Written by Meghan Salgado
What do you your old lacrosse teammate, college roommate, and Greg from accounting have in common? Their wedding invites are posted on your refrigerator. Whether you’re attending a wedding for the first time or you’re an old pro at getting through the season, we’ve put together a modern day guide to being the best guest you can be at your buddy’s big day.
From receiving the invitation to closing out the dance floor at the end of the night, here’s all the wedding guest etiquette you should be employing.
BEFORE THE BIG DAY
Check the invitation twice
Being a great guest starts way before you step foot into the ceremony. Start off on the right foot by paying close attention to the invitation and giving it a thorough read through.
One plus one
First, determine important details. Will you be able to attend on the date listed, when’s the RSVP card due, do you have a plus one? There’s a clear answer to that last question. You’ll either have a line where you’re asked to write the name of your guest or your envelope will be addressed to multiple people. If neither of these is the case, it’s safe to assume you’ve been invited solo.Don’t call the couple for clarification or to ask them to approve a guest — most likely it’s due to budget and you should respect their choice.
Send it back
When it comes to the RSVP card, make sure it’s returned to the couple in a timely manner and completely filled out. Your name, meal preferences, and any guests should be clearly printed on the card. Don’t make the bride call you because you were too lazy to go to the post office.
Even if it’s a more casual affair, it’s imperative you send the card so the couple can account for you. Otherwise, you might show up the reception and be without a seat. Make sure if there are other events to RSVP to such as a welcome dinner or a morning-after brunch you’ve confirmed whether or not you’ll be attending.
When you receive your invitation, you should also take a look at the dress code. Make sure whatever you’re planning to wear will match up with the formality of the event.
A guide to gifting
If you’re close enough with the couple that you’ve been invited to their big day, then there shouldn’t be any grumbling about getting them a gift.
Check the registry
More likely than not, the couple has given you a direct roadmap to what they want — be sure to shop off their registry. These are things they’ve specifically said they want or need and you won’t run the risk of giving the couple something they already own.
Since most people do wedding websites these days, you should be able to find where they are registered with ease. Shop early to find something in your budget or give a joint gift with a mutual friend to help check a bigger item off the list.
Send it early
Since this is the 21st century, do yourself and the couple a favor and don’t bring the gift to the actual ceremony. Most likely, their registry will give you the option to have your gift shipped to the location of your choice.
ATTENDING THE FESTIVITIES
At the ceremony
Be on time
Timeliness isn’t just of the essence if you’re attending a wedding, it’s required. There isn’t really a way to subtly sneak into your seat without drawing attention from what’s going on. Give yourself plenty of time for traffic, wrong turns, and finding parking.
If you do find yourself late to the ceremony, look for an usher to see if you can be escorted in.If you can’t find anyone, clear the entryway and wait respectfully for the ceremony to conclude. A lot of times this is the space where the bride has her last private moment with her family before being married — let her have that space on her day.
Be considerate with your seat
If you are on time for the ceremony (as you should be), check any signage about where to sit. Most ceremonies have free seating, but some people go the more traditional route of groom’s friends and family on one side and the bride’s on the other. The one place to absolutely avoid is the front row. This has most likely been reserved for the immediate family who will be entering with the wedding party.
Starting at the ceremony, and continuing throughout the night, keep your phone in your pocket. While you probably know it would be incredibly rude to scroll through Instagram during someone’s vows, you should also refrain from taking photos. The couple is probably paying a lot of money for the professional they have there and they want photos of their smiling guests, not people watching them say “I do” through a lens.
At the reception
You’ve finally made it to the part of the evening you’ve actually been looking forward to — the reception. This is the home stretch of being a good wedding guest, and we have just a few more points of etiquette to get through.
Be cautious of the open bar
One of the reasons you might have been so excited for this point of the evening (besides celebrating your friends’ eternal love) is the open bar. However, don’t forget this isn’t an average night out. This is the most important day of someone’s life and ruining that with a dance floor cleanup is a whole new level of asshole territory. An open bar isn’t an open invitation to go wild — know your limits and respect them.
The reception will also probably be your first chance to interact with the couple for the night. Be respectful of their time in both the receiving line and if they come over to your table.
Respect the couple’s time
You should always let the couple come up to you. They have to get to everyone in the room by the end of the night, and that won’t happen if they spend five minutes with every guest.
Again at the reception, do your best to stay off your phone and enjoy the evening instead of scrolling or being too focused on posting. Too much coverage could be awkward if mutual friends weren’t invited and you were or if the couple wanted to post certain details and you beat them to it.
The Greatest Guest
From opening the envelope to the end of the evening, you’ve been briefed on what it takes to be a good wedding guest. Just take a minute to reflect on the kind of stress your friends have been under — they’re spending a ton of money, everyone they know will be there, and there’s no way everything is going to go perfectly.
If you do what you can to make the day run a little smoother, then you’ll probably find you’re following all these rules anyway.