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Wedding Guest Etiquette

Wedding Guest Etiquette

Etiquette is something I give a damn about.  I grew up with a mother who always had the latest Emily Post book on hand to teach us manners and decorum.  I always knew which fork to use, how to greet an adult and how and when to send a Thank You note.  As I grew older, I was introduced to the "wedding rules" which extend not only to appropriately organizing and hosting a wedding, but moreso how to be a good guest.  I can't admit to always following these rules, but I always try.  Having thrown a too-big wedding not long ago, I can attest that these rules are not always common-sensical and will most definitely be broken by over half of your guests.  But hey, to know better is to do better so here you go...

1.  Do not assume you get a plus 1.  Ah yes, the source of many a relationship breaker - the almighty plus one.  Here's a fun fact: both my husband and I lost a significant relationship over the bullshit that is a plus one.  I'm dead serious.  So what's the rule?  If the host has done his/her job correctly, you need to look no further than the invitation to know whether you are rolling solo for the event.  If it doesn't say "and guest" or list a specific person on the invitation, assume you don't get to bring a date.  If you are cool enough with the bride or groom, it may be OK to ask if you can bring your significant non-married other AS LONG AS THE BRIDE OR GROOM HAS MET THEM AND YOU ARE ACTUALLY IN A MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIP.  It's usually crass to ask but if you must, be prepared to deal with the answer in a mature way.  If they say no - it's a no.  I've taken this risk before and have been turned down 75% of the time and it was honestly not a big deal.  Here's the thing: ain't nobody got time to expand their budget for someone you just met just so you won't be lonely at their wedding.  

2.  Buy a gift.  Someone is spending $100 plus for YOU to come to celebrate them.  They are not throwing this for your benefit or so you can enjoy a free meal.  If you have an issue buying a gift, then RSVP "no".  

3.  Speaking of gifts, don't bring it to the wedding.  At the end of the night, it's the bride and groom's families that will have to break down decorations, tip vendors and load tons of other random wedding items into their cars.  These days it's so easy to buy a gift online and just ship the gift to the couple's designated destination through the website.  Not only will shipping the gift help the bride and groom eliminate that one extra transportation step, but it will also ensure that any breakable gifts will arrive in tact.

4.  Don't call the bride or groom the day of the wedding with your questions.  If you haven't heeded the information provided on the save-the-date, invitation, wedding website, or countless emails by the day of the wedding, then that's on you!  The actual wedding day is a time of high anxiety and excitement.  Save your friend or family member some stress by figuring out how to get directions to the venue on your own.

5.  Arrive on time.  In many cases weddings will start late.  That doesn't mean that you should be, however.  Arrive 20-30 minutes early to claim your seat.  Sometimes the bride will enter the wedding venue from the church lobby or via a central staircase.  It's awkward if you are standing there in said lobby or on said staircase - late as hell- but also attempting to take a pre-ceremony picture with the bride.  You will ruin the moment.

6.  Don't gripe about the adults-only invitation.  It's becoming more common for couples to limit their guests to those 21 years old and over.  Don't be alarmed or offended if you see this. Simply adhere to their wishes.  It doesn't mean that they don't care for your child, it may just mean that they want to limit the guest list or that they don't care to watch your kids dance themselves silly on the dance floor (in my case, it was a matter of space and not wanting to compete with the cuteness of your kid).  You've got time to make child care arrangements in advance, so do it and enjoy a kid-free evening.

7.  RSVP.  For the life of me I don't understand why people don't RSVP immediately to weddings.  If you get the invitation in the mail, 90% of the time you know right then whether you are going to attend or not.  So just go ahead and RSVP.  Many decisions hinge on an accurate headcount. Don't be the person that responds 2 months late and expects to be accommodated.  

8.  Adhere to the dress code.  If it's a black tie affair, pull out that gown or tuxedo.  And ladies, just don't wear white unless it's specifically requested.  

9.  Don't post pictures of the wedding party on social media until after the ceremony.  In this age of technology and unfettered access to internet, it's easy for people to snap a picture of a ceremony and post it in real time.  One of my wedding guests posted a photo of me walking down the aisle before I even got to the end of the aisle.  Imagine my surprise when someone who was not at the wedding sent me a text before I even took my vows saying how lovely I looked.  Awkward.  Be a gatekeeper of the sanctity of the ceremony.  There is no need to basically live stream the event.  Trust me, you can wait 20 or so minutes to post that pic!

10. Don't make song requests at the reception.  It happens every time.  A wedding guest is dying to play that one esoteric song that only she and her bestie are fans of, and after one too many glasses of wine, said guest goes up to the DJ and makes a request.  Here's the thing: if you aren't paying the DJ or if you don't have the bride or groom's blessing, don't make a request.  A lot of thought goes into playlists that you may not be aware of.  Perhaps the music is not your taste? Just live with it and play your jam in the car on the way home.

What advice would you give to wedding guests?  Tell me the craziest thing you've seen a wedding guest do in the comment section below.  For extra credit, check out this article.

Photo Credit: Mitchell Orr

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