Traditional etiquette dictated exactly what to say to a bride to avoid suggesting she had snagged a man. Modern approaches for expressing your happiness to a friend or family member who has recently decided to get married is more open. What you say depends on the age and preference of the bride in question.

Traditional Etiquette

In 1922, Emily Post advised wedding guests to shake hands with the bride and say “I wish you every happiness!” At the time, the median age for women getting married was 22, according to U.S. Census data.

Modern Etiquette

Nowadays, the average age for a first-time bride is 27, and women make up 47 percent of the workforce, demonstrating that marriage no longer functions as a necessary rite of passage for women. That is why Post’s great-great-granddaughter Anna Post, herself an etiquette writer, wrote in 2008 that given the modern social climate, saying congratulations to the bride is no longer code for “You finally got one!” "Woman’s Day" also urges readers not to offer unsolicited or negative advice and anecdotes to someone who simply wants to announce her plans to get married.