When you are planning a wedding every single details counts and wedding program etiquette is among them too. First question to answer is: Do you need a wedding program? This part of wedding stationary is not mandatory, if you are not throwing ultra formal or very large wedding (at least several hundred guests), but can make a nice touch to the overall experience.
If you decide to have one, here are few ideas, but in this article we'd like focus on etiquette. How should a wedding ceremony program look? Who will hand them out? To whom? Where? When? For best answers we'll try to use analogy of a wedding with a theater show.
Just like a stage show can be more or less serious, with more or less demanding scenography, more or less actors and so on and on, we have wide variety of approaches to wedding programs. They can be traditional and formal, or contemporary and playful, but in general they always have to be informative and condensed.
What to include in wedding program according to the etiquette?
Your guests will want to know what to expect and a wedding program should satisfy that. Just like a theater program presents the most important contributors to the performance, a good program of the ceremony presents bride, groom, their parents (maybe grand parents too), maid or matron of honor, best man, and also minor roles, like flower girls, ring bearer, ushers... Next important part is of course a summary of screenplay, or, if we may say a list of events with locations in specific order.
It is up to the bride and groom (possibly with their wedding planner) to decide how many details they should include. Will there be a list of music pieces accompanying every part of ceremony? Will they include some interesting anecdotes about important people (how the happy couple met, for instance) and places (historical background of the church, where the ceremony is taking place)?
Keep in mind the order of information should be as logical as possible, so your guests could follow the program without any problem. You should very carefully consider every special aspect of your ceremony. Maybe parents of the bride or the groom are divorced? One of them remarried? Maybe one of the parents is deceased and he or she will be mentioned during the ceremony?
The fun part of wedding programs
We are slowly moving to the more creative part. How will be the final look of the wedding program? Can plain sheets be enough? Are folded, tri-fold or even multiple-page (booklet) programs better choice? Do we need inserts? Uniquely designed in form of a box or a heart, with additional ribbons, origami figures, decorated with photos and monograms, with engravings or raised lettering? Personalization of wedding programs can go very long way, not to mention wedding themes and you can check few examples of wedding programs right here!
The design of wedding ceremony program is obviously a compromise of the expectations (depending on the religious, ethnic, cultural and other aspects of the ceremony) and surprises the bride and groom are willing to incorporate as an expression of their creativity. It's needless to say wedding programs should be in tune with a chosen wedding theme and possibly ordered at the same time as wedding invitations at the same printer.
The etiquette of black tie weddings is clear: programs are handed by ushers. At less formal ceremonies groomsmen, or few friends can do the job as well. There is also a possibility to place programs on the chairs or stands near entrance, so guests could pick them by themselves. Depending on the place and the protocols of the ceremony you should decide if the programs are given at the entrance, or only at the seats.
This part of wedding ceremony is also a chance to promote children, siblings and other close, but not so close relatives to the positions of all kinds of assistants, so they can contribute to your special day and nobody will bear no grudge for not being included. The list of details can go on forever. It is up to you to decide what makes sense, what is less important and to chose the best option for your case.
Traditionally there was a costum to hand one program per couple and if your guest comes alone, he get one as well, but nowadays it is one program per guest in any case. In general only guests invited to the ceremony get programs. Now you can easily calculate how many to order. Don't forget to count in few extras, just in case. If they are designed right, they'll make a beautiful keepsake anyway.