How to handle those occasional etiquette dilemmas you will encounter

Husband and Wife FigurinesMy husband and I flew to Baltimore to attend his nephew’s wedding. I love weddings. I love spending time with family, being reminded of my love for my husband and seeing how different people organize a wedding. It’s always a wonderful time.

This wedding was no different. Besides getting to be with Eric’s sister and brother for the first time in several years, it was fun meeting Eric’s extended family as well. And we had a fantastic time dancing to new and old tunes at the reception.

Weddings always bring up etiquette questions because so often people are faced with situations they don’t usually encounter.

Here are a few things I noticed at the wedding that often apply to social and business situations as well.

When addressing invitations make sure you have each person’s correct name. This is especially true for married couples who have different last names. Never assume all married couples use the same last name.

If you add an honorific (Mr., Ms., Dr.) before a married woman’s name on the place card don’t use “Mrs. First Name Last Name.” This indicates the woman is divorced. Instead write “Ms. First Name Last Name.”

Make an effort to mingle and get to know other people at the wedding. I saw a lot of mingling at the reception and it made for a fun event. The parents were great about greeting the guests and making us feel welcome and comfortable.

When faced with a formal dining table, remember these tips. To know which bread plate and glasses belong to you put your thumb and pointer finger together on each hand. You’ll notice your left hand makes a small b, which stands for bread plate. That means your bread plate is on the left. Your right hand makes a small d, which stands for drinks. Your drinks are on the right of your place setting. See below.

b & d

If there are a lot of utensils, follow the outside in rule, which means start with the utensils farthest from your plate and work your way in towards the plate. If you see two forks, one smaller and one larger, the smaller fork is for salad.

Never put a used utensil back on the table. It should always go on a plate.

When getting butter for your bread; put it on your bread plate before putting it on your bread. Don’t cut your bread with a knife. Instead break off a small piece and just butter that piece. Repeat.

A few other tips:

It’s best to have your wedding gift sent to the receiving address rather than bringing it to the wedding. The married couple usually leaves the wedding to go on their honeymoon so it’s an extra burden for those helping with the wedding to have to attend to.

Dress appropriately. At the wedding, which was a few days before the Super Bowl, there was a man who wore a Broncos t-shirt under his jacket. Not only was it too casual, it was a somewhat controversial statement at an event that should be anything but. It was not appropriate in the least.

Don’t take a drink of your champagne, or whatever is being served for the toast, until the first toast is made. Once it’s made, lift your glass to the bride and groom and then take a sip.

Wait until the bride and groom have had their first dance before shaking your booty on the dance floor.

If there is no receiving line, try to find the groom and bride and congratulate them sometime during the evening. Don’t expect to have a long conversation with them as they have a lot of socializing and wedding duties to attend to.

Lastly, before you leave, try to say thank you and goodbye to the hosting parents or whomever invited you. If the married couple hosted the wedding and they aren’t too busy, say goodbye to them.










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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. JWordspark on April 12, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Great reminders! I especially like the tip about how to eat bread. I’ve seen so many people at business luncheons buttering a whole slab of bread with the butter knife that gets passed around with the plate. Then they chomp into it like a kid with a peanut butter sandwich! I’m excited to explore more tips on your site!

  2. ArdenClise on April 12, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    JWordspark Thank you for reading my blog and visiting my site. Yes, many people struggle with how to handle buttering and eating their bread. Come back again and share your thoughts and observations.

  3. Patrice Beckwith on May 23, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    With Covid and delayed wedding plans, what is appropriate for gift giving if a wedding has been delayed one year or the reception has been cancelled? We were invited to three weddings last year. In all three cases the ceremony took place privately on the original date. Thank you

  4. Arden on May 24, 2021 at 7:36 am

    Hello Patrice, thank you for your question. COVID wreaked havoc to a lot of wedding plans. I too was invited to a niece’s wedding in Australia last year, which was postponed and then took place with a very small group a couple of months ago. Even though the weddings you were invited to were cancelled due to COVID it is still appropriate to send a wedding gift. The pandemic prevented people from being able to congregate, which was not the couple’s fault. Send a gift with your best wishes. Perhaps they will have a wedding reception when things are safer.

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