THE TIME AND PLACE
Once you have decided on the form of ceremony you would like and when it is to take place, you should go to see the minister or registrar concerned so that the proper religious and/or legal arrangements can be made.
At the same time ensure that a suitable venue for the reception will be available on the day you have chosen; in fact, it is often necessary to book the reception before the church. After all, the church can accommodate a number of weddings on one day, but the hall or hotel is probably available for just one.
If you are going to be married in church you should discuss with the minister the details of the ceremony including the style and order of service, whether or not a choir should be present, the music to be played and the possibility of bell-ringing. Also find out about the fees (there are basic legal statutory fees, but other church costs are at the discretion of the minister), and ask if your guests will be allowed to take photos in the church and throw confetti in the church grounds. The minister will want to talk to you about the significance of a church wedding and may invite you to attend a marriage preparation course which takes a broad look at all the issues involved.
In all aspects of the marriage ceremony the minister is the expert and their advice and guidance will be well worth having.
If you have decided on a civil ceremony, however, you should go to see the local Superintendent Registrar as soon as possible. Apart from the legal formalities, you should find out how many guests can be accommodated at the ceremony, particularly if it is to be held in a register office, and whether photographs and confetti are allowed.
Most people who decide to get married in this way do so because they are divorced, want a quiet ceremony with no fuss, or because a marriage in church would conflict with their own beliefs.
LETTERS OF ANNOUNCEMENT
If there are people whom the couple would particularly like informed about their forthcoming marriage, but because of the limitations of the guest list they have not been able to invite them to the wedding, a personal letter is probably the best way to let them know the news.
PERSONAL LETTERS OF INVITATION
Before the formal invitations are sent, relatives and close friends may be informed by personal letter, the wording for which could be:
'You will be glad to hear that Patricia and Robert's wedding has been arranged for 27 April. We shall, of course, be sending you a formal invitation later, but we felt sure you would be delighted to have the news as soon as possible.'
Invitations are traditionally from and sent out by the bride's parents as they generally host the occasion (indicating their responsibility for payment of the reception), but if the wedding is being hosted by anyone else, such as the bride and groom themselves,they should take on this task.
The invitations should be sent out well in advance of the date set for the wedding; six to eight weeks is about right. They should be sent out simultaneously, as prospective guests do not like to assume that they are second choice!
The list of guests is usually drawn up by the bride and her mother in consultation with the bridegroom and his parents. The engagement list will serve as a useful guide, although there are sure to be some omissions and additions. Although the best man and attendants will already have been consulted they must also receive invitations to which they should reply formally and promptly. Similarly, the groom's parents should also receive an official invitation. It is courteous to invite the minister to the reception.
The invitations are normally composed in the third person and sent from the bride's parents. Traditionally the invitation is addressed to the wife of the couple or family. The wording on the invitation of those invited can be formal (Mr and Mrs Alan Smith) or less formal (Alan and Ruth Smith) or informal (Alan and Ruth) depending on the formality of the wedding and the relationship with those invited. If there is to be a disco or dance after the reception this should be included, with an indication of suitable dress, S in the bottom right-hand corner of the invitation.
The bride's surname is not normally included but it can be appropriate if it differs from that of the host and hostess. The most popular wording is:
Mr and Mrs David Smith request the pleasure of the company of
(write the name of the guest(s))
at the marriage of their daughter Patricia to
Mr Robert Brown at All Saints' Church
Kingsgrove on Saturday, 27 April at 2.45 p.m. and afterwards at a reception at The Bell Inn, Kingsgrove
21 Firhill Lane
For those guests who are being invited to the reception only, you will need evening cards with wording such as:
Mr and Mrs David Smith request the pleasure of the company of
at an Evening Reception
to be held at The Bell Inn, Kingsgrove on Saturday, 27 April at 7 p.m.
to celebrate the marriage of their daughter Patricia to Robert Brown
21 Firhill Lane
If the number of guests is quite small, the invitations may be written by hand on suitable and attractive stationery. More often, however, they are printed. Visit a stationer's and have a look at the range of cards and styles of lettering that are available. Black is the traditional color for the lettering. If you want to order reply cards, order-of-service sheets or cake boxes, you can do this at the same time.
When two daughters of the same couple are to be married at the same ceremony, the elder daughter of the two brides is mentioned first.
In the case of a daughter and a niece or god-daughter, the daughter is mentioned first as she is closest in relationship to the host and hostess.
