Described by brides as their 'fairy godmother', Susan Stanford is the queen of wedding etiquette. Susan answers all of your frequently asked questions on everything and anything wedding!

Q - We are having our ceremony and reception at the same venue. The Ceremony commences at 5.30pm and I am planning on being on time. My father has passed away and we are not having a bridal party so I am unsure who should be should be there to welcome guests as they arrive. Should the groom and his father be there?

A - It would be nice for both father and son to be there together to welcome guests and you on arrival.

Q - My parents are divorced (not on speaking terms) and my father has re-married ( my sister and I don't like my fathers new wife, althought we do tolerate her). I want my mother to give me away as well as give the speech instead of my father. Is this acceptable? My fiance's family is very traditional.

A - I think you should be thinking about your future with your husband-to-be rather than the sadness of your parents divorce. Please try not to be too tough on your father and his new wife. He will always be your biological father and nothing will change that. If your respect for him is so diminished and you don't see him often there is no reason to ask him to the wedding. If on the other hand you want him to come to the wedding I would ask both your mother and father to walk you down the aisle and give you away and ask them both to make a speech.Things like this are possible. Ask them and make your decision on their response. I can imagine how difficult it must be but this is your wedding and the beginning of married life with someone you love. If they cannot resolve this ask your new father-in-law to give you away and have a dear friend make the speech on your behalf.

Q - My best friend has asked me to be one of her bridesmaids at her wedding but my husband is not going to be asked to be a groomsman. My friend plans to spend about 3 hours (!) getting photo's done after the ceremony at several different venues while the guests go for a drink. My husband is OK about sitting on his own during the ceremony but not happy about having to be on his own all that time while the photo's are being taken as he does not know any of the other guests.

He is also going to have to sit on a separate table to me at the reception (I will be on the top table). So basically he would only get to see me once the meal is over in the evening. I can totally understand that he is not happy - if I were in the same situation I would not want to attend the wedding. I am feeling pressure and considering it might be better for me to not be a bridesmaid.

Do you have any suggestions as to how to keep him (and me) happy without upsetting the bride to be? Is it normal for photo's to take 3+ hours? I got married 20 years ago and things have obviously changed as our photos only took an hour or so and all the guests got to watch as we had them done at the venue.

A - Firstly I agree with you, leaving wedding guests to their own devises for hours (often at the local pub) while the bridal party have photographs isn't ideal.

However, there is no reason for your husband to be a groomsman because you are a bridesmaid.  

The reality is you have accepted the invitation to be part of the bridal party and it would cause unwanted and unnecessary drama if you declined because your husband does not know anyone or isn't a groomsman.

I think your husband should go to the wedding, make an effort, meet some new people, contribute to the conversation at his table and he may really enjoy himself and make some new friends. 

Married couples should support each other and in this situation he should support you in your role as the bridesmaid.  If he's really not keen then he should decline the invitation and let you get on with your key role as bridesmaid for the bride who is obviously cares for you and is a good friend.

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Q - We live in Melbourne, but have decided to go to Cairns to get married. I already have several people who have said they will come to Cairns with us, however there are several people that we want to invite, but know they can't afford to come. We just want to make an announcement that we are getting married in Cairns, and whoever wants to come is more than welcome. We will also be having an informal get together when we come back from our honeymoon s the people who can't afford to come to Cairns can celebrate with us at this event.

A - I think you just invite your guests as you would no matter where you intend to be married. I am sure those who really want to attend will and even the relatives that will find it a financial stretch may find coach tours at economy prices or packages that may suit them. Maybe you could investigate these options and include them in an information letter you post (after the invitations of course) informing all the guests of transport and accommodation options available.

Q -My daughter is a bridesmaid at a 2:00 pm wedding. The reception is at another location at 6:00 pm. Does she wear her bridesmaid dress or change into a dress of her choice?
Thank you,

A - Your daughter has the honour of being a bridesmaid and as part of the bridal party should remain in the bridesmaid's dress for the ceremony and reception, unless the bride has suggested otherwise.

Q. My partners (of 12 years) daughter is getting married. She is 34 years old has 2 children to her partner who is English and they intend to return to England to marry there and live on a permanent basis. They are talking a large wedding 120 - 140 guests, 3 bridesmaids etc. We are low income earners and are feeling much stress about the expectations of the couple on us. Airfares and accommodation for us to travel to the UK would be 8-10 thousand in peak season . We have at the 'bride to be's' request given her a large sum of money for the wedding dress, however we are not in a position to pay for such a large reception. The expense of us travellling to the wedding and the money we have paid for her dress has been a strain for us, and will alter or cancels all our plans we have been working towards for over 5 years. With a family already and their ages I feel they should fund their own wedding.

As an only daughter my partner feels stressed and somewhat embarrassed he is unable to pay for the wedding she wants and is worried that it may cause a rift in their relationship. What would be etiquette in these circumstances ?

A - There is no reason at all for you to contribute further financially to the wedding if you cannot afford it. You and your partner need to be honest, explain your position and the fact that the contribution of the wedding dress and the expenses mentioned are all that you can afford .
I am sure they will understand as this has been a long relationship and with three children they must by now understand that the financial responsibilities of day to day living and that a big wedding may be something that they will have to reconsider if they cannot finance it themselves.

