A Family Wedding and Etiquette for Bridesmaids

Casey and Sean together for the first dance.

My son turned 23 years old this week. Not a milestone birthday, but always memorable and always a festive occasion.  I mention it because I got pregnant with my son while my husband and I were honeymooning on Bora Bora. 

On our honeymoon, in June of 1990
I was reminded of it when my Town and Country magazine and the accompanying special Town and Country "Weddings" issues arrived this week also.  I bought my first Town and Country magazine in one of the gift shops at the airport, while my husband and I were waiting at LAX to leave for Tahiti, back in June of 1990.  One of the reasons I bought the magazine, was that it was the June bridal issue, and there was an article on honeymoons in Bora Bora, our ultimate destination for our honeymoon.  I have been a subscriber ever since.

You are no longer at a wedding, but are at an event, when the USC marching band is in the house!  The bride and groom met at USC.  Both are USC graduates and Sean played football there as well.

Bora Bora was also the destination for my nephew and his new bride after their wedding on March 8th. The wedding was a wonderful affair.  It mixed old Irish and Italian wedding traditions, was in an absolutely fantastic setting overlooking the ocean at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport and it was on a day with surprisingly incredible weather. 
True to form, I was checking out the place settings for correctness.  As usual, the flatware was short on room, and a bit mashed up under the service plates, but I have come to expect that.

The bride's mother and father pulled out the stops to make sure it was a memorable and festive occasion for everyone. You know you are no longer at just a wedding, but you are at an event, when the USC marching band is in the house!

A silver "Bell of Truce" was given to each couple, to ring after the bride and groom were married. Irish and Italian traditions were sprinkled throughout the ceremony and afterward, acknowledging Casey's Irish heritage and Sean's Italian heritage.
As I perused my new Town and Country "Weddings" issue, comparing the wedding I had just been to and the weddings in the magazine, I came across a page of etiquette titled "The Bridesmaid's Commandments."  There are ten of them, from a five-time bridesmaid and author, Eimear Lynch.  She "offers tips for navigating the big day with class and a sense of humor." 

There are ten Commandments, from a five-time bridesmaid and author, Eimear Lynch.  She "offers tips for navigating the big day with class and a sense of humor."
The Commandments range from excellent (Number 1 ~ ALWAYS AGREE WITH THE BRIDE...)  to Commandments that are simply common sense (Number 9 ~ DRINK RESPONSIBLY...), but we all know someone who only got to lick the spatula when common sense was being scooped out, so it's not all that common! 

I am a six-time bridesmaid and here above is proof of three.  Sean's mother, (my brother's wife Peggy) and me on the left. In the middle photo, I was in my younger brother's wedding. On the right, I was a bridesmaid for my big sister's wedding.  I am leaving off the 3 from various friends' weddings (in one I was the Maid of Honor) as those dresses were pretty hideous on me.

As a six-time bridesmaid myself, here is more of my take on the Commandments:

Her best Commandment? Commandment Number 5 ~ PICK UP THE PHONE.... Always a good idea in this day in age!  Says Eimear Lynch, "Eighty percent of pre-wedding drama could be avoided if people spoke on the phone instead of sending snippy, insensitive texts and e-mails. If you need to tell the bride something potentially upsetting (such as "I can't make it to your eighth shower" or We cannot have your bachelorette party in the sea Seychelles"), do it on the phone or in person."

I agree. If you need to tell the bride anything important, don't do it by text or email. You need to stay in communication. Face to face communication is the best, but when you can't talk face to face, as the commandment reads "Pick up the phone."

Hours and hours went into planning Casey's and Sean's wedding, down to every detail, including the wines that were served (3 reds, 2 whites and a champagne, all with approving nods from Cliff who had been judging at an annual, not to mention prestigious, international wine competition just the weekend before) to the "Hangover Kit" we received as the valet parking attendant retrieved our car.  I was the designated driver, so I have not had the need to open it.
Cliff loved all of the wines, while I was the designated driver who had just a touch of champagne.  When the wedding invitations specify "Black Tie" etiquette dictates that we step up to the plate and make sure our attire is on the very dressy side.
My least favorite Commandment? Number 4 ~ SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF... Writes Ms. Lynch, "You read that right. Weddings are high-stress and ultra-emotional, and a blowout fight candy triggered by something as simple as a mention of the bride's eligible ex-boyfriend. Speak carefully as the wedding draws near, and keep even quieter on the day itself."

In my humble opinion, one should not encourage bridal party members to "sweat the small stuff." Years ago, I knew young woman who told me her grandfather had died at her wedding reception.  Something like that would have devastated me, and most people I know. But that wasn't Tanya. Tanya had a personality that allowed her to just roll with anything and everything that happened to her. In the couple of years I knew her, she never seemed to get ruffled or distracted by anything.

I remember her telling me her reaction to her grandfather's death at the wedding reception. She said, "We were all sad, of course. But he had lived a long, happy life.  The reception was winding down, and he had had a really good time and gotten to see family members he hadn't seen in years. I was really happy the whole family was there to see him off.  His last day was such a beautiful one."

