Etiquette 101 for Wedding Guests

A wedding RSVP next to a return envelope

You have just received an invitation and you are invited to a wedding. Congratulations! Most likely, you are going to have a really good time and hopefully make some new friends. However, since you are an invited guest, there are a few pitfalls possible at any wedding party. With high expectations and a specific vision from the happy couple, you have an obligation to help to be part of the pleasant and memorable atmosphere.

Here are a few basic ways to be a perfect wedding guest by following the proper etiquette for wedding guests.

Respond as Quickly as Possible When You Get an Invitation

After taking a minute to check your calendar and your travel budget, consider your intentions—then let the couple know your RSVP. Many brides and grooms are choosing to have an online RSVP option, making it even easier to give them a heads-up that you are coming. Anyone who has put together a guest list and agonized over where to seat people at tables knows that it is such a blessing to know who is coming. Also, the longer you’ve confirmed you’ll be there, the better the anticipation of the big day will be for you!

Don’t Bring a Plus-One without Being Told You Can

While single people love being able to bring a date to a wedding, many couples choose to not add plus-ones to invites that aren’t for engaged or married couples. This is often a way to save money and keep an intimate affair, since the guests that are at the wedding will only be people they know and love. While this can be frustrating as an invited guest, especially if you barely know other people at the wedding, it’s a good way to show your support by honoring the couple’s request. You can also choose to decline the invitation without making a fuss if you don’t think it will be any fun without your plus-one. Only if you are truly close to the bride or groom would it be appropriate to bring up the option of a plus-one. If they still say “no,” the polite thing to do is to accept the decision. They are under the stress of wedding planning, and they don’t mean to hurt your feelings.

Wedding guests enjoy a toast to the bride and groom

Dress Appropriately to Blend In with the Wedding Party

While buying a new expensive outfit for a single outing is usually not an option, look for hints from the couple or from the invitation as to what will be appropriate dress. The maid of honor may be able to offer some assistance explaining the “vision” for the wedding as well. You are under no obligation to come to the wedding, but if you want to be there, choose an outfit that will help you harmoniously blend in with the crowd. It’s a kind thing to do for the sake of your friends and family, as well as for the wedding photographs that will be taken that day.

Bring a Card or a Gift to Show Appreciation and Love

Many weddings guests don’t bring a gift or a card because it isn’t in the budget or because they forget. Most likely, the groom and bride won’t notice immediately, or possibly at all. That’s why there’s the handy option to send a gift or card up to a year after the wedding! That being said, the couple went to quite a bit of effort and expense for the party and wedding event. They would derive a lot of joy from knowing you support and love them with a card or a small gift. If there is no budget issue, try to plan ahead for what you want to get them, so that you aren’t left with a registry full of items that are hard to find or too expensive.

Smartphones Can Ruin Professional Wedding Photos—Turn Them Off

A guest uses her smartphone to take photographs at a wedding

Many people document their lives on social media these days, but professional photographers are having a harder and harder time taking wedding photographs that don’t include a bored person on a cell phone in them. Unless the bride or groom asks you to take photos, turn your phone off for the entire ceremony and preferably the reception too. You avoid the risk of a ringtone interruption or message tones, and you’ll be more in the moment.

Drink in Moderation, No Unannounced Toasts

No matter how much you love them, unannounced toasts bring alarm to brides and grooms because they have a wide variety of people in the room. A toast that hasn’t been asked for or discussed ahead of time is likely to be a bit too spontaneous to go well. On a related note, rein yourself in at the open bar. There is plenty of room to enjoy oneself at a wedding without making yourself a burden on those who should also be enjoying themselves.

Make New Friends if You Don’t Know Anyone

It’s tempting to feel sorry for yourself at a fun and festive occasion when you don’t have a date or any close friends or family present. The good news is, most people at wedding parties are open to making a new friend or two, so it’s best to make the best of your situation and add to your circle of friends. You can speak with the bride and groom, but they have a lot of people to thank and greet. Try to amuse yourself with new acquaintances and other interesting wedding guests.

An outdoor wedding reception with guests talking and drinking together

While there are exceptions to these rules, one way to show love and support for the couple who are getting married is by doing things that make it easier for everyone to have a good time. Consider it one way that you can contribute to the happiness and the successful start of the marriage of the newlywed couple.

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