Wedding Guest Etiquette

When family or friends invite you to a wedding there are all kinds of wedding guest etiquette guidelines that people just expect you to somehow naturally know and follow. For many of us, wedding etiquette doesn’t come naturally. We’re not all brought up learning social specifications for all occasions. The good news is that practical etiquette is here to help you avoid a faux pax and possible embarrassment.

Step one is replying to the invitation promptly. Check to see if your invitation says “and guest”. If it doesn’t it’s assumed you are attending alone. If it does, indicate on your reply whether you are, indeed, bringing a guest. Planning a wedding is a huge undertaking and the bride and groom to be will appreciate knowing their confirmed attendance numbers early on. Those figures change everything including overall costs. If you keep forgetting to put the RSVP in the mail, pick up the phone instead or even send an email.

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In terms of wedding gift etiquette, you do not have to bring anything with you on the day of the ceremony. The basic guideline is that if you want to give the couple something, you have the entire first year of marriage in which to do so. Also, gifts can be cumbersome for the wedding party. Sending off something later makes for a little less work at the end of the day. Even if something happens that you cannot attend, a gift should still be sent within a year’s time.

Clothing wise, your invitation should indicate if there are any specific guidelines on wardrobe. Theme weddings in particular may have unusual clothing style requests. Obviously don’t out-dress the bride, and don’t wear jeans or casual clothing if the event is formal. If you’re not certain about the overall dress code, call the bride’s mother or her maid of honor for insights.

Wedding guest etiquette is very time-sensitive. Do not arrive to the ceremony late. In fact, try to get there at least twenty minutes early. Otherwise, you may be looking for your seat during the processional. If you’re delayed, look for an usher who can guide you quietly to a seat at a moment when it won’t cause distraction.

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Speaking of distraction, flash photography isn’t welcome during the wedding. You can get your snapshots later or request some copies from any professional photographer recording the day. Also turn off your cell phone, PDA or pagers so they don’t interrupt the ceremony.

As the ritual progresses watch other attendees and take cues from them and the officiant. Church weddings often have moments when specific actions, like standing or sitting, are part of the ceremony. Try to follow along as best you can. This isn’t the time for a political or religious “statements.”

Last but not least, avoid getting drunk at the reception. Everyone has a story about inebriated guests doing something improper – and you do not want to be the lead character in that tale. Brush up on your basic wedding guest etiquette, and make sure you let the bride and groom know how happy you are for them, and the whole occasion should go very smoothly.

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