Wedding Guest Etiquette 101
The way we celebrate weddings have changed a lot over the years, but that doesn’t mean etiquette doesn’t exist anymore, it just means that the rules are evolving.
It is an honor to be invited to a wedding. It’s someone’s most special day, and you get to be a part of it. That’s a big deal. Planning a wedding is stressful, there are so many things to do, decisions to make, details to supervise. So, as a guest, your only job is not to be a pain in the ass of the happy couple. Simple, right?
That’s why etiquette is so important, specially when talking about weddings. If you follow the simple rules, you’ll not add unnecessary stress to an already overwhelmed pair.
Send your RSVP ASAP. Whether you’re going or not, you always should reply to an invitation. The whole event is based on how many guests are attending, food, drinks, flowers, chairs, even the size of the venue is decided by number of people. Don’t just assume that because you’re such good friends with the couple that they’ll know you’re absolutely going. They have a million things on their minds and they have lots of good friends just like you. Turn in your RSVP card as soon as possible, don’t leave it ’til the last minute, and make the couple’s life a little easier.
It is unacceptable to show up to a wedding without notice. And, on the other hand, it is just as bad to RSVP and not go. Once you commit, you’ll have to show up, emergencies notwithstanding, of course. Furthermore, if, for whatever reason, you can’t attend the wedding, the polite thing to do is to let the couple know right away.
When it comes to adding a plus one to a wedding list, guests should use common sense. Read the invitation carefully, only those whose names are on the envelope are invited, if the invite isn’t specifically addressed to you and a guest, plan on attending solo. If you feel uncomfortable going on your own, gracefully decline the invitation. If the RSVP card encourages you to bring a guest, only do so if you have a “worthy” date. Goes without saying that bringing more than one guest is out of the question. Weddings are expensive, be considerate of the couple’s budget.
Sending a gift to the couple is mandatory unless they specifically asked you not to. If a wishing well card accompanies your invitation, the amount should be dictated by both your budget and your relationship to the couple. As a guideline, the closer you are to the couple, the more expensive the gift should be, but give the best you can afford. If the couple went to the trouble of making a registry list, you should buy from it.
You should send your gift to the couple either before the wedding or bring it with you to place on an allocated table at the reception. If you sent it to their address and are wondering if they received it, it is impolite to ask about it, instead, wait for a thank you note.
Most couples will state the dresscode for their wedding on the invitation. As a guest you are expected to carry out their wish. Most weddings require a formal or semi-formal attire, depending on location and time of day. Guests should always remember that they’re not the star of the show, so they shouldn’t outshine the couple.
If you are unsure of the dress code, it’s best to err on the side of caution and wear an outfit that is modest but still fashionable. A tip that always works for any occasion is to select a simple garment and add your own personal style to details including jewelry, shoes, and outerwear to complete the look.
The most important rule is ONLY THE BRIDE WEARS WHITE. Or cream, or ivory, or eggshell or any other variation of white. I cannot stress this enough. I’ll even add, that the color (and it’s variations) should be exclusive of the bride for the entirety of the festivities, which include bridal showers, bachelorette parties, rehearsals, and bridesmaid brunches.
With smartphones that are capable of taking hi-res pictures and the rise of social media, every single guest wants to take the perfect wedding photo of their beloved couple. This could be a problem if interferes with the work of the professional hired to do so.
The happy bride and groom spend a lot of money to get professionally good quality photos of their first kiss as a married couple. Imagine that being ruined by a guess who simply stood in front of the photographer to take their own. Only take photos if the couple specifically expressed that it is ok to do so. A wedding is full of ‘one-of’ moments, don’t ruin of them by going for the same shot as the professional.
On the opposite side of the coin, when being photographed during a wedding or the after party, behave accordingly. Those photos are very special to the couple and they’re not about you, so don’t be all extra.
As for social media, unless the bride and groom have created a hashtag encouraging you to share, don’t post anything until after the couple has had a chance to do so. Let them have the honor of posting the photos of their day. When posting photos of the wedding, keep in mind that family of the couple will see them, so be mindful of captions and keep those hilarious jokes to yourself.
Guests should refrain from making a big announcement at someone else’s wedding. If you got engaged, are pregnant, moving overseas or have an illness, keep it to yourself until at least the next day. And UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE you propose to someone on somebody else’s wedding day. The celebration should be about the couple and nothing else, don’t steal their thunder.
You are a guest at a wedding, not a hotel. This party, the flowers, music, food and drinks are not catered for you, they were chosen by the bride and groom. And even if they did their best to try and please everybody, I’m sure that are things you didn’t like or enjoy. Well, keep it to yourself, it’s not your place to have an opinion on it. It is a huge breach of wedding etiquette to be overheard critiquing the couple’s choice of cake, taste in music or the style of the bridesmaids dresses.
Party, but not to hard
Again, this is not YOUR party. Behave accordingly and appropriately. An open bar is not an excuse to go overboard with your drinking. Know your limits when it comes to alcohol and don’t make a scene on the dance floor. Keep your drinking in check by drinking plenty of water in between trips to the bar.