'Congratulations!'-- wedding etiquette

I was going to a wedding a couple of years ago, and my mama told me not to tell the bride “Congratulations” as I went through the reception line. Said it was bad form (kind of like saying, “Congratulations on finding a man.”)

Instead, she told me to tell the bride she looked beautiful, but that it’s okay to tell the groom “Congrats.”
Anybody else heard this? Or is mama just being silly?


I’ve never heard of such a thing.

I think your mom is reading too much into it.

The “congratulations” is for celebrating a beautiful thing in a man/woman’s life= marriage (well, sometimes). That is what the intention should be.

Just my opinion.

Although I’ve probably blown it a couple times, I agree with your mom. I think it’s terribly insulting to imply to a woman that she’s lucky to have found anyone, while I have no compunctions about saying that to a man.


I have heard that it is proper to congratulate the groom and tell the bride “Best wishes,” though, frankly, I don’t care much for the subtext of that combination, either:

“Hey, you old dog, congratulations on finally finding a woman who’d put up with your sorry self. And, you, you lovely lady you, best wishes on making this pathetic loser into a decent husband.”

All kinds of people told me and my husband congratulations on our wedding day, and it would never occur to me to be offended. Why is it ok to congratulate the man but not the woman?

It might be “proper” but I bet it’s a rare woman who would be offended by it.

I was taught that one does not say “congratulations” to the bride, because it is commonly associated with an achievement, which in this case could be inferred to be landing a man. It’s an indelicate thing to bring up to a lady. Rather, one should tell her “felicitations” (happiness). The groom, being a less delicate creature, may be told “congratulations.”

Your mama is right.

Grooms can be congratulated. Brides are given best wishes.
(Will get cites once I get home)

The congratulations/best wishes thing is indeed a traditional point of etiquette, and for the reasons already given (says the chick with a hefty collection of old etiquette books). But I doubt that many people today will notice if you don’t follow the “rule.” (And it’s a darn shame, she said to no one in particular.)

My Grandfather informed be of this bit of (IMHO) outmoded etiquette at a family wedding. I would guess that it is primarily observed by those who are older or more traditional.

I was taught the same thing.

There’s nothing wrong with an all-purpose “I’m so happy for you!” though

According to Miss Manners (I believe in her Guide to the Millenium), your mother was right. You should never congratulate the bride, either at the wedding itself, or at the time of her engagement.