Good manners are always in style, but what to do about social media and other new twists?


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Etiquette pertaining to social media, diet accommodations, traditional gender roles, wording for printed materials and the establishment of GoFundMe-type accounts to pay for the honeymoon or a down payment on a house are issues that received scant attention in the wedding business even a decade ago. But for today’s bride, they’re all part of the wedding planning process.

Some of Denver’s leading wedding vendors offer some examples. “To be inclusive, we’ve adopted the term ‘wedding couple’ instead of bride and groom,” says Jeremy Bronson, owner and president of Occasions Catering.

“Wedding attendants do not have to be girls on one side, men on the other,” adds Ann Marlin, chief executive officer and lead designer at Cloud 9 Weddings & Papers. “More and more, we are seeing mixed (gender) bridal parties.”

Lisa Cook and Leslie Heins, event architects at Affair With Flair, agree that etiquette customs such as sending thank you notes should never change (“They’re a must, and always should be hand-written”), but beyond that, people should be free to personalize their wedding—from the invitations to the ceremony—according to what best expresses their personality and their taste.

Social media and digital technology have had a big hand in revolutionizing wedding etiquette—for better or worse. “A big, if not the biggest, faux pas regarding social media is when an engaged couple Tweets or Instagrams the news before they tell their parents,” says Heins. “You don’t want your mom and dad to learn about your engagement on Facebook.”

Another important consideration is to honor the wishes of the couple. “We are seeing a split between couples who want guests to take pictures on their devices and couples who kindly request everyone put away their smartphones or tablets,” says Marlin. “There have been numerous instances where guests are enthusiastically, and with good intentions, taking pictures. What they might not realize is that they are impeding the shots of the professional photographer and videographer.”

Postings are a great way to document a joyous occasion. They can, however, have unintended consequences.

A couple was recently married in an intimate ceremony conducted in their Denver loft. They had purposefully scheduled it for a Tuesday morning because it was a second marriage for each, neither of them felt the need for a large-scale production and it enabled them to get a better deal on airline tickets for the flight that would deliver them to their honeymoon destination.

They had a professional photographer document the ceremony, and let their 12 guests know that it was OK to share their own photos on social media. One of the images showed a joyful, and seemingly healthy, young lady drinking a toast to the newlyweds. Turns out that instead of taking a vacation day to attend the ceremony, she had called in sick. And guess who happened to see this photo on Facebook? Yep. Her boss. Who was not happy.

One of the biggest benefits of ever-improving digital technology is the wedding website. Tech-savvy couples can create their own or establish one on sites such as The Knot, Squarespace and Minted.

“We haven’t had a bride (lately) who has not wanted to do a site; it’s not a question anymore,” Cook says. “It saves a lot of headaches on the front end because the sites make it so easy to get the word out about times, places, dates, what clothes to bring, where the couple is registered, what hotels are nearby … that sort of thing.”

In addition, more and more couples are creating hashtags and encouraging smartphone picture-takers to use them when posting photos from all events leading up to and including the big day. Using a hashtag, Marlin explains, makes it easier for people to find pictures on social media and follow along. “When hashtags are utilized, the number of photos grows by leaps and bounds,” she says.

Heins and Cook also are seeing an increase in clients who, instead of such traditional wedding gifts as appliances, linens and china, are requesting donations to offset the cost of a honeymoon or a specific portion of it, such as a helicopter tour or a dive class.

“At first, I wasn’t sure about something like that,” Cook admits, “but now I understand, at least to a certain degree. Especially if it’s a second marriage where both parties have enough ‘stuff’ and would rather be creating a memory.”

One of the first questions Bronson asks couples who’ve hired Occasions Catering for their wedding is what thought they’ve given to accommodating dietary restrictions and allergies. “I’d say 80 percent are tuned in to this issue and want to make sure everyone has something they can eat,” he says. “Another 15 percent haven’t taken these issues into consideration until we ask the question, but then they want to see that everyone is taken care of. And a small group of couples are focused on having us provide the menu they want (and are unwilling) to compromise their vision for just a few guests.”

Times and traditions may have changed from Grandma’s wedding day, but as award-winning event planner Faye Gardenswartz notes, “The one thing that has become clear is that there is no such thing as the ‘wrong’ way. Each couple does what is right for them and feels good in their situation. If they are comfortable, then it is right.”