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Modern Wedding Etiquette

Emily Shaw - Franke & Co.

Modern Wedding Etiquette, by Emily Shaw – Franke & Co.


Navigating wedding etiquette can sometimes feel overwhelming. There seems to be a never-ending list of dos and don’ts and lots of grey areas in between. Steeped in ceremony and tradition, how you go about organising your day is often influenced by your religion, culture and family beliefs. Luckily, modern couples have the freedom to pick and choose how much tradition they incorporate into their big day, with plenty of scope to do things their own way.


To avoid awkward situations, be sure to include clear instructions on your invitation regarding dress code and who is invited to attend. Follow one of these time-honoured templates if you’re not sure where to start. You can also search online for popular invitation wording.

If your parents are hosting:

<Bride’s Parents Name>
and <Groom’s Parents Name>
request the pleasure of your company
at the marriage of
<Bride’s Name>
to <Groom’s Name>
Reception to follow

If you’re hosting:

<Bride’s Name>
<Groom’s Name>
request the pleasure of your company
to celebrate their marriage
Reception to follow

Your guests will be looking to the invitation to help them pick an appropriate outfit for the event. Visit for an explanation of popular dress codes, and how to phrase them. Be sure to pick something that will suit the theme of your wedding, location and season so you’re guests are comfortable.

It’s perfectly okay not to include children in your wedding guest list, however do keep in mind that you may need to make an exception for mums with newborns. Whether you choose to have a completely child-free event, or just an adult-only reception, be sure to include a polite note in your invitation to get the message across. Some ideas include:

  • Adult only occasion
  • Children are welcome to attend the ceremony, however the reception is an adult-only affair.
  • To allow all guests to enjoy a relaxing evening, we kindly ask that our wedding is a child-free event.

Gifts can also be a source of angst for many couples who consider it rude to specify their preferences. However with couples marrying later in life and already having their home’s set-up, it’s perfectly okay to make it easier for your guests by expressing your gift preferences within the invitation. Many couples opt for a wishing well arrangement, and guests are asked to give a cash gift towards a nominated cause such as the couple’s home or honeymoon. You could also consider a setting up a gift registry so you can personally select a range of gifts for your guests to choose from. Just be sure to include enough mid-range cost options so there are plenty of options. Wishing wells and gift registries are particularly helpful if you’re having a destination wedding, so you and your guests don’t have to worry about transporting bulky and sometimes fragile presents.

If your ceremony or reception location is off the beaten track, it’s courteous to include a map or directions. For destination weddings it’s a good idea to include a list of local accommodation, transport, hair and beauty options. Generally you should send your wedding invitations no later than three months prior to the wedding. It is advisable to give more notice for destination weddings so guests can apply for leave and make travel plans.

The Ceremony
Most couples will choose attendants (aka bridesmaids and groomsmen) but it’s OK if you don’t! Many find it too hard to choose, and opt to forgo the formalities. If you do decide to include attendants the following guidelines will help you plan ahead and delegate duties.

At the alter the bride and bridesmaids stand to the left, and the groom and groomsmen to the right. The best man stands next to the groom, usually bearing the wedding rings unless you are having a page boy. The bridesmaids walk down the aisle first, followed by the maid of honour, and finally the bride. The maid of honour organises the bridal shower and/or hen’s celebration. On the day, she assists the bride with dressing and keeps track of the bride’s purse and other personal items. The best man organises the stag or buck’s celebration. Often, he makes the first speech and toast to the newlyweds and reads messages from any guests who can’t attend the reception.  At the ceremony the maid of honour and best man sign the marriage certificate as witnesses.

Giving away the bride is usually a task designated to the bride’s father, and she takes his left arm to walk down the aisle. These days you can choose freely. Some brides elect to have both their parents give them away. If you have a step dad as well, you may choose to have both father figures involved. Whoever you choose, it’s going to be a special moment and one that should definitely be on your photographer’s shot list.

At the ceremony, traditionally friends and family of the bride will sit on the left hand side of the aisle with the groom’s on the right, however in modern times, anything goes, especially if you have lots of mutual friends. Many guests will prefer to stand at the ceremony, but ensure you have enough seating for older guests and those who need to sit. Arranging some shade and water for guests will be appreciated, especially in the warmer months.

The Reception
Now it’s time to party! Traditionally, guests will be ushered to their seats before the bridal party arrive. When it’s time for the bridal party to enter, the MC will ask guests to stand and announce their names as they walk into the reception. Generally the bridal party enter in pairs (with the lady taking the left arm of the gentleman), followed by the best man and the maid of honour, and finally the bride and groom. The bridal party and guests remain standing until the bride and groom are seated, and then all guests take their seats. The MC will welcome the bridal party and guests, share some anecdotes and mention any “housekeeping” before the meals are served.

