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Didi’s Manners: Wedding Etiquette Update 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Hottest wedding planning etiquette topics as the wedding season approaches are about dress code etiquette for a four or five o'clock wedding. And whether or not to please wedding guests with menu options?

What about wedding menu options

Q.  The wedding invitations and response cards are printed and ready to go. My Mom has decided to offer an entree choice to our guests. Is it proper etiquette to handwrite the selections on the back of the response card? In need of a quick response as invitations are ready to mail.  Grace, Tucson, AZ
A.  Personally, I wouldn’t offer a choice. Caterers these days are incredibly savvy about preparing enough alternatives ahead of time to please every guest.

In other words, if you’re serving one main entree and the guest doesn’t eat red meat (if it is red meat, or fish, if it is fish) then the guest asks the waiter if there is another choice. Which is usually a chicken or vegan/vegetarian entree. Don't get caught up in eating idiosyncrasies. You'll never please everyone.

Yes, you can neatly handwrite the choices on the back of the response cards, if that’s the way you want to go. Truthfully, I think it is far more elegant to surprise your guests. Who the heck knows what they’ll feel like eating in two months?

If you do handwrite the choices, make sure you use the same color ink that was used in the printing of the invitation.

In my opinion, stick with elegance and dignity on a wedding invitation. Those guests with food allergies know to snack ahead of time and eat what works for them when they socialize.

By the way, if you choose not to handwrite the choices, you can always list the options on the wedding couple's website and have guests reply directly to it with their entree choice. That way you can go with one entree and find out by the cut-off date exactly how many of your guests would rather have the vegan entree.

How to coordinate the wedding outfits for 'the mothers'

Q. How do we coordinate the wedding dress code for the mothers and grandmothers?

My daughter is getting married in December and it will be at 4:00 pm. Should the mothers of the bride and groom wear short or long dresses and does the grandmother of the bride also wear the same length as they do?  Kandee, Arkansas

A.  The mother-of-the-bride sets the wedding dress code for the mothers based on the dress code set by the bride and groom.

The time of day and venue of the wedding is also a factor. The earlier in the day the wedding, the less dressier the dress code.

A four o’clock wedding probably isn’t Black Tie or Formal Attire. It is Suits and Dresses. Meaning Cocktail Attire:  Business suits and knee-length cocktail dresses.

A four o’clock wedding would be cocktail attire for the guests even if the bridal party is wearing tuxedos and long dresses. Which leaves the mothers and fathers of the wedding couple deciding and agreeing on how dressy their attire will be for the wedding.

In my opinion, the mothers and fathers of the bride and groom should wear cocktail attire for a four o’clock wedding.

The grandparents would follow their lead. If you, the mother-of-the-bride, are wearing a knee-length dress, then the grandmother of the bride would wear a cocktail dress or a dinner suit.

Also, called a evening suit, it is cocktail length — the length for a grandmother is just below her knees — and is made of a lightweight fabric, such as a thick silk (or silk and wool blend in winter) and it is decorated with pretty buttons and/or piping.

A sheath with a coordinating jacket would also be lovely. The reason for the jacket is to cover your arms in December. Most grandmothers seem to prefer to have their arms covered and a dressy jacket does the trick.

Think about the wedding photos because they’ll be around long after the wedding.

After choosing an elegant and dignified style, consider color. Personally I love the look directly above of the bride in white and the mother and grandmother in white and black.

The grandmother should wear a color that compliments your dress in the same tone. For instance, if you’re wearing cobalt blue, she would wear navy blue. The older women wear outfits close in color that fall just below the knees.

What's the dress length for a 4:00 PM wedding?

Q.  Does the mother of the bride wear a long dress for a 4 pm wedding?  Trish, Providence

A.  In my opinion, it is the mother-of-the-bride who sets the dress code for 'the mothers.' 'The mothers' meaning: the-mother-of-the-bride, mother-of-the-groom, aunts, grandmothers, godmothers and stepmothers. Part or her role is to work with the wedding couple to pin down a dress code. The groom's mother would then wear a similar outfit. Similar in color tone, style and length.

Remember that even when the bridal party is wearing tuxes and long dresses, it doesn't mean that the family and guests wear formal attire as well.

For a four o'clock wedding the dress code is 'Suits & Dresses,' meaning cocktail attire. The later in the day, the dressier the wedding. The earlier in the day, the less formal the attire.

What's the guest dress length for a 5:00 PM wedding?

Q.  My niece is getting married in LA. on Dec. 3, 2016. Wedding starts at 5:00pm and goes until midnight. Groomsmen and fathers are wearing tuxs. Color theme is white, black and gold. As a guest, should I wear a long dress or short cocktail dress, or is either appropriate?   –Ro, Florida

A.  The wedding etiquette dress code for a five o’clock wedding is on the edge of long or short dress, evening gown or cocktail dress. Look at the invitation, which should arrive at least a month before the wedding, for the dress code.

If you can’t wait that long, try to find the wedding couple’s wedding website by going to such sites as theknot.com. If the couple have decided on the dress code, it might be listed already on their website.

The thing about weddings is that between now and September (when the wedding invitations will be ordered) the dress code could change, which is why we suggest that you chat up the family to find out what guests are wearing. These days, even when the bridal party is wearing tuxedos and long dresses, the dress codes for the guests may not be as dressy.

If the wedding invitation doesn’t state Black Tie or Formal Attire, you would, as the bride's aunt, wear an elegant and dignified cocktail dress that falls to, or just below, your knees, whichever you prefer.

Add beautiful shoes and carry a small chic evening bag. You can’t go wrong with a well-made gorgeous cocktail dress. If the invitation ends up stating Black Tie, you can bump it up a notch with jewelry — even faux pearls.

Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at NewportManners. Your answer can be anonymous or personal.


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