Wedding Etiquette – What’s Expected from the Bridal Party

Who does what, and what are the bride’s parents expected to do and pay for? These are just 2 of the many questions surrounding wedding etiquette.Newly married - husband and wife kissing

The mother of the bride has a key role in her daughter’s wedding – from helping with the overall wedding planning, to helping craft the wedding invitation wording, to supporting her on her wedding day.

The Engagement

For some parents, the first you’ll know about an impending wedding is an excited daughter phoning you to say she’s just got engaged. 

If you wish to send formal wedding announcements to let friends and family members know about the engagement, then it’s usual for the bride’s parents or family to do so with a newpaper advertisement.  For wedding etiquette regarding wording, particularly if your parents are separated, divorced, remarried or deceased, check out sample wordings at About.comWondering how to announce your formal engagement - why not throw a party or place a newspaper announcement ?

Often it’s great to be able to announce the engagement at a party or family gathering, as long as it doesn’t upstage anyone else’s birthday or anniversary.  

Until family and friends know, try and wait to update your status on social bookmarking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

Many couples choose to throw a party for their friends and family to celebrate. 

Whilst few people send out formal announcements, you can if you wish to, of course.  Only send cards to those people that you plan to invite to your wedding day.

If you don’t know exactly when the weding will be, you can just say “a summer wedding is planned”.  If you already know the date, your anouncement can double as a save the date card.

What about meeting your daughter’s future in-laws?  Often the groom’s parents will get in touch with the bride’s parents and arrange a social evening – perhaps a meal at your home or at a restaurant. This is a really nice touch when it comes to wedding etiquette.

It’s a nice touch if the bride to be and her fiancé are also present.  Whatever happens, it’s great to arrange some type of meeting before the big day, so that you both feel more comfortable about the forthcoming wedding.

Wedding Etiquette for Guest Lists & Invitations

One of the most pleasant duties for the mother of the bride is compiling a guest list for the wedding and sending out the invitations.

Before you can start to create a guest list, you’ll need to know what the budget is going to be, what sort of cost per head your chosen venue is likely to charge and also how many people you can seat either at the church, registry office or wedding venue, as well as at the reception itself.

Creating the final list will involve liaising with both the bride and groom to be, as well as both sets of parents giving you names of the people that they wish to be invited. 

Often the biggest challenge is how you cut down a list to the number of people that you can actually invite – many couples now handle this by inviting friends to an evening reception event where there’s dancing, but no food – and only inviting close friends and family to the wedding and reception.

There’s a lot of etiquette about the wording and sending of the invitations.  Sending the right style of invitation can help set the right tone and expections for the day. 

It can also give your wedding guests the right information about the time and style of your wedding, as well as appropriate attire for your special day.

Sending out a map with the invitations can help to ensure that your guests know where to come – although for many people, having the post code or number will be sufficient to enable them to find you.

Wedding Planning

As well as helping your daughter plan the details of her day, you’ll also need to sort out between yourselves exactly who is paying for what.  This is where having an etiquette book can really help, as it’s set down in black and white who traditionally pays for each item, or at least be the basis for negotiation.

One of the biggest decisions for you personally is what you will be wearing. 

It’s helpful not to leave your purchase to the last minute – as traditionally its expected that the groom’s mother will wait until the bride’s mother has purchased her wedding outfit and take the lead from the style of dress that she is wearing.

In the lead up to the wedding, you’ll find yourself helping your daughter to make decisions about flowers, cars, dresses & veils, bridesmaids and so much more! You may find it helpful to create a personalized “things to do” list with deadline dates written in.

Try and book a couple of days off work in the week before the wedding to help with all those last minute items, as well as to help reduce your own stress levels before the big day.

The Wedding Day

You’ll have some important roles to play on the day.  If your daughter is getting married from home, you’ll be helping her to get dressed and ready – ensuring that her wedding hair style, wedding makeup, dress and veil are all just perfect.

On arrival at the church, you’ll be sat in the front seats, with a good view of the ceremony.

Once the ceremony finishes, you’ll expect to be present at the signing of the register where the first congratulations for the newly married couple can take place, not to mention photos.

At the wedding reception, you’ll be part of the receiving line for guests and then be seated at the top table.  You’ll have an opportunity to circulate and chat with those friends and family that you have invited, as well as enjoy listening to wedding speeches made by the father of the bride and the best man.

Wedding Etiquette for Guests

You may well find guests contacting you before the big day to ask what is the appropriate attire to wear.  On such a formal occasion, many guests are unsure of what’s the correct style of dress, and are happy if you can give them some simple pointers. 

Telling them the expected length (e.g. tea length dresses, knee length) as well as whether wedding hats are appropriate can be helpful in ensuring that they feel comfortable. Also, it’s helpful to restate the time of the ceremony and to advise them where to park – this can help them arrive in plenty of time without feeling flustered by arriving late. 

Why not offer a courtesy basket for wedding guests in the rest rooms – this is a thoughtful way of ensuring that your guests have everything they need during the actual day.

Providing wedding programs for the guests helps them follow the order of service, know who’s speaking and have the words for any songs or hymns.  If the reception venue is some distance away, giving directions, a map and a contact phone number can help to ensure that everyone can find their way safely and easily.

Do also make it clear where to place their gifts – there’s usually a table for wedding gifts to be placed at the reception, but it’s helpful if one of the ushers can help with this.

Thank Yous

There may be several people who have supported you in the lead up to the wedding day, so remember to send your thank you notes quickly.  Use informal stationery or notelets, but do hand write each one, making a personal comment on each.

Recommended Resources

Mother of the Groom Dresses – formal wear suits, outfits and gowns

Mother of the Bride Dresses – from stylish suits to elegant dresses, proper wedding etiquette demands proper dress



  1. What if the mother of the groom is a complete #%#@%? Is punching someone in the face considered good wedding etiquette (LOL!)?

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