2020 is finally turning around which means, weddings are starting to bounce back. This is fantastic news for the engaged couple, but it’s also an exciting time to be a wedding guest! Attending a wedding comes with a few questions, some rules, a little bit of standard etiquette, a few guidelines and a lot of honor. Not sure what to do, who to bring, what to wear, or what to gift? Here is how to pull off being the PERFECT wedding guest!
Weddings come in all shapes and sizes and you may even witness weddings that have different traditions, customs or religions than you are familiar or not familiar with. While you aren’t expected to participate in those rituals at a wedding, be respectful, mindful, and follow the lead of those family members and friends who are participating. You can show respect to the wedding couple by keeping your opinions and thoughts to yourself. It is not your job as a wedding guest to criticize how or what happens at their wedding.
RSVP! We’ve all done it - we receive a wedding invite, we read it, and then set it on the counter before it climbs into the junk drawer. We can do better than that! Invitations usually get sent out about 6-8 weeks before the wedding, so next time you receive one, check your calendar and make the decision. The sooner you can RSVP, the better; not only for the couple, but for the courtesy of the person with the wallet and the vendors that they are paying. The last thing you want to do is add stress to the happy couple by not sending in your response and letting them guess on your attendance. Remember, they have huge deadlines as the bride and groom so they probably don’t want to pay for your $80 steak two weeks before their wedding just for you to eventually not show up. Remember: it’s not rude to decline, but it is rude to RSVP as a yes and not attend.
RIDIN’ SOLO One of the most important wedding guest rules to follow is your plus-one… and whether or not they are invited to attend. It’s easy to assume that all guests get to bring a significant other or friend, but remember that the couple gets to make the decision on their guest list and who is invited. Read the invitation carefully to see who the invite was addressed to, and if you are unsure or it is unclear whether or not that you get to bring someone, just ask the couple or check out their wedding website for a FAQ section.
Make it a point to always give a gift when receiving a wedding invitation, even if you can’t attend the wedding. To be selected as an invited guest is a big deal, therefore it is always a nice gesture to still congratulate the couple with a gift, card, or both. Most couples make the shopping easy for their guests; check out their wedding website for a registry. Don’t feel like you have to get a gift off their registry - if you have a different idea for them, go for it! We always recommend sending the wedding gift to the address listed on their registry versus bringing the gift to the wedding reception. After all, it is one less thing you have to remember to bring to the wedding, and it is one less thing they have to pack up at the end of the night. If you can’t decide what to get them or they haven’t specified a registry, always go the monetary route. Almost every couple has a honeymoon fund! Rather than buying them a set of towels or an air fryer, you can specify in the check memo that you’re gifting scuba diving lessons, or a hot air balloon ride for them to experience on their honeymoon. Make your check payable to the bride or groom and don’t forget to use the bride's maiden name! Gift cards aren’t the worst idea, but make sure that they are your last resort.
DRESS CODE, DE-CODED
Not sure what to wear to the wedding? Whip out that invitation because you can tell a lot about the wedding from the invite. The time of day & venue should say a lot about the formality of the wedding (barn/ranch vs. mansion/country club), but oftentimes, the couple have specified appropriate attire on their invite or wedding website. For a daytime wedding, a floral dress, maxi dress or jumpsuit would be appropriate for women, and a light-colored suit and/or button up shirt and tie for men would be appropriate. For an evening wedding, cocktail dresses, formal jumpsuits, or formal gowns would be appropriate for women, and dark colored suits, jackets and even tuxedos are appropriate for men, depending on the formality of the wedding. Obey the bride and do not wear white to a wedding, even if you think the bride would not mind. Avoid off-white and ivory colored outfits as well, just to be safe. If you have to ask yourself, “does this count as white?” that means you should decide on something else. The last thing you want to do as a wedding guest is to take away from the bride on her big day. Every once in a while there's a dress code mentioned on the invitation or wedding website that instructs guests to wear a certain color. Stay classy, avoid wearing anything too flashy, or anything that shows too much skin. You’ll want to respect the wedding couples' family, traditions, religions and opinions. If you are ever in doubt about what to wear, remember proper wedding guest etiquette. You could always ask the couple what they would like to see their guests wearing. It is always best to know ahead of time versus showing up and sticking out from the rest of the crowd. Don’t forget to keep a jacket in your car because you never know when the weather comes up with a new game plan! And last but not least, bring a mask and at least wear it when you're around people you may not know or through the buffet line.