Q - We are getting married next year and are having an afternoon church ceremony and an evening sit down reception. The difficulty is that we have decided that no children are to be invited to the reception, with exception of my 10 year old nephew who is to be in the wedding party. I have family coming from interstate and I am unsure whether I should allow them to bring their children.

A - This is always a difficult decision to make. I think you can make it clear on the invitation by writing the names of the guests you intent to invite.As far as the children from interstate I would suggest that you arrange a babysitter at one specified venue where the children can be looked after or otherwise have the babysitter attend the wedding and have a special children's table where they have their own menu and some "bags of goodies". If the reception is to be in an hotel then maybe you could book a room, the cost shared by the parents and have the sitter and some videos games etc. That way parents can check on the children and all the guests could have this opportunity to bring children. You may need more than one sitter, but at least you are offering an alternative. The children could bring sleeping bags to make it more fun for them!

Q - My fiance and I will be getting married in Italy. My fiances family live there, but I will have some family and friends travelling over. When sending out invitations to my guests should I include a note
about nearby accommodation? More importantly, am I expected to arrange this on their behalf? This is no problem as I'm very grateful they will be attending but until I know exactly how many are coming it's difficult to even get a quote! Should I consider renting out a large house or suggest a variety of pensioni?

A - I think if you make enquiries and pass on this information on a separate card (but included with the invitation) it would be a thoughtful gesture. I think there is enough for you to organise for your wedding without doing the bookings for guests.

Q - My fiance & I are getting married and even though we are keeping our wedding as informal as possible I would still like to maintain a romantic special day. In doing this I would like to get my finance
something special that I can present it to him on the night. Do you have any suggestions?

A - Not knowing your fiancé it is hard for me to make a suggestion but there must be times when he says, "I would love to drive a BMW or sky dive" or something similar. If so you could hire the car for a weekend or book a sky dive for him.

Q - We are currently preparing our wedding invitations. Our ceremony and reception are both at a winery and will be cocktail style, ie. stand-up function with wine, champagne and finger food. Could you please advise on the correct wording for our invitation?

A - It is not necessary to say anything about cocktail style. Just say the Church, Venue, Date, Time etc, then say "And afterwards at (name of venue)."

Q - My wedding ceremony begins at 3.00pm with the groom and groomsmen dressed in black lounge suits. My father wants to look different to the bridal party and would like to wear a grey suit. My wedding is quite traditional and formal with a elegant touch (I hope), so I was wondering will the grey suit fit with my wedding scheme.

A - If your father insists there is not much you can do about it.He will stand out in the family photographs but that may be his intention.The groom really makes the call as to the style of suit worn by the bridal party but if your father doesn't want to comply it really is not going to change a very happy wonderful day the start of your married life together.

Q - My fiance and I are confused as to the correct way to word invitations to a family. Is it appropriate to use "Mr & Mrs ABC" followed by the children's names, or is "The ABC Family" acceptable?

A - Mr. and Mrs. plus names of children is correct.

Q - I will be travelling to Australia for a wedding and need some clarification of the term "Lounge Suit." From what I have read, it sounds like I need to wear a dark suit and tie. Is this acceptable, or do I need to dress it up a little more? In addition, what is the proper etiquette for ordering a gift from the registry and having it delivered to the bride or groom's house prior to my arrival from the States?

A - Yes, Lounge Suit is a dark suit with tie. Yes, wedding gifts should always be delivered to brides house before the wedding or if the couple are living together then deliver to their address.

Q - My fiancé and I are currently looking after most of the financial aspects of our wedding. I have booked the hairdresser for all the ladies and just wanted to check who pays for the bridesmaids, brides mother and mother-in-law's hair styles. I don't mind if it's my responsibility, but I don't want to offend by insisting on paying either. I also have a friends father-in-law who has offered to drive his luxury car on a 5 hour journey to my wedding and to chauffeur the bridal party around. Rather than offering money for his extremely generous favour, do you think it would be appropriate to book and pay for his accommodation or perhaps buy him a gift?

A - If you can afford to pay do but pay beforehand so that there is no quibbling about the bill on the day. Yes, I think paying for accommodation is a great idea but pay that in advance too so there is no embarrassment.

Q - My fiancee and I are very much in love and can't wait to get married, however the our family's feuding has become unbearable to the point that I am seriously considering cancelling the wedding and marrying in private. The wedding is in 5 weeks but I just don't think I can endure any more heartache over this event. My question is, what shall I write as an explaination for cancelling (on cards) without giving too much away about our family problems, but still letting the guests know we are very much in love and still marrying?

A - Don't write an explanation, get married quietly by yourselves and if you have paid for reception costs go ahead and have a party.When you are married send a note to all guests saying you are already married and now would like them to join you for a party same place same time.You can still wear wedding dress (no veil and no speeches) as this could cause friction among the families. If it is a formal sit down dinner you may be able to make arrangements with the venue to have a less formal cocktail reception. There is no reason why you cannot go to the celebrant in your Church and still get married there at an earlier time.

Q - Is it traditional for the groom to give the bride a wedding gift, and vice versa?

A - It really is not a tradition but often the bride and groom exchange gifts.

