive the compliment, do not refute it but simply and sincerely respond “thank you”. Remember, these strangers are now part of your extended circle of family and friends, and they are anxious to make your acquaintance.

Engagement / Wedding Rings

Dear Miss SOS:
My fiancé gave me a beautiful engagement ring and I would like to reciprocate and give him one too. However he says that’s silly although he does plan on wearing his wedding ring after we are married. What does etiquette say?

Etiquette “says” that it does not involve itself in personal matters. Miss SOS says that she would respect the wishes of the intended wearer.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am engaged to be married and my fiancé has given me a beautiful engagement ring that I wear everywhere. My mother says that I can’t wear the ring until the engagement party when my fiancé is to give it to me in the presence of family and friends. Is she right?

Miss SOS is unaware of any rule that states the engagement ring is to be presented at the engagement party. Generally speaking, a proposal is considered a private matter between the man and woman in case she says no. The party is to announce the engagement of the happy couple for when she says yes.

Dear Miss SOS:

I have accepted a marriage proposal from a charming man I love dearly and have received an engagement ring. The ring is beautiful but I noticed that nothing was engraved on the inside. Should it be?

Unlike a wedding ring, the inside of an engagement ring is not engraved.

Dear Miss SOS:

I’m an old-timer, widowed quite some time, and am now engaged to a wonderful codger. Even though it’s been years, ever since my first husband’s death I’ve been wearing his wedding ring to me. Is it still OK for me to wear it now that I’m to be remarried?

After a widow accepts a proposal of marriage, she removes her original engagement ring (regardless if she is given another or not) but may continue to wear her wedding ring until the day of the second marriage. The original engagement and wedding ring(s) may be kept as a family heirloom to be presented to any children she may have or reset in another form of jewelry.

Wedding and Reception Seating Arrangements

Editor’s Note: For more on receptions, check this page.

Dear Miss SOS:
I’m planning the seating arrangements for my reception and realized that I don’t know where I’m supposed to sit. Is it to the left or the right of the Groom?

Miss SOS is assuming that you are the Bride. If so, you are to be seated on the left of your Groom.

Dear Miss SOS:

I will be inviting my minister (who’s officiating my wedding) and his wife to the reception immediately following our ceremony. Where should he be seated?

At a sitdown dinner, a parents’ table is set up for both sets of parents. The clergyperson and his or her spouse, who must be invited to the reception but often decline to attend unless they know the bride and/or groom well, also sit there. The Bride’s father sits at the head of the table, with the Groom’s mother to his right. The Bride’s mother sits at the foot of the table with the Groom’s father to her right.

Though Miss SOS is aware of the custom of arranging separate tables for each of the families, for this one day, as two people start their new life, their families can intermingle and share in each other’s happiness.

Dear Miss SOS:

My parents are divorced and each has remarried. During the ceremony, after my father walks me down the aisle, where is he supposed to sit? With my mom and her husband in the left pew? And does my dad’s wife sit with him or is she to sit in the back?

If your parents have maintained a civil relationship or can fake it for a short time, your father and his wife would sit in the first pew on the left, along with your mother and her husband. Unfortunately, it has been Miss SOS’ experience that not all parents are able to act like adults.

If your parents and their spouses are unable to sit together companionably, then your mother and stepfather are to sit in the first pew. Brothers, sisters, half-siblings and stepsiblings, if not in the wedding party, are seated in the second pew. Both sets of your grandparents, and your aunts and uncles on your mother’s side are to be seated behind them. Your father, after escorting you up the aisle, is to sit with his wife and their family in the fourth pew.

If, in the event, you are closer to your father than your mother, then the reverse order would be appropriate – your father and his family seated in pews ahead of the your mother and her family. The Groom’s parents and stepparents follow the same order but on the right side of the aisle.

Dear Miss SOS:

Why do brides treat guests like they’re four-year olds by assigning tables that they are to sit at during the reception? I was seated at an event where I didn’t know anyone and would have preferred sitting at a table of my choosing.

The reason Brides treat guests like children is because guests become very childlike at wedding receptions. Miss SOS has actually seen guests rush into a ballroom, tip chairs onto table edges to save seats, argue over who is to sit where while feeling no responsibility towards any wallflowers at the party, rearrange place settings so there’s 11 at the table rather than 10, and so on.

