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Wedding Guest Etiquette

What better time than after a multi-year event hiatus to start a discussion on wedding etiquette? As many of us start to ease back into our normal routines and social activities again, it seems to be a common joke that we have forgotten how to act in a group setting. I, for one, have found myself feeling awkward on more than one occasion in recent social settings where I feel I've forgotten some of the learned social norms. And I think we could all use a nice reminder every now and then on what is deemed socially acceptable or not.

I've found that a common theme I've noticed at weddings is that there are certain expectations of how guests are supposed to behave. And when guests do not adhere to these expectations there can be frustrations. While I think those expectations are more prevalent for the Bride and Groom because they are in the position of caring more, I also understand that there seems to be a general lack of knowledge of wedding etiquette for guests. Especially today, when we find weddings being transformed by the times it is increasingly important for guests to have an understanding of what is socially acceptable and what is not. As a society we've evolved so many times, accepting things that once were not accepted but one thing remains clear- manners and etiquette are things that never go out of style. So here are some things that couples wish they could tell about proper wedding etiquette you but probably won't.


This one should be a given, but it is imperative that you RSVP on time and for the right number of people. The RSVP deadline is never an arbitrary date set by the couple- it's a deadline so that they can reach their deadlines with the caterer, venue, and other wedding vendors. It is extremely important to have an accurate headcount in advance of the wedding so that there is enough food (and food allergies are all accounted for), table settings, dessert, favors, etc. One of the absolute worst things you can do as a guest is show up the day of the wedding without RSVPing and leave the couple scrambling to fit you in the layout somewhere and find food for you to eat. That being said, the second important part of RSVPing is RSVPing for the right number of people. It is generally the rule that if your invitation isn't addressed with both of your names or with "(insert name here) & guest" that you don't get a plus one. Or if your envelope is not addressed as "(insert name here) & family" or include the names of everyone in the family then your kids may not be invited. Extra people cost money, which sometimes leaves couples to make difficult decisions on who makes the cut. If you are unsure if you get a plus one or if your kids are invited, it's okay to ask as long as you don't put the couple on the spot. Just accept the answer when they give it to you and don't push any further. Don't be one of those people that just assumes that the couple will pay for your plus one if they haven't indicated that.


Never ever wear white to a wedding unless told to do so! And don't wear anything that closely resembles a wedding dress or takes away spotlight from the Bride. Read the instructions on the website and invitation carefully to see if there is a certain dress code for the event. Some weddings are casual, while some are cocktail attire or even black tie. Just be sure and pay attention to what is asked for attire. If no dress code is explicitly given, you should use the type of venue as an indicator of how dressed up you should be.


The couple paid good money for a photographer to snap photos of them for only a limited amount of time. Please do not ask the photographer to take time out of the time that the couple paid for to photograph you (unless it's a group photo or photo with the couple). And also PLEASE don't be the guest who brings a professional camera to take your own photos, or the guest who pulls out their phone during the ceremony to get photos during the program. There is a professional photographer there so that guests can enjoy themselves. Guests who try to get their own photos often get in the way of the professional photos that the couple paid for. I have seen all too many photos taken of ceremonies where multiple guests have their phones up to take photos, and it can detract from the photo.


With a formal dinner setup, it can be confusing knowing which glass is yours or which fork to pick up first. A general rule of thumb when it comes to silverware (if you have multiple of the same utensil) is to start on the left side and work your way over with each new course. Usually the utensil above your plate is reserved for last- dessert. Your bread plate can be found above your plate and to the left, and your glasses will be above your plate and to the right. The napkin gets unfolded and put on your lap before you begin your meal. If you have food allergies or food preferences (gluten free, vegan, etc) be sure and note that on your RSVP so that the couple is aware and can order you the correct meal BEFORE the wedding.

It may have been a while since you have attended a wedding so let these serve as a few key refreshers for when you are ready to attend events again. Couples often won’t explicitly lay these ground rules for lack of coming across as too demanding or unpleasant, but these are of some key pointers for proper wedding etiquette that all guests should know when they get invited to a wedding. So if you’ve been invited to a wedding recently, now you’ll go into it feeling prepared and will be one of the best guests there!

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