Wedding etiquette tips for the new matrimonial era.

The garter toss is passé. Rare too is that backwards bridal bouquet punt to a clutch of singles. Modern weddings might keep some traditional elements, but etiquette is changing dramatically. To plug, or unplug? To RSVP online or by post? To go big at the reception or keep it small? Here’s what the experts have to say.

Unplug the Ceremony

A sign at the door or an announcement by the officiant politely reminds guests to turn off phones and cameras during the ceremony. “Then, at the reception, you can encourage guests to go crazy with the pictures and post online,” suggests Isabelle Russell of Garden Rose Events & Design in Roanoke. “For the most part, when you’re stating it up front, they’re more respectful.” But sometimes guests don’t understand “until they see a guest in the aisle blocking a photographer from getting a shot,” notes Antonia Christianson, owner of Antonia Christianson Events in Virginia Beach.

Embrace the Hashtag

“One of the positives about an Instagram hashtag wedding, if done properly, is it’s a great way for the couple and the guests to view images of the wedding or wedding weekend all in one place,” says Christianson, “but first do the research to see if the hashtag is being used by other people, otherwise it defeats the purpose.” Adds Sophie Pyle Zeigler, owner of social media consultancy Rosé Media in Washington, D.C., “It’s a disappointment when photos are posted without a hashtag. It’s a new digital faux pas, like someone who RSVPs very, very late.”

Say Yes to the Digital RSVP 

Contrary to popular expectation, guests don’t automatically get to bring a plus-one. To control the size of the list, invitation wording should be as specific as possible.

Online RSVPs are gaining traction. “It does encourage people to RSVP more,” says Russell, “and it makes it easier to tie that in if you’re encouraging guests to go to your wedding website for other things like registry and travel information.” Zeigler notes another benefit to the online reply, which she used for her own wedding: “We had a much better and faster response rate, and knowing the number sooner allowed us to invite more people.” 

Go Small in a Big Way 

“We’re seeing more and more couples paying for their own wedding,” notes Meghan Ely, owner of OFD Consulting in Richmond, “so you’re no longer seeing these bloated guest lists.” The micro wedding is a small wedding with big impact. Designed for 50 or fewer guests, it still has the big details, like customizable menus, says Ely, and is still thoughtfully put together and personalized in every way. “It’s a more interactive environment because all of the guests have made the short list and are presumably pretty close to the couple.” 

This article originally appeared in our Weddings 2018 issue. 

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