Seating arrangements are tricky at best. Family dynamics must be taken into account in addition to any work colleagues and friends that may be attending. The Bride paid you a high compliment knowing that she could trust seating you at a table of strangers, allowing you to make the acquaintance of family or friends you had not yet had the pleasure to meet.

Dear Miss SOS:

My mom and dad split up almost eight years ago. My future husband has never really gotten to know her and does not like her too much. He insists that she will not be on the top table at our wedding as she has not really been a mother to me over the last 8 years. Is there any way around the sitting arrangements so that everyone is happy?

Your dilemma is easily resolved. The Bridal Table (not “top” table) should consist of the Bride and Groom, Best Man, Maid of Honor, and members of the Wedding Party (with the exception being children attendants who are to be seated with their parents). The Bride sits at the Groom’s right. The Maid of Honor sits at the Groom’s left. The Best Man sits at the Bride’s right. The Wedding Party is then seated alternately (boy, girl, boy, girl). Sometimes a husband or wife of an attendant is also invited to sit at this table although it is not obligatory to invite them.

You can designate other tables for the parents of the Bride or Groom. These tables are reserved for honored or distinguished guests (grandparents, siblings not active in the wedding party, the minister, aunts, uncles, or even long-time family friends) being seated with the parents. As your parents are divorced, consider setting aside two tables – one for your father to host and the other for your mother.

Dear Miss SOS:

Any chance you can supply me with the correct seating arrangements for the top table at a wedding reception? Also, the correct form of address for place cards at the reception? Please reply ASAP.

The Bride’s Table – not “top” table – should consist of the Bride and Groom, Best Man, Maid of Honor, and members of the Wedding Party (with the exception being children attendants who are to be seated with their parents). The Bride sits at the Groom’s right. The Maid of Honor sits at the Groom’s left. The Best Man sits at the Bride’s right. The Wedding Party is then seated alternately (boy, girl, boy, girl). Sometimes the spouse of an attendant is also invited to sit at this table although it is not obligatory to invite them.

Place cards are always used at the Bride’s Table, optional for other tables dependent on the formality of the reception. Place cards should include the first and last name of each guest, preferably written on both sides of the place card so other guests at the table can be reminded of each other’s names.

Second Marriages

Dear Miss SOS:

Three years ago I was married in a lavish ceremony. Unfortunately, my marriage didn’t “stick”. Now I’m engaged to a wonderful man and plan to be married in the fall. Is it OK to ask my parents to help with the costs of this wedding?

With rare exceptions, most parents take the position of paying for one wedding per daughter. As a “mature” second-time Bride, you and your fiancé are expected to finance your own wedding. But if your parents offer to pick up or defray the costs, there’s nothing wrong with taking them up on it.

Dear Miss SOS:

I’m getting married for the second time. Is it OK for me to wear a traditional, long white bridal gown or do I have to wear some sort of pastel suit?

Rules have changed over the years and this change is one that Miss SOS agrees with wholeheartedly. Go ahead and wear a white gown if you wish. White is no longer considered a symbol of purity but instead signifies celebration and joy. You should avoid a long train as those are usually reserved for first-time Brides. You may wear a veil too providing that it is fingertip or blush length. Like cathedral trains, full-length veils are reserved for the first time you walk down the aisle, not the second.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am getting married for the second time after being divorced for four years. Is it OK for me to invite people to my wedding if they were also invited to my first? Also, is it proper for me to be walked down the aisle?

By all means invite your friends and family. Chances are these are the same individuals who gave you love and support during the difficult days of your divorce. They will be happy to be part of this celebration symbolizing the start of your new life.

Many second-time brides walk down the aisle with their groom or with one of their children. It is also correct if you wish to be escorted by your father or for you to walk alone.


Editor’s Note: For more on toasts and wedding speeches, check this page.

Dear Miss SOS:
Our budget is limited and so at the wedding reception we plan on serving champagne for the toast to the wedding party only. Is this OK?

Please, you’re making Miss SOS hair curl. If one cannot afford something special for one’s guests, one does not consume that very thing in front of them. Nor does one invite certain people and then treat them like they are second-class citizens. If you can’t afford champagne, serve a sparkling non-alcoholic beverage for the toast.

Dear Miss SOS:

Now that I’m engaged, my fiancé and I are in a continual whirlwind of parties. I’m not complaining as I’m enjoying all the excitement and attention. However, at all of these parties, there is toast made wishing us both the best and future happiness. Am I supposed to lift my glass in toast with them? It seems like I’m applauding myself when I do.

Miss SOS applauds your instincts in understanding that one does not drink a toast to oneself. You are the object of all these liquid good wishes. All you have to do – in fact, all you should do – is sit there, hands in your lap, supposedly drunk on happiness, and smile demurely while everyone else drinks to you. Only after the toast is completed may you lift your glass to take a sip.

Dear Miss SOS:

At a wedding reception I attended recently, I felt uncomfortable as I watched the Bride sit on the Best Man’s lap while the Groom removed her garter with his teeth. Is this now considered appropriate?

The only thing appropriate was your feeling uncomfortable witnessing this unsuitable display of poor behavior. Sadly, it has been Miss SOS experience that the people involved knew it wasn’t correct and didn’t care.

Dear Miss SOS:

I know about the old tradition of wearing “something old, something new” but could you share with me what it symbolizes?

Miss SOS’ pleasure. Something old is to connect the past with the future. It is worn for continuity. Something new represents an optimistic future. Something borrowed should be from a happily married friend or relative (so her luck will rub off). Something blue is a sign of purity, fidelity, and love.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am a professional woman in my late twenties, financially and professionally independent, getting married for the first time. So why is my father asked “Who gives this woman to this man?”

Miss SOS understands your sentiment. Many Brides find certain words and phrasings of the wedding ceremony to be archaic in today’s time and culture (the most obvious is if the vows include the words “love, honor, and obey”). The custom of the Bride’s father walking her down the aisle originated in Medieval Europe because the Bride was seen as property given over to her new master. That is also why a Bride took her husband’s name. Today, a father escorts his daughter down the aisle as gesture of parental support.

Miss SOS does not intrude in the teachings or practices of any church, temple, or synagogue, deferring to the priest, minister, or rabbi in such matters. However, if there is no objection by the religious officiant, suggest a simple re-wording to “Who supports the union of this woman to this man?” The response would be the same (“I do; her mother and I do; her family and friends gathered here today do”) and is more in keeping to your point of view.

The Wedding Party

For more on the Wedding Party, check out the This Just In Archives!

Bride’s Escort Down the Aisle

Dear Miss SOS:

My dog is my best friend and is extremely well-trained. I want him to be the Ring Bearer at my wedding, tying a small pillow with the rings onto his collar. Would this be OK?

Other than Miss SOS suggesting that you might wish to expand your circle of acquaintances and friends, and providing the venue facility has no objections, there is no rule of etiquette that would preclude you from having your dog participate as the Ring Bearer in your wedding ceremony. Indeed, it has been Miss SOS’ observation that many pets are better behaved than other members of the wedding party or wedding guests.

On a practical side note, you might wish to have the Best Man carry the real jewelry in his pocket rather than tying the rings onto the pillow, and don’t forget a plastic bag should there be a need to scoop up.

Dear Miss SOS:

My parents died quite some time ago and I was raised by my grandmother. Is it OK for her to walk me down the aisle?
Miss SOS cannot think of anything more lovely than to have your grandmother escort you.

Role of Members of the Wedding Party

Dear Miss SOS:

Do I need to have a matron of honor or groomsmen as part of our wedding party?

A Bride and Groom require an officiant to marry them and two witnesses (of legal age) to sign the marriage license. This applies to either a civil ceremony or religious service. Many times the Bridal Couple have the two witnesses double as Maid/Matron of Honor and Best Man or the Bride and Groom may stand alone at the altar. It is Miss SOS experience that it works best when there are two members of the wedding party present – one to hold the Bridal Bouquet during the exchange of vows and the other to hold on to the jewelry until the exchange of wedding rings. Any other attendants (bridesmaids, groomsmen, ring bearers, flower girls) are optional.

