Getting invited to a wedding is always exciting—a chance to get dressed up, sip some bubbly, and celebrate a pair of close friends or family. But beyond simply checking your calendar and saving the date, here are 10 important rules of wedding guest etiquette.
1) RSVP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
Don’t be that annoying guest that needs to be chased for their yay or nay. If you can definitely attend, or definitely can’t, don’t delay in letting the couple know. If you’re unsure, figure it out ASAP. Avoid just explaining your delay, as that’s (a) annoying, (b) doesn’t help them get on with the planning and (c) is poor wedding guest etiquette.
2) READ THE INVITATION—THEN READ IT AGAIN
We can’t stress this enough: it’s too easy to read an invitation, expecting it to say something and completely missing when it doesn’t. Does it have your name on it… and only your name? Does it say “you”, or does it say “you and a guest”? Many people assume they can bring a partner or a date, but this is a dangerous assumption to make—and again, poor guest etiquette. The only people invited to the wedding are the ones addressed on the invitation.
3) DRESS APPROPRIATELY
There’s wedding guest etiquette, and then there’s wedding guest dress etiquette. How should one dress for a wedding? In a manner that respects the occasion. Dress codes may vary by location, culture and local custom—a destination wedding in an Italian cathedral might mean you need to keep your shoulders covered, for instance, or you might want to check that your shoes will work for a beach ceremony in the Hamptons. Read the invitation carefully and do your research. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to follow that golden rule of wedding guest dressing: the only person who should be wearing a white or ivory dress should be the bride.
4) DON'T TURN UP EMPTYHANDED
A card (at minimum) is a must for guests, even if you’ve flown across the country to attend the wedding.
Tip: get one well in advance of the big day, so there’s no leaving it to chance (or hoping that the gas station on your way to the ceremony venue has something suitable—it won’t).
5) DON'T BE LATE
This is neither the time nor the place to turn up late. You might miss the ceremony itself, or worse, cause a disruption at the back when everyone is meant to be gazing at the couple up front. Good wedding guest etiquette dictates that you arrive at the venue half an hour before the time on the invite.
6) SWITCH YOUR PHONE TO SILENT—AND KEEP IT THERE
This should probably be wedding guest etiquette rule #1, because there’s nothing worse than gorgeous wedding photos with a guest in the background texting or, worse, talking on their cell phone—except for a phone ringing in the middle of the ceremony.
7) RESPECT EVERYONE WHO’S THERE TO DO A JOB
That means the photographer, musicians, caterers, minister: anyone who’s there to ensure the couple’s big day runs smoothly. Don’t get in their way or do anything that makes their job impossible, whether that’s jumping in the aisle to capture Instagram Stories on your iPhone or stealing a chair that’s clearly intended for someone with an instrument.
8) OBSERVE THE SEATING CHART
Good wedding guest etiquette means you’ll sit where you’re told—not where you feel like it. If you don’t know the people around you, introduce yourself and make conversation. The couple most likely sat you there, with those people, because they thought you’d make great tablemates. Now’s not the time to prove them wrong.
9) WATCH THE BOOZE
We’ve all witnessed someone enjoy an open bar a little too much. Don’t be that person. Follow good wedding guest etiquette by staying hydrated, pacing yourself, and don’t get too carried away.
10) TAKE PART
A good wedding guest doesn’t just sit there, texting the night away. No—they take part. Is everyone forming a receiving line at the reception? Take part. Time for the bride to toss her bouquet? Even if you’re not a fan of this tradition, take part—just stand in the back if you really despise it. Remember that good manners and guest etiquette means not complaining or criticizing the couple’s choices. This is their day, not yours.
When it comes to good wedding guest etiquette, the best gift you can give the newlyweds is a wonderful, memorable day. And the easiest way to do that? By being an excellent wedding guest.