Q - I am having trouble choosing my bridesmaids. For the sake of harmony with his mother my Husband-to-be is having both of his brothers in the wedding party together with his best friend as best man. The problem is I was planning on one, my sister, because I hate to choose between my other friends. What is an appropriate method for choosing bridemaids and what do I do if the choice inevitably upsets others. Also, if I choose one of my sister-in-laws-to-be as bridesmaid is it impolite not to include the other. I think she could take offense.

A - Just have your sister as a bridesmaid. It does not matter that your fiancé has more groomsmen, they don't enter the Church with you ,they stand with him. It is your wedding and your choice you should not be put under this pressure but weddings become political at times.

Q - I recently got into a discussion with my family about seating at the head table. As I am having a fairly small wedding with 8 people in the bridal party, my parents will be sitting at a separate table. My father says it is the norm for the bridal party to be seated male/female, however my bridesmaids and I would like to have the bridesmaids on one side and the groomsmen on the other. Is this acceptable and if so how do I explain this to my father with out making him feel like his opinions don't matter?

A - It is the norm to seat boy girl, boy, girl etc at a bridal table and I find the bridal party usually have more fun seated this way. They get up and dance and generally interact. I have noticed when all boys are on one side and girls on the other it can become a "them and us" situation. But it is your wedding and if you wish have boys on one side and girls the other that is fine.

Q - Could you please tell me the correct way to RSVP for a wedding that is for our son marrying their daughter. We have received the invitation from the brides parents.

A - I have just replied to my son's wedding invitation and I used the formal text of the names first then "accept with pleasure etc .to the marriage of their daughter (name) to-our son (name) on at etc, and I signed it with love.

Q - We are having a garden wedding followed by the reception in a reception centre. I would like to wear a white gown for the ceremony and change into another coloured dress for the evening. Would this be appropriate?

A - Yes, of course you can change your dress!

Q - Our invitations have been printed but we forgot to include our wedding theme and the dress code. Should we include a separate note with the invitation? The theme of our wedding is a beach. What should we specify as the dress code as we would like it to be tropical, informal/casual?

A - I would have a note printed saying, ''To show you how informal and joyous our wedding is going to be, we forgot to tell you dress is tropical/casual!"

Q - I am getting married and will be taking my fiancé's last name. However, as I have an established career after 15 years in the accounting field, I doubt that all my clients will recognise me by my married name for the first few months, until the 'news' gets around. Is it appropriate for me to hyphenate my name in business circles for a few months, eg business cards, e-mail signatures?

A - I think it is a very good idea to hyphenate your name. The usual format is to use your surname first, followed by your fiancé's surname. This informs your clients that you are married and is acceptable to continue this for all business life.

Q - I want to have my guests attend in formal dress, but certain members of my family think that it will be too uncomfortable to ask ladies who never wear dresses to wear one. I do not want to settle for anything less.

A - It is perfectly correct for you to establish the dress code at your wedding. If guests are unfamiliar with wearing dresses then suggest they wear a more formal pant suit, just like a suit but made of evening fabric. In fact, the fashion of women wearing dinner suits, (a female version of a mans dinner suit) is very popular and looks really glamorous. The hardest part about getting married is that everyone has an opinion to offer, it's like "wedding by committee". Just smile and listen but do what you want. It's you day and everyone will be looking at and celebrating the magic of you and your husband to be.

Q - I will be getting married and I have chosen my bridesmaids. I want to have my sister, sister-in-law and my two nieces. My worry is that I am anticipating my fiances five year old niece will ask if she's going to be a flower girl. She is the sort of girl that will come right out and ask me in front of the whole family at the quietest possible moment. I need to have a kind, tactful answer for her just in case. A few suggestions would be most appreciated.

A - Why not ask your fiancé's niece if she would like to hand out the order of service cards, then you have included her in the wedding, which is being considerate to your fiancé's family. She cannot ask to be a flower girl when you have asked her "to do a most important job".

Q - I would prefer not to walk down the aisle with my father. What other options are there for the walk and for including my father/parents?

A - I am not sure of the reasons why you don't want your father to give you away. No matter what your personal feelings are he is still your father and always will be. If you really dislike him for a real reason (cruelty or abuse) don't ask him to the wedding. You could have your mother walk with you or they could walk either side of you. I hope this helps.

Q - My best friend's getting married in a few weeks and I am in charge of hosting the shower tea. I want to make sure we've got the etiquette down pat [first of the girls to get married!] Can you let me know what is generally involved?

A - A shower tea can be just that - an afternoon tea - or if you find it more convenient a lunch or brunch. The idea is for all the girls that are close friends of the bride AND who are invited to the wedding (it is wrong to ask anyone to join in the celebrations of a marriage if they are not invited to the wedding.) The girls, the mothers of the bride and groom, all meet at someone's house (it doesn't have to be your place) bringing gifts for the new household, beautiful household linen, gadgets for the kitchen, cook books, mothers' collection of favourite recipes etc. It doesn't have to be an expensive gift but one with thought, imagination and affection. All the girls together have fun and talk while the bride unwraps the gifts. You can send little notes, inviting the"girls," easier than the phone and much nicer than email. You should also provide food and beverages, delicious delicate finger sandwiches, baby cakes and pastries with coffee, tea and maybe a glass of champagne would be fine for almost any time of day. Have fun!

