The Unwritten Rules of Wedding PlanningThe Newlywed Notebook

The Newlywed Notebook



August 2014

The Unwritten Rules of Wedding Planning

Written by Lindsay Ropella

I always LOVE getting comments and suggestions for post ideas from readers. I love that people actually read my blog, feel comfortable asking me to write about certain topics, and value my opinion enough to want to hear my thoughts in the first place.

So naturally, when I got a Facebook message a month or two ago asking me to write about some of the “unwritten rules” of wedding planning, I answered with an enthusiastic YES! Not only is it an awesome topic idea, but I think it’s one of those areas of wedding planning that can be tricky to navigate, since there isn’t really a concrete “right” and “wrong” way for handling many of these certain situations.

I got to work right away taking notes on different “touchy topics” and jotting down my personal thoughts on each. There may have even been a chart. You guys – I wanted this one to be good.

But then of course, summer happened and life totally got away from me, and here we sit almost two months later. I want to give a shout-out to the fabulous gal who requested this post (I’m not sure if she would like to remain nameless or not)! I feel absolutely terrible that it took me this long to get this post up on the blog, so I hope she forgives me. :) And  I hope that the rest of you enjoy as well! She gave me a few specific topics to touch on, but I included some of my own as well. As you read, please keep in mind that these are just my personal opinions on the topic based on my own thoughts and experiences. I’d love for you to share your views as well in the comments!


Is it Ok to give cash as a gift? How about planning my wedding close to a family members? Here are my thoughts on the Unwritten Rules of Wedding Planning!


Is it OK to give cash as a gift?

Ugh, this is a tricky one. Probably should have saved this one for last, huh? But really, my personal opinion is that this is actually OK. Obviously, sticking two crumpled up $20 bills into an envelope is different than writing out a check to “Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so.” Make it look like you planned to give money as a gift ahead of time, and not like you ran to the ATM 35 minutes before the ceremony started.

Also, keep in mind that by giving cash, you will probably end up spending more than if you just bought a gift in the first place. Often times you will be able to find some sort of discount or coupon to use when purchasing a wedding gift, making a $50 gift really only cost $35. When you give money the couple can tell exactly how much you are spending on them.

That being said, I do think that going off the registry is always best. You aren’t the couple and don’t know exactly what they need or will use, so if you aren’t either giving them a gift off the registry or something very personal, go with money and don’t just purchase something you think they will like.


Is it OK to invite someone to the reception and not the ceremony?

Definitely! I know some people see this as a no-no, but I’d have to disagree. With weddings these days often ranging from 250 to 400 guests, many smaller churches simply cannot accommodate that many people for a ceremony. Often times brides choose to get married in smaller churches or unique locations that have limited space, and cuts have to be made. Obviously close family members take precedence over your parent’s work colleagues, and I think most people today understand that. I know I’ve never had hurt feelings over being invited to the reception but not the ceremony, especially if I know the ceremony location is very tight.

However, if you are having your ceremony and reception at the same location, then I suggest inviting everyone to everything. It can get tricky if guests who received a “reception only” invitation arrive early before the ceremony is over, and it can also set a bad vibe for your wedding for the few people who weren’t invited to the ceremony and end up walking into a roomful of guests already in party mode.


Is it OK to not do a seating chart?

I think there are two scenarios in which it’s OK to not making a seating chart. The first is when you have under 150 guests. If you are having a smaller wedding, less guests make it much easier for people to find a place to sit together and a seating chart becomes not as important.

The other scenario where I think it’s fine to not have a seating chart is when all of your guests know each other. That way if families have to get split up for the dinner portion due to table constrictions, they will all fare just fine. You won’t have to worry about guests who don’t know many people having to sit with strangers or the family of 6 arriving late having to sit at 5 different tables.

Remember, the purpose of a seating chart is to make guests feel welcome, comfortable, and stress-free. There’s nothing worse than a couple who only knows a handful of people having to sit at your Great Aunt Sally’s table or singles sitting in a free chair at a table full of couples and families.

Not sure if you need to make a seating chart or not? I say when in doubt, just make one. It makes the entire feel and flow of the evening that much smoother, and it really only takes a few hours to complete. Not sure where to start? Check out my post on how to create a hassle-free seating chart.


Is it OK to not give a guest a plus one?

This can be another really tough wedding topic. There are so many different rules and guidelines for who gets a “plus one” for a wedding and who doesn’t. Some people go by the “fiance or spouse” rule, some give all family members plus ones but not friends, and some don’t give anyone plus ones and only invite couples where they know both individuals.

Really, don’t stress out about this one too much. Ultimately, it’s your wedding and your guests will end up just going with whatever limits your invitation sets for them. Hopefully your invitees will remember that the wedding is supposed to be all about you and celebrating your commitment to one another and keep their mouths closed. If not, a swift punch in the nose should do…

If you are stumped, here are the rules I follow when deciding who gets a plus one and who doesn’t:

1. All parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, and first cousins get a plus one (16 and older).

2. All other family member and friends get a plus one only if they’ve been dating the same person for over a year.

It’s certainly not full-proof, and I definitely make exceptions here or there (like for certain guests who won’t really know anyone else at the wedding), but it’s my basis for deciding.


Is it OK to plan your own wedding close to a family member’s wedding?

I suppose it depends on your definition of “close” – right? However I’m a big believer that planing a wedding close to a family member’s is a big “no-no.” First of all, it’s not fair to your family who will have to be worrying about a ton of expenses in a very short amount of time (especially for family who lives out of town). Second, you are going to be creating a lot of logistical problems for many people due to all the events that happen around a wedding such as the bridal shower, bachelor/bachelorette parties, travel time, honeymoon for the newlyweds, etc.

