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Nicest of Them All….Weddings Decoded

Alright, so earlier this week I asked the question of which type of wedding would be considered the most formal – morning church, evening church, at-home or venue. The answer? It’s actually an at-home wedding. Let’s jump into the “why” that y’all know I’m so eager to always explain?

Now, remember, this is for the USA, and this is actually the traditional etiquette answer, per Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post. Weddings, by definition, are formal events. This does not equate to formal attire, though. While weddings have been held in churches for centuries, in the USA, it was more common until about the 1950s for weddings to be held at home, provided the bride’s family was wealthy enough to do so. It was considered a very formal affair. Full meals would be provided by servants for hundreds of people. After about the 1820s, families who could afford it went all out for weddings. A minister would still perform the ceremonial part of the wedding, and the reception would commonly follow.

In the 1950s, the USA experienced a religious resurgence with a big push to hold wedding ceremonies in a church building, such as a sanctuary. Still, even then it was popular for the bride’s family to host a full meal and reception at their home or at a family home. As peoples’ homes have decreased in size, the idea of having a receptions at a venue has increased in popularity. In Amy Vanderbilt’s 1954 etiquette book, she declares home weddings “nicest of them all,” showing a preference for tradition over trend. Think plantation home size.

Going by this etiquette precedence, the “nicest” type of wedding and reception a couple would most likely have today would be to have a church wedding and an at-home reception, provided the home is large enough to accommodate a large number of people. It would include a full meal with people serving the meal. An alternative that would be considered just slightly less formal would be a church wedding with a reception at a venue.

Now, if you choose to have a venue wedding, does any of this mean it’s not ok or “nice?” Not even in the least. It is, however, stating that there are certain expectations for choosing a more formal wedding type. That may rub some people the wrong way, but in all areas of life, there are expectations. I have a certain level of expectations when I come to work. Never feel obligated to host any event, including a wedding, that you can’t afford.

Now, going off of the comments, someone mentioned the Royal Wedding between the Duke and Duchess. That, in my opinion, was a perfect combination of old and new. It was a morning church wedding, followed by a luncheon reception. Finally there was an evening “home” reception. The duchess also changed dresses between the events. It was elaborate, but it had an element of youth to it that I loved. She also kept in mind appropriate dress for both venues. As we’ve talked about, the later in the day it gets, the more formal your attire would be. You’d never wear an evening gown to a church, regardless of time, so she kept it before 7 (well before, as it was morning). Prior to the evening event, many of the guests had also changed clothes into more formal threads.

Etiquette helps us to better understand others’ expectations. I hope you enjoyed this post! As always, thank you for reading.


What Etiquette Is Not

There are so many sites out there that tell us what etiquette is or should be – good manners, politeness, etc. They tell us when to send invitations, thank yous, and more. However, there is so much that etiquette is not. None of these things alone are bad or against etiquette. I simply don’t want people to miss the forrest for the trees.

Etiquette is not perfect hair all of the time. Etiquette is not perfectly manicured hands. Etiquette isn’t wearing only tailored suits. Etiquette isn’t using only crystal wine glasses. Etiquette isn’t Italian monogrammed stationary. Etiquette isn’t writing thank you notes immediately every time you receive something. Etiquette isn’t an immaculate house. Etiquette isn’t a perfect schedule.

If anything on that list suits you and your season of life, that’s wonderful. If it doesn’t, that’s wonderful, too. I do believe that etiquette promotes us being our best us. I have kids, and I’m not going to buy dry clean only items that I wear on a daily basis. I’m just not. I will wear clean clothes to work. Again, happy medium, just like I’ve talked about recently. Let your kids eat watermelon on the back porch. Slow down in life enough to enjoy growing your own food or sewing or whatever it is that interests you. Adding etiquette doesn’t diminish the realness of life. It enhances it by adding that extra touch we often long for today. Etiquette doesn’t prevent you from you YOU. It helps you be a better you

I’m a Type A person, and I often long for perfection. I’m seeing the beauty in imperfection, too. There will be cook outs where I serve food on paper plates. But you can bet your bottom dollar that my bathrooms will be clean, and I will thank each person for coming, looking them in the eye while I do. 🙂 Etiquette does not equal perfectly formal. I think the more we’ve distanced ourselves from etiquette, the more the true defintion has gotten muddled. Maybe it’s so people can fool themselves into thinking etiquette isn’t applicable today. I’m not sure. I guess the best way I can sum it up is, you don’t have to be formal to follow etiquette. Invite your friends over for an informal dinner or play date with the kids. Just don’t stay on your phone the whole time they’re there. 😉