Dear Miss SOS:

Reading the article about men being bridesmaids and women being groomsmen, I see nothing wrong with that. My daughter is getting married this summer and she asked her best friend who is a male to be in her wedding. He was delighted. I’m just not certain how they walk down the aisle. Do they walk with the bridesmaids going down and surely they don’t walk with the ushers going up … but I think it will be nice.

A gentleman serving as an attendant for the Bride in her wedding party is referred to as either a Bridesman or Honor Attendant. His responsibilities and duties are the same as a Bridesmaid. He is to smile charmingly during the Processional, Recessional, Receiving Line, and while going around the Reception accepting silly comments. He is seated at the Bride’s Table, alternated with Groomsmen if the Reception is a seated affair.

During the Processional, he is to walk down the aisle as the other Bridesmaids, either individually or in pairs. He does not wear a dress or high heels nor does he carry a bouquet. Instead, he is dressed similarly to the other Groomsmen but has on a different cummerbund or tie and vest, perhaps complimenting the Bridesmaid’s colors, and wears a boutonniere. Either a Groomsmen or Usher escorts him for the Recessional. No arm is pro-offered; they walk side by side.

Dear Miss SOS:

I’m so confused. What exactly are the responsibilities of the Wedding Party? And who pays for what?

Members of your Wedding Party have specific assigned responsibilities depending on the station they hold. The Maid of Honor’s responsibilities are different than those of the Best Man, as are Bridesmaids to Groomsmen, Groomsmen to Ushers, and Flower Girl to Ring Bearer. However, here are general guidelines that might be helpful.

All Bridal Attendants buy their own dresses and accessories. The Bride’s family furnishes Bridal Attendant’s Bouquets as well as the headdresses if they are made of flowers.

The Groom’s Attendants buy or rent their own attire. The Groom furnishes the boutonnieres, their gloves and ties.

All Attendants must promptly arrive and attend the Rehearsal Dinner.

All Attendants must keep their fitting and party appointments.

All Attendants send a wedding gift to the Bridal Couple, either individually, or as a group, or with their parents.

Bridal Attendants are invited to all parties given for the Bride. Exception: Office parties or special group parties.

Groom Attendants, except for Ring Bearer, are invited to all stag parties.

Bridal and Groom Attendants are invited to all parties given for the Bridal Couple. Exception: Office parties or special group parties.

Bridal Attendants stand in the Receiving Line; Groom Attendants and Ushers do not.

The Best Man does not stand in the Receiving Line unless he is also the Father of the Groom in which case he has an option.

Children Attendants do not stand in the Receiving Line.

Specific Duties of Groomsmen
Dear Miss SOS:

I feel silly writing to you. I’ve agreed to be the Best Man at a wedding. I know I’m to give the toast. Is there anything else I should know?

Though Miss SOS is puzzled why a gentleman would feel silly displaying good breeding, she is pleased to respond to your inquiry. The duties of the Best Man are more involved than many people are led to believe. The responsibilities of your station include:
•    Giving the Bachelor Party, if other arrangements have not been made;
•    Assisting with honeymoon hotel arrangements;
•    Help the Groom dress for the Ceremony;
•    Drives the Groom to the Church;
•    Ensure the Groom has the Marriage License;
•    Is in charge of the Minister’s fee (which the Groom has given to you in a white envelope prior to the Ceremony);
•    Carries the Wedding Ring;
•    Reminds the Groom to remove his gloves when the Bride comes down the Aisle;
•    Signs the Marriage License as a Witness;
•    Proposes the First Toast, flattering to the Bride, omitting any details about the courtship or the Groom’s character that the Bride’s Grandparents might not want to know;
•    Reads any congratulatory telegrams;
•    Dances with the Bride, both Mothers, and as many of the Bridal Attendants and Guests as possible;
•    Supervises Groomsmen/Ushers, encouraging them to dance with the Bridesmaids, especially the Junior Bridesmaids;
•    Vetoes any ideas for jokes that would shock Guests or disable the going-away vehicle;
•    Makes all arrangements for the going-away car and see the Bridal Couple off if they are leaving by train, boat, or plane;
•    Ensures the Bridal Couple’s luggage is packed in the going-away car;
•    Assists the Bride’s Mother with any last-minute chores.

Choosing Bridesmaids

Dear Miss SOS:

One of my bridesmaids will be 8 months pregnant on my wedding day. What will I do if she is not able to attend?

