Ladylike Laws: Wedding Guest Etiquette

From the invitation wording to the guest list, we’ve talked about quite a few of the wedding etiquette rules that a bride and groom have to consider. But what if you’re simply a guest at a wedding? Believe it or not, there are still a lot of etiquette rules that you should keep in mind. As someone who has been a wedding guest, a planner, and a bride, I’ve witnessed from multiple perspectives what is appropriate and what is not. So before you dive head first into wedding season, here are some simple etiquette tips to follow…

RSVP by the Deadline

Good wedding guest etiquette starts the minute you receive the invitation in the mail. Most hosts give you plenty of time to get your RSVP in, so there’s usually no excuse for sending back your response card late. If you’re simply forgetful or tend to lose pieces of mail, make a concerted effort to send in your response on the same day it’s delivered to you.

Be Punctual

Yes, it’s common for a couple to start their ceremony 15 or 30 minutes after the time on the invitation in order to ensure that everyone is there and settled. But even if you know this is going to be the case, you should still make your very best effort to get there at the time listed on the invite. Stumbling in when the ceremony is already underway is both embarrassing for you and disrespectful to the couple. So get there with time to spare, and enjoy some cool refreshments and good company while you wait patiently.

Do Not Wear White

You would think this common rule wouldn’t need repeating at this point, but you’d be surprised. Almost every wedding I’ve attended has had a guest or two who has disobeyed this statute of wedding etiquette. If you’re not sure if your dress is considered white or not (cream or very pale pink for instance), it’s best to err on the side of caution and choose another outfit option. Let the bride stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Drink Responsibly

An open bar is not a good excuse to drink more than you usually would. Know your limits, and don’t do anything to make a fool of yourself or make a mess of the bride and groom’s dream day. If you have trouble resisting limitless free alcohol, pair up with a responsible friend who will remind you to slow down if you need to.

Be on Good Behavior

This goes hand-in-hand with drinking responsibly for many. But the bottom line is, don’t do anything that would draw attention away from the couple. Any loud, obnoxious, or attention-seeking behavior is a major no. (Even impromptu toasts when you weren’t asked to speak are tricky…) Be polite, well mannered, and gracious to be included in such an important day for your friends. If you know who is hosting the event (ie. the bride or groom’s parents), be sure to thank them at some point in the night.

Mail Large Gifts

If you are getting the bride and groom a gift that is large in size (whether it was an item off their registry or otherwise), it is best to ship it directly to their home ahead of time. It’s perfectly fine to bring envelopes and smaller boxes on the day of, but anything unwieldy only makes it difficult for the bride and groom.

Don’t Become an iPhone Paparazzo

It has become quite common for guests to snap photos on their camera phones throughout the ceremony and reception these days. Some couples even encourage it by creating their own social media hashtag for the event. But please use common courtesy when you’re playing iPhone photographer. That means making sure that you’re still present and in the moment during the ceremony, and that you’re not blocking anyone else’s view when you strain to get the perfect shot. And if the bride and groom do ask you to refrain from taking photographs or posting on social media, you must respect their wishes completely.

Keep the Chitchat with the Couple Brief 

Of course you are excited to congratulate your newly married loved ones on their union. But keep in mind that your bride and groom have many guests to greet in their receiving line. So, keep the congratulatory chitchat to a minimum and certainly don’t take offense if you don’t get to spend a ton of one-on-one time with the couple.

Do you have any etiquette rules to add to my list?

Share them in the comments below.

xo Ilana
Team LC

Photo: 100 Layer Cake
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  • Michelle Barancik

    I would like to know how much money people put in the wedding card. When I got married 5 years ago, $50 was the standard. Less than that was considered cheap and more than that was considered generous. My husband thinks that we have to give $75 or $100. now but when you have 5-8 weddings a summer that starts adding up fast. What do you think?

  • Shana

    If someone asks that you do not take pictures of their wedding and post them to social media, you should be respectful of that. Also with the plus one and children. I think that is an individual thing. I am helping a friend plan her wedding now and both her and her fiancé’s family are so big, that they only invited a few close family friends and no plus ones. Even she doesn’t like doing it this way but it was the only they can afford.
    http://www.BFFandMore.com

  • Shana

    so true! if you like taking photos then that is a great way to learn! I recently saw pictures of a former coworkers wedding and so many pictures of the ceremony where people taking photos with their phones. Which was only more rude after the guests were asked not because they didn’t want photos popping up on social media. No of the guests seemed to care.

  • Shana

    That happened to me too! I didn’t know the colors of the wedding and I ended up wearing a dress the same color as the bridesmaids. Even thought my dress was completely different, it was still embarrassing!
    http://www.BFFandMore.com

  • Shana

    That is really considerate! I know a few people who have actually requested that their guests don’t post photos to social media. They wanted to keep the vent a private friend and family event. Photos were posted anyways.

  • Shana

    I think it depends on the situation. Every situation is different too. I have a friend I am currently planning a wedding for and both her and her fiancé’s family are so big they they could only invite a few close family friends. Then they had to do no plus ones. They don’t like doing it that way, but it was the only they could afford.

    • Trinity Lewis

      I think in that case, many of the guests won’t feel “alone” because most of the guests attending will also be “alone.” Totally different situation and sounds fine if that’s how it has to be. It’s harder when everyone else (that is married or engaged) has someone to sit with, dance with, arrive with, etc., and you are told you can’t have anyone. Have fun planning!

  • Stephanie

    My ex-husband and I had a very small wedding. Invited 150 to expect around 100 to 120. He started adding in these long-lost cousins from Podunkville, and one couple hafd SEVEN KIDS!!! I chose to have only one bridesmaid. She did not allow her children to come to the ceremony, buy had a family member bring them to the reception so they could see my dress and visit with me and eat cake. Weirdly, her children are probably the most well-behaved, and I didn’t mind them coming at all, but she didn’t want any hiccups in my day. It is probably one of the classiest and sweetest gestures ever directed to me to date.

    • Steph

      Sorry for the typos. Gah!

  • Jessakah Cruz

    There should be a “never show up empty handed” rule! My husband and I spent $100 per person/ plate for our reception venue. We had 100 guests. We also spent a ton on all the other crap < wish I didn't. We ended up $600 in gifts. No bridal shower. So only recieved gifts for the wedding. I think that is rude. I understand some people's money it tight and can't always afford to give a good gift. But you know about a wedding months in advance. At least put a little cash in a card or a small sentimental gift. My husbands friend even gave us a $100 visa gift card and when we went to use it it had been previously used and had a balance of $7 left. Like really people???

  • Liz

    Don’t wear a tshirt, jeans, basketball shorts and shirt, tennis shoes, etc. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Also, if your invite doesn’t mention your kids, font ask yo bring them.

  • Jessica

    If you are bringing your kids to a wedding please do not let them get in the middle of things when the bride tosses the bouquet or the groom throws the garter. This is a fun tradition for the bride and groom’s friends to take part in and having children in the middle of it all is just not cool. Plus, there can’t be a dance between the people who catch the bouquet and garter if one of them is only 12. It’s just a little weird!

  • Lori

    Understand addressing etiquette! If the envelope says “Mr. and Mrs.” that means your kids are not invited. If it says “and family,” you may bring the kids. It puts the bride and groom in an awkward position to call them up and say “can I bring my kids?”

  • Karla

    No kids