Weddings are obviously a big day for the happy couple, but they can be quite the event for guests, as well. From RSVPing to picking out presents and wedding-day outfits, here’s what everyone should know about wedding etiquette.
All of us find ourselves at a wedding every now and then and, for the most part, we feel like we know all the standard rules when it comes to wedding dos and don’ts. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy to be a good wedding guests, but we all know that there’s always one person that will somehow manage to cause some small annoyances during the couple’s big day. Don’t let yourself be that person—here’s what you need to know about wedding etiquette so you can be a great guest.
Send That RSVP
Anyone who’s ever been in a wedding party knows that the bride and groom will still send you a wedding invite, even if you’re already well-aware of when the event will be.
You might think that you’re not obligated to send back the RSVP card that comes with it, but you always should, even if you tell the couple in person that you’ll be there.
Ultimately, they may not be the ones giving the final number of guests to caterers and other vendors, and whoever does could forget to include anyone who’s not represented by that little card. Also, it’s a good idea to send the RSVP back even if you’re not going—and for the sake of everyone involved, don’t show up if you say no!
Check for Plus-Ones
Ultimately, the bride and groom might already know that you have a family or a new significant other, but don’t just assume that they’ll be able to tag along.
In some cases, many people have a “the more the merrier” philosophy when it comes to their wedding day, and they happily invite you and your whole clan to come along.
However, depending on the vibe they want their day to have, they may not want kids to be running through everyone’s legs on the dance floor or sticking their fingers into the cake before the photographer has even gotten a picture of it.
The same thing goes for guests even if they’re adults—sometimes, couples just want their day to be filled with the people they know, and they might not want your most recent Tinder hook-up tagging along. Whatever their reasoning, check the invite to see if guests will be welcome and go with whatever it says—it’s only for one day.
Communicate Changes in Plans
Life happens, and sometimes plans change due to unexpected circumstances. Often, people also just straight-up change their minds and decide they don’t want to do something that sounded fun at one point.
Ultimately, if you sent the couple an RSVP that said you were coming to their wedding, you should still go if the only reason you’ve changed your mind is because you “just don’t feel like it.”
However, should you actually have a legitimate reason for not being able to make it to the wedding, you should absolutely tell the couple about it as soon as you know you won’t be able to come.
In some cases, the couple may be able to adjust the amount of things they need and save some money—for example, paying for one less $25 plate of food because they had enough time to let the caterer know without seeming like huge jerks for changing things up last minute.
Send Your Congratulations, If You Don’t Send a Gift
You may have heard that sending a wedding gift is the right thing to do, whether you’re going to the couple’s wedding or not. However, gifts truly aren’t always necessarily required, even if you do end up going.
For one thing, weddings can often be expensive even for guests, especially if it’s a destination wedding or just one that would take quite a while to drive to—believe us when we say that the couple is getting plenty of stuff from other people, and you shouldn’t feel bad if you can’t afford something big, especially after spending a lot just to get yourself to the venue.
You especially don’t have to send something to the couple if you’re not even going to the wedding, but they’ll definitely appreciate your congratulations. In either case, you can just send them a card or maybe even a small gift card to their favorite store if you feel guilty for not getting a full-blown present.
Stick to the Registry
When it comes to wedding gifts, we all know where to find out exactly what a couple has their eyes on—their wedding registry, and sometimes there’s more than one.
You may have found yourself scrolling through a wedding registry at one point in time, sweating as you go down a list of expensive items that you wouldn’t even buy for yourself, let alone for another person, but try not to get too worried about it next time.
In some cases, couples even feel weird about making them, as if it suggests to their guests that they’re shamelessly demanding the items they pick out, or hinting that a gift is 100 percent required. They usually do it because people will inevitably ask them what they want as a wedding gift, so it’s an easy way to make a list and actually get the item they wanted.
However, if you choose to get them something, it doesn’t always have to come from their registry—if you just want to get them a gift card, something small, or even just a card, do what works for you.
Be Smart About Pre-Wedding Parties
Most couples have them—the bachelor and bachelorette parties, the engagement party, the bridal shower, the rehearsal dinner. It might feel like you, as a guest, are obligated to attend as many of them as you can in addition to the couple’s big day, especially if you’re someone who’s also in the wedding party, but that’s not always true.
Sure, you should probably be at the rehearsal dinner if you’re in the wedding, but you ultimately might not have the time or money to attend five other events. Keep in mind that, while it should be considered a privilege to be invited to many of these events, you’re only one person and sometimes the dates won’t work well with your schedule.
Make sure, though, that you give the couple plenty of advance notice that you won’t be able to make it to something, especially if you’re a member of the wedding party.
Gifts, as always, are optional in most cases, but there are a few exceptions—definitely bring one if you’re going to the bridal shower, or if the bachelorette party has some type of theme, like bringing a piece of lingerie.
Respect the Dress Code
Most of us know that we need to wear something “nice” for a wedding, but that word can have a different meaning for different people. Sometimes, a wedding invitation might even have some type of dress code suggestion on it, which might leave you feeling a little confused, even panicked if you feel like you don’t already have something that fits the bill. Here’s your cheat-sheet for deciphering wedding wear:
Black tie: This means formal wear is required, including floor-length gowns and tuxedos.
Formal, or black tie optional: This is pretty much the same thing as “black tie,” but gives you a few more options. You can wear a more simple dress with fancier accessories, or swap out a tux for a nicer, dark suit.
Semi-formal, or cocktail attire: This is the most common wedding dress code. Think cocktail dresses and suits. Still aim to dress nice and look your best, but with more pops of color and fun accessories.
Festive: You might hear this description when the couple is having a themed wedding. Check the invite for specifics, but this could include a Halloween–themed wedding where you can wear costumes.
Dressy casual: This is essentially the business-casual of the wedding world. You’ll obviously want to look nice, but don’t be afraid to dress it down just a little—think dress pants and a polo shirt instead of a full suit.
Casual: You can always check with the couple as to what they have in mind specifically, but this essentially means you can wear whatever. Try to keep sweatpants and flip-flops out of the mix, though.
Pay Attention to the Ceremony, Not Your Phone
One wedding-related trend that’s become more and more popular over the past few years is the bride and groom requesting that guests put their phones and cameras down during the ceremony.
The reasoning is solid—they’d paid for a professional photographer to document the moment, so you should sit down and just enjoy it, and also allow others to enjoy it without having to stare at your butt throughout the whole event. Not to mention that you can also get in the way of the actual photographer if you’re running around trying to get your own shots.
This can be a hard rule to follow for some people, especially when you’re a family member of the bride or groom, but you need to respect the couple’s wishes. We have no doubt that they’ll be happy to share their professional photos with you when they get them, and you’ll be able to take plenty during the reception anyway.
Additionally, if you’re someone who gets to see the bride before the ceremony, it’s never alright to post photos of her in her dress, no matter how bomb she looks.