Elaine Swann is the founder of The Swann School of Protocol an institution committed to enriching the lives of individuals through the instruction of etiquette and social courtesies.  She delivers in-depth coaching in the areas of Business, Self-Improvement, Lifestyle, and Social Engagement. Elaine uses her extensive knowledge to educate organizations, universities, businesses and individuals throughout the US. Earning her place as a respected authority on the etiquette trade through her self-driven research, Lifestyle and Etiquette Expert Elaine Swann has been touted as today’s hip, savvy etiquette adviser, as evidenced by her regular news appearances as a social commentator, her website, syndicated column and etiquette-inspired products. As the go-to leader in everything etiquette her advice has appeared in publications such as the Modern Bride Magazine, Kiplinger’s Magazine, and several newspapers across the US.

We had a chance to do a Q & A with Ms. Swann on bridal etiquette with common questions asked by brides. Check out this very informative session below, maybe some of your questions have been answered!

  • Does the cost of your gift have to cover the cost of your plate?
    • No, that is a myth. According to a recent Zelle® survey, 20% of consumers state they’ve spent $500 or more attending weddings in the past year, and 14% of consumers report spending $500 plus in the last year on wedding gifts alone! When establishing how much to give, you can use a few guidelines: you can give the amount your budget will allow or give based on the closeness of your relationship. The closer you are to the bride or groom the more you can give (coworkers, distant relatives, close friends). Just make sure you base it on your personal gift giving style. And remember, you don’t have to give the same amount to every couple – a good starting point is $50. Proper etiquette dictates that you should avoid bringing cash to the reception – it can become a burden to the couple or the family if they have to keep track of your envelope. 
  • How do I turn down being someone’s bridesmaid / groomsman?
    • Politely tell them no, you can be candid and honest but you don’t have to explain why. If you are able to attend the wedding you can offer to participate in some other way.
  • How do you address someone who RSVP’d for a wedding but was a no-show?
    • As a host be gracious and let them know they were missed, don’t ask questions or interrogate them. 
  • Should a couple expect a gift if they are having a destination wedding?
    • Their presence is your present. Your goal is to create a memorable experience for your guests. 
  • What is proper tipping etiquette when it comes to vendors. Should we anticipate to include that in our budget?
    • The only vendor you should tip is the bartender. However, if the wedding has an open bar, guests should not tip because it is already taken care of by the host.
  • I am getting married, but my partner and I live together. Do we need to register?
    • With couples marrying later in life and co-habitating before marriage becoming more common, many couples already own many of the traditional registry items such as cookware, dishes, linens, etc. As such, money is becoming a much more common wedding gift – and a common request! That said, there’s a proper protocol in place to communicate your desire for monetary gifts. I would suggest not putting the request for money or gifts on the invitation, but you can pass the word along via your wedding party, parents, siblings, and close friends – and it IS acceptable to convey the message of your wishes on your wedding website. Be thoughtful in your wording and don’t specifically “ask” for money – but, for example, you can say that any monetary gifts can be sent via Zelle to “smithweddinggifts@gmail.com” and add a short note about what the funds will be used for – whether that’s your honeymoon, a home renovation, or a savings fund for the family you hope to start. That way people feel like they are contributing to something concrete for you.
  • Should I send a bridal shower gift, even if I can’t attend the bridal shower?
    • It is a nice gesture but not a must.
  • Who is allowed to bring a “plus one”?
    • If the invitation specifically says plus one the guest is allowed to bring one.
  • What is a realistic expectation for a bridesmaid budget?
    • When accepting the invitation to participate in a wedding it’s important to recognize there are costs involved. Traditionally, you should be prepared to contribute to the following:
      • Bachelorette/Bachelor Parties: It is customary for the wedding party to pitch in to cover the expenses for the bride and groom.
      • For hair, makeup and grooming costs: The bridal party should pay for their own services. It’s a bonus for the bride & groom do so, but if not, it’s a nice gesture for them to secure the pros. 
      • For shared expenses between a group of people, designate one person to control the finances.
    • For the couple, you should communicate financial commitments in advance of giving the individual the opportunity to accept or decline. Make sure amounts are communicated in writing as opposed to word of mouth. Text and email is an acceptable form of communication.

A special thank you to Elaine for taking the time out to do this session with us. We hope our fellow Bride Sisters found some of these responses helpful when planning their future wedding. Happy Wedding Planning!