TARDY FOR THE PARTY
If you ever wanted to be on time to anything, it’s a wedding! In fact, show up earlier than the time noted on the invitation - arriving 30 minutes beforehand is a general rule to follow and has become VERY standard. Arriving early also gives you the opportunity to get familiar with the venue, sign the guest book, and choose the perfect seat to watch the ceremony! Plan for traffic, some pre-ceremony mingling, and a bathroom break. If you do happen to show up after the ceremony has begun, seat yourself quietly in the back AFTER the bride has made it down the aisle and do NOT stand in the back or to the side. The bride and groom have paid photographers and videographers and the last thing you would want to do is have your tardiness documented in photos or videos. If you’re late with a group, split up and if you’re not willing to do that then go straight to cocktail hour.
UNPLUG Let’s all pretend we are at the movies or church and silence our cell phones so we aren’t distracting others around us. More times than not, the officiant or a sign walking into the wedding will request that you do not to use your cell phone during the ceremony. The couple has hired professional photographers and it likely is one of their bigger spends, so it is very important that you’re not seen with your cell phone in the air obstructing the professional. Just a friendly reminder that making phone calls, texting, or watching the big game during the ceremony is something that you should also avoid.
Maybe you know a lot of other wedding guests, and maybe you don’t know anyone, but but socializing is one of the best parts about weddings. Between cocktail hour and dinner, the bride and groom want to encourage everyone to get acquainted. In fact, you already have something in common with everyone - you all know the couple in one way or another! If you are married, then you know how stressful and how much time seating charts can take! As a guest, check the seating chart and sit where you're supposed to, then introduce yourself to those that you may not know at your table. If there's a specific seating arrangement, the couple probably put you with people they thought you'd enjoy talking to, so start talking, and enjoy yourself! Whatever you do, do NOT move your chair and change your seating assignment; doing something like this can completely change the dynamic of the reception and cause several hiccups when it comes to dinner service.
BECAUSE NO GREAT STORY STARTED WITH A SALAD...
The best, yet very tempting, words of a wedding… open bar. I think we can all agree that the only person that should be talked about on wedding night is the couple. If you’re being talked about post-wedding, chances are it isn’t going to be good. Pace yourself and be sure to hydrate in between drinks. Take advantage of the appetizers, dinner and cake the couple has provided for you. If you’re not invited to give a toast, don’t invite yourself. After dinner, don’t be afraid to swap out your last cocktails for coffee and take advantage of any late night snacks! If the bar tells you enough is enough, trust their judgment and keep that between you and the bartenders; no body wants to have to defend their decision after it has been made.
DANCE, DANCE, DANCE!
After the rings have been exchanged, the vows have been shared, the dinner has been served and toasts have been given, it is time to hit the dance floor! Dancing can be the BEST part of the wedding and your chance to finally let loose. Follow the lead of the couple, of course after their first dances have happened. Try to let the DJ control the crowd and dance floor and limit your requests, after all this isn’t a dance party just for you.
NA NA NA NA, GOODBYE! Not sure when to say your goodbyes? Wedding receptions typically last 3-5 hours and near the end of it, the DJ usually makes it known with some last dance announcements, last call, or a grand exit. The “best” time to leave is after the couple cuts the cake, but if you want to catch some more time to mingle, grab a drink and hit the dance floor post-cake cutting! Once you are ready to head out, it’s a nice gesture to thank and say goodbye to the couple, or their parents. If you decide to stay until the very end of the reception, it is always the grandest gesture to ask the couple, parents, or planners if they need any help package anything up or taking things out as you exit.
SUCCESS! Wedding guest etiquette isn’t rocket science, but there is a lot more to it than people are told. Try your best to be respectful and polite, but still social, welcomed, and fun guest. The newlyweds put a lot of time and energy into perfecting their special day and the best way that we recommend showing your gratitude is to show them how much you appreciate the invitation to their big day. Now onto the next wedding!