Wedding Guest FAQs for the Reception

Etiquette advice for those who haven't attended many weddings.

Most people experience a point in life where they are suddenly attending multiple weddings a year. Those who had older cousins or younger aunts or uncles get married before this influx of invitations from friends arrived, they know what to expect. However, for people who are new to having the honor of witnessing someone’s nuptials, it can be a little intimidating. After all, weddings on TV and in the movies tend to focus on when things go wrong. The ceremony seems simple enough: be on time and quietly watch the vow exchange. But what’s appropriate for the reception? The answer to this question includes more than not getting too drunk and causing a scene.

wedding guest etiquette faq, etiquette tips for wedding guests
Photo by The Day; Planning & Design by Mindy Weiss Party Consultants

Here are the answers to some questions that prospective attendees might ask:

When is it time to sit at the reception?
Most ceremonies are followed by a cocktail hour, where you can mingle with other guests while enjoying drinks and hors d’oeuvres. It can seem unclear as to when it’s actually time to take your seat for dinner. However, usually event staff or a wedding planner will inform attendees to make their way to their table. Failing that, use the immediate family of the newlyweds as your guide, as the bridal party sometimes will make a grand entrance once everyone is seated. 

When do we get dinner?
While table service naturally means a server will bring the meal to you, weddings with buffets will usually either have an announcement by the MC for each table to take their turn, or a member of the event staff will quietly inform you when it’s time. Remember, just because it’s a buffet doesn’t mean it’s all-you-can-eat! Fill your plate the first time around and don’t go for seconds unless it’s specifically suggested you do so. 

Should I give a toast?
Not unless you were asked to ahead of time. Occasionally some receptions will have a designated “open mic” period where you can state your well-wishes. Otherwise, save it for talking to the newlyweds face to face. 

When do we get to dance?
Usually after the parent dances are complete, the band or DJ will play a crowd pleaser to invite everyone to the dance floor. This is where the bridal party is a good indicator, as they are usually asked to get the party started. 

Learn how wedding guests can accidentally stress out the bride, and what you shouldn't do in front of your attendees.  

Authored by: Emily Lasnier