26 Wedding Rules You Might Not Know

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While we're always up for taking Uncle Albert for a twirl on the dance floor and clinking a flute of Champagne to the happy couple, a looming pile of wedding invites can stir up a whole host of anxieties. And, they're not all unfounded.

Weddings are veritable minefields of awkward encounters, and any misstep can make you come off as a miser, mooch, or spotlight stealer. To crush the fears, avoid faux pas, and dispel any wedding-related myths, we've tapped four top etiquette experts for the ultimate lowdown. Master their tips on what to spend, who to bring, and how to dress, and you can start checking the mail for all your thank-you notes soon after.


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Yes, Send A Gift
Got a wedding invite, but don’t plan to attend? You still need to give something small. This applies to destination weddings, too. — Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, and co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette

Have the present shipped instead of rolling up with it to the ceremony or reception. This will be less stress for the couple. — Elaine Swann, author of Let Crazy Be Crazy and social commentator for the TODAY show

Give What You Can
You no longer have to pay for the price of your plate, per the old custom. Give what you can and remember it’s not a competition. — Post

The minimum is $25 cash. Anything less looks a little tacky and come on, that’s cost of like, two drinks during weekend brunch. — Swann

The Registry Is Just A Guide
It's a heck of a lot easier to nail down something the couple really wants if you choose from the registry. But, if you score something more meaningful they'll love that’s not on the list, it's fair game. — Cheryl Seidel, founder and president of RegistryFinder.com

Engagement-party presents are generally not expected, unless you're in the south. Give a nice bottle of wine or cookbook, instead. — Seidel

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No. White. Dresses.
White is the summer's hottest trend, but it's still not okay to don your pale attire, including all shades of ivory, eggshell, and off-white. Unless, of course, the couple specifically requests it. — Post

Black On The Other Hand...
Black works for evening ceremonies or black tie, but add a splash of color so you don’t look like a funeral attendee. A bright purse, shoes, earrings, or necklace will do the trick. — Post

Black tie means men wear tuxedos and the ladies don an evening gown or cocktail dress. — Seidel

No Shoes, No Service
On a beach? No? Then skip the flip flops. — Swann

Check The Time
Consider the time of day and the style of the invitation. Evening ceremonies, black-tie specified, or invitations with serious engravings or calligraphy typically call for cocktail attire — think LBD or polished sheath. Tying the knot pre-7 p.m generally means it's fine to slip into something more casual. — Post
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RSVP'ing Is Mandatory
It may be your best friend's wedding, and obviously you will attend, but don't make people have to track you down FBI-style to confirm your attendance. It's just a lot of extra work. — Swann

We Mean It
Multiple invitations mean, yes, you need to RSVP more than once, even if it's super-obvious you will be there. Plus, even if you are part of the party, it's not mandatory to show up for all the events, so this is a way for the couple to nail down the numbers. — Swann

No Text Responses
Just send back those pre-stamped envelopes (that are pricey) or respond by email if that's what they want. — Post

Just Say No
If you can't make it, there's no need for a novel-like explanation. Just RSVP "No." — Swann

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Go Solo If It's Not Serious
Unless you are married, engaged, or live with someone, the couple doesn't have to offer a plus one. If they do, the option is generally limited to more serious dates so bringing a lady friend, roommate, or that dude you just met on OKCupid is a no-no. — Post

Don't Assume The Little Ones Can Come
Even if your kids are “angels,” get a babysitter. You don't want to spoil a wedding if they suddenly turn into little monsters. — Swann

A Little Decorum Goes A Long Way
With love already in the air, and the help of unlimited gin and tonics, you might stumble upon a potential paramour of your own. Should "one thing lead to another," PDA is definitely not cool. Keep it classy, and behind closed doors. — Gottsman

BYOB Not Encouraged
If the hosts provide you with alcohol, you drink, if they don't, you don’t drink. — Seidel
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Don't Go Social
Some couples are particular about what they want to share with the world, so ask if your paparazzi pics can be posted on social media first. — Gottsman

Make Room For The Photographer
It's only natural to want to capture the cake, the kiss, the floral arrangements in mason jars, but please try to stay in the moment. That is what the (professional) photographer is for. — Swann


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Crunch The Numbers
Create a spreadsheet with all the invents you've been invited to, and the costs associated with each one. Track expenses and be realistic about what you can actually spend, then decide if certain events — like a coworker's ridiculous bachelorette party in Tahiti — require declining. — Swann

Stay With Friends
Hometown weddings make it easy to stay with family or friends of the couple. If you're in a bind, ask if any of their local guests have an extra bedroom for out-of-towners. — Post
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Ask About Expenses Early
The price tag of being in a wedding party can get pretty hefty. If duty calls, there is absolutely no shame in asking exactly what costs you'll need to swallow before giving a final answer. Don’t jump the gun and agree before crunching the numbers — backing out once you've given your word is poor taste. — Swann

It's Okay To Say No
You can't outright ask the bride to foot the bill. Instead, have an honest conversation about your budget. If she doesn't offer to cover, you may have to decline. — Diane Gottsman, founder of the Protocol School of Texas

One Gift's Enough
You don't necessarily have to throw down presents at every event, but you do still need to purchase a wedding gift. — Gottsman

Let Someone Else Host The Shower
Little known fact: planning a bridal shower is actually not traditionally the bridesmaids' responsibility. Leave this up to the aunts, neighbors, and family-friends just itching to do something nice for the bride if you're not up for it. — Seidel

Offer Your Talents
There are plenty of ways to help out for one of the satellite events if you aren't in a position to shell out and host. Just offer to pitch in with other stuff, like writing invites, thank you notes, and taking on some logistical planning. Trust us, any help is so welcome. — Swann



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