When it comes to wedding guest etiquette most of us know the basics: don’t get too drunk, don’t show up empty-handed and don’t forget to RSVP.
And while these tips shouldn’t be new to anyone, wedding planners say they are the same rules guests continue to break.
“Remember, the couple has invited you to share what will be one of the most memorable days of their life,” says wedding planner Katelyn Hipson of Elegant Productions in Halifax.
“As much as this wedding is about them, a huge portion of their decision-making when planning for this day will go into what will make their guests most happy and have a great time.”
Calgary wedding planner Lynn Fletcher says guests getting excessively drunk is a common recurrence. She advises couples to have a cash bar or to close the bar during dinner to avoid this.
Read below for more tips from Hipson and Fletcher on the wedding faux pas you should never commit.
#1 Don’t RSVP and not attend
“A shocking amount of people think that it is OK to RSVP ‘yes’ to a wedding and then decide not to attend at the last minute,” Hipson says.
If you respond that you will attend a wedding — attend. Hipson says to keep in mind you are committing to the couple and they are paying for your meal in advance. If your absence is really unavoidable, update them as soon as you can.
“There is nothing more frustrating at a wedding reception than looking around and seeing the empty chairs of guests who decided not to show,” she says.
#2 Don’t take too many photos
Most couples hire a wedding photographer and videographer, so there really isn’t a need to add your own smartphone to the mix, Hipson says.
“The last thing any newlywed wants is to look back on their wedding photos and see 15 of their guests standing with phones and iPads in their faces as the bride is walking down the aisle.”
Put away your phone and bring it out later at the cocktail reception or photo booth.
#3 Don’t show up without an RSVP
Just like the first tip, don’t show up to someone’s wedding without confirming, Fletcher says.
“A lot of detailed tasks go into preparing for all of the guests at a wedding, like confirming the number of tables to decorate — not to mention how many meals to order from the caterer,” she says.
Also, you don’t want to show up to someone’s wedding without an assigned seat.
#4 Don’t bring extra people
Read the invitation very carefully. If you are a family of four and the invite says “two,” chances are you can’t bring your kids to the event.
“Do not assume that you can bring your five children to the wedding if the envelope is addressed to only you and your significant other,” Fletcher says. “Many weddings are adult-only these days, so if you have a question whether your children are included please ask before you RSVP and never assume.”
She also advises the newlyweds-to-be to write “adult-only” on the wedding or reception invitation.
#5 Don’t arrive late
In some cultures, it is common to arrive late to the wedding, but most people like to start on time. And this doesn’t just apply to the ceremony.
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“Arriving late to a dinner reception not only robs you of precious social time during cocktails, but it also puts a strain on the servers and the kitchen if you are not in your seat to eat the food that they want to serve you,” Fletcher says.
#6 Don’t show up empty-handed
“Standard gift prices vary depending on your relationship to the couple. Friends and co-workers usually are around the $75 to $100 mark,” Fletcher says, “Relatives and immediate family are obviously expected to spend more.”
If you forget a gift or the gift is arriving later than expected, let the couple know within a few days.
#7 Don’t outshine the couple
One rule most people can agree on is not to outdo the bride or groom on their big day. For example, don’t wear white to a church wedding, or don’t wear black or white to a Sikh ceremony.
But Fletcher says it’s important to also pay attention to the dress code.
“If it is cocktail attire, then a short cocktail dress is appropriate. Wearing a formal ballgown to that kind of wedding will make you stand out too much. If you have questions, you can absolutely ask the bride, her mother, the wedding party or their planner for assistance.”
Tips for the happy couple
In some cases, couples can also fall into a trap of bad etiquette, Hipson says. In particular, some don’t pay attention to time.
“There is nothing worse than being a wedding guest on a hot summer’s day, sitting in the heat and waiting 45 minutes for the bride to arrive,” she says.
“I know getting five more photos with all your besties and delaying your cocktail hour by 20 minutes may seem like the fun thing to do at the time, but when 120 of your guests are served wilted salads and overcooked beef, those five photos aren’t going to make up for it.”
Fletcher adds couples shouldn’t expect monetary gifts either, even if this is the most popular method of gift-giving.
“Although money is a good gift to give, asking for it is not. Spread the word verbally through your family and friends so that they will have an answer when a guest asks what you would like for a gift or where you are registered.”
In some cultures, requesting “no boxed gifts” is completely common. In those cases, cash is preferred.