The show must still go on. It is really not polite to ask someone else to stand in at the last minute. Remember, it is not essential that you have an even number of groomsmen and bridesmaids. Bridesmaids can walk down the aisle in pairs or alone, and a groomsman can escort a bridesmaid on each arm during the recessional. Share the video and photos with your absent friend after the wedding.

Dear Miss SOS:

What is the difference between a Bridesmaid and a Junior Bridesmaid? Does it have to do with their friendship or family relationship to the Bride? I need to know soon as I want to appoint different people in the wedding party.

Appoint different people? Miss SOS is not sure she understands your meaning and prefers to keep it that way. “People” – consisting of loved family members or close friends – participating in the wedding party are not appointed; they are graciously asked if they would provide you the honor in serving as your Maid ofHonor/Bridesmaids/Groomsmen/etc.

Junior Bridesmaids are young girls, generally between the ages of eight and fourteen, who are too old (or big) to be flower girls and too young to be regular Bridesmaids. They attend the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner (accompanied by their parents) but are not necessarily included in other pre-wedding festivities (like a bridal shower) although their mothers are invited.

Dear Miss SOS:

One of my bridesmaids is married. Should I ask her spouse to be in the wedding party?

It is not necessary to ask an attendant’s spouse to participate in the wedding party unless of course both partners are close friends of both the Bride and Groom and would have been asked in any event. The spouse is, of course, to be invited to the wedding and if possible, sits at the Bridal Table during the reception.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am very happy to be engaged as of 2 days ago, but I am becoming very stressed at the idea of choosing/asking girls to be my Maid of Honor or Bridesmaids. My problem is that I do not have many close girlfriends nor do I have a sister.

It seems that many brides-to-be have the problem of whom to choose between so many friends and I feel a little disheartened that my dilemma is the opposite. I do have one very close girlfriend whom I would consider my best friend. I have thought about her to be my Maid of Honor and feel confident she will accept (she is getting married in September and I am in her wedding, but not as her Maid of Honor). I have also recently become quite close with her Maid of Honor and feel she will probably be a lifelong friend as well, but I’m not sure if it would be appropriate for me to ask her to be a Bridesmaid since we have not known each other very long. My mother’s sister is a possibility for a Matron of Honor but other than that I really don’t have anyone!

Will I look like a complete loser if I can’t fill a bridal party? Also, how long after announcing our engagement should we ask friends to be our attendants? If we wait awhile to make sure we are choosing the right people, will it appear rude? Thanks for listening.

What Miss SOS would like to know is the number of attendants you’ve been told that you must have in your wedding party. Has someone erroneously given you the impression that the larger the wedding party, the more proper it is? It is just as correct to have only one Honor Attendant, as it is to a have a bevy of Bridesmaids. It is your prerogative if all you desire is one close friend (or family member) to attend you at the altar. Should you be uncomfortable asking your new friend to be a Bridesmaid, consider involving her in other areas, such as being your Guest Book Attendant.

After selecting your wedding date and site location, you should contact those that you would like to participate in your wedding. This provides them with as much advance notice as possible so that they can arrange their schedule accordingly.

Dear Miss SOS:

I have asked my best friend to attend me at the altar. She’s divorced. Is she to be called my Maid of Honor or Matron of Honor?

Miss SOS is trying to find a delicate way to phrase this but a lady can only be a maiden once. The correct title for your best friend’s station is Matron of Honor.

Dear Miss SOS:

I have two friends that I love equally and can’t decide which one to ask to be my Maid of Honor. I’m afraid that no matter who I choose, the other will be hurt. One is married and the other is not. Does this make a difference? Can you suggest anything to help me keep my friendship with both?

You may take a deep breath and relax, knowing your friendship with both is secure. It is perfectly acceptable to have both a Maid of Honor and a Matron of Honor in your wedding party. If both a Maid and Matron of Honor are being used, the Bride must decide which one will attend her at the Altar. The one attending her will walk directly in front of the Bride (unless there is a Flower Girl and/or Ring Bearer. If the Bridesmaids are walking in pairs, the Maid and Matron of Honor may walk together and as they approach the Altar, the attending Maid or Matron will stand nearer the Bride.