Your Guide to Etiquette as a Wedding Guest

Find out what's considered proper behavior when attending a wedding.

Your Guide to Etiquette as a Wedding Guest

Photo: Brett Matthews Photography

Wedding guests at outdoor cocktail hour on lawn of Oheka Castle
When a couple gets engaged, they often find themselves having to research etiquette and social expectations in order to avoid offending anyone. There are issues regarding who to invite to what events, how to handle your bridal party, when to send thank-you notes, and so much more. But these rules go both ways, and those attending the wedding should be sure to not do anything to ruin the day of the happy couple.

Most breaches of etiquette are unintentional and due to ignorance, not malice. Nobody wants to be looked upon as rude or tacky. While the social graces in place for wedding guests may be plentiful, they are also fairly easy to follow, especially if you follow our below tips:

- Only bring a guest if your invitation denotes you have a plus one. Think of it this way: you are asking the couple to pay for another person, one they likely don't know. In most cases, you will know other people attending the wedding. Ask around if you want to carpool or split a hotel room.
- If your children aren't listed on the invitation, don't bring them. It's that simple. If you are unable to make childcare arrangements, you are free to decline the invitation.
- RSVP not just by the date provided, but as soon as you know whether or not you will be attending.
- Let the couple know if you have diet restrictions as soon as possible, so they can coordinate with the caterers. Note: This applies to restrictions such as allergies, intolerances, or strict vegetarianism – not the fad diet of the moment.
- Though the rules on wearing shades of white and ivory have loosened, it's still frowned upon. Even if the bride says she doesn't mind, other guests will assume the worst. It's better to just wear a different ensemble. Also be aware of blush and pale blue, as colorful dresses are becoming more common. You can always check with the bride or a bridesmaid if you're unsure.
- Never get in a photographer's shot. Even if the bride and groom are not having an unplugged wedding, it's uncouth to have your phone out during the ceremony. Even during the reception, unless the couple has posted encouraging signs about their wedding hashtag, don't post photos online until the newlyweds have. In fact, even if they do have a sign, it's probably better to save the photos for the next day unless it's made clear otherwise.
- If you purchase a larger gift, be considerate and have it shipped directly to the couple. Remember, the couple has to figure out how to get everything home!
- Arrive before the ceremony start time. You should already be seated when it begins.
- Turn your phone off, or at the very least make sure it is 100% on silent.
- Pick your outfit according to the dress code. Not only does a casual look seem disrespectful, but if the wedding is more laid-back, you will stand out if you are dressed too formally. If the dress code isn't formally stated, look to the formality of the invitation and venue as a guide.
- Don't go too far with the open bar – you don't want to make a scene.
- Participate! Get on the dance floor, use their photo booth, and sign their guest book.
- Don't hog time with the couple. Remember that the room is full of their loved ones, all of whom want to spend time with the newlyweds.
- If there are wedding favors, be sure to grab them. Even if you're not interested in the trinket, think how the couple will feel if their carefully thought-out favors are all left behind.
- Don't leave before the cake is cut. The moment is generally accepted as a subtle signal that it’s okay to depart if you’re not going to dance all night.

Find more wedding etiquette tips here, and click here to check out expert advice on the subject.

Opening photo by Brett Matthews Photography

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