Wedding Guest Etiquette

by | Inspired Words, Weddings


Sarah Dickens

Image by Deep Grey Wedding Photography

Weddings are a cause for celebration and to be a good, actually, great wedding guest, I share with you some simple rules. These rules will hopefully guide even the most seasoned wedding guest through the sea of confusion surrounding weddings in the 21st century.

Rule Number One: Be Your Best You

Upon entering the Ceremony and Reception Venues, leave all excess baggage at the door and ensure you have a smile super glued to your face. No matter how bad your situation is, hold your head up high, and pretend everything couldn’t be better! I can guarantee you that the recent promotion of your ‘arch nemesis’ Melinda at work does not rank high on the priority list for table discussion. Nor should any of the other guests have to listen to how uncomfortable you are in your $599.99 outfit that you purchased instead of paying your rent for two weeks. Leave all of your troubles at home; a wedding is not the place to share your woes. Be Your Best You for a couple of hours – who knows, you might even enjoy yourself!

Rule Number Two: RSVP ASAP

As soon as you have received the invitation it is extremely important to RSVP ASAP (regardless of whether or not you are attending). At this point in time, I must urge you to take careful note of whom the invitation is addressed to. If the invitation is just addressed to you, then it is safe to say you are flying solo –what a fun and fabulous way to extend your circle and meet new people. If the invite is addressed to yourself, plus a guest, ensure you forward your guest’s name along with the RSVP. This will ensure a smooth evening for you and your guest, plus no unexpected surprises for the Bride!

Rule Number 3: Punctuality is a Plus

Ensure you arrive to each stage of the wedding on time – you should be arriving at least fifteen minutes if not more before the ceremony commences or the Bride and Groom arrive. If you are unfamiliar with the area you are travelling to for the wedding, ensure you do your research, paying particular attention to parking arrangements. If for whatever reason you arrive late to the ceremony, under no circumstances make your way down the aisle to your seat, wait until an usher or the wedding coordinator seats you. If you arrive during the processional, wait patiently to the side and sit once everyone has entered. With a little extra preparation, you can avoid any red faced situation.

Rule Number Four: Dressing Appropriately

To avoid any awkward moments or a dreaded ‘Janet Jackson’ wardrobe malfunction, plenty of effort and consideration must be taken when choosing appropriate wedding attire. If you have been living under a rock for the last few centuries, guests are strictly not to wear a white outfit of any description. This is a tradition that is often reserved for the bride only. Jeans and shorts should not be seen. Flashy or skimpy outfits are a big no-no and an all black outfit should be avoided – remember you aren’t going to a funeral. Pay special attention to the dress code outlined on the invitation. Regardless of what dress code is on the invitation, keep it simple – subtlety is best.

Rule Number Five: Gifting

It is often good etiquette to give the Bride and Groom a gift even if you are unable to attend the wedding. Most couples these days have taken the guess work out of selecting a gift by providing their guests with a Wedding Registry. If you are stuck on picking the perfect gift, think about the relationship you have with the Bride and Groom, this will ensure you pick something meaningful. If you are unable to afford a gift on the registry, get in touch with other guests – you can then choose a large item and the cost can be split multiple ways. If you purchase a large item that is not easy to carry, please leave it at home. Traditionally you have one year to send gifts to the newly married couple. This means you can deliver it at a later date. If you decide to delay a gift, ensure you give the couple a card outlining your plans, this will ultimately avoid you looking like a cheapskate.

Rule Number Six: Introduce Yourself and Mingle

Make an effort to introduce yourself to all of the other guests at your table. A great ice breaker is to start with how you all know the Bride and Groom – remember you will be spending a large amount of time at your table. With that in mind though, feel free to mingle with other guests at different tables, you don’t have to be chained to your seat all night – a couple of minutes of small talk never hurt anyone! The Bride and Groom would have put a lot of effort into the seating plan, so ensure you know where you are to be seated before you enter the reception venue. Under no circumstances should guests play musical chairs with the seating plan or switch places with other guests.

Image by Jackie Chan

Rule Number Seven: Open Bar Behaviour

Yes, there may be an open bar. Yes, it may be free – but under no circumstances should guests drink so much alcohol that they pass out underneath the buffet table. Alcohol should be consumed responsibly. Remember that the Bride and Groom have paid a substantial amount for the open bar, don’t abuse the privilege. Most importantly you want to avoid embarrassing yourself and the happy couple. You don’t want to be ‘oh, the guest who’…….

Rule Number Eight: Timing is Everything

If possible, stay for the entire length of the Ceremony and Reception. If you are simply unable to stay for the full length, it is appropriate to leave after the cutting of the cake. There is nothing worse than  guests who like to ‘dine and dash’, leaving  the room half empty for the cutting of the cake, the first dance and the tossing of the bouquet. After the cutting of the cake, everyone let’s their hair down, and this is where the real fun begins!

Rule Number Nine: You are not the Paparazzi

The Bride and Groom have paid a professional photographer to capture the special moments from their big day. If you would like to take photos, stay out of the professional’s way. If it can be avoided try not to take photographs until after the ceremony, this is a special time for the Bride and Groom and your utmost attention should be on them. Photos should also not be posted on Facebook, Twitter, or any other form of Social Media unless you have been given strict instructions to do so by the Bride. It is important that the Bride is captured looking her best and the professional photographs are unveiled as ‘hot off the press’!

Rule Number Ten: It’s polite to say Thank You

It is extremely important that before the Bride and Groom leave the reception that you express your thanks and gratitude for being able to share in their special day. If you can manage to catch a brief moment with the Bride and Groom alone, ensure that thanks are given. If you can’t pin them down, giving your brief thanks during the Farewell Circle is another perfect opportunity. The Parents of both the Bride and the Groom should not be forgotten. During the reception, feel free to offer your congratulations to the Mother and Father of the Bride and Groom, and thank them for a wonderful day/evening.  In most instances they would have contributed largely to the success of the wedding.

Swirl divider14 Tips for the Perfect Wedding Speech

Ms Gingham says: Great post and great advice. Especially Rule Number 9 about staying out of the professional photographer’s way!

Sarah says: “Newly Wed who loves to blog about weddings and food! Loved everything about planning my wedding and honeymoon, and absolutely devastated that it is all over now icon sad Tips for the Perfect Wedding Speech Have the most amazing husband who I love with all my heart, and am so looking forward to the journey life will take us on together now that we are married!”

Read more by Sarah here.

  • Nat @ Dear Little House says:
    May 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Good tips! The RSVP thing drove me bonkers- I had to chase and chase some people. I even got one RSVP that said “Mrs Balh can’t come so I am bringing some random friend of mine that you have never met”. Amazing!

  • Australian Wedding News | Polka Dot Bride says:
    May 29, 2012 at 4:06 pm

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