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  • Writer's pictureEmily Gustafson

#wednesdaywisdom - Wedding guest etiquette

I've decided that this week, we're going to have a little chat about being a wedding guest. As a wedding planner and coordinator, I have seen all kinds of wedding guests; from the kind who arrive two minutes before the start of the ceremony and are out before the cake is cut, to the kind who arrive in "reception mode" thirty minutes before the ceremony begins and stay until the floors are being swept. No matter what kind of guest you are (no judgement here), there are a few etiquette rules everyone should follow.

So, it's gametime guys - the time of year when the "save the dates," shower invites, and wedding invitations start accumulating on the fridge. When I talk about this, I'm always reminded of that episode of New Girl when the whole gang puts every invitation up on their fridge and the collection is quiet impressive. I think that's also the episode where Jess and Jessica Biel get really competitive over the only single man at a wedding reception where they're both guests. It was a good one, check it out!

Photo courtesy of

So, let's get down to a few simple tips that will make you a great wedding guest during wedding season 2019:

1. RSVP - Let me say that again, you must RSVP. And while we're at it, RSVP on time. And furthermore, please RSVP by the method requested in the invitation. If they sent a little card with a prestamped envelope, then please drop your response in the mail in a timely manner, or respond online, etc. If your RSVP card was lost or some other issue occured with the invitation and must respond by another means, perhaps include that information in a little note. But if it all possible, RSVP by the intended method and do so by the deadline so that your hosts can plan for food, venue, favors, bar, and all the other things that depend on an accurate headcount.

And I beg you, do not show up to someone's wedding uninvited or without RSVPing.

2. Bring a "plus one" when you're invited to do so - the wording of the invitation that you received is important. So hang on to it if you need to reference the policy on bringing a date. For some people, allowing for everyone to bring a date stretches their budget too much and they just can't afford for their single guests to all bring a "plus one." So, if your invitation does not clearly say that you are invited to bring a date, then do not assume that you should bring someone. You might find your date without a seat at your table.

Photo courtesy of Brittany Conner Photography

3. Respect the kids policy - Look I get it, babysitters are expensive. Finding one for a weekend evening is often really difficult and leaves you waiting with bated breath to see if someone else will be wrestling your offspring into their jammies for the evening. But, when it comes to weddings, some people just don't want kids to be there. And as a Mom, I get it. When I'm at more "adult functions" where my kids have been invited to come, I'm barely engaged at all with what's going on. More likely, I'm supplying an endless flow of snacks and drinks, grabbing crayons dropped on the floor, and just trying my best to keep them quiet through whatever's going on. In short, I get why someone would choose to have a "no kids" wedding.

There are lots of moments that you don't necessarily want someone screaming for fruit snacks through during your wedding ceremony or running like a wild thing through the reception. So, if the couple requests that you leave your kids at home, then please do so. Typically this information is supplied early, so don't delay in scheduling your childcare. Or to offset the cost, trade off childcare with a friend who also has kids and might have a big evening or date night coming up.

Photo courtesy of Brittany Conner

4. Dress code matters - These days dress codes can be about as clear as mud. However, as a guest it's your job to do your best to follow the dress code set by your hosts. Typically the rules of thumb about appropriate dress are as follows:

- White tie - the most formal dress of all - floor length gowns for ladies and tux, white tie, and gloves are expected for the fellas

- Black tie - typically an evening event - floor length gowns or cocktail attire for ladies tux or suit usually in dark colors

- Dressy-casual/semi-formal - this is basically cocktail attire with some room for creativity in color and style for both ladies and men, though ment should still wear a jacket

- Casual dress - much more laid back - sundresses and comfy maxis are totally appropriate for ladies, khaki and a button-down shirt for the guys work well

- Destination/beach - for a beach wedding, go with a bright sundress and sandals for walking in the sand. Guys can always get away with a hawaiian print shirt at these events, khaki and comfortable shoes.

- Theme wedding - If there is a "themed" dress code, like all white, all black, etc, then do your best to accomodate the request. They might have a special visual in mind for photos, so just do what you can to make their wish come true. If you want to read about an extreme version of this, go here:

I mean, whoa. Hopefully, none of you reading this post will ever receive such a ridiculous invitation ever! I'd be sending my regrets to that one.

5. Last but not least - Give the couple a gift - If you've been invited to this couple's wedding, then you need to purchase a gift for them. And, by all means, go check out their registries for great ideas of their taste and what they might need or want. I always recommend purchasing gifts off of the registry when possible. Putting together a registry is a chore, so if your friends or family members have been through the process of assembling their registries, then I say use them! Also, don't wait too long before purchasing a gift or the primo registry items might be gone.

One last tip on gift giving - large gifts should be mailed rather than brought to the wedding. There's so much loading and unloading on the wedding day that usually falls to the family of the couple, save them some steps and simply bring a card or a bottle of champage to the wedding itself.

Ok guests, go enjoy those weddings! Have fun, eat the food, dance to the music, and hug your family and friends on this big, big day for them! May your wedding season be the best one yet!

And to couples, if you're the first of your friends getting married, you might want to slide this into your friends DM's :)

Happy planning,

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