Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wedding Guest Etiquette

We all know that Brides want to follow Wedding Etiquette, but did you know that there is etiquette to followed when you are a guest at a wedding?

I love this recent article in Southern Living Weddings "The Complete Guide to Being a Perfectly Southern Wedding Guest."

Before the Wedding
RSVP as soon as possible
Once you have your invitation in hand, make note of the RSVP date, and send your response as far in advance as you can. Better yet, if you already know you're attending, turn around and drop the RSVP card in the mail immediately!  If you don't R.s.v.p., people will remember!
Respect the guest list 
If you're single and the bride and groom would like you to bring a guest, your invitation will say "and guest," or they will call you ahead of time to see whom you'd like to bring and address the invitation accordingly. Children are invited if the invitation lists their names or says "and family." For heaven's sake, don't call the couple and ask to bring people they didn't invite—that's uncomfortable for everyone.  I had to remind my single brother of this rule recently...he was about to commit a wedding guest etiquette faux pas by bringing a date!
Utilize the resources the couple provides 
Read the couple's wedding website thoroughly before asking questions about travel or schedules. If you really can't find information you need, try contacting the mother of the bride or a member of the bridal party before asking the bride or groom directly, especially in the weeks and days leading up to the wedding.  Try not to bother the Bride...she's aready in a big tizzy.
At the ceremony
Be mindful of the dress code
This will often be specified on the wedding website, but if not, make an educated guess using the invitation, venue, and time of day as guides. A sundress and wedges are probably fine for an afternoon barn wedding, but an evening ballroom wedding requires at least a cocktail dress. When in doubt, dress up. Many guests look forward to weddings as opportunities to look their very best, and we love this tradition! Additionally, pay special attention to the attire guidelines for ceremonies held in houses of worship.  Make sure you know the difference between White Tie and Black Tie...White Tie--for the men, black dress tailcoat with matching slacks, white wing-collard shirt with cuff links, white vest, and black patent shoes with black socks.  For the the ladies--a floor-length gown.  Black Tie--for the men, black tuxedo jacket and matching slacks, formal white shirt with cuff links, black bow tie, black cummerbund, and black patent shoes with black socks. For the ladies--floor-length gown or dressy cocktail dress.
Don't wear white
Unless the bride and groom expressly ask you to wear white, don't do it. Some people consider this rule out of date, because no one will mistake a guest for the bride, but even if you know the bride won't mind, it's very likely that other guests will find your choice of attire rude or disrespectful. With all of the beautiful and colorful options available today, leave the white sundress at home for this one.  I am old-fashioned and still follow this rule and I don't wear red or black to a wedding either...that's just me!
Arrive at least 15 minutes (and up to a half hour) before the ceremony 
Give yourself time to park your car, pick up your program, and take your seat without even a chance of running into the bride before her walk down the aisle! Weddings are one occasion where there is no such thing as fashionably late. If you do arrive after the specified time despite your best efforts, an usher may be able to direct you inside at an appropriate time. If not, wait for a "louder" part of the ceremony, such as a hymn, before quietly seating yourself in the back.  Yes please be on time!
Put your camera and cell phone away (on silent)
Many couples now specifically request "unplugged" ceremonies, but even if they don't, resist the urge to snap pictures at the ceremony. Not only can a clicking camera be distracting to other guests, but it can also make the professional photographer's job difficult.  Respect the wishes of the Bride and Groom.
At the Reception
Don't attend the reception if you didn't go to the ceremony
The ceremony is the most important part of the wedding, and the reception is a celebration of that—not just a party. If you don't want to attend both, it may be best to stay at home.  Enough said.
Sit in the appropriate seat 
If the bride and groom have specified table numbers and seating assignments, sit where they ask you to. They have probably spent several hours laboring over whom to place where, and who knows what connections you'll make with your fellow guests!  This is a pet peeve of mine.  Never rearrange a placecard or ask the host if you can switch seats with's so tacky!
Be mindful of social media 
While couples almost universally prefer to have their ceremonies be social media free, there's not a one-size-fits-all guide for the reception. Some couples make it clear (often with a hashtag sign) that they welcome guests sharing photos, posts, or tweets, while others would prefer not to have their photos splashed over every newsfeed. Follow the couple's lead, or let your best judgment of their personalities guide your sharing.  Don't be tweeting or instagramming their photos before they do!  
Have fun!
Enjoy the meal, get on the dance floor, sign the guest book, attempt to catch the bouquet, and wish the bride and groom well. They've worked hard to make their reception a wonderful evening for you as well as them, and they'll be thrilled to see you having a good time.  Lord have mercy, don't make a scene!
After the Wedding
Send a thank-you note 
While your duties as a guest largely conclude when you head home from the reception (after the cake is cut, of course!), there's one surefire way to earn yourself a spot in the hall of fame: Send a thank-you note. A handwritten message to the bride and groom and/or to their parents, if they're hosting, can mean so much after a year or more of intense planning.  It is always appropriate to send a thank-you note!


Miss Jane said...

Miss Janice,

This is a fabulous article - I hope it gets shared far & wide. I'm so glad that someone has published these guidelines especially the part about taking pictures and posting to social media. With everyone toting a camera phone with them, there are far too many people who are supposed to watching the ceremoney taking photos or worse yet, recording the event instead. It's just tacky!
All the best

Heather A. said...

I also recently read this article and loved all of the tips that it highlights, and I'm so glad that you included this on your blog as well! WIsh more people were aware of these etiquette rules! :)

Leslie Anne Tarabella said...

My wedding was 21 years ago and I'm still ticked-off when my husband's ex-girlfriend (why was she even invited???) wore a white dress!!

Lisa Bolling said...

Thank you so much for this valuable information. I must share this. My best friend's son is getting married next spring and this will be very handy to "share." Just in case, you know.
Thank you, Miss Janice.

NikkiL said...

So true. I remember being very unhappy with a neighbor on my wedding day. She showed up uninvited to my parents home while I was dressing and insisted that she had to bring her ill behaved children to the adults only wedding because she couldn't find a sitter. When my mom explained that this wasn't that sort of wedding, she stormed away in a huff. I later learned she'd told another neighbor that she didn't believe in adult weddings and had planned all along to bring her kids.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed the point about not attending the reception if you didn't come to the ceremony isn't observed so much any more. Seems to vary wedding to wedding.

Kari said...

I recently had the uncomfortable experience of hearing a prominent local couple offer congratulations to the bride! Congratulations are offered to the groom only. Best wishes to the bride. Or am I hopelessly old fashioned?

Miss Janice said...

Yes Jane, it is so tacky!

Miss Janice said...

Wedding guest etiquette is important!

Miss Janice said...

lol. I had ladies wearing black! I'm old school and would NEVER wear a black, red, or white dress to a wedding.

Miss Janice said...

You are welcome Lisa!

Miss Janice said...

Her first faux pas was showing up uninvited at the house on your wedding day. The second...well, that's just plain tackiness!

Miss Janice said...

Now you must know I would never do that...unless the Bride & Groom had a private civil ceremony & I was only invited to the reception.

Miss Janice said...

It's okay to be old fashioned! You are correct in saying "Congratulations" to the Groom and "Best Wishes" to the Bride.

SheShe and Shimmer said...

Miss Janice,
I am newly engaged. Both my fiancé and I lost our fathers . How should we word the invitations? Any insights you have are most appreciated.

Miss Janice said...

Hi Sheila,
It is not proper to include names of those who are deceased on a wedding invitation. if you choose, you may include them as the "late" father of the Bride and the "late" father of the Groom.

rsvpshindig said...

I wish guests followed these rules. I am so sad to see how weddings can be for my clients these days. Guests have to be chased down for a response. I am so tired of seeing wedding guests with phones in the air taking pixs. Now brides have taken on the "don't pick a side" signs that they saw on Pinterest. What a nightmare. People do pick sides and unfortunately there have been weddings where I had to send interns or ushers to move people to even it out. Talk about embarrassing! I sometimes have people show up in jeans. To black tie!!!! In Colorado everyone tries to say "rustic elegance" I've been reading Victorian etiquette books and I so wish I could go back in time! I miss the chivalry and the gentile way of life. I would go back to bowing if that meant people would actually start being respectful of one another. In my 14 years of running a wedding and event planning business I never would have predicted the obstacles I deal with in etiquette at weddings! I use to spend time picking out silver and china with brides. Now I have to chase down rsvps and tell mother of the grooms that they can't wear white!

Miss Janice said...

RSVP Shindig,
I just saw this comment and love it. I totally agree with everyting you said. I wish I could be your perfect bride because I would follow all the old-school rules!