Wedding Guest Etiquette You Should Know


There are many, very specific rules associated with the traditional wedding. The bride must wear something old, new, borrowed, and blue. The groom can’t see the bride before the wedding. The couple has a limited amount of time to send their thank you notes. With so many rules for the bride and groom to follow, simply being a guest at a wedding should be carefree, right? Not exactly.

While the bride and groom certainly want their friends and family to have a wonderful time at their wedding, there are certain rules of etiquette that wedding guests should follow too. Before you RSVP “Yes + Guest” to another wedding this season, be sure to familiarize yourself with these wedding guest etiquette rules.

  1. Do Return Your RSVP Card Promptly. The bride and groom will need an accurate headcount for the caterer, reception hall, and ceremony venue. Return your RSVP card promptly. If you RSVP that you’re bringing a plus one, and something changes, be sure to let the couple know that as well. Depending on when your status changes, they may need to notify their caterer and other vendors.


  1. Don’t Assume You Can Bring a Guest. Unless the wedding invitation included the phrase “and Guest,” don’t assume you can bring one. Every bride and groom has a limited wedding budget, and a big part of fitting within that budget surrounds the total number of guests on the list. Also, if you did not receive a “plus one,” do not call the bride and groom and ask to bring a guest. It will put them in a difficult position, whether they make an exception for you, or have to tell you “no.”


  1. Dress Accordingly. The appropriate attire for most weddings is formal. That means a suit and tie for men, and a knee-length dress for women. If there are any other attire-related requirements, they will be noted on your wedding invitation, so do plan accordingly. “Black tie” means tuxedos for men, and floor-length dresses for women. If the attire is noted as “casual,” that doesn’t mean jeans. Men may consider suit pants and a button-down shirt with no tie or jacket. For women, consider a more casual knee-length dress, or blouse and skirt combo. Pass on jeans. Always.


  1. Save White for the Bride. In addition to making sure your clothes are appropriately formal (or casual), do not wear white to a wedding. White is reserved solely for the bride.


  1. Send a Gift from the Registry. There’s a reason couples set up a gift registry. There are specific items they will need for their home and new life together. Do send a gift, and start by searching the registry. Be sure to shop early too. If you wait too long, you’ll have fewer options, in fewer price ranges, to choose from.


  1. Only Bring Your Kids if They Were Invited. Don’t assume your kids are invited. Depending on the bride and groom’s budget, the venue, and their personal preference, they may choose not to include kids at their wedding, and that’s their choice. Unless your kids are mentioned by name on the invite, or the invite includes the word “Family,” plan to find a babysitter for the evening.


  1. Don’t Stand Them Up. We know, sometimes last-minute conflicts arise, or sometimes, you may just not be in the mood to put on your party clothes and kick-it on the dance floor. Still, unless you have a true emergency or sickness, don’t be a no-show at a wedding. If you’ve RSVPed that you’ll be there (see number one above), then the bride and groom have already paid for your meal, favor, and other guest-related costs. Plus, they’ll be looking for you in the crowd. Bottom line: if you said you’ll be there—be there.


  1. Be Punctual. A wedding ceremony is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and for many couples, an important religious rite. We know unexpected delays can happen but make every effort to be in your seat at the ceremony at least 30 minutes early. If you are late, do not interrupt the ceremony. You’ll simply have to wait until the reception to see the bride and groom and wish them congratulations (and extend your apologies for missing the ceremony).  


  1. Don’t Be the First to Post to Social Media. The bride and groom may intend to share their first photos as bride and groom on their own social media accounts. They may also want to send the photos to friends and family not able to attend. A couple may encourage their guests to post photos, and may even ask you to use a specific hashtag so photos can easily be found and shared. If they haven’t specified their intentions, however, don’t be the first to leak photos on social media paparazzi-style.

Remember, even though the bride and groom will be focused on one another during their wedding, they still care about their guests, and have worked hard to plan a ceremony that honors their love in a way that is meaningful to them. By being a polite, courteous, and punctual guest, you’ll help the bride and groom look back on their wedding with only one word to describe it: Perfect.


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