Wedding Etiquette: 18 Dos and Don'ts for the Parents of the Couple

Proper Wedding Etiquette for the Parents of the Couple

So your kid is getting married! Congratulations and best wishes to you and your family! 

Weddings are as much a milestone for parents as it is for the bride and groom. Think about it…you’ve taken care of this child and raised them the best way you knew how. No matter how independent they’ve become, the wedding makes this leave-and-cleave affair official.

Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately), weddings are sugarcoated tightropes. Nobody admits it, but beneath all the grandeur and merry-making are awkward moments, fueled by a gamut of emotions that could pass for a sitcom - the jealous sister of the bride, the guest who wants to impress, Uncle Angus who came just for the open bar… and nana who needs a bleep censor in addition to her pacemaker.

But while magazines and Emily Post-esque blogs harp on the do’s and don’ts for guests, the bridal party and groomsmen, there’s a dearth of information when it comes to wedding etiquette for the couple's parents. 

Here's every parents' cheat sheet for their children's big day.

Wedding Etiquette: 10 Things You Should Do as Parents of the Couple

#1: Ask the couple what you can do to help best.

Your idea of helping may not be the same as theirs. We know you come from a place of love and concern, as any parent would. But meddle too much and things can get nasty. Remember that weddings are a show of independence. Their choices are certainly not a reflection of your parenting skills.

#2: Ask the couple what their vision is for their wedding before offering advice.

Weddings are nostalgic for parents. If you managed to pull off your dream wedding, you’d want your son or daughter to have a dream wedding too. If you didn’t get the wedding of your dreams, now’s your chance, right?


Keep in mind that this is THEIR DAY. Before offering advice, proper wedding etiquette dictates that you get to know how they envision their wedding to be first.

#3: Offer to set up the wedding ceremony, reception, dance floor, etc.

The DIY (do-it-yourself) trend is on the rise because it allows maximum creativity at minimum cost. But while DIY is fun when it comes to photos, wedding favors, flowers, and décor, the fun factor just isn’t the same when you need to set up ceiling swags and move equipment. Wedding etiquette rule of thumb: Do lend a hand to these difficult tasks. Enlist the help of able-bodied family members and friends. You’d be surprised at how willingly folks help out if only you’d ask.

parents of couple wedding etiquette

#4: Speak with as many guests as you can during the wedding.

Wedding receptions just won’t allow the couple to spend as much time with each guest as they’d like. But knowing this doesn’t lessen their guilt. Help make their guests feel welcome by engaging friends and family. Wedding etiquette boils down to being proper and making social events comfortable for everyone. Sincere small talk is better than no talk.

#5: Write and practice your speech before giving it at the wedding. 

Not everyone is a gifted spontaneous speaker. If you want a poignant tribute, get your thoughts on paper and rehearse it, the way you’d do a choreographed dance. Not only does this show love and support. A well-rehearsed speech means you care. After all, the way you say it is just as significant as what you say.

#6: Offer to plan the rehearsal dinner. 

If there’s anything more emotional than the wedding itself, it’s the rehearsal dinner. For some families, it’s an occasion of firsts – first time meeting siblings, grandparents, extended families etc)… Having someone else plan the rehearsal dinner is a load off the couple’s chest. This is a selfless gesture and a must in any wedding etiquette manual.

#7: Offer to plan the couple's and bridal showers.

Weddings aren’t weddings without bridal and couple's showers. Like weddings, these intimate parties requires careful planning. And with a thousand things to tick off, a shower can only add to the stress. Why not offer to organize one? New to the wedding game? Offer to sponsor a planner

#8: Help provide addresses for the guest list. 

Once the couple has decided on the number of guests to invite, only then can parents ask how many people they are allowed to invite. Stick to the number they give you and draw up a guest list complete with contact details. This is one task off of their list when it comes to sending save-the-date cards, invites, and thank you cards.

parents of couple wedding etiquette

#9: Reach out to your child's partner's parents after their engagement and relish in the excitement!

Traditionally, the groom’s mother reaches out to the bride’s mother. She expresses her happiness about the engagement and arranges a get-together. Nowadays, it really doesn’t matter who reaches out first. It would be kind, however, to give the groom’s mother a few days for the opportunity to honor this custom. Whatever your traditions are, the important thing is to get in touch in the spirit of friendship and family.

#10: Check in with the couple and ask what to wear to the wedding at least 3 months before the wedding so you can get alterations if needed.

Nothing says you care more than preparation. The effort it takes to prepare your outfit in advance is a loving gesture to show that you want to look your best on their big day.

#11: Most importantly, be supportive of the couple every step of the way. 

Do not impulsively assume that your children want your help. Instead, offer your assistance without strings nor expectation. Your kind gesture will be remembered even if they decline. In the same light, if the couple requests for help with errands, do respond properly. You are not obligated to help. But it is important to realize that they value your presence. Not comfy with offering help in one area? Graciously decline but express appreciation at their request to include you.

Wedding Etiquette: 8 Things You Shouldn’t Do as Parents of the Couple

#1: Don’t insist on paying for anything if the couple has expressed otherwise.

