Natalie Choi Events
event planning + design // CA


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Wedding Planning & Etiquette Tips, For Couples Planning Their Wedding


Hi lovelies! A lot of girls around me have recently gotten engaged (congratulations girls!), and as a result, I've been receiving a lot of questions about wedding planning & etiquette. I told them I'd gather the bits and pieces of advice I've accumulated as a recently married wedding planner, and share them here in a blog post. These wedding planning & etiquette tips will cover practical topics from how much to tip your vendor, to etiquette advice like how you can tell your second cousin once removed that no, he may not bring his summer fling as a plus one to your wedding. This is gonna be a long post, but I hope you stick to the end and find this helpful!

I'll be breaking this down into sections:


When is the right time to send out invitations?

Save the dates should be sent 4-6 months in advance, and invitations sent 2-3 months in advance (with an RSVP by date about 1 month before your wedding). If you are planning on sending out a second round of invitations after receiving some regrets, consider sending out your invitations earlier.

How should I style guest's names on the invitation?

For married couples: Mr. & Mrs. [husband's full name here] or Mr. [husband's full name] & Mrs. [wife's full name]
For married couples with children: Mr. & Mrs. [husband's full name here] & Family (you can choose to write out every child's name if you know them, but using "& Family" is an easy way to avoid any mishaps! if you aren't planning on inviting their children, leave off their names)
For plus ones, whose names you don't know: Mr./Ms. [guest's full name] & Guest (if you know their plus one's name, it's always better to include it even if you don't know their last name)

We are having an adult-only wedding. How should we phrase this on our invitations?

Make sure your invitations are addressed only to the parents. If possible, avoid adding any mention of an adult-only wedding to your invitations and instead include it on a wedding website or details card.

Delicate phrasing could include: "Adult reception to follow." "Reception reserved for adults above the age of twenty-one." "Due to limited space at our venue, we ask that parents attend without their children."


How to answer questions like...

Can I bring a plus one to your wedding?

"Unfortunately, due to limited space and a desire to keep our wedding intimate, we are unable to extend an additional invitation at this moment. Thank you for understanding, and we hope to see you at our wedding!"

Can I bring my kids?

"Unfortunately, due to limited space at our venue, we ask that parents attend without their children. We would love for the parents attending our wedding to have a night off, and enjoy celebrating with us. Thank you for understanding, and we hope you will still be able to join us at our wedding!" 

I RSVP'd "no", but actually I can make it to your wedding now! Can I still come?


Okay well, of course, every situation is different. Gracious host that you are, you could decide to still let that one pesky guest attend your wedding if you still have seats available. If not... "Unfortunately, our RSVP deadline has passed and we have already given our final guest count to our vendors. Although we won't be able to celebrate with you at our wedding, we would love to find a time to get together after we're married!" 

I'm so excited for your wedding! When is it? or even worse... Am I invited to your wedding?

There's no easy way to let the poor individual know they're not on your guest list. My suggestion (and what I've found effective) is to subtly hint they're not invited or to just change the subject. Say you're excited to get married too. Talk about how small your wedding or venue is going to be, or how your parents are making you invite all of your relatives.

If they ask when, give a season instead of a date (i.e. "We're getting married in the spring!"). If they ask whether or not they're invited, you are free to be as direct with them as they were in asking. They're breaking etiquette by asking (more about wedding guest etiquette coming in a future post!), so it's best to be direct with them instead of beating around the bush. You could say something along the lines of "Unfortunately, we have limited space at our venue and although we would love to have you celebrate with us, we aren't able to extend an invitation at the moment. We'd love to find a time to get together after we're married though!"

Am I obligated to invite people who invited me to their wedding?

Well...kind of. But every wedding is different, and their wedding may have been a much larger wedding than the small wedding you're hoping for. It's proper to extend an invite in return, but it's not flat-out rude not to invite them (although some might disagree). The choice is yours on this one.


Choosing your vendor team 

When choosing a vendor, keep in mind that vendors who know each other will work together better. Not only will your vendors be excited to work with people they know and trust, but when a vendor team vibes together, the work they create is also more cohesive. If you don't have a wedding planner, don't hesitate to ask your vendors if they have other vendor friends they can recommend!

Another thing to keep in mind is that each vendor has their own style that represents their brand. If you find yourself thinking "I like this vendor except for....[insert minor issue here]", they probably aren't a good fit for you in the long run. You can (politely) ask a vendor to tweak their style for you, and they probably will genuinely try their best to match what you want, but they likely won't feel as happy or comfortable doing it. 

Communicating with vendors

If you ever have any questions about certain costs (i.e. service charge, delivery fees, set-up/breakdown fees) or about how a vendor works, don't ever hesitate to ask! As a wedding vendor, we know that the better a client understands a vendor and vice versa, the more harmonious a working relationship will be. Also this is an obvious one, but saying "please" and "thank you" goes a long way! 

If you're unhappy with a vendor, the best course of action is to let them know. Non-confrontationally is best if you still plan on keeping them on for your wedding day, but firmly, directly, and politely. It's wise not to permanently damage your relationship with them, especially if they're going to be a part of your special day!

Which vendors do I need to tip, and how much should I tip them?

I've broken down suggested gratuity amounts for the different vendors below. Gratuity for catering is generally considered not optional and other vendors (i.e. wedding planner, officiant, florist, photographer, etc.) are optional, but always greatly appreciated! Even a small gift or note to let them know you appreciate their work means a lot.

Suggested gratuity:

  • Catering captain: $100-150
  • Catering server: $50-75 (per server)
  • Catering bartender: $50-85 (per bartender)
  • Catering cook: $75 (per cook)
  • Wedding planner/coordinator: $50-100
  • Officiant: $100
  • Florist: $50-100
  • Photographer: $50-100
  • Videographer: $50-100
  • Hair & make-up artist: 15-20% (or ~$100-150)

Thank you for reading! If you have any additional questions that I didn't cover, comment below or send me a message!

All images by Meiwen Wang.