Q - My mother and father have divorced and are both now remarried. The relationship between parties is very strained. I am unsure as how to handle the issue of speeches, as I know everyone wants to have a say. I am also unsure of the etiquette when it comes to names on the invitations eg should all three sets of parents (including my fiancé's) be included on the invite?

A - The speeches at the wedding should be made by the best man, the groom, the father of the bride and the bride if she wishes. It would be inappropriate for every one of the parents, spouses etc to make a speech . The invitation usually has the names of the brides parents or the brides parents and the grooms, if the grooms parents are making a substantial financial contribution. So it would read:

Len Black and Ruby Smith
request the pleasure of the company of
(Guest) or (pleasure of your company)
to marriage of their daughter
Blossom to Fred White etc.

If you want groom's parents names included they will come after your parents names. Change the wording to:the marriage of their children Blossom and Fred. Remember it is your wedding and you and your fiancé make the decisions, be diplomatic but support each other and be strong. You won't believe it but you will be so happy on the day and you will not be aware of any strain your parents might be feeling and your happiness will overcome them.

Q - I am about to be married for the second time. It is my fiance's first marriage. I have a 13 year old daughter and a 12 year old son. What role should they play at the wedding? We have a best man and a matron of honour but no other bridal party. Also, what should a 13 year old wear? Girly? Formal gown? Is scarlet or terracotta too grown up in your opinion?

A - Your son could be a groomsmen and your daughter a bridesmaid. I'm sure they would love the honour, a special time for all the family. I think your daughter should wear something to compliment your dress and similar to the matron of honour.

Q - We are having our three daughters and their partners sit at the wedding table with us, but the only way I can arrange it and remain in the centre of the table is to put all females on my right and their partners on my hubby to be's left. When the meal and speeches have finished we move to the end of the table and let the girls be next to their partners. The problem is my H2B's daughter does not want to be separated from her partner. Do you have a solution to this dilemma or is she being unfair. I spoke with her today about it and she has consented to my wishes, but I hate to be the wicked stepmother.

A - Usually the groom sits on the left hand side of the bride then a bridesmaid the groomsman etc. I can't quite see why this is not possible for your seating at your bridal table. There are eight at your table and you and your husband can have three on either side. If this is not possible then your husbands daughter has already said she would be seated as you wish so not to worry. Personally I think two in the middle flanked by bridesmaids and groomsmen would be less confusing than swapping places after speeches, moving table settings, glasses etc. I'm sure it can be arranged that your new daughter can sit with her partner and they will all know you are a fairy godmother not a wicked step mum!

Q - My mother is giving me away and she would like to make a speech but is having trouble putting one together as she is the mother of the bride. Have you any ideas?

A - The best way for your mother to make a short and sincere speech is for her to think about all the wonderful moments she has had as your mother and then to write them down, edit them to the most important to you both, rehearse several times, don't forget to say nice things about your new husband and his family and deliver, with notes if necessary, and sincerity.

Q - I am not entirely sure what a Bridal shower really is, and should I have one?

A - The bridal shower is a party organised by your bridesmaids. The invited guests traditionally bring gifts for the home. If your bridesmaids have not offered to have a shower for you ask a close relative to have the party for you and ask the bridesmaids to help.

Q - My parents are paying for all of the wedding costs (except for honeymoon and church hire) and my fiance's parents are paying for alcohol costs only. How should we word the invitations?

A - Your parents are the hosts of the wedding and their name is on the invitation inviting guests to the marriage of their daughter.

Q - I don't really have any close friends to be my bridesmaids and was thinking of having my sister as bridesmaid. I think she might be too young though - she's 11. Do I need an older person to be bridesmaid since the best man is an adult?

A - Your sister would be perfect as your bridesmaid.The importance of the wedding party is to have people who you really care about and who care about you.I can think of nothing sweeter than seeing an adult man escorting a younger sister of the bride down the aisle.

Q - Is it necessary to invite the marriage celebrant to the reception? He has several other weddings to perform earlier in the day but we are his "last" one at 4.30pm.

A - It is not necessary to ask your celebrant to the reception but always nice to ask them if they would like to join you for a "glass of champagne". After performing several weddings in one day a celebrant is usually happy to go home!

Q - I am in the process of organising our wedding invitations. My fiancé and I are paying for the wedding and I would like to know the best way to address the invitations. Also, we would like to have all guests dressed semi formal - is it appropriate to simply state just that?

A - Even if you and your fiancé are paying for the wedding it would be nice to include both sets of parents on the invitation eg.Mr. & Mrs or Bob & Joan and Phil. & Doris request the pleasure of your company to the marriage of their children etc. I think all parents have made a financial contribution in their children's lives and it is correct to acknowledge them on your invitation.The only exception I would make is if this is a second marriage for you both.

Q - I would like to know whether wearing an all white suit to a wedding is socially acceptable. I know for a fact that the bride nor bridesmaids are wearing white, so I won't be upsetting the color scheme of the wedding party. I know that wearing black to a wedding is now okay, but what about all white?

A - It is still etiquette that a white dress worn by a guest is not really acceptable, regardless of what the bride is wearing. Black evening dress is fine but should be avoided during the day. Black and white is fine. Maybe you could add another colour to your white dress?

Q - We are holding our ceremony at 1.30pm in a garden setting. We would like an informal reception, ie. no speeches, dancing etc. As the reception will be held at my mother's house at around 2.00pm, is it appropriate to provide only finger food?