Money matters are always touchy. Constantly bringing up money can make wedding planning go south in a heartbeat! In the same light, constantly reminding them of who is footing the bill can strain relationships. Discuss the budget formally and let whatever decisions stand.

#2: Don’t just wear whatever you want to the wedding.

Everyone wants to look their best. But the idea is not to outshine (nor outdo) the bride and groom. Check in to see if they’ve got a motif in mind, then follow accordingly.

#3: Don’t assume that you’ll be invited to dress shopping with the bride.

Parents often forget that weddings are about the bride and groom. It’s easy to get swept away in the planning. Wedding etiquette strongly suggests simply making an offer to help out. Should they decline, guard your heart by keeping in mind that this is their day. Declining isn’t always a show of spite.

#4: Don’t be too critical of the bride’s dresses if you do go dress shopping with her.

Unless you’re featured on reality TV, being too critical of the bride’s dresses can crack the emotional ceiling. Do offer constructive criticism and if you have to express your disapproval, do so with tact.

parents of couple etiquette

#5: Don’t micromanage the day of the wedding!

Wanting things to be perfect is never wrong. But do consider that imperfections and choices that aren’t aligned with yours can make a fantastic wedding, as well. So wanting things perfect by interfering and refusing to delegate tasks aren’t just annoying. They are unnecessary, as well.

#6: Don’t take over. Let the couple decide on the registry, wedding theme, reception dinner, and everything else.

Like micromanaging, taking over can be just as hurtful to the bride and groom. A wedding registry and a wedding theme are particularly intimate. Having the couple decide on these, makes the wedding their own.

#7: Don’t invite people that aren’t on the guest list.

After the couple has drawn up their own list, only then can you ask if you are allowed to invite your own guests. Missed out on someone? The proper thing to do when it comes to wedding etiquette for the couple’s parents is ask if you can extend an invite.

#8: Don’t wear white (unless the couple wants you to)!

White is reserved for the bride, of course. And while it may not be your intention to outperform, best to stay away from white. This is, after all, her day.

parents of couple etiquette

Wedding etiquette for the couple’s parents can get tricky. It is no easy task. It is a constant push and pull of wanting to be there as a parent but having to let go. But think of it this way. Your children will always need you in their life, albeit in different ways. As children, they needed your constant presence. But as adults, they need your blessing to make decisions of their own. Most of the time, this means taking a step back to allow them to fly.

Is your son or daughter tying the knot? Got some wedding etiquette tips for the couple’s parents? Let us know in the comments below!

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Leave a comment

March 24, 2021 13:43

My neice is getting married my sister is mother of the bride. Her ex husband has been seeing a lady for 6-7 months and she’s hosting a party the day after the wedding and didn’t invite my sister the mother of the bride. I think this is totally wrong and rude.

June 26, 2020 15:15

These are so thoughtful! Thank you!

June 06, 2020 17:21

Both my mother and my FH’s mother have been incredible with not overstepping during planning. They are both splitting the cost of our venue, which we appreciate SO MUCH, and his mother offered to pay for, but not plan, the rehearsal dinner. We’re very fortunate to have supportive parents and support networks that don’t try to supersede our vision.

Alisha Dan
April 24, 2020 16:13

My soon to be mother in law offered to plan the rehearsal dinner and I was so thankful that it was one huge chunk off my plate. 🙏

April 16, 2020 13:43

Great tips!

Marlene' Watts
January 29, 2020 14:08

Is it appropriate to wear a black cocktail suit to my daughter’s third wedding?

Marlene' Watts
January 29, 2020 14:08

this is my daughter’s 3rd. marriage. this wedding is in Florida at a very elite location. would it be proper to wear a black cocktail evening suit? I am a petite lady, and cannot carry off a lot of fluff, as it is not my thing. Just black, elegant, in no way outshining the bride. Also, I am soon to be 80 years young, and want her to be happy with what I am thinking.

January 13, 2020 10:35

Thanks for all the information on your blogs, but as MOB, this is all good to know. Thank you.

September 19, 2019 15:55

My son is getting married next May. His fiancé is very demanding and actually sent us an “invoice” if you will on what we are to pay for. She has excluded my wife from any participation over a miscommunication two years ago. I took the liberty of arranging a surprise videographer to which she told a family member I just needed to pay my half of the cost and not but in on her plans. She did express there would be no mother-son dance and my wife was not invited to the bridal shower nor her family to the wedding. She only wants the $10,000 to cover “my half”. With her disrespect for my wife, I’m considering not contributing a dime. I love my son, they are both college educated and live out of state, but I cannot believe he is participating in this request. We are very hurt, but I love my wife and cannot be part of someone who blatantly hurts her.

Cindi Frediani
May 18, 2019 21:57

I am the mother of the bride. I am concerned about my dress. My daughter and son-in-law to be like it but I don’t know if it fits. She has somewhat of a country theme…guys in jeans and girls in sundresses. It is going to take place on his families ranch. My dress is dark beige; the top is lace and the skirt is chiffon. My daughter’s dress is all lace. I feel it fits well with hers but is it too formal? Should I find something more in line with the wedding party or is it o.k. as the mother of the bride?

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