Ridiculous Wedding Etiquette Rules that Need to Change All Posts / General Tips / Wedding

When I was planning my wedding, I was amazed by how many strict, deeply-ingrained wedding etiquette rules still exist today.  Despite the fact that couples have become less traditional than they were in the past (many live together before marriage and have no need for more kitchenware), these silly rules still exist.  Here are 4 ridiculous wedding etiquette rules that need to be changed.

Here are ridiculous wedding etiquette rules that need to be changed:

Asking for cash (or gift cards) instead of wedding gifts is unacceptable.

This one makes no sense to me.  It’s perfectly acceptable to ask your guests for expensive china that no one actually needs, or a $400 vacuum, but cash is offensive.  Some couples live together before they get married and already have all the household items they need.

Others may live in an apartment and don’t have the space to store gifts.  Why not give them cash that they could put toward a savings account, a down payment on a home, or a fun vacation?  Why are those things less valuable than silverware or a coffeemaker?

A cash shower is tacky.

Again, why is it so rude and “tacky” to ask for cash, but it’s perfectly normal to ask for specific gifts (as we do with wedding registries)?  The ONLY thing I might understand about this etiquette rule is that, if your guests bring cash, it might be easy for other guests to see how much money each guest spent and that could be awkward.  (However, the same could be said for gifts – obviously, a salt shaker probably costs a lot less than a Keurig).

Still, there are ways around this.  A guest could buy a VISA gift card instead (which can be used anywhere) without it being obvious how much money was spent.  Another option is to have a “money tree” shower.  For this, the shower host ties a bill on a “tree” and the guests follow suit.  This way, it’s hard to tell who gave what amount.  The cards are given to the bride-to-be separately.

Having a small wedding is rude and inconsiderate.

Um, did I miss the part where your family members and friends pay for the wedding?  The average wedding in the U.S. costs $30,000.  For millennials, many of whom are burdened by massive student loan debt, paying $30,000 for a wedding is impossible.  I did my best to keep my (100-guest) wedding “affordable”, and it still cost me about $12,000.

For some (especially those who have no help from their parents), $12k still isn’t doable.  Bottom line: your wedding day is up to you and your future spouse.  If you want a small wedding, go for it.  Your relatives and friends aren’t paying for the wedding.

If they’re aware of your financial situation, they should be understanding instead of being offended that they weren’t invited.  If it’s important to you to have them at your wedding, you could have a small ceremony and then have a casual reception at someone’s house.

You must offer an open bar for the entire evening – a cash bar is tacky.

Open bars are expensive, especially if you have guests who are big drinkers.  If you can’t afford to pay for alcohol, have a cash bar or don’t offer alcohol at all.  A few of my cousins had their wedding receptions in a church around lunch time, and alcohol wasn’t served.

A lot of people feel cash bars are “tacky”, but unless they’re paying for your wedding, their opinions are irrelevant.

If you don’t feel comfortable with a cash bar, but you want to have booze at your wedding, you don’t have to offer a completely open bar.  Some venues will allow you to host the bar for a certain period of time (for the first hour or two, for example) or up to a certain dollar amount.

We hosted our bar up to $1,000 – we didn’t have very many big drinkers at our wedding, and the total spent by the end of the night was about $700.  The remaining $300 was refunded to us.

Why I Hate Etiquette Rules So Much

Have you noticed a common theme between all of these etiquette rules?  They all involve the bride and groom spending more money.  When I was planning my wedding, I was bombarded with etiquette rules and ideas about how weddings “should” be.

These silly rules may be fine and dandy if you’re rich or if your parents are covering a huge part of the bill, but neither of those statements applied to me (or many other millennials).

It’s worth noting that in the past, weddings tended to be less expensive, and parents, on average, footed a bigger portion of the bill than they typically do today.

Young couples are also more likely than ever to be saddled with the burdens of enormous student loan debt, underemployment, and consumer debt.

Times have changed, and wedding etiquette rules need to catch up to modern times. There is no longer any need for these ridiculous wedding etiquette rules.