A - An informal garden reception in your Mother's house sounds perfect. Finger food is fine but if guests stay a little longer than say three hours it may be an idea to pass around something more substantial, particularly if guest are drinking alcohol. Small bowls of risotto are easy to serve and I find very popular. Another suggestion is to set up a table with different cheeses, pate & breads decorated with fresh fruits. Guests guests can help themselves.

Q - On wedding invitations, does the bride or groom's name come first?

A - The brides family name is usually the first name on the invitation, as the tradition is that the parents of the bride are the hosts. If you and your fiancé are hosting the wedding then again the brides name is first also on order of service books. If it is stationery that you plan to use after the marriage then it will be the husbands name Mr.and Mrs.John Smith or John and Jane Smith.

Q - We don't want small children at our wedding but are having 3 children in the bridal party. The wedding is out of the city and parents would have to leave their children overnight with someone. Some guests have said that only one from the couple invited could attend but not both if we don't have children there. What do we do?

A - It is a difficult situation if the wedding is out of town so book a local Hotel/Motel and suggest to your guests that they stay there (I'm sure if you arrange to have a number of rooms booked they will offer your guests a reduced or corporate rate) and ask the Hotel/Motel to arrange babysitters for the appropriate guests.The Hotel will know reliable sitters and as they will all be together in the same Hotel, the parents will feel assured of their safety. If some of the children, including the wedding party, are to attend the reception as well as the service, it would be a good idea to have a children's table at the reception and a sitter to entertain them and then take them back to the Hotel early. You can have bags of "goodies" to be presented to all the children so that they leave with a "bribe" and a smile!

Q - Are we supposed to provide a meal for the DJ and the Videographer, seeing as they are at the Reception all night? If so, do we allocate seating for them at one of the tables?

A - Yes you are expected to provide dinner for your DJ and Video photographer. The reception venue will provide them with what are called "crew meals", usually the venue will suggest a place that the staff use where they can have dinner. Crew meals should cost less than your guests menu.

Q - My mother does not want to wear a hat on my wedding day, as she thinks they do not suit her. I was told that if my mother doesn't wear a hat, then the mother of the groom shouldn't wear one either, as it is the mother of the bride's decision. Is this correct? If so where did this tradition originate from?

A - Wearing a hat or covering the head in church is a religious tradition not followed by many churchgoers today. In England, where most weddings are held in the afternoon, it is still popularm probably because the Queen who is the head of the Church of England follows the tradition. I would always encourage the mother of the bride to discuss matters of dress with the fiancé's mother. And yes, the brides mother has final say, she is, of course, the hostess and sets the standard

Q - I am having an outdoor ceremony. Should I provide chairs for people to sit on as I the ceremony will only last approximately 20 minutes.

A - Yes, it is nice to have some chairs, particularly for the family. You only need about one third of the guests to be seated. I suggest rows of 5 either side to form a little aisle for you to walk down and a place for your fiancé, wedding party and celebrant to stand. Don't forget to have a small table and two chairs for the signing. Remember when hiring chairs for outside that you choose ones with legs that wont sink into the ground. Folding chairs are good, easy to deliver and pack up.

Q - Is it necessary to have order of service book and what is an economical way of doing them?

A - Order of service books can easily be made, by simply using a computer print out in a lovely font. Include the names of the bridal party, family, celebrant, readers and any other information you wish followed by words, hymns etc. Buy some nice paper, board & ribbon. Print and assemble. This is economical and great fun to do with family and bridal party.

Q - What is the correct way to wear gloves during the ceremony? Do I wear them into the church? Do I take them off to put on my wedding ring or do I just put the ring over the gloves!

A - The brides gloves are removed at the altar and handed to the bridesmaid before the ceremony commences.

Q - How do I seat my divorced parents? We are having a garden wedding, but with seating. Should my mother and father sit together in the front row? Neither have re-married, but they may want to bring a partner. How should I seat their partners? Also, as the bridal table at the reception will only be the bride, the groom, our maid of honour and our best man, how should I seat my parents and their partners? My parents are on very good terms with each other, but this is the first time they have been at a function together since the divorce, and the first time they will have appeared together with their respective partners. I want to make this as comfortable for everyone as I can.

A - As your parents are comfortable with one another I would seat them together in the front row and the partners could sit with mutual friends just behind your parents. For the table seating I would have two tables close to your wedding table - one for your mother, her partner and their good friends, and one for your father, his partner and friends.This way they are close but not so close with the individual partners as to feel any strain.

Q - What is the order of procedure of a wedding reception? What happens first when the guests arrive? Who says the first speech, when is the first dance, cutting of the cake etc?

A - The usual procedure at a reception is:

1. Guests greeted by bridal party and family, of bride & groom in a receiving line
2. Speeches are often made between entree and second course or at a cocktail reception about one hour into the party, announced by the MC
3. The order of speeches can alter, usually the groom, best man & father of bride
4. A toast is proposed to bride & groom
5. The cake is cut the bridal waltz follows

These are basic guidelines.

Q - I do not have a sister, and am very close to my brother. I would like to have my best friend as my Maid Of Honour, however my partner, has two brothers, therefore I need another bridesmaid.. I have two other close girlfriends, and don't really want to have to choose between the two of them, so was thinking of having my brother. The other possibility is to have my brother on my fiances side as one of the groomsmen, then I could have my other two girlfriends, but we are only having a small wedding. Is eight in the bridal party too much?

