Wedding Guest Etiquette
Some people think that wedding etiquette only pertains to the bride and groom, and perhaps that rest of the wedding party. Fortunately for you those people are wrong, and here is a list of things to do and not do to ensure you are going to be an awesome wedding guest.
RSVP – Quite literally the term translates from the French ‘Répondez s'il vous plaît’ to ‘Please Respond’. Most wedding invitations nowadays are preceded by a Save The Date card, and include an RSVP card so you really don’t have any excuse to not reply. Couples need to know guest numbers for catering purposes amongst many other financially dependent reasons. Always make sure you have responded before the due date. If something happens and you can no longer attend, it’s polite to let the couple know prior rather than just not showing up – if an emergency/illness occurs on the day of, then let the mother of the bride or groom, the maid of honour or the wedding planner know instead and they can pass the information on.
Show up for what you were invited to – Unless you have an exceptional reason, if you are invited to both the ceremony and the reception attend both. The ceremony is the most important part of the wedding – it is essentially the reason everyone is there. Don’t skip the ceremony and just rock up to the reception unless something out of your control happens. Also, if you’re not invited to the reception, don’t show up to it.
Stick to the dress code on the invitation. It’s there for a reason – if you are asked to wear black tie, then wear as close to it as you possibly can. Men should at least wear a black suit, light-coloured shirt and a black tie with appropriate (closed toed, shiny) shoes. Ladies should wear a formal dress/outfit. If it’s a casual dress code, then at least make sure you look like your clothes haven’t been sitting on the floor for a week. Sundresses, nice jeans (not the ones with the paint splatters and holes), clean shoes. If you are unsure of the dress code look at the invitation itself. If it’s fancy and/or engraved then a formal look is going to be most appropriate. Or ask someone close to the bride (ie. her mum or her planner) but don’t ask the bride herself as she has other things to worry about.
Arrive on time. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the venue and allow for getting lost, detours, roadworks or heavy traffic. You should add at least 20 minutes to the time you think it will take. If you’re there early, you can always wait in the car until other guests arrive and then go mingle. If you are late, wait at the back until the processional has finished and then quietly slip into one of the chairs/pews in the back row.
Gifts. If you have been invited to the wedding you need to send a gift, even if you can’t attend, unless the invitation specifically states no gifts. The rules relax a little if they are only an acquaintance – if you don’t know them very well then you’re not so obliged to send a gift if you can’t go, but at least send a card or note of congratulations.
You should also make sure you shop for your gift from the wedding registry if there is one – this information will be in the invitation you received. If there is a registry and you choose to not shop from it, unless you have very specifically been told by the bride and groom that they want a specific thing, it makes you seem like you either don’t care what they want, or that you had the gifted item just laying around your house and you decided to gift it in order to get rid of it.
Whilst you don’t have to participate in part of religious ceremonies if you are not of that faith (for example, if you have not been baptised in the Christian faith then you don’t go up to receive Communion if the ceremony includes it), but you should sit or stand as other guests do so unless you have mobility issues.
Please sit where you have been seated. You can get up and mingle later once the dancing starts, but the couple have most often put a lot of thought into who is sitting next to who. The attractive person you want to sit next to might have been seated on the other side of the room because they have a crazy ex or maybe they’re newly engaged and are sitting with their finance.
If you have been invited to bring a guest, please bring someone who is and who will behave appropriately. Don’t bring your boyfriend if he is unpredictable after a few glasses of beer. Also leave your weird pot-smoking roommate at home. Talk about awkward.
IF you don’t want to participate in the garter toss, bouquet toss, etc, don’t just hide in the restrooms. Stand at the back and smile or simply remain seated for the time. You might think that something is tacky, but the bride and/or groom enjoy the ritual so be polite and don’t say anything about it as now is not the time to criticise or complain about things.
Don’t bring a guest if you haven’t been invited to do so. It goes back to the reasons mentioned for RSVPing. Catering purposes, seating requirements, etc. And most definitely do NOT contact the bride or groom asking if you can bring your newest flame with you. They most likely have their own reasons for not including a guest on your invite. The only time this is acceptable is if you are married, engaged or have a long-term partner who should have been invited by etiquette standards. There may have been a very good reason for them to have been left off, but in this circumstance and ONLY this circumstance you may broach the subject, politely, with the bride and groom.
Uninvited guests include children. Sorry, this may come as a shock to some people, but not everyone wants children at their wedding. It may be a simple matter of space, or venue requirements, and in some cases the bride and groom just want to have an adult-only celebration. Leave them at home with their grandparents, at a friends house or with a babysitter and enjoy a night out by yourselves.
Try to avoid using your phone during the reception and definitely don’t use it during the ceremony. The only exception to this rule is photography – but if the bride and groom have asked you to turn off all technology during the ceremony, then please respect their wishes. Who do you need to text or call during the wedding anyway? Unless it’s your babysitter asking something super important, or some other similar situation, you shouldn’t need to be on your phone anyway.
Social Media – do not post photos from the wedding on any social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc) until the bride and or groom have done so. Many couples now have hashtags for their wedding and want to see their guests' photos – but not whilst the wedding is happening, and not until they’ve been able to share a few of their own first.
Don’t upstage the bride and groom. It’s great that you’re getting married in a few weeks/months, but don’t talk about it at this wedding. Unless someone is asking you questions about it specifically, and even then try to avoid answering them where possible. Also DO NOT propose, announce an engagement or pregnancy on the day of the wedding or at any time during the wedding festivities. Do you really want to share your own big news with someone else’s big day anyway?
Speaking of upstaging, under no circumstances should you wear white to any wedding ever. White background with a floral print is fine, especially during a summer or spring wedding, but not plain white. Also don’t wear anything too revealing. It’s not your day, it’s the bride’s day and you should not draw attention away from her.
Unless it’s an actual emergency, don’t leave before the cake is cut. The cutting of the cake is a subtle sign to older guests that it’s okay for them to go home to bed should they wish too, and it also signals that it’s okay for any other guests to leave early if they need/wish to.