Modern Wedding Etiquette Guide

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An Updated Wedding Etiquette Guide

Photo by: Natalie Joy Mitchell Photography

Spring always means wedding season is in full swing! And with new trends brings new questions about what to expect as a guest or a couple planning. So whether you’re attending or throwing the party, below is an updated wedding etiquette guide to help answer some of the most common questions I hear.

Kids or No Kids?

Photo by: Kari Tello Photo

You know we had to cover this one! First off, your guest list all depends on your personal preference. I’m a huge believer that this day is about you and your partner, and you shouldn’t feel pressured either way. However, especially with rising costs, it’s understandable why some couples are choosing to say “adults only”. My biggest suggestion is whatever you decide, make sure to be very clear on your invitations. Consider reaching out to the guests with children and let them know about your decision so there is no confusion. 

If you do plan to have kids attending, I highly recommend bringing on a babysitting vendor. They’ll keep kids entertained and safe so the adults can get a break and celebrate worry-free. Also, ask your venue about securing a place for guests who may need to pump or breastfeed. Somewhere such as the wedding suite, if available, could be a great spot for to get some quiet.

Choosing A Weekday Wedding

Photo by: The Shalom Imaginative

If you’re looking for ways to make your wedding budget work for you, opt for a weekday wedding. This is also a great option if your must-have venue is completely booked on the weekends. With more and more intimate and micro-weddings still going strong, a weekday wedding has become a new normal. However, if you do plan to have a weekday wedding, send your save the date cards early. Your guests will need additional time to plan for work, travel, and possible childcare (see above). 

Providing transportation

Photo by: Brogen Jessup

While not required, providing a way for your guests to get to and from your wedding is always appreciated. Or at the very least, a valet or shuttle option, especially if your venue is notorious for parking issues. There are so many ways to accommodate transportation, and no one will be upset about a safe ride. Your wedding website is the perfect place to have this information handy for guests!

Wedding Gifts (and how much?)

Photo by: The Justin Jay

Wedding registries may have changed but are still going strong for couples getting married. It’s not as common to bring gifts to the wedding (as most gifts are generally shipped directly to the couple). However, a card box at the very least is still a prominent feature for welcome tables. If you’re unsure of how much to gift a new couple, it’s completely up to your own budget. If you’re looking for alternatives, check out this unique wedding registry guide for ideas that are fitting for a modern couple. 

Wedding Attire

Photo by: Weddings by Mika

I’m all for the non-traditional, but unless specifically told to do so by the couple, never wear white to a wedding. Additionally, anything similar to jeans or graphics t-shirts…just say no. If “casual” is the dress code, there are a ton of options available that are comfortable yet appropriate for the occasion. Outside of that, simply wear something that makes you feel confident (bonus points if you can add layers for dips in temperature). From cocktail attire, black tie to the very formal white tie, wedding dress codes should be noted on the invitation, or ask the couple for clarification. If you’re still unsure of what each option means, check out this post about how to decipher the wedding dress code

What To Provide At The Bar

Photo by: Hey Babe Photography

When thinking about what to serve at your bar, first check with the venue for options. They may have packages you can choose from, generally either a full bar or signature bar. For a full bar, it runs the gamut of all types of alcohol and mixers, generally designated by tiers of alcohol quality. A signature bar is one where there are two, maybe three (or more) specialty cocktails provided, then other more common drinks such as beer and wine. These can be more cost-effective for a couple, or a beer/wine only bar is also an option. Cash bars are becoming less common and in my opinion not a classy take however, if you’re planning one, please be sure to add that information someplace such as the wedding website so guests can plan accordingly. 

When/If To Give A Plus One

Photo by: The Justin Jay

Another guest list conundrum is whether or not a guest can bring a plus one. While another personal choice, the decision can be reached easier by looking at your budget. If you give everyone a plus one (and assume they’ll bring someone), what does your catering and venue budget look like? If you and your partner determine a plus one isn’t possible for all guests, be sure to clarify on the invite if a plus one is included. Utilizing the RSVP option on your wedding website will confirm for guests if only their name is listed. If you’re a guest attending and unsure, discuss it directly with the couple before assuming. Never just bring a date to a wedding without confirming their attendance with the couple.

Guest Arrival

Photo by: E.P Love Photography

A frequently asked wedding etiquette question by my clients is, “what start time should we put on the invitations?” You may be tempted to put an early time to prevent late arrivals. However, that tends to confuse guests and gives too much time to keep guests waiting. Therefore I always recommend the printed invite time is typically when the ceremony starts. I suggest putting on your website when the doors open and when the ceremony begins to be more clear. If there are any guests who are late to the ceremony, your wedding planning team can help them find their seats at an appropriate time so as not to distract from the ceremony. Additionally, if you’re a guest who is running late, don’t panic. Make your way to the venue as quickly and safely as you can, and upon arrival, ask someone on staff to help you get seated/find a view. But please, unless you’re a member of the wedding party, DO NOT contact the couple with an eta.

I hope these wedding etiquette rules can help you navigate this wedding season! For even more wedding etiquette tips, check out this blog post. And as always, if you’re in the midst of planning your wedding and looking to turn it into an epic party, contact us on our homepage and let’s chat! 

Feathered Arrow Signature Kari Dirksen


Expert Party Planner, Podcaster, and Creative Entrepreneur.

I'm a creative entrepreneur at heart and have been running my business for over 10 years and have planned and executed over 150+ weddings. I'm an expert in this industry and care deeply about my clients and making sure they have the best experience. I just launched a podcast with my work wife, Gabby Pinkerton of Cause We Can Events, called Just Another Biz Podcast! Go check it out!

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