A - Their is no rule that says you have to have a bridesmaid for every groomsman. Although you feel your wedding is quite small, having 8 in the bridal party is fine. The most important thing is that the bridal party consists of people you care about.

Q - I am planning a non traditional wedding propsoal. I am planning to propose to my boyfriend in November. When the man proposes, he usually presents an engagement ring. As it is the girl doing the proposing, should I bear some sort of gift? And if so, any ideas? He does not wear rings, but I would love to present something very special.

A - I would take your boyfriend out to dinner, the theatre or even sky diving - somewhere special that you know he would love to go and propose to him then. If you wish to mark the occasion with a gift, maybe some blue chip shares in the stock market, membership to a club, whatever is within your budget, and is memorable.

Q - Is it ok to have more than one flower girl? I have asked the nieces to be my flowergirls, but she always refers to them as bridesmaids in our conversations. Is it not the done thing to have more than one? I have three, but should I only have the youngest one as flowergirl?

A - It is fine to have more than one flowergirl. I would suggest that they should be fairly young. Teenage girls would be more comfortable as bridesmaids so depending on their age any number is fine, it is up to you.

Q - I am being married interstate, and would like to invite a couple of friends from work. However, there is a good chance they wont be able to make the trip and I would hate for them to think we have only invited them for the possibility of a gift. What do you advise?

A - I can't tell you how nice it is to answer a question from such a thoughtful person. Let your friends from work know in person you are not asking just to receive a gift, and if they cannot make it, no gift is necessary.

Q - I am having a garden wedding (ceremony and reception) at my own home at 4:00pm in October. What is the appropriate dress code for my guests?

A - I would suggest that you put "Lounge Suit" as the dress on the invitation, meaning dark suits (if possible) for the men and then the women can wear glamorous cocktail dresses. It is too early to have black tie at that time of the afternoon.

Q - My fiance and I are having an early afternoon ceremony followed by a late lunch reception all held on board a boat. My concern is that some of our guest have young children and we are concern about their safety as some of the parents tend to let their littlies wander. How is the best way of asking them not to bring the children without offending them?

A - If the boat is being hired and run by a commercial company I would ask them what the usual procedure is with young children.You may find that they do not allow children under a certain age. If this is the case then a note can be made on or with the invitations to advise the guests. If the boat company can assure you that the vessel is safe for children and you are happy to have them as guests go ahead. I personally would not accept this responsibility and state the fact (true or false) that children are not accepted on board by the company.

Q - Is it acceptable NOT to have the father of the groom make a speech at the wedding and have my fiancé make the speech on behalf of his family? I had a bad experience with his speech at the engagement party which embarrassed my family and myself.

A - I know just how you feel! The best man, groom and father of the bride make speeches at the wedding or someone nominated by the brides family. The brides family are the hosts and the only speeches made are at their request. It doesn't matter who is paying for the wedding either, the bride rules!

Q - We were thinking of serving our wedding cake for dessert, however we have been told this is quite tacky. Is this inappropriate, and should we serve dessert plus cake later in the evening?

A - It is not at all "tacky" to serve your wedding cake as a dessert. Choose the right flavour, as I don't think fruit cake would be suitable, and maybe add a few berries and cream.

Q - We are having a cocktail party for our wedding with around 100-110 guests. We still want the normal formalities of a sit down wedding but are unsure of how things work with a cocktail reception.

A - You should have a running sheet to guide the staff and guests as to approximate times when & who will make toasts & speeches. A card similar to your invitation can be handed to guests upon arrival, with the names of the family, bridesmaids & groomsmen etc. With 100 guests you will need a microphone and a good MC to announce speeches, cake cutting & bridal waltz. If it is a cocktail wedding you may not be dancing, but will probably have some background music.

Q - We are thinking of having a very formal wedding with groom and groomsmen wearing top-hat, tails & gloves and the groom will be carrying a cane. However, we're getting married at 2:00pm and our reception starts at 6:00pm. What dress code would be appropriate to put on the invitations?

A - Top hat and tails should only be worn after 6.00 pm in the evening. Morning suit would be more suitable.for that hour. The guests wear Loungesuit.

Q - My husband-to-be has chosen his best man and he happens to be my husband-to-be's, sisters husband, X. I have always said that my best friend will be my Maid of Honour. I have also asked my sister and my husband-to-be's sister to be in the wedding party. I don't think it is appropriate for me to split up X, the best man and his wife as partners so I am keeping them together. However his wife is not my Maid of Honour. My best friend, who will be my Maid of Honour, will be partnered with someone else. Is this ok? It sort of breaks from tradition, but to be honest I don't want it any other way. What do you think?

A - Having your best friend as Maid of Honour and her partner plus the Best Man and his wife all in the wedding party is just fine. I wish more Brides were as thoughtful as you!

Q - I would like to invite a few girls I work with to my wedding. I am happy to invite the husband of one of my collegues, but I don't really want to invite the boyfriend of another collegue as they are always fighting and breaking up and getting back together! However, they have just moved in together! What is the correct way to handle this situation?