Of course, planning your wedding a few weeks after your step-brother’s wife’s sister’s wedding is a lot different than planning your wedding two weeks after your sister’s or your first cousin’s wedding, but a good rule is to give family member’s their own month. Give them a solid 3 week padding around their own wedding date to allow for all the craziness that happens around wedding time. If you need to have your wedding close to theirs for a specific reason, just be open and honest and talk with them about it. Ask them how they would feel about your wedding being so close to theirs, but if they say no, be ready to respect that!

And for gosh sakes, if you’re going to have your wedding close to a family members, don’t book the same vendors as them. That’s just sad.


So, what do you think about all this? Any first hand experiences to share? Also, if anyone would be interested, I thought it would be fun to do a “part 2″ to all this down the line. I could touch on things like wearing white as a wedding guest, and letting parents invite their friends to your wedding. Let me know in the comments below!


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  • Newlyweds on a Budget

    I think when it comes to weddings there are no real rules. It is YOUR wedding and you can do it however you want, as long as you don’t turn out all bridezilla. I get that it’s also about including your family members and people who care about you on your special day, but really, at the end of the day, if you want to elope, people have to respect your wishes bc you are now an adult.

    • Lindsay Ropella

      That is very true! Yea, except no bridezillas – no one wants that. ;) I think it’s a tough spot because you do want to make your family happy and allow them to feel comfortable (especially if parents are paying for the wedding) but ultlately it does have to be about the bride and groom. :) I feel like those people who elope are geniuses – skip all the hassle of planning and just celebrate the day as a couple! That must be where I went wrong ;) lol. Thanks for your comment!

  • Rachelle Dusso

    My first cousin got engaged about a month after my husband and I did. We set our date and I let my cousin know so they knew not to plan on that date. The next thing I know is that they chose the weekend before our wedding. It was very awkward for our family because they felt like they were comparing our weddings. Also, they felt burdened money wise because they had to dish out gifts for both weddings. I wasn’t very happy because I felt like they kind of stole my thunder, but I got over it. All in all, I totally agree with the 3 week rule!

    • Lindsay Ropella

      Ooohh that’s rough… Yea, I mean I’m sure your cousin wasn’t doing it to deliberately be mean. I know people get really excited about their own weddings when they get engaged. But at the same time, that’s just a recipe for disaster. Especially planning it before your wedding if she got engaged after you…oh boy. Glad you agree with the 3 week rule!! Thanks so much for your comment! :)

  • Melissa Woods

    I enjoyed this post Lindsay! I liked the answers and would love to see a part two. One thing I see a lot of now are honeymoon instead of gift registries. What do you think of that? And what about inviting guests to the ceremony but not the reception because of budget constraints? I’ll look for more in the future. :-)

    • Lindsay Ropella

      Thanks so much, Melissa! I will definitely have to plan a “part two” for the future! Sometimes it’s nice just to get different viewpoints on different topics. :) Ah yes – the honeymoon registry. I’m kind of on the fence about this. I definitely see the pros and cons. You two suggestions are GREAT ones! I will make sure to include them in “part-two” which will hopefully be up sooner rather than later!

  • Kelly

    Love this! :-) This is awesome advice, and I wish I had had this kind of information when I was planning my own wedding! :-) Wonderful!

    • Lindsay Ropella

      Thanks so much! I know what you mean – there are so many different resources for brides out there, but sometimes it’s difficult to find first-hand experiences. :)

  • Mae

    Great post :) I am planning mine as I type and some of these topics have been of discussion lately. It’s always great to hear other peoples opinions. I have been contemplating a lot over doing a seating chart and I agree with the bigger weddings, there should definitely be one so people aren’t left splitting up or feeling awkward knowing no one. I know I wouldn’t want to show up at one and have to scrounge for a spot next to someone.

    • Lindsay Ropella

      Thank you! Yes – I definitely agree that it’s always nice to hear how other people do things and think about things when it comes to planning big events like a wedding. That’s my biggest issue with not having a seating chart too! But I know they definitely can be a pain in the butt to put together. Best of luck to you! Can’t wait to see updates! :)

  • Paige Gunter

    Love this, Lindsay! Okay, I am obviously too much of a banker because as far as the “check as a gift” is concerned, I would just warn newlyweds to be on top of their accounts. Most banks won’t take checks titled Mr. & Mrs. until the account is titled the same way. Easy fix of course as long as the bride hurries to change the right documents after the honeymoon. :)
    I can remember a couple of crazy situations we found ourselves in. I remember all too well how we were forced to handle them, but I’m just curious if you have heard of how most people handle these moments. #1. My husband’s parents are divorced and truthfully his grandparents were the ones to raise him. While we fully intended to put the whole family on the front row, his mother stated she would NOT sit next to his grandparents or his daddy & his wife during the ceremony. #2. We had a couple attempt to invite themselves closer to the wedding date. The truly unfortunate part, we had no room for them let alone their preteen/teen children.
    Oh, and something I do from time to time, if we can’t afford the registry gifts, I still view them to get an idea of the couple’s colors and style. Then I go find necessities in those colors and same style at the price we can afford.

    • Lindsay Ropella

      LOL! After I wrote that, I totally thought about the whole “and/or” thing too. But I guess Eric and I didn’t really deal with that because we combined our bank accounts a few months before we got married (one less thing to do once it got down to crunch time) so just having them swap my last name took literally like 2 minutes to do once we got back.

      Great ideas! Thanks so much for sharing! I will definitely add them to my list for “Part II”!