Modern Etiquette

By Glenda Winders

December 19, 2008 5 min read


Rules for weddings have changed in the 21st century

Glenda Winders

Creators News Service

In this day of cell phones and e-mail, a modern wedding calls for modern etiquette. Just don't forget your old-fashioned manners.

Sending an e-mail, for example, will be useful as your nuptials approach, but it has its limitations.

"E-mail is a terrific tool for reaching lots of people quickly," said Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and a spokeswoman for the Emily Post Institute. "But if the wedding is formal, it deserves paper invitations. Even with the movement toward green weddings, there are terrific options for using recycled paper and soy inks to create a wonderful keepsake of the wedding."

Using e-mail might be appropriate for "save the date" notices and invitations to informal gatherings, such as showers and bachelor parties, or for sending a brief message to acknowledge the delivery of gifts. Always follow up with handwritten thank-you notes.

Technology is also useful for informing guests about lodging and restaurants. An e-mail address on your invitation makes RSVPs as easy as a mouse click. But keep in mind that some guests may not have computers, so make sure they get a card to mail.

When the big day arrives, you'll want all cell phones and cameras turned off and put away. The most discreet way to let your guests know your wishes is to print an advisory in your wedding program or post a sign at the guest book. Another way is to ask the officiant to make an announcement before the ceremony begins.

Post recalls a wedding she attended where the rabbi told the guests they would be fined $100 for using cell phones or cameras.

"He was joking," she said, "but it worked. People know better than to ignore an authority figure."

A website is a good way to keep your friends and relatives involved, especially if they live far away and can't attend. But keep the site simple and tasteful. Don't attempt to chronicle every moment of your relationship. It's all right to post your gift registry there, but make the link small and to one side or the bottom of the site.

Divorce is another reality of modern life than can cause wedding headaches. If your divorced parents don't get along, the best advice is to let them work it out. Chances are your happiness will trump their negative feelings about one another and they'll both attend. If one of them has a new spouse whose presence would cause stress, explain the situation and ask that person to stay away.

Seat both of your parents in the front row, with siblings or friends between them. Or put your mother on the front row with your father seated behind her. Keep them separated in the receiving line, too.

If your stepfather raised you, it's OK to ask him to walk you down the aisle. It's equally acceptable to make your entrance with a dad on each arm.

If this is a remarriage, you'll definitely want to involve your children from previous marriages.

"It is truly a wonderful thing to see when the children of divorced parents are welcome at the celebration of the new relationship," said Letitia Baldrige, manners expert and former White House social secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy. "It is also appropriate to have all the grandparents, past and present, at the wedding. It shows real strength of character and class when it can be worked out."

If they are teenagers or adults, give them a spot in the wedding party. If they're younger, have them walk in with you, remain with you throughout the ceremony and sit at your table during the reception.

In most cases, former spouses should not be invited.

"Even if the people are amicable, having the former spouse there can distract the focus and divert the attention of the guests," Post said.

If the two of you do decide to invite your exes, invite them to bring a guest and seat them with people they know. Don't single them out at the reception and don't dance with them.

"The key to it all is in how you do it," said Post. "If you are considerate and respectful of your guests and their feelings, chances are high that you'll pull it off well."

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