Wedding Guru: Modern Wedding Etiquette

Modern Wedding Etiquette

Wedding planner Katrina Otter, shares her rules on modern wedding etiquette 


Planning a wedding can at times be complex and confusing, especially now that couples have the freedom to plan whatever style of day they’d like!

In recent years, one of the most complex topics relating to weddings is that of etiquette and traditions, which is what I’m attempting to tackle here today.    

Now I know that the mere mention of the word ‘etiquette’ can conjure up visions of formal gatherings, receiving lines, unspoken rules and an added layer of stress however, before you stop reading you can breathe a sigh of relief because I’m here to tell you that modern wedding etiquette can actually makes things easier and way more relaxed.  So, whether you’re planning or attending a wedding, here’s all you need to know about modern-day dos and don’ts.


Roles and Responsibilities

It’s always great to have some support around you, especially on your wedding day and that’s why your wedding party is so utterly invaluable.  However, the modern wedding party can include whomever you like and they can do whatever you need them to do.  For example, I was ‘Best Man’ at my Brother’s wedding, I’ve worked at weddings where the Bride’s Best Friend has given a speech, where the Mother and Father of the Bride have both escorted their daughter up the aisle and where female Ushers welcomed guests into the ceremony.  In 2017, say goodbye to old role etiquette and simply choose the best person for the job.

The First Look

The age-old tradition of the Bride and Groom not seeing each other ahead of their ceremony is starting to be overshadowed by the rise in popularity of ‘The First Look’.  This gives couples the chance to meet, in private, before they take their vows and share this very special moment together before jointly making their way to their ceremony.  It’s absolutely brilliant for calming nerves and it allows the couple a moment of togetherness before their public declarations.  If you’re not convinced about the beauty of ‘The First Look’, a quick online search for images should do the trick!

The Ceremony

In 2017 the days of strict ceremony seating ‘sides’ are officially gone.  I’m happy to say that weddings now are much friendlier and, as most couples share friends, much more practical! The phrase ‘choose a seat, not a side’, is often used and this mixing up of guests makes the rest of the wedding day so much more relaxed.  I’ve already touched on the fact that anyone can walk the Bride up the aisle (or she can absolutely walk on her own if she prefers) and, by the same token, anyone can be invited to give a reading or get involved in some other way. Whilst the legalities of the ceremony must be completed, there’s much more flexibility now and you’re able to personalise the occasion in ways to suit. 


Guests and Invitations

If only modern weddings had found a way to keep everyone happy when it comes to the guest list!  That said, couples are now taking control of their guest lists like never before and it’s great to see an increasing number of lists full of people that the couple can’t do without rather than names that have been included through a sense of obligation. It’s also perfectly acceptable to request no children or ‘plus ones’ however, as a word of caution and to avoid any tension, if you’re applying these modern rules then just make sure that you treat everyone equally!

The Receiving Line

In a nutshell, the traditional receiving line is no longer essential or integral. In fact, it’s far more personal to find time to speak to guests individually throughout the day rather than having them pass you by in a moment of forced conversation.

Dining, Seating and Dancing

As with everything else, the wedding breakfast has undergone a radical makeover of late. Buffets or three course sit-down meals are still great options but food trucks, live food stalls and sharing banquets (to name but a few) have now been added to the mix. We could also talk about doughnut walls, ice cream stations and super creative canapés!  In short, if you’re a bit of a foodie or if you’d like something a bit different, the possibilities are endless.

Wedding drinks have also been upgraded – bespoke cocktails, craft beers, locally produced tipples and tables where you can ‘pimp your prosecco’ all add an element of interactive fun to the day.

Seating during your dinner can be different too and I’ve seen plenty of weddings that haven’t had a traditional top table. Instead, you can sit with your Bridesmaids and Groomsmen or on a ‘sweetheart’ table for two. 

Finally, dancing. Don’t feel obliged to have a formal first dance if you really don’t want one and if you want to mix things up, how about a secretly choreographed routine or group first dance?


I’ve saved this thorny topic until last because, in some ways, it’s the simplest. Gone are the expectations that the Bride’s family will shoulder all of the monetary burden and now, most weddings are at least partly financed by the couple themselves. You know your own financial situation, you know what’s affordable so frankly, whatever you ‘should’ do can never be as important as what you ‘can’ do.  As long as you know what your budget it, it’s really nothing to do with anyone else.

To summarise, if you’re planning a wedding then take the traditional elements that appeal, ditch those that don’t and forge your own new traditions to suit. Weddings are no longer a ‘one size fits all’ occasion and we should have the confidence to create our own brilliantly personal, utterly individual weddings.

Katrina Otter is a Cambridgeshire based wedding planner and event organiser with over 10 years experience. 

Read more wedding advice from Katrina here 

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