A - The best way to ask your friend would be say "(Work Collegue) and Partner " so if they are feuding at the time (and she has found someone else !) then she can bring them or come alone. Alone preferably! It is very hard not to include her boyfriend now that they are living together.

Q - I am trying to find a list of dress code, ie: formal = dark suit , long dresses etc. Can you please help?

A - Formal dress is usually black tie for men and evening dresses for women (after 4.30pm) or white tie and tails (after 6.30pm). If the invitation to a wedding is before these times then lounge suit is stated, which means a dark suit preferably. If jacket and tie is stated then that is what is required.

Q - I am beginning to plan my wedding & I have chosen my bridesmaids although not yet asked them. The problem is this: A friend of mine (who I am a bridesmaid for at her upcoming wedding) is not who I have chosen. I do not particularly want her as one of my bridesmaids. To complicate things further, I am the godmother of her child, (whom I wish to have as a flowergirl). How do I ask her about her daughter and not being a bridesmaid herself? What about some other type of "job" ? I don't want to offend her.

A - I would not worry about asking your friend if her daughter, your godchild, can be your flowergirl and not asking the mother to be a bridesmaid. I think it would be a nice idea to ask her to do a reading during the ceremony if she would be comfortable doing so. If not, you did ask and she will be delighted anyway to see her little girl as your flowergirl. Being someone's bridesmaid is not reciprocal.

Q - How early can invitations be sent out. We can't afford to invite everyone we want to and so if someone declines, we'd like to invite someone in their place. This means an early RSVP but how early is too early?

A - I am not sure how "correct" it is to ask extra guests a little later if some cannot make the wedding. I personally believe it is best to have a wedding you can afford rather than people discovering that they were second choice. I know these decisions are hard but just think how you would feel if you were on "the B list"! Invitations should be sent 12 weeks in advance and no later than 8 weeks. If you have guests from overseas then send these earlier or contact guests before sending invitations so that they can make arrangements.

Q - I want to have a daytime wedding so that there is good light for the photos and I don't have a late night at the reception. While not wanting an evening wedding ( I do want a formal romantic dress and formal guests and dinner suits for the boys) but is it too early in the day for that? What's the earliest I could have it after lunch?

A - I can only suggest a cocktail wedding with a ceremony at about 4.00pm. Please don't do the awful thing of leaving your guests to have photos taken, as you should receive the guests at the reception. Make sure all family and friends have been introduced then you can excuse yourself and have pics taken. If you plan to marry during summer, daylight saving will be on your side. Don't forget a good photographer can take wonderful pics at any time of day or night. Just think if it were to rain? The photographer has to cope with that, so have a happy wedding with your family and friends, wear the glamorous gown of your dreams and live happily ever after!

Q - My fiance and I are in the midst of conflict over our married name. What is the ettiquette for order of the name? Female's surname - Male's surname or vice versa? I will be keeping my name in some form, so I'd just like the proper ettiquette to go in fully armed when our parents get together next weekend!

A - If you are talking about keeping your surname it is usual for you to keep your name and add your husbands after, ie "Jane Smith becomes Jane Smith Jones. It would be most unusual to reverse this.

Q - What is the normal procedure for thank you cards for the wedding gifts? Should I send thank you cards as I receive gifts or wait until after the wedding and send them all at the same time?

It is a good idea to write your thank you notes when you receive the wedding presents. A prompt reply is always appreciated and makes less work on your return from
your honeymoon.

Q - We are having a fun and casual non religious garden ceremony at a winery and I'd like to know if ceremony books are really necessary?

Order of service books or cards are always helpful for the celebrant and the guests, no matter how informal the ceremony. It is a guide to the actual ceremony time, the cutting of cake, the bridal couples first dance, speeches, names of celebrant, bridal party, music etc. It is also a memory of the day for guests to keep. It does not have to be expensive, just a nice paper or card maybe similar to your invitations.

Q - My daughter is getting married in October, we are about to do the invitations and we don't know how to address this problem. The Grooms fathers has passed away, and we feel that "the late...." well we just don't like it, any other suggestions?

A - The best way to address this problem would be to word the invitation by using the fathers name in the mothers title e.g Mr. and Mrs. John Smith & .Mrs. Jack Brown request the pleasure of etc.

Q - As best man, do I buy a gift for the groom only or the bride as well? Also what type of gifts are suitable?

It is not necessary to buy a special gift for the groom. A wedding present to the couple is usual. Ask the bridal couple what they would like or they may have a registry of gifts at a chosen store. Your position is one of friendship and an honour to be chosen as Best Man, so enjoy giving your help and support. Actually it is usual for the Groom to give you a gift of thanks!

Q - While it is usual that reception guests also bring a gift, is it the same for ceremony only guests? We will be having nearly twice as many guests to the ceremony and then serving refreshments afterwards.. While we would naturally appreciate any gifts that these guests may bring, we certainly don't expect it and don't want our guests to feel that they should bring gifts. How should we handle this situation?

I would leave it to the discretion of the non-reception guests as to whether they give gifts. Let's hope they deliver the gifts to your home before the wedding which is the correct thing to do!

Q - Are the bridesmaids and groosmen costs (ie suit hire, dresses, make up and hair etc) usually met by the bridal party themselves or the bride and groom.

