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Expert Tips for How to Be a Good Wedding Guest

Discover tips on how to mind your manners from Tessa Brand of Tessa Lyn Events.

Not every wedding guest is aware of proper wedding etiquette, so look to this expert advice to ensure you're one of the best wedding guests in attendance.

real wedding photo tessa lyn events pink flowers wide white aisle runner guests watching wedding ceremony
Photo: Jodee Debes Photography

Technology, social media, and the rapid pace of life are vastly changing the rules of etiquette in modern life, as well as weddings. New rules are evolving so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. How do you stay polite as a wedding guest? 

Follow these tips and tricks from Tessa Brand of Tessa Lyn Events to be a good wedding guest:

Keep It to Yourself 

Never share any complaints you have with the bride, groom, or their parents at the wedding. There are many details involved in a wedding day, and sometimes, small things go wrong. Please do not go up to the bride and mention that your shuttle was late, you are missing a salad fork, you are chilly, or you could not see her during the ceremony. Keep in mind this is supposed to be the couple’s perfect day; don’t ruin it with your criticisms. Instead, focus on all the great details and everything that is going right. 

RSVP     

In modern society, you can get away with replying “yes” to a Facebook event and not showing up; however, these new etiquette rules do not apply to weddings. RSVP early if possible – and definitely before the deadline. Also, follow instructions on meal selections if applicable. Many caterers need a meal count one month in advance and details such as the seating chart must be set, so do not leave the couple waiting or paying for an empty seat.

Added Guests     

The wedding invitation will let you know just who is invited. If the invitation is not addressed with “and guest” – that means the guest count did not have room for a plus one. Do not ask the bride and groom if you can bring a date. Instead, feel honored that you scored an invitation to an intimate wedding. Chances are, if you did not receive a plus one, other guests did not either. You can have fun with your friends, or maybe meet someone new. 

Babysitters   

The bride and groom have enough to plan, so do not make them worry about your childcare. Figure out a babysitter for your children, or have someone pick up your little ones if they are in the ceremony but will not be staying for the whole reception. If your children are attending the ceremony and reception, come prepared with a plan to entertain your kids at the wedding. Have their favorite movie on an iPad with earphones or bring coloring books and small toys; do not expect or ask for a babysitter to be provided by the wedding hosts. 

White, Pink & Gold Outdoor Wedding Reception
Photo by Jodee Debes Photography; Planning & Design by Tessa Lyn Events

Wedding Gifts     

Send a wedding gift that can be directly shipped and arrive before the wedding. Even if it is small, this is a thoughtful touch that the couple will appreciate immensely. If the expense of travel to a destination wedding was hefty, it is still not okay to skip a gift.

Social Media   

Do not post on social media until after the ceremony. Did you catch a glimpse of the bride beforehand? Were you getting ready with her? Keep all your Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook posts at bay until after the vow exchange, once everyone has seen the bride already. If the officiant or event signage indicates that the couple would like guests to refrain from posting at all, please oblige.

Phone Usage    

Unless otherwise stated or encouraged, avoid using your phone or personal camera at the ceremony. The professional wedding photographer will get all the important shots, and your phone sticking out of the crowd could ruin an otherwise perfect photo. 

Know Your Crowd    

If you are giving a toast at the wedding, keep your audience in mind. Wedding guests include the bride and groom’s grandparents, parents, coworkers, and bosses. Know your audience and speak appropriately. A funny story or two can add a lot of personality to speeches, but make sure it is appropriate. The groom will not appreciate his new in-laws hearing that one certain story from college. Instead of sharing the time he got a little too drunk, tell a meaningful story from your childhood experience together. 

Candlelit Courtyard Wedding Reception
Photo by Jodee Debes Photography; Planning & Design by Tessa Lyn Events

Moderation, Moderation, Moderation    

Weddings are the perfect time to let loose and have a little fun, but they are not the time to lose control. A lot of time and money have gone into this event, so please don’t be the guest who gets sick in the bathroom. Also keep in mind there are children, older family members, and the bride and groom’s professional colleagues present. 

In Case of Emergency     

If you RSVP’d yes, you must try everything in your power to attend. However, if a family emergency or unforeseeable circumstance occurs that cancels your plans last minute, make sure you call the bride or groom right away. Let them know that you will be unable to attend the wedding and a brief explanation why. After the wedding day, send a handwritten note to the couple as well as the hosts of the wedding (one or both sets of parents), sharing your regret at having missed the event. It would be a nice touch to send a small gift in addition or treat the bride and groom to dinner for a belated celebration.


This article was originally published in the Summer 2022 issue of Inside Weddings magazine. To order a copy of the Summer 2022 issue, visit our library of Inside Weddings back issues available for purchase.

For more advice from Tessa Brand of Tessa Lyn Events, find out how to organize a wedding seating chart, get solutions to common wedding day concerns, and find out what your bridesmaids wish they could tell you.

Opening photo by Jodee Debes Photography; Planning & Design by Tessa Lyn Events