Wedding etiquette isn't what it used to be. Here's how it's changed

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There are a lot of stresses when it comes to planning and attending a wedding, and a lot of that pressure comes from anxiety over how to behave. Weddings are among the few (mostly) formal occasions most people will attend anymore, and in an increasingly modern and relaxed society, knowing how wedding etiquette has changed from decades past isn't always so easy. From changing gender roles to online invites and registries, here's how wedding etiquette is different today.

There are numerous pre-wedding celebrations

Engagements used to be a simpler affair. Before the wedding, there might be a bridal shower, a bachelorette and bachelor party, a rehearsal dinner and then the wedding. These days, close friends of the bride and groom can expected to be invited to any number of pre-wedding celebrations. In addition to the more traditional parties, there are also engagement parties, lingerie showers and bridesmaid luncheons.

Showers aren't just for the bride

Back in the day, weddings were very gendered. Sometime between the engagement and the wedding day, the bride, along with her female family members, bridesmaids and close girlfriends would have a bridal shower (oftentimes in place of a bachelorette party). Here, women would give the bride home goods along with feminine gifts like perfume, lingerie and spa goods. Today, wedding showers with both members of the engaged couple are increasingly common. Men and women are invited to this event, and the gifts exchanged are more centered on items needed for building a home together. If you're in charge of throwing said shower, there are a lot of things you need to know.

The bride's family doesn't have to pay for the wedding

Women used to be seen as a financial burden on their parents and then on their husbands, so it was expected that the bride's family would pay for the wedding as a sort-of unofficial dowry. And while the idea of a woman being a burden has waned significantly over generations, the tradition of a woman's family paying for the nuptials has persisted. Today, the costs of a wedding are a discussion between the engaged couple and their families. Sometimes both families and the couples split the cost, and sometimes the couple will just pay for the whole party themselves.

Invitations are often sent online

If the couple is looking to throw a green wedding or a budget-friendly wedding, they may forego paper invitations and send out the official invite via a wedding website. Though it may seem unconventional to old-fashioned folks, e-vites are perfectly suitable. If doing this, the couple should be aware that some older guests may be less tech-savvy and send along a few paper invites as well.

Guests are often expected to RSVP online

In the further interests of a green wedding and saving money, couples will skip the little RSVP postcard (and postage stamp) and have guests RSVP on their wedding website online. This is also convenient for the couple, who can electronically track who has (and has not) sent back their responses.

But you still only have 24 hours to RSVP

There are a lot of ways that etiquette has changed over the decades, but a few rules are the same. For instance, guests still really only have 24 hours to respond to an invitation. Weddings are all about numbers. Caterers need to know how much food and drink to prepare, the venue needs to know how many seats to put up at the reception site and the couple needs to know how many wedding favors they need to buy.

A person doesn't have to be married to get a plus-one

Married couples are (in almost every instance) automatically invited as a pair, but in modern times when not everyone chooses to get married, longtime partners should also be automatically invited guests. Everyone else who does and does not get a plus-one is up to the people hosting the wedding itself.

But it's still rude to ask for a plus-one

Going to a wedding by yourself may seem like a drag, but asking the couple if you can bring a plus-one either before or after receiving your RSVP card is an easy way to be rude without knowing it. It costs money to host people at a wedding, and those close to the couple need to be prioritized. Asking the couple if you can bring someone just puts both of you in an awkward spot. And, please, don't just bring your friend as a plus-one without even asking.


It's still considered rude to include registry info with the invitations

Everyone makes etiquette mistakes without knowing it leading up to a wedding, including the couple getting married. While it's remarkably common, including your registry information alongside paper invitations is considered to be rude. While guests should bring a wedding gift, it is not a requirement to attend the wedding. Including registry info in your invite suite makes it feel like a present is a must-have.

Registry information goes on a couple's wedding website

Luckily, there is a secondary location where registry information can be included: a wedding website. Advertising a wedding website is not considered rude, and directing guests there where they can then coincidentally find registry information is acceptable and convenient for all involved. If there is no wedding website, simply spread your registry information via word of mouth.

