There is a certain etiquette you need to follow when attending weddings. We have prepared for you a comprehensive list of 25 tips and rules on how to be a good wedding guest.
1) Be on time
Fashionably late works for cocktail parties, but when it comes to weddings, it’s just bad form. Make sure you know exactly where the wedding is being held, how long it will take you to get there (making sure to account for traffic), and give yourself a little buffer time to arrive, park, and find a seat. Don’t be the person who makes everything run late – after all, the couple is probably eager to tie the knot!
2) Leave uninvited guests at home
If your wedding invitation doesn’t include a plus one, or if it indicates that the wedding is child-free, absolutely positively do not assume that the rules don’t apply to you. In general, couples are pretty clear about indicating who you can bring. If you genuinely don’t know if you can bring somebody, reach out and ask the hosts before you respond. Never assume that rules can be broken just for you.
3) Be excited
This is one of our favorite little touches that not a lot of people do – let the couple know you’re excited to get to celebrate with them! Take a few moments out of your day to write a line on the RSVP card, send them a random card in the mail to cheer on the fact that the wedding month is finally here, or shoot a text out the week of telling them that you’re thinking about them and can’t wait to watch them say I Do. You are letting them know how excited you are to be a part of their big day.
4) Keep your opinions to yourself
Everybody has a different idea of the perfect wedding. If you find yourself at a wedding that doesn’t match your aesthetic, or breaks cultural norms or etiquette rules you think everybody should know and follow, don’t make that your smalltalk topic of choice. Ultimately, every wedding is unique, and it’s about the couple getting married, and not about your preferences. Your color commentary about the wedding colors is not needed.
There is nothing sadder than a wedding where nobody is dancing. Even if you have two left feet, if you see an empty space on the dance floor, heed Lady Gaga’s words of wisdom and just dance. Grab your friends and family and boogie oogie oogie. You may feel a little silly at first, but soon enough, you’ll be having a blast, and the couple will love seeing how much fun everybody is having. Go ahead and fill up on some liquid courage if you need the social lubrication, but don’t forget about rule number seven.
6) Follow dress code
Another handy piece of information that you’ll find on the invitation, on the couple’s wedding website or on their Joy app is the dress code. Pay attention to that. Don’t be the random dude wearing jeans at a black tie event, or the woman trying to make sand and stilettos work at a beach wedding.
7) Put your phone away
When the couple are standing at the ceremony looking out at everybody they love, they want to be able to see your faces. They want to witness the tears, the joy, the excitement, and none of that can be done when you’re hiding behind your phone screen. So leave the documentation of the day to the professionals and take it as a moment where you can really step back and be present without worrying about being constantly checked in online.
8) Listen to the speeches
The speeches are one of the more personal and intimate parts of the night, where the couple can really step back and soak in the love and support that surrounds them. Standing up to speak can be super daunting for some, and it’s even worse when they’re competing against everyone else in the room for their voice to even be heard. So sit back and listen. Don’t rob the couple of their chance to hear what everybody has to say.
9) Follow the seating plans
Seating plans are made for a reason, so don’t sit wherever you please. Sometimes there are particular seats during the ceremony that are reserved for specific people, and there are often table plans in place during the reception, so if you’re ever unsure just look around and ask for help.
10) Make sure your name is on your gift
You’d be surprised how often this doesn’t happen. Whether you’re mailing your gift directly to the couple via their registry or bringing it wrapped up pretty on the day of, make sure your name is securely attached to it in some way. It’s so disappointing to get a great gift and not know who to thank for it.
11) Don’t make it about you
If you have big news to share, the wedding you're attending as a guest is not the place to do it, unless you've cleared it with the couple beforehand and they're okay with it. And definitely don't plan to propose at someone else's wedding – again, unless the couple are actually genuinely happy for you to do so – and you're completely clear they didn't agree through gritted teeth. Get your own special day.
