Wedding Etiquette

A Quick Guide To Royal Wedding Etiquette

Royal weddings come with their own set of rules—some of them are the same as any other formal wedding but some are exclusive.

The upcoming Royal Wedding will bring together Royals, high society and members of the general public. yet all attendees will be expected to follow Royal protocol and British etiquette. Guests will be on their best behaviour for the social event of the year that will be broadcast worldwide and by now all guests will have received their official Royal Etiquette Guidebook prepared especially for them (guests at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding received a 22-page guide).

Here are a few of the Royal expectations that the lucky guests will have to prepare themselves for. 

Greetings – “How do you do”. This is actually a rhetorical question, the person asking this does not expect a detailed explanation of your health or anything else, a simple response of “How do you do” will suffice. This is not a greeting used on a daily basis throughout the UK, but it is uniquely British and is used among certain circles as a form of politeness at formal events.

Curtsy – Not something that many of us do on a daily basis, so some guests may need advice on whether or not to curtsy, and how to do it correctly. Knowing that the monarch will be present can be unnerving for any guest but really it shouldn’t present any problem. Protocol dictates that you shouldn't approach the Queen or ask her any questions, but her presence should be acknowledged. Gentleman are supposed to offer a brief bow; ladies are expected to curtsy …easy! (FYI Americans guest would not be expected to bow or curtsy to the Queen but may choose to do so out of respect).

Dining Etiquette – Guests will have a traditional wedding feast at Windsor Castle and will need to know how to navigate the formal place setting. Then they will need to decide whether to use the British method of eating (fork held with tines down and hands below the table when not in use) or the European method (fork held with tines down and hands above the table when not in use). Both styles will be accepted ways to eat but American style of eating (also known as the zig-zag method) may not be deemed appropriate.  Should tea or after dinner coffee be served, guests should avoid sticking out the pinkie (last finger) as this is actually considered a faux pas. There are too many other dining etiquette quirks to mention. :)

Dress Code –  The invitation (always to be adhered to, it is not just a suggestion) stated the dress code as: "Military uniforms, morning coats or lounge suits" for men and for women, “Day dress with hat.” The gentlemen have it somewhat easier and it’s a great opportunity for those with medals to display them with pride. The ladies on the other hand have more elements to consider! 

  • Day dress with hat also means: respectful attire, including reasonable hemlines, shoulders covered, no plain black outfits, no plain white outfits, open toed shoes or wedges are not ideal as not formal enough and no showing of the cleavage. Guests should take care to dress modestly, befitting to a Church of England setting with the Queen in presence, who also happens to be the Head of the church. 
  • As for the hats: there is no rule that hats MUST be worn but if you don’t wear a hat to a formal British wedding you risk being heavily criticized, as was the Former Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron at the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William in 2011. The British public were outraged at the lack of this important accessory. For those who aren’t too keen on hats, a Fascinator will do. 
  • Handbags – no need to state the obvious here as no woman I know would turn up at a wedding with anything other than a small clutch or shoulder bag.

Cell phones/Mobile phones – it’s more than likely that phones will not be allowed inside during the ceremony, avoiding the risk of selfies! Guests will at least be respectfully asked to switch them off. This is becoming quite a common request at many weddings nowadays, it’s considered bad etiquette to post photographs before the bride and groom release their own.

British Royal weddings typically adhere to traditions, with each Royal couple bringing their own twist. Let’s see what twist Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will bring!! 

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

Wedding Gift Etiquette

We are now full swing into the wedding season and many of us are attending several weddings over the course of the summer. Sometimes the rules and expectations of gift giving are not clear cut and we can be left wondering what are some of the do's and don'ts.

Here are few of the most common questions that people frequently ask me at this time of year…

Do I have to give a gift?
Well you wouldn’t attend a birthday party empty handed so yes, you would be expected to give a gift when attending a wedding. Nowadays most couples opt for a gift registry with a store where you can select something you know the couple will like.

How much should I spend?
There is no right amount. How much you spend is strictly a matter of your budget, and how close you are to the couple. I never agree with the amounts that are written in magazines that people are expected to spend on gifts. Everyone has different incomes and therefore different budgets, and it’s unreasonable to think that everyone can afford the same. A good rule of thumb is the closer the relationship the higher the budget.

The couple asked for money and I would rather give a gift, can I ignore their request?
Nowadays many couples have been living together before the wedding and have accumulated many of the items that you would expect to see on a wedding registry. I would strongly recommend following the wishes of the couple, after all it should be about what they want.

Do I have to buy a gift from the registry?
The couple has created the registry to make the process easier for everyone. Do you really have to use it? No, it’s not set in stone but highly recommended that you do! The tradition of a wedding registry originally started because there would be distant family members invited to a wedding who didn't know the couple closely and needed some guidance. If you know the couple well then feel free to choose something different, perhaps using the registry as a guide to be sure of what they like, and don’t forget to include a gift receipt just in case. Otherwise, err on the side of caution and stick to the list.

When should I give the gift?
Ideally, not at the wedding! This is the most inconvenient time. According to older etiquette books, it was acceptable to give a wedding gift up to 12 months after the wedding! Nowadays most couples expect to have received their gifts long before their first anniversary! With so many brides having wedding websites and gift registries, there really is no excuse for waiting. Ideally send the gift a few weeks before the wedding.

I have to spend a lot on travel and accommodation to attend the wedding, can I give less as a gift?
Yes of course it’s okay to gift less but make sure that you do give something. The couple will understand that you have made the extra effort to attend the wedding.

Do I have to bring a gift to the wedding shower too?
When invited to any wedding-related event, a gift would usually be expected. I recommend that you budget before hand and stick to it. Know what you plan to spend on the couple and allocate an amount for each gift. Smaller gifts for engagement and bridal showers and a larger gift for the wedding present, or a more personal gift for the shower and a gift from the registry for the wedding would be best.

I won't be able to attend the wedding, do I still need to send a gift?
A gift would usually be expected and certainly appreciated.  You could send a gift of a lesser value if you prefer to, the couple will still be happy.

Now that you've mastered the gift giving process you can start navigating the wedding guest dilemmas!

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant