Most of my posts are written for couples planning weddings, but this one is for EVERYONE else. Most of us will have the privilege of being invited to a wedding in our lifetime, and in some cases, we will attend multiple weddings each year.
Being a wedding guest is awesome, and I should know! Great food, free drinks, dancing and merriment in a pretty place, and getting to watch some of your favorite people commit their lives to each other. What could be better?
But here’s the thing — being a wedding guest comes with some responsibilities and expectations. Having been in the presence of thousands of wedding guests over my career, here are my top 10 tips on how to NAIL the role of wedding guest:
1 – RSVP On Time
What’s the best way to irritate a couple planning their wedding? Forget to RSVP. When you get a wedding invitation, it’s important to reply on time! My advice? Either 1) respond right away so you don’t have to think about it, or 2) put the RSVP deadline in your phone and put the response card on your refrigerator while you determine if you are able to attend the wedding so you won’t forget about it. Either way, be sure to RSVP before the deadline stated on the invitation so the couple doesn’t have to spend time tracking you down.
2 – Plan Ahead
On a similar note, plan ahead for the wedding day, especially if you need to travel! Couples put a great amount of energy into arranging hotel room blocks, shuttles and more for their wedding days, so use these resources! If you plan ahead and make your travel arrangements early, you’ll be giving the couple valuable information as they make other arrangements. For example, one of my couples is basing the size of their wedding shuttle bus on how many guests are staying in a certain hotel.
Often times hotel room blocks will fill up, or expire a few weeks prior to the wedding. I’ve had some couples scramble to find alternate accommodations for guests who waited until the last minute to find a place to stay. First, don’t put that burden on your friends, and second, plan ahead!
3 – Be On Time
Make sure that you allow plenty of time to get where you need to go for a wedding, whether you arriving by car, train, shuttle or Uber. Weddings are not a time to be “fashionably late” — most venues have a definitive rental period, and if a ceremony is delayed while waiting for guests to arrive, the couple is losing time for their reception. Punctuality is the one of the greatest courtesies you can give a couple on their wedding day, so be on time!
4 – Dress the Part
You’d think by now that people would know not to wear white to a wedding, but alas, that is not the case. Don’t wear white (or ivory or even light light blush), or even mostly white, to a wedding. It’s just a no-no.
Also, pay attention to the dress code (if one is suggested), as well as the location of the wedding when picking out your attire. Is the wedding at a barn? Then your tallest, spikiest stilettos may not be your best choice. Black tie wedding? Don’t show up in jeans. Need a hand deciphering dress codes? Emily Post has you covered.
5 – Bring a Gift (or send one)
At a wedding, gifts are customary. So think ahead about how you are planning to give a gift to the couple. If you are planning to give the couple money, bring it to the wedding, and be sure to find the designated place for cards and gifts early in the evening. If you are planning to give them a larger gift from their wedding registry, I recommend sending that to them ahead of the wedding so that the couple doesn’t have to plan to transport the gift home following the wedding.
6 – Put Away the Camera
If you are lucky enough to have been invited to the wedding, you can assume that the couple cares deeply about you witnessing their event. At no time is this more important on the wedding day than the wedding ceremony. Put your camera away and watch the ceremony with your eyes, not with your phone.
The couple likely chose their photographer with great care, and that is the person who they want making a photographic record of the day. Be careful not to hamper the photographer’s efforts by stepping in front of them or taking pictures behind them. The couple and their photographer will be grateful for your restraint.
In short, enjoy the ceremony camera-free, and save picture taking for later.
7 – Be a Joiner
This is so important. The BEST thing you can do for a couple on their wedding day is enjoy it. Did they set up a photo booth? Get your picture taken. Is there a guest book? Sign it. Are people taking awhile to get onto the dance floor? Get out there and dance! Is there a signature drink? Try one! Is there an after party? Go! Be a “yes” person at the wedding and enjoy all of the things the couple has planned for their big day.
8 – Don’t Complain
Let’s face it — no wedding is “perfect,” and not every wedding you go to will be your taste. That said, keep any negative thoughts and comments to yourself. Maybe you don’t like the DJ’s playlist, but the couple might have specifically requested it. If the line for a drink at the bar is long, take a deep breath and remember you’re not paying for it. Is your table the last one to be served dinner? Well, someone’s had to be. Couples spend a lot of time, energy and money on their wedding, and complaints and negative feedback can be incredibly hurtful. Keep it to yourself and focus on enjoying the day.
9 – Drink Responsibly
Arguably one of the best perks of being a wedding guest is an open bar. You should enjoy the food and drink provided at the wedding, but make sure to drink responsibly. Nothing kills the mood quite like an overly rowdy guest who has to be cut off by the bartenders or someone making themselves sick. Pace yourself, and enjoy!
10 – Follow the Rules
Sometimes wedding days come with “rules.” For example, a lot of times couples don’t want their guests seeing their reception space before it starts. If the staff at the venue is telling you not to go somewhere yet, listen to them — they’re likely speaking on behalf of the couple. Similarly, if you’re told not to use a certain door, or the bar doesn’t serve shots, or that smoking isn’t allowed in a certain place, don’t resist.
On a similar note, be kind and courteous the people working at the wedding, from servers and bartenders to photographers and planners. They are there to make your friend’s best day ever, so do what you can to support their efforts.
At the end of the day, your two most important jobs on a wedding day are to 1) witness the marriage of your friends/family and 2) have a great time. I hope this list will help you be #weddingguestgoals at every wedding you attend in the future.