Other stuff you might like:

Wedding Tip: Stop Caring What Other People Think
Pros and Cons of Outdoor Weddings
How to Survive a Big Wedding as an Introvert
Cheap and Fun Alternative Bachelorette Party Ideas
How to Keep Your Bridesmaids Happy on a Tight Budget

(Featured image courtesy of Studio Delphianblue)


  1. I agree so much with this. When we planned our wedding a little over a year again, we were faced with every single one of these dilemmas. As I look back now, I don’t regret not inviting “extended family and friends” and I’m so glad we stuck to our guns on the cash bar! Unfortunately, you just have to be strong enough to hold your own and not let what other people think effect how you plan.

    Great points here!

    • It’s important to stop caring about what other people think! The only opinions that should matter are yours and your fiance’s!

  2. I know that’s right! Another thing that gets me is when parent’s feel obligated to invite their friends to your wedding and you don’t even know them. I ran up on one particular case with this and I explicitly explained what our headcount was and if they felt the obligation to have a certain friend there they could reimbursement me for their invitation, food, chair cover, favor, and my discontent. Needless to say, obligation went straight out of the window. I’m not traditional by any means and I don’t subscribe to anyone’s standards especially when it comes to my wallet.

    • Same here! It’s frustrating when they expect you to invite someone you barely know. I would understand that if your parents are footing the bill, but if they aren’t, it’s unreasonable.

  3. You are speaking my language! Couples feel so much pressure to conform to these rules that need to be reevaluated.

    So much of weddings is total nonsense. Even down to how to address the invitations — I feel it’s so out of character and incredibly too formal for me to address my relatives as “Mr. & Mrs. X” when they’ve always been known to me as “George & Patty.”

  4. Anonymous Says: July 23, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    I come from a generation that did not have massive student loans because college was much less expensive. (1970’s) However, we still had very modest weddings. Go figure! You would think the opposite would be true, but these lavish weddings are really more prevalent today than in the past. Weddings in those days were modest affairs. The wedding industry had not really arrived yet, and most the weddings were more quiet affairs with cake and punch at the church or in somebody’s backyard or home. Our wedding cost a total of about $700. It was friends and family at the church and a reception at my parent’s home with cake, sandwiches, beer, coffee and punch. Do I dare say there is a kind of sense of entitlement these days? I see my niece’s gift registers, and it even has things like a $600 bed frame, $500 vacuum, $350 mix master etc.

    • I think that the more modest weddings sound better anyway! It would probably be much less stressful in terms of planning and (of course) paying for it. I agree that it’s a bit crazy when people are registering for insanely expensive gifts. I’ve attended other weddings where I wasn’t really sure what to get the couple because there wasn’t a single inexpensive item on their registry. I purposely kept every item on our registry affordable because I didn’t want any of our guests to feel obligated to buy anything expensive. Many of them are on tight budgets themselves, and I don’t need any fancy china or overpriced appliances that I’ll never use anyway.

  5. Anonymous Says: July 23, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    Also, I think that guests today expect a super party at a wedding with open bar, great food, dancing etc. And I also think that the bride and groom expect a certain amount of money to be spent on a gift because they are throwing this expensive party! It’s all out of whack.

    • I completely agree that it’s all out of whack! I think the more modest weddings of the past sound a lot more enjoyable and less stressful for all parties involved.

  6. Maria Snyder Says: September 18, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Nobody forced you to have a wedding or invite the people you did so you should not even consider expecting a gift in the first place. In addition, treating your guests like they’re cash cows is tacky. It makes your wedding a transaction. Is that what you want? In addition, the average cost to attend a wedding is around $700 so the least you can do it make sure that your guests are taken care of while they’re there. If you can’t afford a wedding, don’t have an extravagant one. I think it’s unacceptable that nowadays people act like they’re entitled to an elaborate wedding just because they’ve seen them.

    • My wedding was not even close to extravagant. I am well aware that attending weddings is expensive; that’s why I made sure to include ONLY affordable options on my gift registries. I also wrote a post on this blog about how to keep costs affordable for your wedding party because I realize that being a bridesmaid/groomsman can be quite expensive.

      I’m not sure why you’re assuming that cash gifts are more expensive than other types of gifts. That doesn’t make any sense. Also, you are completely right that expecting gifts is so entitled…I mean no one else does that. It’s not like people have wedding registries or anything, right?

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