It seems that somehow, good manners and common sense fly out the window when people hear the word wedding. Engaged couples often stress themselves out over the guest list, offending people, and wring their hands about whether they are doing the right thing. Why? Because it’s common for folks to bag the bride, branding her a bridezilla, for breaching wedding etiquette for this, that or the next thing…
…Yet, more often than not, it is the guest that is violating wedding etiquette. Yes, wedding etiquette is a two way street, and there are rules, manners and expectations on the wedding guest, just as much as the bride and groom. Here’s seven quick, common sense wedding etiquette commandments for guests to follow.
Wedding Etiquette Advice 1: Thou shalt respond to an invitation, immediately!
Invited guests who do not respond to an invitation are a major cause of headaches. Not to mention the guests who cancel on the couple, just a day before the wedding day… while some guests will not reply to the invitation at all and then show up, without notice, to the wedding ceremony and wedding reception.
This is totally rude! Often the couple are paying for their own wedding. They are relying on their savings and salary to fund their wedding. So, with the limited budget that the couples have for their wedding, they need to know the exact head count so they would know if they will go over their budget.
Failure of guests to reply to an RSVP will just plain give the couple a headache. They would not know how many guest numbers to give the caterer, or even accommodation. Plus some venues only have limited spaces, so by omitting to reply, or cancelling last minute, you are potentially taking up the space that someone else could’ve had. Usually the couple will be paying per head for the meal. So even if you don’t attend, you are still costing them money!
Wedding Etiquette Advice 2: Thou shalt be dressed appropriately.
I’m not trying to cost you an arm and a leg by suggesting you need a new outfit for the big day. But if it has been a while since you’ve been to a wedding, then I suggest you look at purchasing something to wear.
Weddings are one of the more formal events you’ll attend. So you do need to find out the dress code (here’s some advice on how to figure it out) or, if you’re not close to the couple, figure out the dress code from the wedding invitation.
How can you work out what sort of dress code the couple are setting for their wedding? The big hints are 1) if they list it on the invite 2) the venue and 3) the style of their invitation. I’ll be covering off dress code rules next week.
The advice if the event is informal: please refrain from wearing jeans and tank top or t-shirt. Very rarely will jeans and a t-shirt work for a wedding. For women, wear a cocktail dress or a pretty Sunday dress. For men, please, if you may, wear your suit. Just forgo your tie. You can even roll up your sleeves and open the top button of your shirt to make it look less formal. You would definitely look dashing in a suit!
Wedding Etiquette Advice 3: Thou shalt greet the newlyweds.
The newlyweds want to feel you are happy for them and your greetings will greatly be appreciated. This advice is not hard, isn’t it? All you have to do is go up to the couple and greet one with “Best Wishes” and the other “Congratulations.” The couple have put a lot of time, effort and money into putting on a wedding day that everyone will enjoy, and the least you can do is acknowledge the main people on their big day.
Wedding Etiquette Advice 4: Thou shalt bring a thoughtful gift
An invitation to a wedding does not automatically mean you have to purchase a gift. But, along with acknowledging the newlyweds on their wedding day… it’s a nice thing to do! These days many couples share registry information or wishing well wishes on their wedding invitation (whether they should is up for debate). So wherever possible, stick with the couple’s wishes and purchase from their registry, or contribute to their wishing well.
Wedding Etiquette Advice 5: Honour thy invitation – invited guests only
There’s two parts to this rule. Part 1: Don’t go asking for a plus 1. Part 2: Don’t just bring along someone else!
If your invitation doesn’t mention your children’s names, or your new boyfriend hasn’t made the guest list – too bad. Don’t ring and ask the couple if you can bring your mate along, or if it’s okay with them, wee Johnny will be coming “don’t worry he’s cute” (tough!). It’s fine to clarify if the wedding invitation isn’t clear (but do read it thoroughly a couple of times just in case).
As far as bringing along a random guest – it’s fine for a public ceremony, but with anything involving food or alcohol – no! Just no.
Wedding Etiquette Advice 6: You shall not be late
Look, unless you’re the bride (or one of the bridesmaids), don’t be late. Try to attend at least 15 minutes before the stated start time of the wedding ceremony. A 3pm ceremony time means you should aim to arrive by 2.45pm. This will give you time to be get settled and find a seat.
Wedding Etiquette Advice 7: Honour thy Photographer
The wedding photographer has the most stressful job of all the wedding vendors there. He/she has to capture one of the most important day of a couple’s lives. One with dozens of guests, thousands of dollars spent on it, and lots of highly charged emotions and spontaneous moments. With that in mind:
- Keep out of the photographer’s way so they can do their absolute best work for your friends.
- Do what they say. If they say jump, say “how high, with what expression, and how would you like me to tilt my face?”.
- If they’re doing family or group shots, and you’ve been asked to get in them, mingle round. Don’t bugger off to the bar leaving a line-up of 7 people waiting on you.
In conclusion – it’s all common sense!
Look, nothing in the list above should be shocking to you. It’s all common sense and good manners. Brides, grooms, guests, please share with me – what are your top “guest commandments”? Did I miss anything?