Today’s burning question is – when do you take your hat off at a wedding, or to be more precise, when do ladies take their hats off? The etiquette at a English wedding is that ladies keep their hats on until the mother of the bride removes hers, which will normally be when the formality of the wedding breakfast is completed and gentlemen are free to remove their jackets i.e. when the coffee comes out.
That’s the theory, which assumes that your mother’s not wearing an enormous creation which makes things difficult for the waiting staff, in which case she should take the thing off when she sits down.
In practice, the rule is to follow the lead of the senior ladies present (normally the mums unless the nobility have turned out for a free meal) and not be surprised if they take theirs off as they go into the marquee or just before they go into the dining room. Watch out in the ladies loo for the seasoned veteran of many a garden party and wedding. She’s the older lady who will remove her hat, take out the rollers that are in her hair under it, produce a hairbrush from her handbag and in due course return to the fray with immaculate hair, carrying her hat.
Larger more elaborate fascinators count as hats, and if mum’s going to be signing the register as a witness and/or standing in a receiving line air-kissing for half an hour or more, a hat with a down-turned brim is not a good idea.
Finally, be prepared for guests contacting you or your mum for guidance in the run-up to the wedding when they realise that (a) they need to get a hat and (b) they’re not sure when it comes off …