Customarily, after the main is served and cleared, it’s time for the cake cutting. The bride takes hold of the cake knife, and the groom places his hand over hers before cutting the cake and stealing a kiss. Remember to hold still so your guests can take photos! Traditionally the cake would be cut and served by the bride and her family, however many venues now offer this service.

Some couples choose to keep the top tier of their cake to eat on their first wedding anniversary or christening of their first child. However these days many forgo a tiered cake all together, and opt for individual cup cakes or a dessert buffet. If you do plan to keep your top tier, ensure you arrange a suitably-sized airtight container, so it can be put away promptly after the reception. If you like the idea of a multi-storey cake but are worried about the price tag, talk to your cake maker about incorporating a false tier (usually made of styrofoam) to get the look for less.

The tradition of the wedding toast dates back to medieval times, when the sound of clinking glasses was thought to ward off evil spirits. Nowadays it’s a chance for guests to reminisce and congratulate the happy couple. Depending on what you read, the best man delivers the first speech and toast, followed by parents and finally the groom. Others consider the appropriate format to start with a toast by the bride’s father, followed by the groom’s speech and toast to the bridesmaids, and finally the best man’s speech. Personally, I like the idea of the groom and bride making a speech together. Whichever way you go, be sure to give the nominated speakers plenty of notice to adequately prepare, and consider which (if any) stories you don’t want repeated…

Now, who doesn’t like to throw something from time to time? Some wedding traditions like the bouquet and garter toss are more fun than ceremonial, usually taking place later in the reception. Aspiring brides-to-be rally for their chance to catch the bouquet, and bachelors try their luck at catching the garter which is skilfully plucked from the bride by groom before being tossed. Whoever catches the bouquet or garter is said to be the next to marry. Both are a fun and very entertaining way to end the night’s festivities.

So there you have it, we hope you’ve uncovered some simple ways to incorporate modern wedding etiquette into your big day, as well as some inspiration to unleash your inner rebel and make the day truly yours.
Wishing you happy planning,

Founder & Director, Franke & Co.

Miranda & Luke’s Wedding at The Old Station, Raglan

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How did you both meet? Tell us your love story.
We met 6 years ago through mutual friends – we dated for 3 years before I headed overseas for 12 months to work as an au pair while Luke and his mate travelled around Australia. We always said that if we were meant to be together it would work. It did, and only 10 months after we returned to Rockhampton we were engaged!

Tell us all about the proposal!
We went to Five Rocks and he wrote ‘Will you marry me?’ in the sand and got down on one knee with the ring.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress.
I got it from The Babushka Ballerina (Brisbane), it was between 2 dresses, lace with capped sleeves or heavy silk and strapless. The Anna Campbell dress suited my personality ideally. I even got to meet Anna at her trunk show, it was great to meet the designer of my wedding dress!

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in planning your wedding?
Nothing, everything we went through in planning our wedding was never a negative feeling. However, thanks to the internet, creation was much easier!

Your favourite detail of the wedding was:
Our reception venue has accommodation so being able to stay the night with friends and family was extra special. The next morning was Easter Sunday, the venue cooked up an amazing breakfast and we got to give away the flowers to guest and venue staff.

How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding?

If you feel comfortable sharing what budget did your wedding fall into:
Not all costs ended up getting documented but between $17000-$19000

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line?
We said some sample vows from our celebrant and a verse of our own vows that each had little jokes. Luke got emotional and truly showed that his vows were coming from his heart.

What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony?
We wanted to keep the ceremony simple and quick so had no readings. This allowed us more time to spend with family and friends once the ceremony was finished.

What advice do you have for couples currently planning a wedding?
Be with your new husband/wife. At our engagement party we were too busy talking to our guests that we hardly spoke to each other. That’s why we decided on only one bridesmaid and groomsmen. We sat by ourselves at the bridal table and were able to concentrate on mostly couple photos during the afternoon. We also saved on money by doing this.

Who were your suppliers?
Bride: Anna Campbell Isobelle gown | Bridesmaid: White Runway | Groom and Groomsmen: Y.D and Tarocash | Page Boys and Flower Girl: Tina Barton designs | Prep Gowns: Silkandmore Etsy | Location: The Old Station Raglan | Celebrant: Ceremonies for Momentous Occasions | Florist: Simplicity Market Fresh Flowers | Cake Supplier: All That Cake | Photographer: Amor Photography | Wedding Video: DejaVu Photo and Film | Hair and Makeup: Celeste Hair & Beauty | Band: Piper Down.

Luke’s Aunty Maureen who owns her own florist in Perth came over and helped out with decorations for the reception. We had flowers delivered to home from the Brisbane flower market, Luke’s family put in 110% to prepare the table settings, cake topper and throw away bouquet. Suppliers who were involved in our wedding and mentioned above were the most amazing people, from making the time to meet with us, helping us with decisions and understanding our vision.