Etiquette and Manners on Ways to Congratulate the Bride-to-Be

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When a woman announces the happy news of her engagement, she is showered with well wishes and attention. For months to come, she is expected to tell her engagement story to friends and strangers alike, field questions about the impending nuptials and gracefully accept unsolicited advice about weddings and marriage. There are many ways to congratulate the bride-to-be that won't add to the stress of wedding planning and will leave a positive, lasting impression.

"Congratulations" or "Best Wishes"?

Etiquette dictates that the bride is given best wishes, while the groom is told “congratulations.” The reasoning for this Victorian axiom is this: congratulating the bride implies you are complimenting her skills at snagging a great catch, not a terribly fetching attribute. The groom should be congratulated that his bride accepted his proposal. The bride is given best wishes for a happy marriage.

Sending a Gift

Sending a thoughtful note of congratulations (and best wishes) to the couple is a kind gesture. Close friends or family members may want to send a small token to congratulate the couple as well. engagement gifts are not conventional, nor are they expected. Because the bride and groom do not register for gifts until closer to the wedding, avoid linens or housewares that the couple may want to select themselves. A bottle of wine or gift certificate are acceptable engagement gifts.

Spreading the Word

Word travels fast in our digital world. It is tempting to share every detail of our lives and the lives of our friends. Resist. Give the bride-to-be time to inform her friends and family of her engagement before tweeting, posting and blogging the news for all to see. She deserves to revel in her moment. Once you are certain the word is out, and you have permission from the bride, feel free to gush.

What Not to Say

Brides-to-be are inundated with advice, requests and nosy enquiries from the engagement to the wedding and beyond. When you congratulate the newly betrothed, consider your wording and how it could be misconstrued. Most people do not intend to be rude, they are simply careless. A few phrases topping The Knot's list of What Not to Say to the Bride-to-Be: “I really hope you choose me as a bridesmaid!” Don't be presumptuous. This puts the bride in an uncomfortable situation if she didn't intend to ask you. “How long until you start a family?” The outdated presumption that children follow the wedding is inconsiderate of couples wanting to wait, struggling with infertility or just enjoying their engagement. “Time to start the wedding diet!” Most brides work toward looking their best for the wedding day, but recommending a diet is insulting, regardless.