Wedding Planning Etiquette Part 2: Rules to break for the big day
by Gina Borud


Jamison Elizabeth Photography

If you haven’t had a chance to read Part 1 of this blog post yet, check it out here. Otherwise, let’s move onto some more wedding planning etiquette topics, like having a cocktail hour before the ceremony, ditching that “rustic” theme, and avoiding those obligatory dances.

I had a lot of questions when I began the wedding planning process. Having watched far too many episodes of TLC’s “Four Weddings,” I had this insane idea in my head that there was a wedding planning formula you had to follow. I mean, those TLC brides always have cocktails hours (some nicer than others), cake and dessert tables, wedding favors and elaborate themes (did you see the one where TWO of the brides had Peacock-themed weddings?!). And if you don’t have all the right components to the day, like enough flowers or control over the weather, the other brides are going to eat you alive.

But wedding planning is actually NOT like this, or at least it doesn’t have to be.  While “Four Weddings” is great for gathering creative wedding ideas, it gives us brides a delusional sense of what’s “right” and “wrong”. Aside from TV, we’ve got mothers and sisters and friends telling us what we should and shouldn’t do. Those opinions -- and wedding etiquette in general -- matter, but shouldn't drive your entire vision for your special day. Here are a few tips and insights I’ve gathered while navigating this crazy process.

Cocktail Hour BEFORE the Ceremony

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know I like a good glass of wine now and again. I also like dirty martinis, but that’s a discussion for another day (is it weird that my mouth is watering?). Anyway, cocktail hour, happy hour, wine and cheese hour -- whatever you choose to call it -- can serve several purposes at your wedding. But for this post I’m advocating for the cocktail hour BEFORE the ceremony. And you can even participate! Now, if you don’t drink and don’t plan to serve your guests any drinks (gasp), you can stop reading now and move onto the next section.

Wedding Planning Etiquette
Wedding Planning Etiquette

Kate Price Photography

Cocktail hours prior to the ceremony are a great way to get your guests feeling at ease and set the tone for the evening. Most cocktail hours contain some type of beverage offering and maybe a few passed hor d'oeuvres. Well-fed and slightly buzzed guests are happy guests! If cash is tight, offer one wine and one beer option, or even a simple signature drink, then have a cash bar available for guests that want a little extra. You can also limit the length of the cocktail hour in order to stay true to budget, not to mention keep the crowd from getting too tipsy.

Want to really buck traditional etiquette? Make a cameo at your cocktail hour! You’ll feel more at ease and your guests will love it. Trust me, there is nothing wrong with letting people see you before the ceremony. You will not be struck by lightning on the spot. What this will do, however, is ease any concerns you have about making enough time to talk to each guest at the reception. If you don’t want to be seen before the ceremony, send your bridal party out there to mingle and get the guests’ energy up. I have attended several weddings like this (my own will be quite similar), and it sets a really nice tone for a fun evening ahead. It also gives you some time to regroup, touch up your makeup, grab a bite to eat and let your guests get to know your bridal party and family.

Themes – Are They Really Necessary?

The other day I met one of my fiancé’s coworkers who congratulated me on getting married, then squealed, “ooooooooo what are your wedding colors going to be?!”  I’ve had so many people ask me about my theme and/or colors. Is that strange to anyone else, or is it a result of me being born without the “bride” gene?

Wedding Planning Etiquette
Wedding Planning Etiquette

Mango Studios

I knew themes and colors were huge among TLC’s brides, but had no idea the importance of these things outside of reality television. I mean, there are entire websites devoted to choosing color palettes and moods. And people will look at you as if you have a third eye if you say you don’t have a theme. If I hear “rustic” one more time I may…well, you know.

I didn’t really pick a theme, but once I started planning the wedding a theme just naturally evolved. My fiancé and I are both classic, preppy dressers with simple tastes, we love the excitement of city life, we’re both wine snobs and foodies, we love blues and greens, and well, there’s our theme. City/Preppy/Winey/Simple with navy, ivory and shades of green. So while I wanted to nonchalantly answer my fiancé’s coworker’s question with, “meh, I don’t really conform to themes,” here I am with one.

What does this mean for you? Don’t sit down and arbitrarily pick a theme or colors for your wedding. Let your personalities shine through as you plan your wedding, taking into consideration the venue and its natural décor, the overall feeling you want to invoke for your guests, and simply what you and your fiancé like. Does everything have to match? Of course not! Does your theme have to have a name? No! Think about filling the space with things you love rather than sticking to a set of parameters, which can ultimately hinder your planning process. I also suggest that you use bright colors sparingly. There’s nothing worse than a wedding that looks like a prom. Yiiiiikes.

Wedding Wants and Don’t Wants

There are several components to the ceremony and reception that are typically deemed as traditional or expected, including walking down the aisle to an acoustic song, having a flower girl and/or ring bearer, having some type of reading during the ceremony (religious or not), seating arrangements, organized dances, toasts…the list goes on and on! If you listen to TLC’s advice, you might think that these are all standard things to add to the planning checklist. But have you ever stopped to think about what you want and don’t want? If you were planning a birthday party, would you get creative or just do what everyone else does? The same idea applies to wedding planning. Once you accept that the sky’s the limit with what you can do, it removes SO much pressure!

Wedding Planning Etiquette
Wedding Planning Etiquette

Milton Gan Photography

To kick off our wedding planning, we made a list of all the things we wanted and didn’t want at our wedding. BEST. DECISION. EVER. Turned out neither of us wanted kids at the wedding, I was adamant against seating arrangements, Matt wanted us to have our own dance, I hated the idea of a flower girl or ring bearer, and we both wanted to do some type of organized toasting. Not only did we learn what was important to the other person, but we realized we could save a significant amount of time and money by cutting out some of the elements that aren’t important to us. We aren’t even having a cake!

Depending on your relationship with your family though, you may have to take some of their requests into consideration. In my case, both my parents were thrilled to be asked to walk me down the aisle. And I’m pretty sure my dad is just as relieved as I am that we don’t have to dance in front of everyone. But your family might feel strongly about some of these traditional things. So, start by making your want/don’t want list, then talk to the parties involved about your vision. If you really don’t want a flower girl but your sister has an adorable two-year-old primed for the job, talk to her about it. You’ll feel better knowing you stayed true to your wants yet didn’t burn any bridges in the process. And remember, no one is making notes and tallying points at your wedding, so relax with all this etiquette business and do what makes you happy.

Gotta run, “Four Weddings” is on!

Gina and Matt_web_175
Gina and Matt_web_175

Gina Borud is a newlywed from Boise, Idaho and has been blogging about her experience as a bride (and now wife!) since April. She owns her own graphic design and consulting business ( and works to help individuals, small businesses, nonprofits and startups with their marketing and communication needs. Gina enjoys perfecting her crab cake recipe, drinking wine and playing cribbage with her husband, Matt, and playing outside in the great Idaho outdoors. She’s an avid swimmer, runner, gardener and reality TV junkie.