How to Be the Ultimate Wedding Guest

A bride and groom hugging guests at their wedding.

You just got invited to a wedding—you must be excited! It means the couple wants to celebrate their special day with you. Now, everyone knows there’s a certain etiquette to follow when it comes to weddings. But when the couple means a lot to you, you’ll want to go above and beyond and be the best wedding guest possible. Even if you’re not close to the couple, you should recognize that they put a lot of time, money, and effort into making this day happen. Since being a guest at any event is considered an honor, it’s important to show respect to the hosts as well as other guests in attendance. If you want to be the ideal wedding guest, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Respond to the RSVP

A save the date and wedding invitation suite.

When you get an invitation to a wedding, respond as soon as possible, and take the time to congratulate the couple as well. It may seem obvious, but one of the pet peeves of many engaged couples is people who forget to RSVP altogether.

In addition, RSVP correctly. If the invitation includes an RSVP card to send back, make sure to send it back, unless they specifically state you can RSVP via a different method. When RSVPing, don’t forget to mention any food restrictions or allergies if they are legitimate. (This is not the time to announce you’re on a new diet.) However, be prepared that the couple may not be able to accommodate you.

Don’t Bring Uninvited Guests

Read the invitation carefully. Unless it is addressed to you and a plus one, don’t bring anyone else. The same applies to children. Nowadays, most couples will tell you right away if your little ones can come or not. So if there is no mention of your family, don’t bring the kids to the party.

If in doubt, you can always inquire about who can tag along and who can’t. However, if they say no, please respect their wishes. Note that there is nothing personal about this. The couple may just have a restricted budget or a limited number of seats.

Dress the Part

Not respecting the dress code is seen as a major sign of disrespect. Just like you wouldn’t show up to a job interview in your PJs, you shouldn’t show up to a wedding in casual attire. Even if the couple says that casual wear is OK, it’s still best to put some effort into your appearance. This means that denim, flip flops, and t-shirts should be left behind.

It’s also important to not wear anything inappropriate. White is pretty much always off-limits. Some people also see black and bright red as a bit garish. And anything too revealing can be considered impolite. Whatever you wear, just make sure it doesn’t outshine the couple or get you raised eyebrows.

Respect the Schedule

Nothing is ruder than being late, or showing up mid-ceremony. If the invitation says the start time is at noon, make sure you are there and seated at noon. Even better, try to show up at least 15 minutes ahead of time.

Keep the Cocktails Under Control

A group of wedding guests toasting with champagne.

Know your limits when it comes to alcohol. Don’t be that one guest who gets kicked out because they caused a scene. Since you’ll likely be sipping something all night, alternate your drinks with something non-alcoholic and make sure to eat. Avoid caffeinated beverages, however, as they can skew your perception of how drunk you are.

Get a Gift

Don’t forget to get the couple a gift. They’re spending a lot of money to accommodate you, so it is polite to show some appreciation. A wedding gift doesn’t have to be expensive. Any token of thanks will be appreciated. If you can, send it to their home directly rather than bringing it to the wedding. It’s just easier for everyone this way.

Even if a couple specifies no gifts, it is still a sweet gesture to get something small, especially if you’re close friends. In this case, choose something that you know they’ll find useful, such as a certificate to a spa, or a restaurant gift card.

Put Down the Phone

Inappropriate phone use is becoming a common annoyance at weddings. Try to limit your phone time (yes, this includes taking photos) during the event and never ever take out your phone during the ceremony.

Should you need to take a phone call or have an extra-long texting session, go outside. In addition, make sure the phone is completely silent throughout the day. If someone calls you at a quiet moment, people will hear it vibrate. Some couples will specify that their wedding is a phone-free zone. In such a case, please respect their wishes.

On a related note, know when to use and when not to use social media. At some weddings, you’ll be encouraged to share your snaps on social media with a hashtag. However, as a rule of thumb, do not post any photos from the event until the couple does so.

Speak with Sophistication

A man holding a glass of champagne to give a toast at a wedding reception.

If you’re asked to make a speech, keep it short and sweet. You’re not entertaining an audience. Avoid the use of foul language, don’t make any inappropriate jokes, and avoid embarrassing anyone. And of course, unless it’s a last-minute request, always practice what you’re going to say.

But if you’re not asked to speak, don’t just steal the microphone and start rambling. Ask the couple or hosts if you can say a few short words, but prepare for them to say no.

Strike up a Conversation

It’s a party, so mingle away. People will assume you’re having a bad time if you keep to yourself or hide in a small clique all night. If you’re shy, read up on recent news, celebrity gossip, or common conversation topics. You have a chance to meet a lot of interesting people at a wedding, so have fun with it!

However, as always, avoid controversial topics such as politics, religion, or anything that might start an argument. It’s also best to keep any negative comments, especially about the event, to yourself. Should someone start going down that road, try to change the topic or excuse yourself if things get uncomfortable.

Remember to Have Fun

Don’t forget that you’re there to celebrate, so just go with it and have fun! Try to participate in all the activities on offer and enjoy your time there. And if you’re in a bad mood, suck it up. No one likes a party pooper!

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