Skip to main content

Formal Wedding Etiquette

Find tips for every stage of prenuptials -- from getting engaged to breaking the news to breaking up.

In this article, you will find:

Page 1
Page 2

Page 1

Formal Wedding Etiquette

You're Engaged!

Before people get married, they become engaged. Engagement marks the interval between the day the couple agree to get married and the actual wedding ceremony. What happens during this period depends on the people involved, but some basic rules apply.

Oh, Grow Up

First, tell you parents the good news!

Whatever your circumstances, regardless of age, whether you think they will approve or their heads will explode, your parents have to know what's happening, and they have to hear about it from you.

It doesn't matter if they're divorced or if your relationship with them is strained at best. They must know, and you should tell them personally. It is better for all concerned, especially the happy couple, for the two of you to be together when you break the news.

Practice your speech beforehand.

Even if your parents greet the announcement with great joy and hearty approval, expect an eventual “but …” or two, or more. Usually, the first and most serious concern involves financial security. Most parents know the effect of financial difficulties on wedded bliss.

Have your arguments and explanations ready to go. Don't make light of any issues or try to laugh them off. Don't become defensive. Act like an adult. Acknowledge your parents' concerns and talk about your plans for dealing with problems, however conceptual those plans may be.

Once informed, parents are expected to perform certain ceremonies. Traditionally, the groom's mother writes to the bride's mother to express her happiness about the betrothal and invites the bride's parents to visit. However, many parents are unaware that such traditions exist, so no one should be offended if the groom's mother overlooks this formality. Even if the groom's mother does not plan to invite the bride's parents for a visit, writing a note is a good idea. It should say something like this:

Dear Matilda:

Robert just told us his good news, and I don't want to waste a minute before telling you how pleased we are. We've heard so much about you already, and are grateful for all the kindness you have shown our son. We feel pleased and privileged to welcome Paula to our family. Both of us are eager to meet you in person when we can toast the happy occasion together.

Helen Thomas

The couple should visit each set of parents individually. If you feel that your parents and your intended's parents will mix like oil and water, it's probably not a good idea to arrange a cozy “sixsome.” You will probably have an opportunity to introduce everyone at a less stressful time, such as a party some time before the actual wedding.

The Ring
Live and Learn

The tradition of giving diamond engagement rings began in Venice in the fifteenth century. One of the earliest and smallest diamond engagement rings was made for the two-year-old Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII of England, on her engagement to the dauphin of France in 1518.

There may or may not be an engagement ring. A ring or lack of it does not alter the fact that you are engaged.

Some time bombs come disguised as engagement rings. In an ideal world, every bride-to-be is thrilled with the selection of her engagement ring and the couple lives happily ever after. If you think you live in an ideal world, you are not ready for marriage.

Suppose you receive a ring you dislike intensely, but it has been in his family since the Bronze Age, and his mother has her heart set on her little boy's bride wearing it.

Wear it. Smile. Do not change the setting. You can select a wide wedding band that will not comfortably accommodate the engagement ring. You can wear the engagement ring on your right hand for a while and eventually stop wearing it. After all, it's clumsy when you're at the computer. You'll think of something.

The same guidelines apply if your dearly beloved presents you with a terrible ring of his own choosing. (Nobody's perfect.) The day after the second wedding anniversary, you can start talking about having the ring reset.

Not every couple decides to go the formal engagement ring route. It is a nice idea, however, to cement your engagement with a permanent gift, and one that isn't overly practical, before the responsibilities of married life consume your resources. Some couples select jewelry other than rings as gifts for each another.

Join the Family

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.