Wedding registries are almost entirely online now

Including registry information online isn't just a way for the couple to spread the word subtly, it's also convenient for guests. Long gone are the days when you'd walk into Macy's and go to a booth to find a couple's registry information; it's all online now. You can find and buy items from registries at most major retailers on the internet. Plus, online retailers such as Amazon and Zola allow couples to register as well.

You don't have to bring your gift to the reception

Online wedding registries will also give guests a convenient option for delivery: shipping the gift, wrapped, straight to the couple's home. While it used to be considered a faux pas to show up to a wedding reception empty-handed, sending the couple a gift before or after the wedding is perfectly acceptable today. In fact, some couples prefer it, as shipping gifts prevents theft during the reception, which happens even at the most amazing wedding venues across America. Shipping gifts also saves them the effort of hauling presents home after the night is over. It's still a kind gesture to bring a card with you to the reception, however.

Couples will use honeymoon funds instead of traditional registries - and that's OK

And there are some gifts that guests couldn't bring to the reception even if they wanted to, like the gift of experiences. Back in the day, couples typically would not live together before marriage, so they needed things to build a home together like pots and pans, bed sheets and toothbrush holders. These days, cohabitating before marriage is less scandalous in most cultures (and the average age of marriage is older). So both parties in the couple will already own enough bath towels and dinner plates. Enter: the honeymoon fund, through which couples will ask for money for their post-wedding vacation. You can buy the couple a night in a hotel, spa treatments, a bottle of wine or anything they need to have the best trip ever. While older wedding guests may find asking for money for a honeymoon to be tacky, modern wedding guests know any gift that the couple wants is acceptable.

Gifts don't have to cover the cost of the meal

There's an old-fashioned expectation that if a meal at a wedding costs $95 a person, then guests should bring a gift worth at least $95. That's not so true anymore. A wedding is a party with guests, not a transaction between a couple and their loved ones. Couples should understand that they're inviting people with all sorts of financial situations. If someone comes to the wedding with $30 worth of hand towels, that's something to be grateful for.

You can wear black

Break out that little black dress! While black was once a color that was synonymous with mourning and funerals in Western culture, this is no longer the case. Instead, a black dress, jumpsuit or suit is seen as a perfectly suitable - and chic! - thing to wear to any special occasion.

And you can wear white - with caution

Unless you were the bride or a man in a crisp white dress shirt, wearing white - especially a white dress - to a wedding was once a serious breach of etiquette. Unless you get explicit permission from the couple before the big day, it's still not advisable to wear a white gown or even a white cocktail dress to the big day. But you can wear a white blouse, skirt or jacket, assuming it's being paired with a bright pop of color or bold print.

Bridesmaids aren't always women; groomsmen aren't always men

Gender roles are thrown out the window when it comes to some wedding parties in the modern era. Bridesmaids were always traditionally female, while groomsmen were always male. But even heterosexual couples may not subscribe to these strict rules. If a groom has a close female friend or sister he wants standing by his side, she should be able to!


You can hook up at the reception, but be discreet

Weddings are great places to meet new people and potential romantic partners, whether you're looking for something long-term or just something for the night. But guests shouldn't let their romantic escapades upstage or distract from the couple on their big day.

Spouses won't always have the same last name after the nuptials

"We now pronounce Mr. and Mrs. Jack Smith!" used to be the big proclamation deeming that a couple is, in fact, married as they make their recessional down the aisle. But for a variety of reasons, more and more women are keeping their maiden names. The New York Times reports that about 20 percent of women keep their maiden name after they tie the knot. The officiant should know this as the couple gets married, and family members and friends should respect the wishes of the couple regarding surnames throughout their married life.

Stay off social media until the couple says 'I do'

If you're a groomsman getting ready with the husband before the big day, can you post photos of him putting on his suit and tie to your Instagram story? Should bridesmaids document their glam before they walk down the aisle? It's fine and good to take photos during wedding prep, but they should not be posted online before the wedding actually occurs. And while you can take a photo here and there of the ceremony, livestreaming the wedding without the couple's consent or trying to play wedding photographer (when the couple has already hired one) is rude. You can wait until after the wedding is over to put it on social media. And knowing how to navigate social media is just one of the modern etiquette questions you need answered.

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