Where two couples are themselves acting as hosts and hostesses, the elder couple is mentioned first.
If the occasion is a second wedding for one or both of the partners - especially after divorce - it is likely to be a much less formal affair. The bride and groom will probably host the wedding and send out invitations with less formal wording such as:
Patricia Smith and Robert Brown invite you to their wedding at All Saints' Church, Kingsgrove, on Saturday, 27 April at 2.45 p.m. and afterwards to a reception at The Bell Inn, Kingsgrove.
In the unfortunate event of a family bereavement or severe illness you will probably want to postpone the wedding, and notices will have to be sent to all those invited to attend. A plain statement of the facts is quite sufficient, with notice of the new date for the wedding, if one has been arranged:
Owing to the recent death (illness') of Mr David Smith, the wedding between Patricia Smith and Mr Robert Brown at All Saints' Church, Kingsgrove, at 2.45 p.m. on Saturday, 27 April, has been postponed to 4 p.m. on Friday, 30 May.
Formal replies to invitations should be sent promptly (within three days of receiving the invitation) and are also traditionally drawn up in the third person.
The following is the usual wording:
Mr and Mrs John Clémence thank Mr and Mrs David Smith for their kind invitation to their daughter's wedding and to the reception and will be most happy to attend.
However, when the guests are very close friends of the host and hostess, a brief, informal thank-you note is acceptable.
Traditionally, relatives send a gift whether or not they attend on the day. Guests attending the ceremony and the reception are expected to donate a gift. A friend need not give a gift if the invitation has been declined and there is no need to send a gift if invited to the ceremony only. Gifts should be sent to the bride at her parents' home before the wedding; if sent afterwards, they should be addressed to both the bride and groom at their home. It is good manners to invite gift donors to the ceremony and usually, though not necessarily, to the reception.
It should be remembered that a wedding guest has no obligation to send the bridal couple a wedding gift, nor should the bride's mother feel that every gift donor should be 'rewarded' with an invitation to the wedding. In practice, however, most guests do send a gift and most donors do get invited to the wedding party. It is in order to send the gift as soon as news of the impending wedding is received.
The business of giving or receiving wedding presents is always a little daunting - to both sides. Visions of dozens of toasters and electric kettles loom before the eyes of the engaged couple, while the guests are naturally concerned that their carefully chosen gifts should be received with the proper appreciation.
Even the best-laid plans go wrong sometimes, but there are some practical steps you can take to ensure that this particular wedding custom turns out happily (as far as possible) for all concerned.
There are really only two rules for the bride to remember:
1. Have a wedding-present list prepared for anyone who wishes to consult it. You should, of course, wait to be asked to submit the list rather than send it automatically with invitations or other wedding correspondence.
2. Be sure to write thank-you letters to everyone who sends you a present.
1. The Wedding List
Once you have compiled a list of the presents that you would like, you should make a number of copies and let people have one when they ask. Ask them, when they have bought their present, to return the list with the item they have bought crossed off. The list can then be handed to somebody else. Although this method is not guaranteed to avoid duplication it is probably bettered only by employing the services of a large store: you compile your list from the items in the store, guests then ring the store, make their purchase and the store adjusts the list. This method has obvious drawbacks but may be worth considering.
The list itself should contain a good number of inexpensive as well as expensive presents, and should run to more items than you actually expect to receive. This avoids the possibility of the last guest to see the list being left to buy the television set!
Traditionally, bed linen for the bridal couple's new home was given by her parents as part of the bride's trousseau. Traditional gifts for the home such as linen, china, glass, cutlery and home accessories are still popular as both the bride and groom benefit, but for the couple who already have these items less traditional gifts are acceptable, if they can be enjoyed by both partners. More expensive gifts such as carpets and furniture are usually reserved for very close relatives or groups of friends banding together to share the cost.
There is, however, no reason why you should think only in terms of fitting out the home. Books, pocket calculators, compact discs or sports equipment may be more useful to you and more urgently required. So do consider what your real needs are before finally drawing up the list.
It used to be considered bad form for anyone other than close family to give money, but today this is not the case. When writing to say thank you it is polite to say how the money will be spent.
It is traditional for members of the wedding party to exchange lasting mementos. The bride and groom exchange gifts, the bride's parents give a gift to the groom, the groom's parents give a gift to the bride, and the groom gives a gift to the best man, the ushers, the bridesmaids and page boys. The bride and groom give a gift to their mothers.