The Ultimate A-Z for Wedding Guest Etiquette
If you think planning a wedding is tricky (and it is!) being a guest can be just as confusing. Don't worry though - we've got you covered! We've gone through just about every aspect of being a guest to help you figure what to do, what not to do, and who to talk to if you're really confused. And so ... without further ado...
The A-Z of Wedding Guest Etiquette
A – Always RSVP. Always. Even if you can’t attend, you must let the bride and groom know, don’t just assume they’ll figure it out.
B – “Better late than never” is NOT true when attending the ceremony. If you’re going to be late, don’t go in.
C – Children are not invited to a wedding unless specifically noted on the invitation. No exceptions.
D – Don’t get super drunk. A wedding may culminate in a giant party, but it’s still the most important day of someone else’s life. At the very least, follow the lead of the bride and groom before throwing back shots.
E – Elephants in the room. Awkward situations should be avoided at all costs. If there’s something going on (perhaps you’ve had a rocky couple months with your friend, the bride), the wedding day/night is not the time to try to make amends. Do not pull the bride away in a champagne-soaked embrace and tell her you’re “so sorry for everything.”
F – First dances are a wedding tradition that can bring tears to the eye of even the most stone-hearted. While the bride is dancing with her father, and the groom is dancing with his mother, it’s inappropriate to join them on the dance floor.
G – Greetings! The bride and groom may have a receiving line, or they may make their way to each table to greet their guests, don’t monopolize their time! They could have literally hundreds of people to greet.
H – Hen Parties (aka the Bachelorette Party) are up to the bride’s discretion. While it may be tempting to take her out for a wild night on the town, if she’d prefer a relaxing spa weekend then that’s what should happen. Also, she may not want a bachelorette party of any kind, in which case, her wishes should be honored. No trying to “surprise” her with something she’s already said she doesn’t want.
I – Invitations are addressed in a very specific manner, for a very specific reason. If you don’t have a plus one, or your kids aren’t listed on the invitation – don’t ask the bride, groom, or their parents about it. It’s in poor taste. If you really think there’s been a mistake, ask the wedding party if children are allowed at the wedding or if single guests are allowed to bring dates. They’ve probably been briefed on the correct answers by the bride, groom, and/or their families.
J – Jokes are fun. But there’s a time and a place. The bride and groom aren’t going to appreciate people playing pranks on each other or telling bawdy jokes during toasts.
K – Kissing time! It’s tradition at weddings for guests to clink their glasses to encourage the couple to kiss. Some couples really, really don’t want that happening. If they say they don’t like it, then don’t do it – it can be annoying to two people who want to just enjoy their big night! Others have created “kissing menus,” that will reward the guests with a kiss between the couple in exchange for the guest making a toast, doing a silly dance in the middle of the dance floor, or writing some sincere words of wisdom for the couple on a card.
L – Leaving the wedding before the cake is cut and served is considered poor form. If you know ahead of time that you’ll need to slip out early, let the bride and groom know so they don’t feel snubbed. If there’s an emergency, speak with one of the wedding party and let them know what’s up. Don’t address it with the couple on the day, who have enough going on and should only be thinking happy thoughts.
M – Money can be a huge factor for some guests at a wedding. Even if you’re travelling from afar to get there, it’s still considered proper form to give a small gift. If you just can’t swing a large check, a small, thoughtful gift is sufficient. At the very least, a congratulatory card is a necessity.
N – No phones! Turn your cell phone off during the ceremony (or better yet, leave it in the car) and for the duration of the reception. Don’t spend all night texting or chatting on the phone. You’re there to celebrate with the bride and groom, not provide live commentary via social media.
O – Open bar shouldn’t be abused. They usually don’t last the entire reception (in fact, in most cases they may only be open for an hour or two), but keep in mind that someone is paying for all that alcohol, even if you aren’t.
P – Photography may be a tricky subject. Some couples prefer their guests not take photos of their own, since having a professional photo full of people with their cameras out isn’t great.
Q – Questions should be addressed to the wedding party on the big day. If you’ve got a last minute question about how to get to the venue, or need to let someone know that you won’t be attending – do not call the bride or groom, or their parents. They’ve all got enough on their mind. Reach out to someone in the wedding party to pass the word.
R – Respect the Bride and Groom’s wishes. It’s their day. If there’s something that seems a little odd to you, but it’s coming directly from the bride or groom (or through their official PR people, the wedding party) it’s best just to do it with a smile on your face. They would do the same for you!
S – Speeches are a part of wedding tradition that are pretty standard. When a speech is being given, all side conversations should cease and full attention should be given to whoever is speaking. If you’ve been asked to give a speech, you may be tempted to throw in some humor or inside jokes – which is fine, but keep it clean. The bride and groom are surrounded by their entire families on their wedding day. Embarrassing them is completely inappropriate.
T – Tuxedos may be worn during a black-tie wedding, but a black suit is also appropriate. A floor-length gown is standard for women, although if a shorter dress has a lot of glamorous flair, it may be appropriate. But do not upstage the bride!
U – Umbrellas may be needed during an outdoor event in the case of bad weather. If that’s the case, try your hardest to ensure you aren’t obscuring the vision of those around you. Do not bring a parasol in clear weather.
V – Variety is usually pretty limited at weddings. If there are options presented for dinner, don’t request any special dishes unless there’s an extenuating circumstance such as a severe food allergy. The bride and groom really shouldn’t need to worry about accommodating your date’s latest health kick.
W – Wardrobe choices are key when attending a wedding. Men should be dressed in a suit to match the season and level of formality of the wedding, while women should be dressed conservatively. Women should also never even consider wearing an all white/cream/eggshell dress, and should also avoid any color or prints that are attention-grabbing.
X – Extravagance should be reserved for the bride and groom only. All eyes should be on them, so don’t do anything that would intentionally take the attention from them, such as flashing your gorgeous engagement ring in everyone’s face.
Y – Young love is wonderful. But please don’t make out with your date all night in the middle fo the dance floor. It’s tacky.
Z – Zero Tolerance. Couples may direct their wedding party and the staff during the reception to remove anyone who’s causing a scene or is just too drunk. Don’t be surprised if you make a spectacle of yourself and then find that you’re being escorted out.