7 Commandments of being a wedding guest: Wedding Etiquette Rules for Guests

wedding guest etiquette
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!

Further Reading

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!

Further Reading

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. So wherever possible, stick with the couple’s wishes and purchase from their registry, or contribute to their wishing well.

Further Reading


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.

Further Reading

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.

Further Reading

Having an Unplugged Ceremony? 5 things to consider


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?

being a good wedding guest

18 thoughts on “7 Commandments of being a wedding guest: Wedding Etiquette Rules for Guests

  1. Ah yes, at my wedding, we had guests who showed up and started to walk in until the realised that we were half way through the bridal procession! Eeshk! All brides should share this in their circles!

    1. No way!! OMG! I was 45 minutes late to mine so there wasn’t much chance of that happening at ours 😛

  2. Love this! We got married last year and after every point you mentioned I immediately thought of someone at our wedding. ha I laugh about it now, but grew a little irritated in the moment. Wish I this to share with them at the time.


  3. I LOVE this post! There is a MASSIVE trickle down effect of someone not sending and RSVP or bringing an uninvited guest! It’s not only a brides nightmare but also the wedding planner, venue and caterers worst nightmares! Arghhhh

    1. Oh gosh, an uninvited guest would’ve been my worst nightmare! Imagine trying to deal with that :O

  4. Absolutely brilliant! So so so so true!!! My pet peeve when wedding planning was the 1-2 guests who did not respond to the invitation on time…and then having to chase up. I found it so disrespectful. I think this is a wonderful post and a really good reminder for wedding guests.

    1. I do admit to being a bit slow at RSVPing. Hubby works away during the week and it’s SO hard to get him to commit to anything! But part of that is I don’t want to muck the couple around so when I RSVP, I am certain of our attendance

  5. Such a great reminder post – If only you could download this post and send it along in the invitations lol.
    Number 8 – Thou Shalt not voice your opinion on where or when the occasion is nor who they shall invite or not invite.

  6. I think this is definitely common sense, but some people just don’t get it. I was the coordinator at my best friend wedding (couldn’t be a bridesmaid due to an unexpected move). I think another rule should be “bridesmaids don’t get to complain. It’s not about you, it’s about the bride and the groom”. I cannot tell you how much her bridesmaids complained (all except her sister and cousin). It’s highly annoying.

    1. Common sense isn’t so common any more 🙁 As a bridesmaid you just have to suck it up, it’s only one day huh.

  7. I think someone broke 6/7 of those commandments at our wedding. How about “thou shalt not hold yourself to ransom, or manipulate the couple into inviting who you want”.

    1. Unfortunately that’s *really* common. Bullshit isn’t it?!! If it’s not someone too close you can try calling their bluff, but if it’s a family member or a close friend that you really want there, sometimes you have to just do it. (We had someone who had a tantrum like this because he wanted a plus 1 – we said no and he ended up not coming)

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