You might not think that there could be etiquette mistakes in the ceremony - it's all about tradition, and you can design your own ceremony your way, right? That's mostly true, but there are a few mistakes popping up in this world of personalizing ceremonies. Here are the top 5 to avoid:
1. Being late. It's fashionable to be late for a party, but not to your wedding. 'Keeping them waiting' is the No. 1 etiquette mistake, which is even worse on a hot summer day or at an outdoor wedding where guests have arrived early to get a good seat. Make sure you have an attendant assigned to keeping you on time, and don't be more than 10 minutes behind schedule. You could throw off the rest of your day's proceedings, such as losing a half-hour of your cocktail party for everyone, or you could delay the start of the wedding after yours. That's really bad.
2. Not explaining the rituals. Print in your program what those beautiful, symbolic rituals mean, so that all of your guests can get the most out of your ceremony. If your ceremony is rich with religious or cultural rites, research them online or ask a family member or your officiant to help you explain them in print. Guests love it when they know what's going on, and parents love it when you share the family belief system with all.
3. Not printing the rules of the house in the programs. Some houses of worship forbid flash photography, or bare shoulders, or uncovered heads. So make sure your program explains the rules of the house, as a way to respect where you are. And it is okay to print something about taking your crying baby outside: "As much as we love all the children in attendance today, we ask that you take your child out to the gardens if they're unable to sit still for the length of the ceremony. Thank you." Notice the wording is 'sit still,' not 'keep quiet.' You don't want to offend parents, but you've made a request that should be honored by all guests.
4. Having surprises or too-casual comments in the ceremony. Brides and grooms have fought over the pranks and jokes that one thought would be a funny surprise, like writing 'Help!' on the bottom of the groom's shoe or the groomsmen holding up scorecards ranking the quality of the first kiss. At an informal wedding, or if you agree to these 'funny moments' that may be fine, but if you've planned a formal ceremony and there are rules in that house of worship, you don't want someone's idea of a joke to ruin your day. So pre-warn anyone who could be the offender.
5. Not having parents released from their row first. When you walk back up the aisle, followed by your paired-up bridal party, have two ushers walk back down the aisle to the front row, signifying to all guests that there is going to be an orderly exit. Parents first. They'll want to greet you right away before you're mobbed by your friends, and they should get the safe exit, not wait until last.