Once you've planned and hosted your own wedding, your appreciation for wedding guest etiquette will increase immensely. From no shows to outrageously inappropriate antics at the reception, you may wish an etiquette manual was sent to your guests along with the invitations. As a disclaimer, every wedding holds different expectations, but for the most part, the following reminders fall into the common sense category for wedding attendance; still, don't be surprised to see one or more of these situations throughout your planning and wedding day.
RSVPs - The bride and groom put tremendous effort into their guest list and have chosen to include friends and family with whom they want to share their special day. The least you can do as a guest is practice the following:
- RSVP and be sure to do so on time; the sooner the bride and groom get their headcount, the better.
- If you RSVP "yes" please be sure to attend the wedding. Short of a terrible illness or serious emergency, there is no excuse to not attend the wedding at the last minute. By the week of the wedding, final numbers and most likely payments have been submitted to the catering and event companies. Additionally, don't make matters worse by offering to pay for the "missed" meal; this just creates an awkward situation for everyone.
- Never attend a wedding in which you declined the invitation. Period.
- Do not bring a guest to a wedding if your invitation did not include mention of one. With any hope, the bride and groom should include "guest" or the name of a significant other on the invitation.
Attending the ceremony - The wedding ceremony is truly the most important aspect of the wedding day festivities. Because of its importance, keep the following in mind:
- Be on time. For this situation, on time means earlier than the time listed on the invitation. The time on the invitation signifies when the ceremony begins, therefore arriving at least fifteen minutes early is appropriate to give you enough time to find your seat. You shouldn't be scrambling to sit as the bridal party makes it way down the aisle.
- You are not the professional photographer (or Paparazzi for that matter). You are welcome to commemorate the day with photos, the bride and groom will appreciate the different vantage points, but be sure not to get in the way of the photographer; he or she is there for the "money shots". And by all means, never approach the altar or traipse behind the officiant to get additional photos (yes, this really happens).
- Know where you're going. If the invitation did not include directions from the ceremony to the reception, take it upon yourself to get directions ahead of time.
Wedding guest attire - A wedding is great excuse to dress up but choose an appropriate ensemble for the type of wedding; consider notes on the invitation, venue and time of year.
- Unless you are on a beach (preferably a tropical destination), clearly attending a casual wedding, shorts are never appropriate.
- Jeans are also not appropriate wedding attire unless explicitly approved by the bride and groom (a country themed wedding may be the only exception).
- Ladies, you are encouraged to look your best as a wedding guest, but do not steal the show from the bride (that's a given) or her bridal party; this includes overly sexy or garishly colored looks.
- Black is an appropriate color for a wedding. A black cocktail dress or gown is a sophisticated look for just about any wedding, although wearing color for a daytime wedding is favorable.
The Reception - When the ceremony is over and the festivities begin, the ties might loosen but that doesn't mean etiquette goes out the window!
- Yes, the bride and groom want to celebrate their special day with you, and this typically includes eating, drinking and being merry. What it doesn't mean is over-indulging, over-imbibing and making a fool of yourself.
- Please let the bride and groom eat their meal in peace. They probably haven't eaten all day and they need to recharge to dance the night away. Give the couple a chance to eat before bombarding them at their table.
- Do find time to personally congratulate the happy couple. They will most likely come to thank you first, but they might miss you in the excitement of the day.
- The reception is not a restaurant, therefore special orders or specifications to the meal are not appropriate. If you have specific dietary needs (e.g. allergies, not pickiness) give the bride and groom a heads up when you RSVP.
- Don't arbitrarily pluck the centerpieces off the tables to take home as a souvenir without an invitation to do so. It's common for the vases, etc. to be rentals or belong to the florist, so be sure to check before taking home a pretty memento from the day.
- Stay at the reception long enough to enjoy the special moments like cutting the cake and the garter/bouquet toss. Donít eat and run.
- Be sure to thank the bride and groom or at least the couple's parents for a beautiful event before you leave.
This may seem like a long laundry list of harsh "dos and don'ts" just to attend a wedding, but the bride and groom have undoubtedly gone to great lengths to plan a beautiful event for their guests. With that said, this is probably nothing compared to the etiquette expectations of the "Royal Wedding" so count your blessings.