Etiquette Series: Family Formalities
Let’s plan a wedding! The honest truth is that the engagement period is rarely an exclusive experience for couples planning their day. The situation may vary from couple to couple, but engagements generally draw the interests of family members that desire to contribute to the celebration and planning leading up to the wedding.
For many couples, the family of each individual will often meet for the first time, or more intentionally, around the time of the engagement. This means that it can be a weighty responsibility to foster and entertain pleasant interactions between the two families. Throw family wedding expectations and roles into the mix and you have several spinning plates.
To make your wedding planning experience easier, we want to clear the air by sharing a few etiquette guidelines to help you manage a smooth and fun wedding engagement with your two families:
Gathering the Families
After the engagement, it is customary for the groom’s family to initiate a gathering with the bride’s side. Although this has been the tradition, it is not necessary for his family to make the first move. The most important thing is not who initiates contact, but rather that the two families find an opportunity to come together to celebrate the couple’s future and the marriage that unites the two families.
Discuss the necessity of this gathering with your groom and decide how you would like to proceed with the matter (i.e. have him relay interest in a family gathering to his parents; plan a gathering for the families as the newly engaged couple; etc.). You know your families best, so make a decision based upon what would be most considerate of your loved ones!
Reserve a private dinner at your favorite restaurant. If your families do not live near one another then perhaps encourage some kind of gathering at a neutral location, like the city in which you currently reside with your fiancé or a relaxing place you all can visit on holiday (i.e. mountain cabins tucked away). Making a trip out of the gathering can allow for more bonding experiences.
Roles & Responsibilities
Mother of the Bride
The MOB, as we call her at Coordinated Events, typically has the most hands-on role with the wedding. She is the one that often accompanies the bride to see the venues and vendors, either alongside the groom or alone. The MOB is highly involved in multiple aspects of the process and she is there to help her daughter through many of the wedding details. It is important for the MOB to be mindful of the fact that this is her daughter’s wedding, so decisions should ultimately be made by the bride. On the wedding day, the MOB is typically escorted down the aisle and given special seating closest to the altar.
Mother of the Groom
Don’t be uninformed about the importance of the MOG’s role. She may not be picking the flowers for the wedding day, but she is a key figure in the process of forming the guest list for the invitations from the groom’s side. This inevitably means that she will play the role of hostess to some capacity on the wedding day when her family’s guests arrive. Allow her to feel like she has an active role in the wedding festivities. It may be a sweet gesture to invite her to your gown dressing appointments. Customarily, the MOG will also be hosting, along with the Father of the Groom, the rehearsal dinner.
Father of the Bride
On the wedding day, the FOB has many visible responsibilities. For one, he traditionally walks his daughter down the aisle to give her away. He also has the charge of giving a welcoming speech at the reception and twirling his newly married daughter on the dance floor.
Father of the Groom
Alongside the MOG, the FOG is responsible for hosting their family’s guests, and greeting and engaging with them. His opportunity to present to family and friends comes in the form of a brief toast at the rehearsal dinner and/or the wedding reception. Many grooms have chosen their father to be their best man, which also requires the FOG to give the best man’s speech at the reception.
In our experiences, siblings have helped the bride and groom in various roles throughout the planning stages. Oftentimes, siblings will serve as attendants to their sister or brother on the wedding day. They may also play a role in planning celebratory events leading up to the wedding. Many times, siblings stand in the wedding party at the receiving line of the ceremony. This is not a required role for siblings and each couple may decide who they would like to have stand next to them on their wedding day. Sometimes that means omitting a sibling from the wedding party. If this is a potentially confusing choice, make sure that you thoroughly explain your reasoning with care in a way in which your sibling(s) can be receptive and understand the heart behind your decision.
Grandparents are traditionally escorted down the aisle and seated before the ceremony processional. They are your guests of honor. However, at our recent November farm wedding, our bride and groom decided to incorporate their grandmothers into the ceremony by asking them to be the flower girls! This was unchartered waters for us, but it was a very sweet and unique way of involving other family members in the wedding party. And, we must say, it was incredibly well received!
The Wedding Budget
It’s a common misconception to believe that the parents of the bride hold full responsibility in paying for the wedding. That’s just not a realistic account of the unique relationships and expectations for every couple. Setting the budget, determining the financial contributors, and establishing their level of contribution should be reflective of the unique relationships as they correspond to each specific couple.
So don’t be constricted by traditional values and remember the heart of etiquette: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others” (Emily Post).
Some couples find themselves in more financially stable and independent life stages, and may choose to pay for the entire wedding themselves. Perhaps one side of the family or the other may choose to pay for the flowers or the rehearsal dinner. Remember that whoever pays and plans for an actual wedding event is typically considered the host and/or hostess.
If both sides of the family express a desire to contribute to the wedding expenses then a couple may choose to divide the financial responsibilities based upon their personal discernment of the interests, relationships, and circumstances. To make money matters stress-free, we recommend that communication between all parties be the utmost priority. Make sure that expectations are clear, including the amount of each contributor’s budget and for what it’s intended.
Emily Post reminds us also to: “Keep the discussion within your immediate family.” This can eliminate stress since more opinions can create too many unnecessary options.
Lastly, it is important to be considerate of family contributions, both in terms of money and ideas, but remember that this is your wedding. Be open to suggestions, but also let this be your day based around what you envision. You want to love what you choose since the photos and memories will remain with you for a lifetime. Remember to kindly express gratitude to those who have ideas that don’t match your interests and be open with them about choosing different details. Above all, enjoy this experience, cherish your relationships, and share in the excitement of this celebration.
Happy planning from Coordinated Events!