Royal wedding etiquette: Do Americans have to bow or curtsy to the queen?

Prince William and Kate Middleton during a visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 8, 2011. (Photo: Indigo/Getty Images) Prince William and Kate Middleton during a visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March …Most of us will be taking in the pomp and circumstance of Will and Kate's royal wedding from the comfort of our living rooms. But if you're curious as to what a royal wedding is all about-and about what you should or shouldn't do if you're ever invited to one-we've got you covered.

Perhaps the most obvious way this wedding will differ from conventional (or "common") weddings is in the fact that it'll be televised and watched by billions of people around the world. OK, that may be the second-most obvious way; the first being, of course, that a good portion of the British royal family will not only be in attendance, but in the receiving line. Do you shake hands with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, or are Americans expected to bow and curtsy to the grandparents of the groom?

"If they extend their hand to you, you should certainly extend yours right back," advises Anna Post, great-great granddaughter of etiquette expert Emily Post and the author of "Do I Have To Wear White? Emily Post Answers America's Top Wedding Questions" and "Emily Post's Wedding Parties."

Though there are many similarities between a conventional wedding and an event such as Prince William's and Kate Middleton's, a royal wedding not only carries on tradition, it sets trends as well, Post points out. "The whole reason that women women wear white wedding dresses is because Queen Victoria wore white to her wedding with Prince Albert [in 1840]." (Queen Victoria also did the proposing, but the idea of the bride asking the groom for his hand in marriage never really caught on.)

Non-royals will be looking to Will and Kate's big day for tips on planning their own. There will probably be a copy of Kate Middleton's wedding dress in stores "as fast as someone can design it," Post says, adding that "everything from the flowers to the bridesmaid dresses to the food that's served" will set new wedding trends.

Still dreaming of dancing with royalty? Here are a few tips to bear in mind:

The dress code is very clear. In a conventional wedding, you may have to use your best judgment when it comes to deciding what to wear, but for Will and Kate's wedding the dress code was printed right on the invitations-and you have to follow it, no matter who you are. (If you don't know what "morning dress" is, be sure to look it up. And yes, even Americans are expected to wear a fancy hat or fascinator. "I, for one, would be very happy to see hats catch on," Post says.

What about the old rule that rules out wearing white to a wedding? And is black wedding attire as acceptable in England as it is in the United States?

"This is one where I would err on the side of caution," Post says. "I would personally not wear white or black to this wedding. Any other wedding it's OK so long that black doesn't look like mourning and white doesn't look bridal. This is one where I wouldn't run the risk."

Gifts required. Post points out that, even if the bride and groom already have everything they need, you still have to bring or send a gift. "I don't think they're hurting for a blender," she quips of the royal couple, who are registering for charitable gifts instead of home-making ones-something that's already a trend among couples who marry later in life or who have lived together before tying the knot.

No cameras, please! While taking photographs may be fine along the route to and from the royal wedding, guests should leave their cameras at home for the ceremony and reception. Unlike traditional British weddings, Will and Kate's big day will have two main parts: The ceremony and "wedding breakfast" in the morning, and then a break, and then "a proper party" in the evening. "Traditionally after the wedding breakfast, the couple goes off on their honeymoon," explained Katie Nicholl, author of "The Making of a Royal Romance," on "The View" recently:



Don't know how to curtsy? Don't be alarmed. Unless you're British, technically you don't have to bow or curtsy to the queen, but it is considered gracious to do so- and you don't have to do anything dramatic. "Men, bob lightly at the neck; women, bob lightly at the knee," advise Rachelle Von Anders at The Etiquette Guide. "The key here is subtlety."

Don't stand too close. Do not ask members of the royal family any personal questions, and be careful to keep your distance. "Assume that to royalty, being left alone is far from a slur; it is a luxury," suggests the experts at DeBrett's, the people to whom Anna Post turns when she has a question about British etiquette.

"Do not assume," Post says. "And when in doubt, err on the side of caution or conservatism."





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