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What kind of dress should I wear? Where will the wedding be held? How should I wear my hair? What kind of makeup should I use? From the moment she gets engaged, a bride has a new question and decision to make each day It's not trivial or superficial to care about the details of the ceremony and reception. The wedding is a visible symbol of the love and commitment between two people and their desire to share their happiness with friends and family.
It is also an occasion when, for the entire day, the bride is the center of attention. Every eye will be on her, taking in each detail of her appearance. When the wedding is over, the photographs and videos will preserve the wedding image for the rest of her life. It is hardly surprising then that a bride is swamped with details. There seem to be endless choices for every question, but you need not be confused by this. When you start your plans by understanding the etiquette of different wedding ceremonies, as well as your personal bridal style, you will find that the right choices for your wedding's elements fall naturally into place.
The Origins of Wedding Traditions
Contemporary wedding ceremonies are a tapestry of two thousand years of tradition. They are a blend of royal pageantry, medievil superstitions, Edwardian sentimentality, and the Victorian passion for etiquette.Etiquette began in the court of Louis XIV. The king's gardener, angry at the crowds that trampled his flower beds, set up signs called "etiquettes" directing where people should walk. When the ladies and gentlemen of the court ignored the signage, the gardener complained to the king. In response, Louis declared that people must observe the "etiquettes." Intime, etiquette became the practice of observing courteous, respectful behavior that made life comfortable for all citizens.
Over the centuries, etiquette traditions were established by kings and queens and followed without question by their subjects. As the Industrial Revolution created new wealth and an increasingly prosperous middle class, etiquette became the rules by which respectable people conducted both private lives and public celebrations.
While rules and manners of etiquette existed before the Victorians, no one has ever equaled their enthusiasm for regulating behavior. Each aspect of their lives, from the moment they woke up to the moment they fell asleep, were analyzed and ordered. Each situation had a designated wardrobe, place, date, time, menu, and behavior.
Along with gas lamps and buggy whips, most Victorian etiquette rules have vanished from the social radar; but for wedding etiquette, time has stood still. Our current guidelines for the formality or informality of a wedding were created by Victorians, not to show people what they were doing wrong, but to help the emerging middle class feel comfortable orf the most important social event of their lives, Victorian sensibilities have evolved into a quartet of wedding styles that range from small and casual to large and regal.
Grand and elaborate, ultraformal weddings have a guest list of at least 250 friends, family, and acquaintances. They are held either in the afternoon or evening, in a cathedral, a grand synagogue, or an elegant hotel.The bride is accompanied by six to twelve bridesmaids and groomsmen, the bridesmaids all in full length gowns. It is the only type of wedding where the bridesmaids can wear white. The groom will wear a cutaway for the day and white tie and tails if the wedding is in the evening. The bride's elaborate dress has a train, the longest train that she wishes to wear, and at least a floor-length veil.
After the wedding, there is a full reception, a seated dinner with live music, dancing, champagne, atid a multilayered cake. This type of wedding was once reserved for state or royal weddings, such as the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Since the turn of the century; it has been the elaborate wedding choice for very well-known or wealthycouples such as the marriage of singer Celine Dion to Rene Angelil at Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, Canada. Given the sheer size and grandeur of an ultraformal wedding, the price tag usually starts at $50,000 and can easily run up into the high six figures.
By contrast, the formal wedding, which is announced with engraved cards and envelopes inside envelopes, has between 75 and 250 guests and is held in a mansion, country club, or hotel, as well as a church or synagogue and (unlike the ultraformal wedding, which is held indoors) can take place outdoors in garden settings. The bride is accompanied by three to six bridesmaids in long dresses of any color but white. The groom will wear a stroller for a day wedding and a black or white dinner jacket if the ceremony takes place after 6 P.M.
After the ceremony, the meal can be either a plated dinner or a buffet, but the guests must have assigned seats. The bride's gown can be a full ball gown shape with a chapel or sweep train, which is shorter than the train for the ultraformal wedding. The veil should at least reach the finger-tips but can be long enough to just sweep the floor.
The semiformal wedding has between 50 and 150 guests and can be held in a home, hotel, or club. Sometimes it can be a small ceremony followed by a large reception. The choice of reception is expanded to unusual and beautiful sites, such as a yacht, botanical garden, roof of a skyscraper, or country inn. Meal choices can depend on the time of the wedding. Mid-day weddings can offer teas sandwiches, and afternoon services can be followed by a cocktail buffet, while an evening ceremony can be preceded by cocktails and followed by a dinner.
There are up to three bridesmaids, and they can wear short or long dresses. Men wear the classic dinner jacket in the evenmg and a suit during the day. The wedding gown should reach the floor or have just a small sweep train. The veil should be no shorter than the shoulder and no longer than fingertip-length.
The semiformal wedding is one of the most popular wedding styles, because it gives the bride the beauty and the formality that we associate with weddings, but at a much more manageable size. It is a favorite wedding style in warm weather climates because of the availability of so many wonderful outdoor resources and a greater chance of good weather.
The informal wedding sends engraved, handwritten or telephoned invitations to up to fifty guests. The vows can be taken in a hotel suite or home, or the entire wedding party can travel to a special site, like a country inn or yacht. There are no set rules for the reception. It can be as simple as champagne and cake, or it can be a sit-down dinner in a country garden or cocktails on a beach.
The bride can choose to wear a dressy suit, a short or ballerina-length dress, or a long gown if it is a simple, narrow style. There is usually jwt a single bridesmaid in a dress that matches the length of the bride's clothing. The groom wears a dark suit. This was the wedding style of Carolyn Bessette and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., demonstrating that the informal wedding can be elegant and beautiful, albeit simple in style and scope. The young couple rented out an old inn on an island off the coast of Georgia to accommodate fifty close friends and family members.The bride wore an off-white, bias-cut charmeuse silk slip dress, while the groom was in a navy suit. They were wed by candlelight in a rustic nineteenth-century church built and used by slaves.