12) Find the bride and groom
This is similar to what we just said, but don’t feel like the bride and groom have to make the time to come and find you on their big day. If you see a moment, go up to them and let them know how happy you are for them, that they look absolutely stunning, how the ceremony brought you to tears, or that the food was absolutely delicious. But, don’t hog their time. You want them to be able to enjoy themselves, not feel like they spent all night rotating between tables in an effort to say hello to everyone.
13) Stay positive
This one is easy y’all – don’t be negative about anything. If your chicken was tough, the vows were cheesy, or the music is lame, keep it to yourself. The last thing you want is for it to get back to the bride and groom. Their day should be all about love and happiness, and every couple likes hearing how much their guests enjoyed everything after the fact, not the negatives.
14) Reach out to relatives
Often, one of the most uncomfortable things about attending a family member’s wedding is seeing all the relatives you haven’t seen in years. Although it may be somewhat awkward, it’s important to make a point of interacting with your relatives. Be prepared to tell relatives what you’ve been up to in your personal and professional life and direct similar questions to them. Before you know it, you’ll feel like family again!
15) Talk at the table
When seated at an assigned table, you should introduce yourself to everyone else at the table. The bride and groom put you at that table for a reason, so utilize the seating arrangement to get to know some of the other guests. Engage in conversation by finding out how the others know the bride and groom, where they are from and even their occupation. You could discover a love interest, new friend, or potential business contact.
16) Give thanks
As a guest at a wedding, you should make a point to introduce yourself to the bride and grooms’ families and express your thanks. If you can cite a specific element of the wedding that stands out in your mind as memorable, include that in your conversation.
17) Do the family photos without complaint
It’s important to remember that you’ve been specifically chosen by the bride and groom to be in these photos. They want you to be a part of the documentation so that when they look back in years to come they can see your smiling face standing there alongside them. 15 minutes out of your day won’t affect you much, and the couple will love you for being a part of their photos.
18) Don’t bring your kids unless they’re on the invite
Nothing ruins the most important day of your life like the shrill shriek of an angry baby or unruly tots making a mess of the centerpieces. In some cases, the couple would rather spend a civilized evening in the company of adults.
19) Pick a side
During the ceremony, keep in mind that usually, friends of the bride sit on the left and friends of the groom sit on the right. However, „if you're a friend of both the bride and groom or if you see that one side of the room is emptier than the other, you can leave the seating choice up to the usher. Be willing to sit on either side if you're asked to help to even out the seating.“
20) Don’t wear white
Or ivory, or cream. Steer clear of those colors, and even more so if lace is involved too. You can wear your nice white lace dress to any event of the year. Brides get one day to wear their nice white lace wedding dress. Don’t ruin it.
21) Don’t wear black
Black is a bit funeral-esque, and traditionally wearing black was a way to protest against the marriage. So unless you not-so-secretly wish the bride was marrying you, put your black tie back on the rack and pick out a more jaunty floral one.
22) Don't change plan last minute
If you’ve said you’re going, unless it’s a serious emergency or you’re horribly, contagiously ill, do not even think of canceling. Likewise, if you said you’re not attending, don’t even think about rocking up to the wedding breakfast unannounced. Even if you bring an awesome gift.
23) Think about your hat
If you’re wearing a hat to the wedding, good for you. More people should wear hats. But be considerate when choosing it – a tall hat will block views at the ceremony and a wide hat will eclipse guests during the group pictures.
24) Try not to sulk
There’s a thing about wedding season – lots of weddings tend to happen. If you’re marrying at a similar time to a friend, don’t be upset if they, like you, have gone for a rustic theme or a similar dress. It happens! No one will notice, unless you point it out.
25) You get what you’re given
Don’t moan about the menu choices to the couple. It’s their wedding and they’re footing the bill, so it’s only fair they’re allowed to eat their favorite foods. As long as they’ve catered for any dietary requirements, you can’t complain. And don’t try to ask for different food on the day anyway. It won’t happen.
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