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Wedding 101 with etiquette expert Lizzie Post

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When it comes to wedding planning, the “big day” is a big feat to achieve. It requires coordinating as a couple, working together to talk about and plan everything from the budget, attire, venue, and all the details in between. More importantly, it requires using proper etiquette to achieve the picture-perfect wedding and to help navigate the difficulties (and disasters) that may come for a hassle-free happily ever after.

Luckily, Examiner.com had the opportunity to speak with etiquette expert Lizzie Post (great-great-granddaughter to THE Emily Post) who’s partnered with Bank of America, and is giving all the answers to help turn wedding woes into wedding bliss. Read on to get the scoop on Lizzie’s etiquette advice on trends, traditions, sticky situations and finances:

With the New Year around the corner, what are the wedding rules for 2014? What are the newest trends?

LP: For 2014, brides and grooms should try their best to follow etiquette when planning their wedding while remembering that coordinating etiquette depends on the type of wedding. Weddings continue to change from what they used to be – it’s not your grandmother’s wedding anymore!

The newest trends I see for weddings include:

  • Weddings more commonly taking place in the fall and winter rather than the traditional times of spring or summer
  • Brides and grooms more often choosing to do combined “Jack and Jill” events with family and friends rather than the traditional, separate bachelor/bachelorette parties and wedding showers
  • More and more couples are making their weddings high tech turning to wedding websites, social networking pages, digital honeymoon registries and ceremony-specific hashtags to help organize and share their wedding details
  • Destination weddings are all the rage these days – but they have their own set of etiquette especially in regards to guests and the wedding party. For destination weddings, brides and grooms should think of using a rewards card, like the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card, throughout the year for all purchases to make it easier financially

Who pays for the wedding?

LP: In the past, wedding expenses were almost the exclusive responsibility of the bride’s family. Today, traditional budgeting rarely makes sense. It’s more common now for expenses to be shared between both families and the couple. I often stress the importance of couples talking respectively and candidly about finances and who will be able to contribute when it comes time to start planning a wedding. Everyone involved in the budget conversation should know how much they can realistically afford to contribute.

Are there services or tools couples can use to budget costs?

LP: One tip I have for couples on a budget is to open a separate checking account solely for their wedding budget. Using mobile apps, like the Bank of America Mobile Banking App, will allow them to check the account on-the-go, making it that much easier to track expenses and make decisions on the spot.

Can tradition be broken when it comes to the wedding party? Who to select?

LP: Most brides and grooms ask siblings, close relatives and good friends who are reliable, can be involved and will be courteous. And just because a friend asked you to be in their bridal party does not me you have to ask them to be in yours. While it’s not mandatory that a bride asks her fiancé’s sister(s) to be in the bridal party it is a very nice gesture.

Being in a wedding party is a big commitment on finances and time. Brides can follow good etiquette by allowing their potential bridal party members plenty of time to think about the request before they make a decision.

What is the responsibility of the wedding party?

LP: Attendants' duties will vary based on the size and style of the event. Typically, all attendants pay for their wedding attire and accessories (excluding flowers), arrange and pay for their own transportation, and attend the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, as well as other pre-wedding events when feasible.

Traditionally, the maid or matron of honor is the bride’s right-hand woman, and is responsible for the following:

  • Prior to the wedding: helps select bridesmaid attire and address invitations and place cards
  • During the ceremony: holds the groom’s wedding ring and the bride’s bouquet, as well as arranges the bride’s train and veil
  • During the reception: stands in the receiving line, gives a toast if she would like to and helps organize guests
  • Witnesses the signing of the marriage certificate

The best man has the most responsibilities of all the attendants, traditionally including:

  • Prior to the wedding: organizes the bachelor party for the groom; helps choose the wedding attire, as well as coordinating fittings or rentals for the groomsmen
  • During the ceremony: holds the bride’s wedding ring during the ceremony; witnesses the signing of the marriage certificate; makes sure that the groom’s wedding-related payments are prepared and delivered at the ceremony
  • At the reception: offers the first toast at the reception and dances with the bride and other guests

Bridesmaid responsibilities are more general and include attending fittings, parties, the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. At the wedding, bridesmaids stand in the receiving line, mingle with guests, dance and participate in the bouquet toss. Groomsmen duties are similarly general and include attending the bachelor party, their fittings, the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Additionally, they help escort guests to their seats if there aren’t separate ushers.

How should couples share their wedding registry information? Can gift cards or cash requests be made?

LP: One tradition that hasn’t gone out of style is to never mention gifts on the wedding invitation. Sharing a web address to a wedding website is acceptable, and guests can visit the website to find information on registries. It has always been acceptable to give cash or a check to the bride and groom. Gift cards are also fine – an appropriate option is to buy a gift card from the store that the couple is registered at.

Is it acceptable for brides to wear a color other than the traditional white?

LP: Traditional white or off-white still tends to be the most popular colors for wedding dresses, but today a bride can choose whatever color she’d like for her dress. It’s best to choose a gown that fits the season, formality and style of the wedding.

When it comes to wedding guests, what are the dos and don’ts on attire? Can guests wear white or black?

LP: Guests’ clothing should be appropriate for the type of wedding, which is usually guided by the wedding invitation and time of wedding. Guests can also get an idea of what to wear based on where the wedding takes place. Today locations run the gamut from churches, and back yards to country clubs, beaches and bowling allies.

And while in the past, no female would ever have dreamed of wearing white to a wedding, times have changed, slightly. Guests can now wear white – with caution. The general rule of thumb is to wear white so it in no way distracts from the bride’s gown, such as a white dress with a prominent pattern or a silk pant suit. Black is also acceptable as long as it matches the formality of the event and does not resemble mourning attire.

What wedding presents are best to gift?

LP: Choosing a gift is really a matter of deciding what will please the couple. The two safest options to ensure the gift is appropriate is to either choose a gift off the couple’s wedding registry or give cash to allow the couple to use the funds however they please. Whatever you decide, gifts should always be sent before the wedding or soon thereafter. It’s a myth that guests have up to one year after the wedding to send a gift. If couples are requesting cash as a wedding gift, guests can do them a favor and provide checks that the bride and groom can easily deposit by using a tool like the Bank of America Mobile Banking App.

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