A Modern Guide To Wedding Etiquette

Essentially, don't make it all about you

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Weddings used to be exclusively for the preservation of stuffy tradition, the upholding of patriarchal values, for female virgins to be delivered to their new financial providers and so on and so forth.

Luckily for those of us who've moved on from the 18th century, the whole practice has opened up, allowing for modern brides to wear whatever length dress they fancy, for people to marry the partners they love regardless of gender, to write their own vows, to speak their minds on the top table and eat cheesecake on the dance floor until the sun rises, should they fancy it.

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But although times have most certainly changed, there are still a few big wedding no-nos to observe. They mostly revolve around trying to give the bride and groom their day and not making it all about you.

So while you might now feel more freedom to eat, drink and be merry, you probably still shouldn't wear a big white frock and talk at great length about yourself to anyone who'll listen.

For those still unsure of how to not make the day all about you in the age of modern weddings and social media, here are a few basic, but important guidelines.

1. Wearing white

White is actually not exclusively forbidden from weddings these days. Plenty of people wear off-white or a white-plus-colour pattern, but it's still polite to check with your bride if she has an opinion on it and to make sure that there is absolutely no way it will upstage her dress. She's still the star of the show, after all.

Jenna Lyons attending Solange's wedding in a white shirt and champagne feathered skirt

So, pair it with a block-coloured blazer or brightly hued accessories and heels. Oh, and don't wear a veil and tiara. Ever.

If you're off to a gay wedding, check in with one of the grooms about the theme of their suits. Are they going for a magnolia buttonhole? If so, don't copy it.

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If it's two women, check if both are wearing white, or if one of the pair is opting for a different shade. In which case, the same rule applies: try not to copy it.

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2. Be Nice To Everyone

This ought to go without saying, shouldn't it? But having been to a range of weddings where step-mothers/fathers and people having to come face-to-face with ex-partners have somehow managed to cause a scene, it bears repeating.

Weddings are supposed to be about love and celebration. Specifically the celebration of a particular couple's love. Nothing else should ever be the focus.

If you've been invited to a couple's wedding, it was likely with great consideration for their guest list and at great expense, so treat it as an honour and thank them with kindness and good behaviour.

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It's a day for putting aside your differences, for polite small talk or else steering clear of those with whom the conversation wouldn't go very well.

If you're not sat near the top table, don't take it as a personal offence, as they likely had an excruciating time organising their seating plan and couldn't possibly have pleased everyone. They might have chosen your seat on the basis that you could be relied upon to charm and delight more awkward guests, so choose always to see it that way.

Do anything to avoid jeopardising the joy of the two celebrating.

3. Save The Day

After you've put aside whatever differences you might have with people, there's also your opportunity be a quiet hero.

You might not have a problem with any of the guests, but there is bound to be someone with an issue. It can't hurt to figure out who this might apply to and be ready to step in with distraction techniques to help circumvent any drama.

For example, has the groom's father re-married a younger woman, leaving the groom's mum to attend without a date? Make a beeline for the mother, tell her how wonderful she looks, keep her occupied whenever she looks like she has no-one to talk to. Don't speak about the elephant in the room, you don't want to be the ones bitching in the corner, but distract with lovely things, like upcoming celebrations, ask positive questions. Everyone will thank you for this sort of behaviour.

3. Be Careful With Social Media

A new addition to the wedding tradition, for sure, but important to observe a couple of key rules.

If you are in the bridal party and you are spending the day getting ready with the bride and her bridesmaids, do not livestream the morning on Instagram or Facebook. She may yet want to keep her dress and make-up a secret from her groom, so if you've posted it before she walks up the aisle, you'll have spoilt that for her.

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Do take lots of pictures of the morning, as every moment is worth savouring, but then sift through and edit them down later. No-one wants to be the person who dumps ten thousand, slightly crooked versions of the same shot on social media. Use your cunning, be selective.

Post only the pictures where the bride and groom, brides, or grooms, look totally awesome. This is an extension of the 'it's not all about you' rule: even if you've snapped yourself looking damn fine, but the bride is picking spinach out of her teeth next to you, don't post it.

Seriously, don't.

4. The Gift List

Gift lists are a weird tradition these days. It used to be the case that the registry was to help provide for a couple who were moving in with each other for the first time after the nuptials. These days, it would be a bit mad if they hadn't already spent a while in the same house.

Many couples create a wedding list because they think they ought to, rather than because they really need another toaster to sit next to the one they likely already have. And honestly, no-one needs his and hers towels.

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If it's a honeymoon fund, then by all means contribute to it as they've probably blown all their hard earned cash on the wedding and could genuinely use your help. If it's just a list though, you can feel quite free to deviate from it, as long as you're respectful of the recipients.

Being respectful means not bringing something massive to a destination wedding which they won't have the suitcase space for. And not buying a giant blue vase that has no place in their modern, minimalist apartment just because you found it on sale.

Your best bet is to think of something thoughtful, but disposable. How about a bottle of wine that matures on their fifth wedding anniversary?

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5. Drink, But Not To Excess

Know your limits and just how many glasses of prosecco it takes to bring out your best, fun self, then don't overstep that mark.

A surefire way to make the day all about you is for the bride to have to hold your hair in the toilets or for the groomsmen to have to carry you out across the dance floor and pour you into a taxi.

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6. Get Involved And Do It With A Smile

Modern weddings can be full of surprises. They can break with tradition in a million different ways, but you can be sure that whatever happens, the couple will be conscious of people's enjoyment and nervous about the day being considered a success.

Surprises are fine, breaking with tradition should be par for the course at a personal-feeling event, so be open to new experiences and prepared to get stuck in. If they ask you to write a love note to somebody and stick it in a jar, do it. If you're meant to play a round of 'Guess Who' at the table, then play you shall. If it's a hog roast in place of a three-course meal, then loudly proclaim your love of a good barbey, instead of scoff at the lack of silver service.

Even if they bring out some mad magician to guess everyone's BMI, don't be a spoilsport or roll your eyes and gossip to the person next to you. Fake a smile and laugh along instead.

7. Attempt Not To Sleep With The Bride's Brother

Even if she's been trying to set you up with him for ages. It's still not the thing you want everyone to be talking about the next day. Not because having sex is a bad thing (there's no shame in your game), but more because the prattle of the gossip-thirsty would take away from the chatter about how brilliant a wedding it was.

If you've got the bride's permission to go for her bro, then take his number and slope off together a day or so later. After you've waxed lyrical about what a tremendous time you had.

8. Say Your Thank Yous

It might seem like we're asking a bit much of you, to have to smile like a fanatic all the way through the big day and then thank everyone profusely afterwards.

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But let's put it this way, even though in this day and age it might feel a bit self-congratulatory to have a big fancy commitment event for a couple who have likely already been together for years, weddings are still a thing and they'll probably continue to be a thing for a few years more.

So why not make it the very best, enjoyable thing that it can be?

Celebrate it for what it is, a day of love and happiness and joy where you spend a few hours making it not all about you, but about someone else.

And for a couple who have likely remortgaged their house and or borrowed large sums of money, thank them for including you in what was likely a very stressful, very expensive and very politically tricky thing to organise. Be mindful of the fact you might expect the same in return at some point.

Once their day is over and the thank yous have all been said, you can massage your aching cheeks, take a flattering selfie, post it regardless of who else is in the pic and move on with your life.

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