Receiving a wedding invitation is truly an honor. Two people want you to witness the moment they dedicate their lives to each other, after all, and that’s pretty special.
What’s not special is a wedding guest who forgets they are there to support the happy couple. What's not special is a guest who commits nuptial faux pas all over the place.
Fortunately, you don’t have to irritate the people around you nor the couple on stage. It is possible to go to a wedding and remain friends with the couple after.
Leave your "guestzilla" costume at the door.
Just about everyone has heard of "bridezilla." She's a demanding dictator with an engagement ring who bosses her bridesmaids around and makes wedding planners cry. She's overbearing and makes unrealistic demands of the people around her. (She might, too, be the product of a sexist overreaction—"just a word that tries to mutate ... perfectly normal emotions into uncontrollable hysteria," writes Kelsey McKinney.)
But do you know who's even worse than bridezilla? A guestzilla. This guest comes to weddings, often makes it all about them, and drives the happy couple a little insane.
“Guests can avoid being ‘guestzillas’ by being respectful, patient, and gracious towards the couple, the venue and the vendors,” says Carley Joy, owner of wedding planning company Carley Jeanne Events, in Springfield, Missouri. “The worst types of guests are the ones that are not considerate of the bride and groom and the fact that this is their day.”
So before you make petty demands—Hey, photographer, here's my phone. Take my picture!—or complain about the slightest inconvenience, remember that you are there to make the couple happy, not the other way around.
Want to know how to make a wedding planner go into early retirement? Try not being mindful of the time and schedule of the big day. And this includes you, wedding party. Bridesmaids, groomsmen, and even the ring bearer and flower girl are guests of the wedding—their plates were paid for by the newlyweds. What they, and the other wedding guests, do on the big day can make a huge impact.
“The biggest pet peeve of most wedding planners is when the wedding party or family does not show up on time or has wandered off and no one can find them,” says Joy. “This can push back the entire wedding timeline which can make it difficult for vendors to adjust.”
Joy combats this potential annoyance by providing members of the party with timelines that include the events and locations of the day.
Change isn’t always good.
If you didn’t know, weddings take time to plan. Every little detail of the day is typically painstakingly selected, then second-guessed, then chosen again. A word to the wise: don’t mess with any of them.
Believe it or not, wedding guests have been known to make important changes to their loved ones’ ceremonies or receptions, all by their own volition. Obviously, doing so can put a wrench in the day’s plans.
“As a wedding planner, we help the couple plan these details months, even years out,” Joy says. “It is our job to execute their wedding day exactly as they had planned.”
What this means for guests is, don’t attempt to make any changes as a helpful “surprise” to the couple—don't, say, call them outside to let off a dove during altar pictures. And if you can’t resist, make sure you clear it with them, first.
Respect the RSVP.
How many of the couple’s closest family and friends will attend the nuptials impacts a variety of details regarding both the ceremony and the reception, says Joy.
To make it as easy as possible for the soon-to-be newlyweds, make sure you get those RSVPs in on time. Also, adhere to what you said in your response.
“Do not show up unannounced or bring a guest if they are not included on the invitation envelope,” says Joy. “This can affect seating charts and the amount of food and drinks available for guests.”
If your plus one was specifically named, avoid switching out your guest for someone else. The couple is expecting you and the other person they invited. Not a companion of yours they may not know.
Lastly, keep other guests in mind if you are thinking about escorting your little ones to the romantic event.
“If you are bringing children to the wedding, make sure they are constantly being looked after and [are] well-behaved,” says Joy. “If you have concerns that your children may get fussy during the ceremony or can't sit still for dinner, consider getting a babysitter for the evening.”
With devices, just don't.
As much as you may not want to hear this, it’s time you did: your phones are not invited to the wedding. They are not your plus one, so put them away and pay attention to what is going on around you.
Along with taking your focus off of the happy couple, electronics often end up in wedding photos, which is likely not what the bride or groom had in mind.
Not providing your social media followers with updates each second is just fine, but if you can’t resist, use your phone while you’re in the bathroom or in an area that is out of the way.
Prohibiting electronics at a wedding is becoming increasingly common, and a trend that most planners are fine with.
“Limiting technology during the ceremony can help guests live more in the moment and enjoy the event, rather than be a distraction,” says Joy.
It’s not hammer time.
Just about every bride and groom has a story about a wedding guest who had too much. And although they may be able to laugh about it now, they were probably pretty upset at the time.
Drinking is as common at weddings as awkward dancing is. The people you just watched mushily proclaim their intentions to stay together for the rest of their lives want you to have fun, so they are providing said drinks. If you want your relationship with them to last, however, you’ll need to exercise restraint when it comes to popping bottles.
Oh, and leave the bottle-popping to the professionals. In other words, don’t sneak any in. If the venue doesn't have the proper license, you could all get in trouble.
Educate yourself on etiquette.
Weddings are about love: celebrating love, committing love, and showing love. But the latter isn’t something that only the people getting married are doing—it’s what the guests should do, too.
“Thanking the couple for the invitation and thanking the couples’ parents for hosting the event before leaving is very gracious and will stick out in their minds after."
Also, slow your roll when it comes to chowing down.
“Waiting for the couple, wedding party, and immediate family to eat first is always important and very respectful, rather than trying to be first in the buffet line,” Joy says.
Flex your flexibility.
Have you ever been to a wedding that ran smoothly? Without any hitches at all? Chances are, you probably haven’t. Weddings are the result of a lot of moving parts; when one thing goes wrong, an avalanche of wedding mayhem ensues.
Rather than get upset and take it out on the bride or groom, relax. Have a drink or get boogying on the dance floor to release the tension.
"Sometimes weddings run late or things go wrong, but as a guest it is important to be supportive, flexible, and positive throughout the entire event," says Joy.
To gift, or not to gift?
Wedding guests are not obligated to bring presents to weddings. However, giving the newlyweds a token of appreciation for inviting you to the wedding is never frowned upon.
“It is not required to bring a gift to the wedding, but it is considered good etiquette,” says Joy. “If you are unable to bring your gift to the wedding, especially if it is a destination wedding, mail it ahead of time or soon after the wedding.”
When it comes down to it, this is (hopefully) the last time your loved ones are getting married.
You want the memories of their day to include happiness and joy, not someone being disrespectful of their role as wedding guest.
Be patient, kind, appreciative, and flexible, and the happy couple will likely say “I do” to a long-lasting relationship with you, too.
Oh, and here's a tip for the happy couple.
Unfortunately, as much as you can inform your guests of your wedding wishes, they may not get the hint. You can either risk that your cousin’s newborn doesn’t scream during the entire ceremony or that your uncle doesn’t pass out in the middle of the dance floor, or you can set a list of “rules” for your wedding.
“I think it is okay for brides and grooms to set rules for their ceremonies and receptions, such as no phones or cameras, drink limits, or [age-limits],” says Joy. “Providing only [specific drinks] and making everything else a cash bar can sometimes help with your budget and lets your guests enjoy the event longer. Additionally, having an adults-only wedding reception can give your friends a chance to relax and unwind, and spend some quality time together and with their friends.”