13 Etiquette Tips for Wedding Season

With peak wedding season just around the corner, and the magic of the recent royal wedding to inspire us, we’ve decided to give you a few quick tips on wedding guest etiquette. These tried-and-true tips can be vouched for by any etiquette expert and will help you if you’re nervous about the start of wedding season.

It doesn’t take much to be an ideal wedding guest — just know that it’s a day to celebrate the bride and groom, and it’s your job as a guest is to do everything in your power to make sure they’re having the best day possible. Here are some tips for ways to be an exemplary wedding guest.

RSVP as soon as possible

Couples spend so much time designing beautiful wedding invitations that it’s tempting to affix it to a notice board, or your fridge, and admire it for a few days before responding. While a healthy appreciation for beautiful stationary is admirable, you should do your best to get your RSVP in the mail as soon as you possibly can. That way, the hosts will know exactly how many people to plan for and can budget accordingly. Don’t make the couple reach out to remind you — have your RSVP in the mail a maximum of 15 days after getting the invitation.

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Only bring invited guests

One of the most delicate matters in wedding planning is figuring out who to invite, and which of those people gets a plus-one. Most of the time, wedding etiquette suggests that plus-ones only be granted to people who are in a long-term relationship. In the past, this used to only mean married couples, but etiquette has relaxed on this considerably in the past decades. However, if you’re in a new relationship and don’t get a plus-one, don’t assume your sweetheart can just show up. Guest lists are set with vendors well in advance, and it can often cost the couple a huge amount of money if they’re forced to feed more people than they budgeted for.

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Arriving fashionably late is not a thing

While most weddings have a bit of grace time build into their advertised start time, don’t assume that it’s OK for you to stroll in fashionably late. This move is often done by people who are seeking to upstage the bride, which is a huge wedding no-no. The ideal wedding guest shows up and is in their seat exactly when they’re supposed to be there, so the wedding party or planner doesn’t have to spend their time shepherding people to their seats.

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Avoid wearing white

Another major wedding faux-pas is wearing white to a wedding where you are not the bride. This desperate attempt to stand out only takes the focus away from the bride, and makes you look like you’re dying for attention. Even if you don’t think people will notice — they will. There’s simply no excuse for it — all it says is that you’re self-centered enough to try to steal the spotlight from a friend or relative on a day that’s meant to be all about them.

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Don’t monopolize the bride and groom

Another way that you can make the bride and groom’s wedding day a lot easier is to say hello briefly but avoid monopolizing their time. They’ll want to see their friends and family, but the only way that they’re going to be able to greet everyone is if they’re allowed to move on after a quick conversation. If you have a long story that you think they need to hear, send them a quick email or call them a few days after the ceremony.

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Mingle!

Weddings can be fraught with social anxiety — it’s a gigantic mix of everyone the couple knows in their combined lives, getting together for what is likely the first time. Combine that with a lot of alcohol, unpredictable weather, and delicate finger food and you have a recipe for a potentially awkward evening. Do your part to help the bride and groom out by mingling with different people instead of sticking to conversations with people you already know. If the bride and groom know that their loud step-aunt or shy colleague is being entertained, they’ll feel more relaxed and able to enjoy their own celebration.

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Keep your phone stashed away

Every couple handles photos at their wedding differently. Some ask that people refrain from using their phones or snapping pictures during the ceremony, while others provide a wedding hashtag and encourage their guests to Instagram every moment. Whatever the policy is for personal photos, make sure that your use of your phone is discrete and doesn’t interrupt anyone else’s experience. This means putting it on silent, especially during the ceremony and speeches. Feel free to take pictures if you’ve been invited to do so but avoid constantly checking your phone — it just makes you look like you’d rather be elsewhere.

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Don’t use the photographer to take your own glamor shots

Most couples try to maximize their photographer’s time, in order to get as many photos of their event and their guests as possible. Many families come up with a list in advance, picking out groups of people that need to be photographed together — typically extended family members together, and in small groups with the bride and groom. While it’s totally OK to ask a roving photographer to snap a quick photo of a fun moment, keep it short and sweet. Monopolizing the photographer for a photo session of your own is rude and selfish.

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“Sign” their guest book

While hard-bound guest books used to be the norm at wedding receptions, nowadays couples are using other creative ways to commemorate the guests who came to celebrate their wedding. Some current trends are the fingerprint tree, personalized Jenga blocks, puzzle pieces, or advice tree — all of which can be customized by the couple. Whatever your opinion of their taste level, make sure to sign or make your imprint on the guest book, so they know you were there.

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Join in the fun

One of the biggest fears that brides and grooms have about their big day is whether people will have fun. Many couples plan special activities to share with their friends and family and are eager to make their guests feel at home at their chosen venue. One of the best ways that you can show your love and appreciation for the bridal couple is to make sure you’re participating in the activities that they’ve planned for their big day. Be the first person out on the dance floor, try your hand at the DIY art project they’ve set up for their guests, and cheer on their entrance and exit from the venue.

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Don’t bring the gift to the party

Another little thing that you can do to make the day easier and more relaxing for the bridal couple is to arrange to have your gift delivered to their house, instead of bringing it to the venue. Hauling out wedding gifts usually falls to one of the close family members of the bride or groom, and it’s a thankless and tiring task at the end of a long day. Make sure your gift doesn’t get lost in the shuffle by delivering it to their house either before or after the wedding.

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Arrange a ride home

Most weddings today either have an open bar, or serve cocktails, wine and beer freely. Don’t underestimate how much you’ll drink after an emotional wedding — especially in the hot months of summer when dehydration can quickly lead to overindulgence. Plan your safe ride home in advance — either appoint a member of your group the designated driver, book a taxi or rideshare in advance. 

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Don’t surprise the couple

No matter how well you know them, even if they’re your siblings or close friends, a wedding is never the time for surprises. There’s usually a pretty rigid schedule to a wedding, even if it isn’t immediately apparent to guests. Surprise speeches or toasts may be coming from a place of love, but they throw a wrench in the couple’s plans — and chances are, if they really wanted you to do a speech, they would have already asked you to do one.

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