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Modern wedding etiquette

Weddings are a time to celebrate, but in this modern age they can also be a source of confusion. Do couples need to send save the dates as well as physical invitations? Should they still cut the cake if they’re opting for a dessert bar? And what about wedding hashtags and honeymoon funds? 

Lori Cole of Turlock has been planning weddings for 34 years. Her team at Lori Cole Events has facilitated weddings in the Central Valley and beyond, attending to the wishes of each bride and groom while preserving key wedding etiquette. Much has changed since Cole began planning weddings in 1985, but there are some key “do’s” and “don’ts” both bridal parties and guests should abide by to ensure a flawless affair.  ■



Do: Send a printed invitation 

Don’t: Include wedding registry information

In the digital age, many people are tempted to forgo invitations to cut costs. But a wedding is one case in which sending a printed, formal invitation is expected. 

“The only time I recommend using a digital invitation is when a couple is having a very intimate wedding but a larger reception to which they’re inviting their guests,” Cole said. “Since guests aren’t invited to the actual wedding ceremony, it is a bit more casual and in that case it is fine.”

If you’re tempted to go digital, a wedding website is a convenient way to communicate information like your wedding registry — which is taboo to include with the print invitation.

Wedding communications

Do: Have a wedding website for detailed communications

Don’t: Forgot to send handwritten thank you notes 

Wedding websites are a great way to communicate ceremony details in advance or to send reminders, like for guests to bring a sweater if the venue is outdoors, like many rustic weddings in the Central Valley. It’s also a tactful way to communicate registry information. 

Once the wedding is over, there is one vital correspondence the newlyweds must not forget: 

thank you notes.

“Thank you notes are just mandatory, it doesn’t matter the size of your wedding,” Cole said. 

For those with a large guest list, Cole suggests sending a photo with a thoughtful printed message and your signature as guests enjoy displaying the photo from your special day.

Honeymoon fund

Do: Use a website, like Zola, to host your honeymoon fund

Don’t: Ask for funds directly

Honeymoon funds are a relatively recent invention in which younger couples are interested in receiving funds to do activities on their honeymoon, rather than items for the home. While the concept may be taboo to older generations, according to Cole it is all in how you present it. 

Websites like allow couples to add excursions to their wedding registry. This way, guests feel like they are purchasing something specific for the couple to do. 

One major no-no for the bride and groom? Do not request cash directly from guests. 



Do: Send directly to the couple

Don’t: Bring to the ceremony

While many wedding guests plan to bring a beautifully wrapped gift, Cole suggests they make it easier on themselves — and the couple — by sending their gift ahead of time. While in olden days gifts would be sent to the brides’ parents’ house, now most people send gifts directly to the couple.

“As the planner who is trying to protect the gifts and manage the event, I love that trend,” Cole said. “Plus, it is really nice for the couple to not have to worry about transporting the gifts.”


Do: Be considerate of the hired wedding photographer

Don’t: Bring out your phone until formal festivities are complete

Most people at a wedding want to grab their phone and snap a photo of the beautiful couple. But leaning into the aisle with an iPad while the bride processes? Not a good idea. 

“It’s just terrible when a photographer’s shots are ruined because all the guests in the background are holding up their phones,” Cole said. “I know people want to capture the moment, but I challenge them to consider, what are you really going to do with that low-quality image?”

One thing not to do? Post a photo before the bride and groom posts a photo of their big day. 

Even if a couple has selected a wedding hashtag you’re eager to use, Cole said it is good etiquette to let the happy couple share the first photo. This includes the bridal party, which she coaches to stow their phones until the couple has their first dance. That way, the hired photographer can capture their smiling faces and not their phones.

Additionally, Cole is a big supporter of “unplugged” ceremonies and even offers signs for her clients to use should they want to go the “no phone zone” route. 


Do: Enjoy the couple’s uniquely curated dessert bar

Don’t: Eat the treats before the couple has had their cake-cutting photo

The cutting of the cake is an iconic wedding photo, but some couples are forgoing this tradition for a fantastic display of mini-desserts. From sprinkled doughnuts to cheesecake bites, dessert bars allow the happy couple to display their personality and cater to the varied interests of their guests. 

“We can do a gorgeous sweets buffet for the same cost as a large wedding cake and it serves as your dessert and your favor, and who doesn’t want a favor you can eat?” Cole said. 

Guests wouldn’t dream of touching an immaculately displayed wedding cake, so they should never raid the dessert bar before given permission. Many times, couples also include a smaller cake among the sweets, so that they can still have that classic cake-cutting photo. In order to keep the dessert bar intact, guests should refrain from enjoying the desserts until told to do so.