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?