How To Be the Best Guest Ever: Real Life Modern Wedding Etiquette

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Kathryn Bacalis)

When it comes to being a good guest at a wedding, there are a few things that you can be mindful of that will go a long way and be appreciated by the bride and groom. Their wedding day is a special day and abiding by these simple rules of etiquette will help ensure that their day goes smoothly.

1. RSVP! And do it as soon as possible. Just because the invitation lists a date to RSVP by doesn’t mean you should wait until the last possible moment. It is a huge help to the bride and groom to know their guest count ahead of time, so do them a service by responding early. If you are can’t attend, it is courteous to give them a reason why you can’t make it. It’s not necessary, but you most likely made their guest list because they really want you to be there, so let them know the reason why. Similarly, if you have to cancel after you have responded yes, let them know! Don’t assume that they won’t miss you if you don’t show up; at a wedding, every guest counts.

2. Pay Attention to the Invitation: The invitation was carefully thought out, so follow whatever it says. If it lists a registry, buy off the registry, if it lists other instructions for gifts – online payments for honeymoon or a donation to a charity etc. – gift accordingly. That way you can ensure that you are getting the bride and groom something that they really need.

3. Check Before You Ask: Chances are that all the information that you need about the wedding is available for you – either on the invitation, additional cards, or on a wedding website. If you have a question about something, check all sources before you ask the bride and groom.

4. Follow Guidelines for Plus Ones: Again, follow the implications of the invitation. If it doesn’t have an additional line for plus one, it means you can’t bring one! Also, unless it explicitly says that kids are welcome, assume no kids.

5. Don’t Bring Gifts to Wedding: The days of bringing gifts to a wedding are long gone. The bride and groom have enough to worry about on their wedding day; don’t add to their to do list by making them have to lug all their gifts home. If you really want to bring something as a token of well wishes, bring a handwritten card with a heartfelt note and send the gift to the address listed on their registry.

6. Don’t Show Up Late: The wedding is one of those social events where it’s not even the tiniest bit okay to be “fashionably late.” In order to be a good guest, plan to be there on time or even a little bit early; there is nothing worse than having to sneak in behind the bride. And don’t go the route of skipping the ceremony altogether and only showing up for the reception. Sure, the reception is where all the fun is, but the ceremony is the most important part. Show that you care to be a witness to their union by showing up, and showing up on time, to their ceremony.

7. Don’t Wear White: The no-white rule still applies! Avoid any color that the bride might be wearing, which is probably some sort of white, off-white or ivory, unless expressly instructed to do so. Black used to be taboo, but recently it has become acceptable to wear black dresses to a wedding— especially for more formal occasions.

8. Be Mindful of Your Phones: These days, many weddings utilize social media by setting up hashtags so that their guests can take photos and share them conveniently. If this is the case, remain mindful about how you are using your phone. Don’t try so hard to snap a photo of the cake cutting or first dance that it interferes with the moment. Also, it’s safe to assume that cell phones during the actual ceremony are discouraged. The bride and groom have most likely gotten a professional photographer and don’t need their guests trying to snap a picture of the bride walking down the aisle. Just enjoy the moment!

9. Have a Great Time: The best kind of guests are the guests that truly enjoy themselves, so have fun! Get to know the people at your table, eat, drink and get on the dance floor. Knowing that their guests are having a good time will make the bride and groom very happy. That being said, this wedding is about the bride and groom’s special day, so don’t go overboard with the drinks and make sure you get home safely.

10. Thank the Bride and Groom: There will usually be time during the reception where you can congratulate the bride and groom. Make sure to let them know how happy you are to celebrate with them and thank them for the invitation. If you don’t get a chance to talk to them, or even if you do, sending a note or a message after the wedding is a sweet touch and will be much appreciated.

Re-edited from a post originally published 6.1.15-nt