Okay, so you are officially engaged and planning your wedding – that is great! As you peruse the shelves of your local bookstore, you will notice many volumes that address wedding etiquette. You may wonder who actually reads them, and if etiquette is really relevant to the modern bride and groom. The answer is: Yes!
The first thing to put to bed is the notification that the goal of etiquette is to dictate that fork to use, or that that is about catching other people using the "wrong" fork. Although you will certainly find a section in most etiquette books about how to set a table, that is not the goal of etiquette at all. The main purpose of etiquette is to help a person move through social interactions with a level of comfort. The corollary to that is that one of the main points of good manners is that you also are concerned with making those around you feel comfortable as well.
The other thing that etiquette does is give you a framework for how to do things, especially when it comes to special occasions like weddings. No, there is no law that you have to follow the dictates of etiquette, but if you choose not to, that means that you will have to re-invent the wheel for your wedding. In other words, instead of following tradition for your ceremony and reception, you will have to come up with a plan for every aspect of the day, from the order in which the bridal party walks down the aisle to the vows to the order in which The reception takes place. Who has time to put all of that energy into creating a new plan, when you can look up a perfectly fine one in any wedding etiquette book?
What many couples choose to do is use the basic principles of wedding etiquette, while still putting their own unique touches on their event. One of the most common examples of this is when the bride and groom write their own vows. They can still hold the ceremony in the usual order, but at the same time personalize it to make it their own.
Sometimes couples will try to say that etiquette is old-fashioned and unimportant when what they are really trying to do is get out of certain tasks. This happens a lot when it comes to the thank you notes for wedding gifts. As long as giving gifts is still in style, then so are thank you notes (notice that I said notes, not emails!). Do you really believe that your mother-in-law does not care if you thank her for getting you the custom bridal jewelry that you had your eye on? When someone gives you a gift for your wedding, whether it is something very special like custom bridal jewelry or more mundane like a set of placemats, they will still appreciate it if you take five minutes to drop them a line of thanks.
Wedding etiquette can also be a useful tool to resolve family disputes in a neutral way. Let's say that the bride's step-mother has decided to wear an ivory floor length dress to her wedding. The bride may be afraid of being upstaged, and yet she is unsure about how to bring up the subject with her step-mother without causing a big argument. Instead of getting into a battle, the bride can simply put the blame on etiquette: "Oh, I would not mind if you wore an ivory dress to my wedding, but etiquette says that it simply is not done!".
Now that you know all that etiquette can do to make your wedding run more smoothly, why would not you want to let it be your guide to wedding planning? It will make your life easier and your wedding more gracious. What bride would not love that?