Whether responding to the news that a colleague has just eloped, a childhood friend has tied the knot or that Great Aunt Mary has finally found love at 81, saying something nice to a new bride or groom is always appropriate. Though a simple congratulations is a proper and polite response, personalized wishes for the newlyweds provide meaningful gifts in themselves. Less is usually more when congratulating newlyweds, and a smile goes a long way, as does a short but nice note. Saying something nice also entails avoiding certain phrases and questions which could make the newlyweds feel uncomfortable.
Congratulate the newlyweds with a smile, a handshake or hug, or a short note of congratulations. Keep the message brief, especially if the newlyweds are distant relatives or acquaintances. Express a general yet sincere wish for the couple's future life together, such as wishing the couple a long, happy and healthy life. Adapt congratulations for the couple depending on their age and marital pasts.
Personalize responses to a good friend or close family member who has recently married. Refer to a favorite romantic or silly story about the couple or retell a story about the couple involving other close friends or family members. Mention the wedding announcement in the newspaper or on Facebook and comment on the beauty of the bride's dress, the groom's smile, the location of the ceremony, etc. Ask general questions about the couple's newly married life, such as where they are now residing or where they decided to honeymoon.
Express wishes of health, wealth and happiness but do not assume that all newlywed couples wish to have children immediately, if ever. Avoid asking questions that could cause potential awkwardness or embarrassment, such as those about pregnancies and families, unless the couple have personally shared their plans for building a family. Comment on the joy of the occasion at hand -- the wedding -- rather than upcoming events, such as babies, or past events, such as questions concerning green cards or other sensitive matters.
According to some older books on etiquette, only the groom should be congratulated, while the bride should be wished happiness. In the 21st century such etiquette is no longer generally accepted. If congratulating people with formal traditions, phrase your message more carefully.