Traditionally the brides parents paid for the bridesmaids dresses and accessories, however now it is quite usual for the bridesmaids and groomsmen to make a financial commitment to their participation in their wedding attire. Always remember, there are no rules about such matters. Keeping the peace and being happy and considerate towards the bride, groom and families is most important.

Q - I have been in detailed discussions with my Mother in Law to be and my Matron of Honor over who opens the wedding gifts and at what stage. Can you please tell me the traditional way this event is co-ordinated?

The wedding gifts are traditionally delivered to the brides home before the wedding. If, as is often the case, the bride and groom live together before the wedding, then gifts should be delivered to their home. They open them and they send thank you notes. If they are delivered to the mother-in-law or somewhere else, they should not be opened unless requested by the bride.

Q - We are unsure as to what dress code we put on our invites. Initially we decided on "formal" however we don't want the men to have to hire tuxedos. Again "black tie" also isn't appropriate. I then thought of "semi-formal" however we don't want me the men showing up in slacks and an open shirt. Ultimately we want men in dark suit and tie, and the ladies in long gowns or cocktail dresses. Our ceremony starts at 3.30pm.

The answer to your question is Lounge Suit, which means (preferably) a dark suit and tie. Black tie of formal is not correct before 4.30pm in the afternoon.

Q - Regarding presents for the couple, where would a grandmother send her gift? Do I send to the bride to be or to my own grandson? How would it be addressed, to the couples married name or brides single name at her parents home?

If the brides parents are paying for the whole wedding the gift would be sent to the bride at her parents home - if the costs are shared then it is quite appropriate to send it to either family at their home and before the wedding day.

Q - I've just received an invitation to a very posh wedding. The RSVP card, instead of having the usual fill-in-the-blanks, simply says, "The favour of your response is requested by the first of October", leaving me to fill in the proper handwritten wording! How should I reply?

Go with something along the lines of, "Accept with pleasure the invitation of (name of persons who sent invite) to the marriage of their daughter (brides name) to (grooms name) at (place of wedding).

Q - What side of the body are the corsages usually worn on both the male and female?

Corsages are usually worn on the left hand side where the button hole in a mans coat is located. The women can wear their corsages on their dress, waist, on handbag or wherever they feel it looks best - but if the person has a preference for one particular side it is quite ok for them to wear it on that side.

Q - Could you please tell me the difference between black tie, formal & semi formal?

We have a wedding soon and the invitation states BLACK TIE and my fiancé and I are unsure what this means! Black Tie means dinner suit for guests only after 4:30pm. 6pm onwards can be Black Tie or White Tie and 'tails' may be worn by the bridal party. Semi formal means girls can wear cocktail/ evening dress if the ceremony is after 4:30pm. This means a dark suit on men in the AM or PM.

Q - What is the order of events at a morning reception? Also with regards to catering, many glasses of champagne would each person drink/sip during the speeches? We are serving light cocktail food and no alcohol (except for Champagne) at a standing reception. I would like some people seated also, how can I go about doing this?

At 10:30am you are having a brunch wedding, cocktail weddings are always after 5pm. You should serve light finger food, small ribbon sandwiches, smoked salmon on open small rounds, hot baby chipolata sausages etc. The rows of chairs you use for your ceremony can be used for guests to sit on at reception, put out some small round occasional tables. You only really need to supply chairs for around 50% of your guests.

Get a good MC to announce speeches (make sure you keep them short). You will only need about one and a half glasses of champagne for each guest to toast the bride and groom during cake cutting and speeches. Most won't drink alcohol, but will drink juice and tea/coffee at this time of the day.

Q - I recently received a wedding invitation, the dress being lounge suit. What exactly does this mean?

Depending on the time of day a woman could wear a suit or dress, not a long evening dress. If the wedding is a late afternoon ceremony then a more cocktail kind of dress would be appropriate.

Q - I am the mother of the groom. I hear that my husband and I should be hosting the rehearsal dinner. Do you have any details as to what is expected. The rehearsal will be taking place in the church at about 8pm the Friday night before the wedding. The wedding is on Saturday at 12noon.

I would suggest that if you are hosting the rehearsal dinner, everyone could have supper after the rehearsal at your home or you could book a table at a restaurant or club for for Friday night at about 9pm. The supper should be light food as guests will want an early night before the ceremony - WE HOPE!

Q - Who makes the decision where the rehearsal dinner is help when the grooms parents are paying for it?

The correct decision for rehearsal dinner should be made by the families. The bride and broom obviously have a little more of a say! The venue should be convenient geographically and financially.

Q - My fiancé and I have decided we don't want any little people at the wedding. The Flowergirl & Page Boy are being taken after the ceremony in keeping with this 'rule.' If our friends can't organise a few hours away from the kids then I think they should gracefully decline the invite! I know it's a touchy subject, but can't we have our special day without other peoples screaming kids to ruin it?

If your wedding is in the late afternoon/evening then it is perfectly correct not to expect small children or anyone under the age of 12 to attend. In fact most couples are happy to have a "night out" without the children! Small children seldom enjoy a wedding reception anyway! If it is impossible without children then I advise that baby sitters are employed to supervise the children. Set up special children's tables with food. Decorate the tables with small toys as the centerpieces, disposable cameras, story books etc. Have one baby sitter for every 3 children. Ask your wedding planner, they will know a reliable agency to book qualified baby sitters.

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