That true story has calmed more brides down than I can count!  Even brides who's weddings I wasn't a bridesmaid in. Anytime a bride started to freak out over something minor, I told them about Tanya's grandfather dying at the reception and would then ask, "Is this as bad as having your grandfather die today?  If not, just let it go.  It's not that big of a deal."  It's such a shocking story and question, everyone goes silent, and it's almost as if you can see the gears working in their brains as they're thinking "Wow! This isn't anything near that bad! In fact, this is really nothing!" Suddenly it calms everyone down, and the wedding can move forward. The mini-drama is stopped in its tracks by hearing about a real life major trauma.

So I know for a fact that sometimes, maybe hearing about someone else's "big stuff," can play a role in calming brides down, by taking their minds off of their "small stuff."

Wedding Photography Etiquette 101 from My Husband ~ "Don't even consider bringing in a 'real' camera with you, as you and your flash may get in the way of the professional hired for the event. Use your cell phone like everyone else!" Which is what I was forced by Cliff to do.  Most of these photos were taken by Cliff with his phone, and a few were taken with mine.  My camera was left in the car.

My favorite Commandment is Number 8 ~ Remember: This isn't even A LITTLE BIT About You
It really isn't about bridesmaids.  It is all about the bride.  That's why we wind up shelling out money for dresses we feel pretty hideous in, and don't ever really wish to see the wedding photos again. 

Congratulations to Casey and Sean! We hope you enjoyed Bora Bora as much as we did!

Etiquette for Weddings from the 1887 book 

"How to Behave" 

"We copy from one of the numerous manners books before us the following condensed account of the usual ceremonies of a formal wedding. A simpler, less ceremonious, and more private mode of giving legal sanction to an already existing union of hearts would be more to our taste; but, as the French proverb has it, Chacun à son goût.

For a stylish wedding, the lady requires a bridegroom, two bridesmaids, two groomsmen, and a parson or magistrate, her relatives and whatever friends of both parties they may choose to invite. For a formal wedding in the evening, a week's notice is requisite. The lady fixes the day. Her mother or nearest female relation invites the guests. The evening hour is 8 o'clock; but if the ceremony is private, and the happy couple to start immediately and alone, the ceremony usually takes place in the morning at eleven or twelve o'clock.

If there is an evening party, the refreshments must be as usual on such occasions, with the addition of wedding cake, commonly a pound cake with rich frosting, and a fruit cake. The dress of the bride is of the purest white; her head is commonly dressed with orange flowers, natural or artificial, and white roses. She wears few ornaments, and none but such as are given her for the occasion. A white lace vail is often worn on the head. White long gloves and white satin slippers complete the outfit. The dress of the bridegroom is simply the full dress of a gentleman, of unusual richness and elegance.

The bridesmaids are dressed also in white, but more simply than the bride. At the hour appointed for the ceremony, the second bridesmaid and groomsman, when there are two, enter the room; then, first bridesmaid and groomsman; and lastly the bride and bridegroom. They enter, the ladies taking the arms of the gentlemen, and take seats appointed, so that the bride is at the right of the bridegroom, and each supported by their respective attendants.

A chair is then placed for the clergyman or magistrate in front of the happy pair. When he comes forward to perform the ceremony, the bridal party rises. The first bridesmaid, at the proper time, removes the glove from the left hand of the bride; or, what seems to us more ceremony. In joining hands they take each other's right hand, the bride and groom partially proper, both bride and bridegroom have their gloves removed at the beginning of the turning toward each other. The wedding ring, of plain fine gold, provided beforehand by the groom, is sometimes given to the clergyman, who presents it. It is placed upon the third finger of the left hand.

When the ceremony is ended, and the twain are pronounced one flesh, the company present their congratulations—the clergyman first, then the mother, the father of the bride, and the relations; then the company, the groomsmen acting as masters of ceremonies, bringing forward and introducing  the ladies, who wish the happy couple joy, happiness, prosperity; but not exactly "many happy returns."

The bridegroom takes an early occasion to thank the clergyman, and to put in his hand, at the same time, nicely enveloped, a piece of gold, according to his ability and generosity. The gentleman who dropped two half dollars into the minister's hands, as they were held out, in the prayer, was a little confused by the occasion.

When a dance follows the ceremony and congratulations, the bride dances, first, with the first groomsman, taking the head of the room and the quadrille, and the bridegroom with the first bridesmaid; afterwards as they please. The party breaks up early—certainly by twelve o'clock.

The cards of the newly married couple are sent to those only whose acquaintance they wish to continue. No offense should be taken by those whom they may choose to exclude. Send your card, therefore, with the lady's, to all whom you desire to include in the circle of your future acquaintances. The lady's card will have engraved upon it, below her name, "At home, —— evening, at _____ o'clock."  They should be sent a week previous to the evening indicated."


  1. Those photos were from cell phones? Amazing! And your husband is 100% correct on the wedding photography etiquette.

  2. Looks like a lot of fun! Love the etiquette tips, as always.

  3. I enjoyed this post. A lot of fun to see the photos, old and new. Your husband is correct on the wedding photography etiquette. Too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, can ruin the meal.

  4. The hangover kit is pretty funny, but probably necessary for many guests. Gorgeous setting and photos!

  5. You are stunning! Especially the picture of you on the beach!

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  7. Such a lovely family wedding. Couple of days ago went to my sister-in-laws wedding. All my family members were present there. They all added grace to event. Wedding was arranged at one of New York wedding venues. Everything was arranged simply amazing there.


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