Much of what you'll read here is pure and simple common sense. But it's surprising how many people are unable to stick to these rules! With that in mind, we've decided to write a super-handy guide to wedding guest etiquette. Read on to find out (and make note of) 10 ways to be a good wedding guest. Follow these rules, maintain your good manners and you'll have the best time – without ruining anyone else's.
1. Friends and family members, remember: it’s not your wedding
Okay, so this is actually a pre-wedding tip but, ultimately, any friends and family involved in wedding planning need to remember that they’re guests. This means that you don’t get to throw a fit when you don’t get what you want. A surprising number of people seem to forget this. If you haven’t been made a bridesmaid or the maid of honour, remember that you don’t know the ins and outs of all of your friend’s relationships. Perhaps she is closer to that person than you. Don’t let your ego get in the way of such a joyous occasion. If you don’t approve of the bride’s choice of outfit, remember, you’re not the one wearing it. If you think this person or that person should be invited, remember, if they’re your friends, that doesn’t make them the couple’s. If you don’t like where you’re located on the seating plan, remember this isn’t your choice (and the couple probably spent hours trying to keep Uncle Jack as far as possible from Uncle Ed, which means you end up sitting next to one of them). And so on.
It’s not polite to wait for the couple to send a nudge reminding you to let them know whether you can make it to one of the most important days of their lives. You should feel honoured to be invited in the first place – and should act as such. This means letting them know as soon as you can about your attendance. If you aren’t sure or need to organise childcare first, let them know. They aren’t mind-readers! And they have a seating plan and menu to organise!
3. If you don’t have a +1, you don’t have a +1
Yes, it can be daunting not to have someone to hold your hand – particularly if you don’t know many other guests. But it’s not your wedding, you aren’t paying for it, you should appreciate that couples aren’t always cool with having virtual strangers staring back at them as they walk up the aisle (and it isn’t your first day at school!). This goes for children, too. The majority of couples prefer to avoid having excitable kids at their big day. It’s not abnormal, so don’t be annoyed. It’s just one day (and night) to find someone else to look after your little one, so don’t ask to bring them if they aren’t included on the invite.
4. Don’t cancel
If you’ve said you’ll attend, attend. This isn’t a coffee or a walk in the park – it’s their wedding day. They’ve spent months organising their budget, the venue, the seating plan, drinks and food menu. The list goes on. If you pull out (and not for a very, very good reason), it would probably be fair enough if the couple didn’t speak to you again.
5. Dress appropriately
If there’s a dress code on the invite, follow it. If in doubt, ask the couple. Don’t wear something smart-casual if it’s black-tie. Avoid a tux if it’s morning suits only. Do not wear cream, ivory or any other colour that resembles white! It’s not a great idea to wear a white dress with a print on it, either. Surely you have something smart in your wardrobe in any other colour! And it’s a good idea to avoid black (particularly in warmer months), seeing as it’s just a little bit sombre. Again, this is just one event – save the inappropriate colours for another party. If you’re still unsure and can’t get an answer from the couple, no one will be shocked or offended if you dress very smart. It’s a wedding, after all!
6. Turn your phone off – or check and check again that it’s on silent
Nothing can be so important that it’s cool for your phone to beep or ring during the ceremony or speeches. It’s also pretty boring (/impolite) to look at your phone at the dinner table. Okay, so we've all had the awkward experience when you've forgotten that it's on and it goes off at the worst possible moment. But this just means you should double-check – then check again – that it’s not going to interrupt the vows. They only get one chance to do it.
7. Follow social media rules
Some people feel uncomfortable knowing that photos from their big day will be plastered all over the ether without their knowledge. What if they don’t like them? What if they feel that it’s such a personal occasion, they don’t want the whole world to see? What if they think it’s rude that you’re uploading Insta Stories while everyone else is making conversation? If in doubt, it’s best not to do any of the above. If they say they don’t want you taking photos on your phones at all, put yours away. If they’re totally cool with it, but have asked you to use their hashtag so they can see them too, hashtag that hashtag! It’s pretty common sense.
8. Try not to get totally wasted
Staggering around, falling down, sexualising other guests, grabbing people you don’t know, making inappropriate comments, dancing in a way you’ll regret, vomiting in the bathroom... These are all things that’ll stop you getting another invite... ever. And it’s embarrassing. And everyone will wish you’d bog off (particularly the couple). Besides, if you’re downing the alcohol like an 18-year-old who’s just become legal, that’s just cringe.
9. Don’t be judgemental
Unkind comments under your breath or discussions about how you would’ve done it differently or the food not being up to scratch (you get the idea) are BIG no-nos. It smacks of bitterness and it’s really mean. If you have to say something critical, save it for your living room.
10. Enjoy it!
It’s a party and you’re invited! Laugh, cry, clap, dance, be merry, thank the hosts for having you. The day calls for you to have as much (appropriate) fun as you can muster. Embrace it!