7 New Etiquette Rules for Modern Weddings

Emily Post literally wrote the book on etiquette in 1922, and her guide, Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home, details the makings of an ideal wedding. A 1937 Post profile of the New York author (“Dear Mrs. Post”) described the various etiquette inquiries she received in the mail: “‘My intended has a lovely voice,’ wrote one, ‘Would it be alright for him to sing at our wedding, and if so, when and what?'”

Eighty years later, the “intended” might be more inclined to stage an elaborate song-and-dance proposal that will go viral on YouTube. The modern wedding is quite an affair.

The Knot’s Ivy Jacobson had some advice for adapting to new wedding norms, from social media manners to gift-giving.

Enjoy the Engagement Party 

The gathering to announce an engagement is an old custom that has evolved from ancient Greece to Victorian England to modern times. You can likely expect cocktails and barbecue moreso than a discussion of the groom’s dowry these days. Jacobson said gifts are welcome — but not necessary — for this occasion.

Bring Cash

“Wedding registries aren’t going anywhere,” said Jacobson, “However, a lot of couples now live together before they are married, and they don’t necessarily need a new blender or a set of china.” Many are now creating “cash registries” that designate a honeymoon, down payment, or other such expense that monetary gifts will pay for. Giving cold, hard cash is totally acceptable — and more practical than a seventh salad spinner.

Stow the Phone

No one wants professional wedding photographs of a sea of smartphones — and certainly not tablets. The “unplugged ceremony” is the answer to this conundrum, and it’s getting more popular, according to Jacobson. At an unplugged wedding, guests will be asked to leave their phones in their purses or pockets for the duration of the ceremony. Shock and bewilderment can occur with the most diehard phone addicts, but the goal is for everyone to enjoy the special day without screens.

This rule is usually out the window for the reception, however, where guests are typically encouraged to engage on social media using a contrived pun of a hashtag designated by the wedding party. This makes it so the wedded pair can view the posts and pictures of their special day in one place.

R.S.V.P. on Time for a Destination Wedding

If the stress of a lifelong commitment isn’t enough, why shouldn’t the betrothed combine it with international travel? A destination wedding offers the appeal of a ceremony in paradise as well as a vacation with your in-laws. Clearly, there is much to be considered before deciding to get hitched in Hawai’i, but who wouldn’t want to say “I do” on an island? Jacobson said save the date announcements will be sent out about eight months in advance for a destination wedding or sooner if the location is out of the country. While your R.S.V.P. should always be timely, it is paramount to give prompt notice for a destination wedding.

Same-Sex Weddings Call for … the Exact Same Etiquette

Since the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling, same-sex couples have enjoyed legal marriage all over the country. Of course, attending a gay or lesbian wedding might require extra mindfulness from guests who are unaccustomed, but Jacobson said, “the couple has invited you because they know you love and support them.” Besides a few twists, the ceremony will be indistinguishable from any other wedding. If it’s a wedding between two men, you might even get to wear that white dress you love.

Tip Your Bartender

One unwavering rule of wedding receptions seems to be the presence of an open bar. Even in 1922 “a fashionable wedding without plenty of [Champagne] was unheard of,” according to Emily Post’s book. “We always stress the importance of an open bar,” Jacobson said. The tip isn’t always built into the cost, though. If you see a tip jar, make sure to fill it up while you’re slinging back free Merlot. It might even help your vodka to cranberry ratio.

Adults-Only Means Adults-Only

It may seem cold to ask guests to leave their little ones at home, but an adult-only wedding can be practical. A child could cost as much as an adult in a wedding head count. If most of the couple’s friends and family have children it could virtually double the guest list. Jacobson said, “It’s totally acceptable etiquette to have an adult-only wedding as long as people know ahead of time.” The couple is likely facing some backlash for their decision, so you should respect their wishes and enjoy an evening without the kids.