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Wedding Etiquette for Wedding Guests

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Have you ever attended a wedding only to sit at the wrong table? You’re not alone.

Most wedding guests end up making mistakes they don’t even know they are making.

Understanding how to act, what to wear, and where to sit can be overwhelming. However, you’ll find this a breeze once you’ve figured out the dos and don’ts.

Our detailed guide gives you some essential tips on navigating wedding guest etiquette.

10 Wedding Guest Etiquette Rules to Observe

Some of the etiquette rules to follow include the following.

1. Respond to RSVPs Early

Card with the text RSVP surrounded by pink flowers

Ensure that you respond to the invitation by the date requested on your RSVP card.

While it’s best to respond immediately to the invitation if you’ve already decided, you can take a couple of days to respond as long as you do it in time.

Also, if you got an invitation card, send a card back instead of calling to RSVP. If you can’t make it to the ceremony or can’t confirm yet, have this written down as you return the card.

Additionally, if something happens after sending a confirmation, notify the couple about these changes as soon as you know.

Confirming your attendance makes work easier for the couple as the final guest count is forwarded to the wedding venue, caterer, baker, florist, and other vendors.

Letting the couple know that you won’t make it also reduces their losses, and they can get a refund once the guest list is adjusted.

There’s a tendency to invite anyone as a plus-one on a wedding invite randomly. Avoid asking people to a wedding only you’ve been invited to.

Conversely, don’t bring a plus-one if it wasn’t indicated on the wedding invite. The extra person may not have been budgeted for and may miss meals or a seat.

2. Follow the Dress Code

Card with the text RSVP surrounded by pink flowers

Most couples will have a suggested dress code for their big day. They could recommend a black-tie, cocktail attire, or black-tie optional.

If they’ve indicated the dress code, ensure that you follow it and find an outfit that fits.

Also, if there’s no dress code indicated, you can call in to ask in advance. That shows that you respect the couple’s wishes and are willing to work with what they’ve suggested.

Avoid wearing any sort of white dress when invited to a wedding.

You don’t want the bride feeling intimidated or unhappy that you showed up with a white dress on their big day.

Ensure that you don’t outshine the bride.

3. Arrive at the Right Time

Happy bride and groom standing with guests

It’s disrespectful to arrive at a wedding in the middle of the ceremony or leave early. Coming late shows the couple that you don’t respect their timing, while leaving early tells them that you don’t care and would rather go and do other things.

Always note the time the event starts as indicated on the invitation.

Avoid arriving too early as you may confuse the vendors preparing the venue. Aim to arrive at least 10 minutes before the time indicated.

If something happens and you get to the venue late, avoid rushing to find a seat.

Stand at the back quietly and watch the event unfold until the wedding party has arrived and walked down the aisle. After everyone is settled, you can step forward and find a seat.

If you end up sitting with unfamiliar people, avoid changing seats. There’s a reason the couple decided to reserve that spot.

Enjoy the moment by making new friends and eating your meal.

4. Avoid Being Loud

Although it’s good to be excited about the couple’s big day, learning when to observe quiet times is also essential.

You should observe a quiet time during the ceremony, toasts, first dance, and when announcements are being made. Most of these events last for a few minutes, and waiting doesn’t hurt.

5. Give Cash or Purchase a Gift From the Registry

Beautiful bouquet next to wedding gifts outdoors

Back in the day, it was good to bring your preferred gifts like knitted sweaters, hand-me-down glasses, or vases. However, most of these things may not work for some couples with limited space and a different lifestyle.

Find a gift from the registry to buy for the couple. Alternatively, give them cash for them to buy what they would like. That will give them the freedom to find something that fits their home and current needs.

6. Treat Everyone With Respect

Guests eating at the wedding reception outside in the backyard.

You’re likely to come across vendors and staff members hired by the couple.

Understand that although they are there to ensure everyone is comfortable, they cannot respond to every attendee’s request. Allow the event staff to do their work without a lot of interruptions.

It’s also tempting to want to take as many photos as you can of the wedding. 

However, avoid crowding and overwhelming the photographers and videographers, as the couple hired them. Be subtle when taking photos and conscious of the photographers around you.

7. Avoid Anything That Might Steal the Couple’s Spotlight

guests having fun and dance at luxury wedding reception

The couple invites their guests, hoping to share the joy and celebrate the big day with people they value. So avoid unplanned performances or speeches unless the couple has asked you to contribute. 

Furthermore, avoid proposals as they are disrespectful and show that you’re not creative enough to think of a better place to propose.

8. Steer Clear of Mean Comments and Complaints

A lot of time, money, and effort goes into wedding planning and preparation. The couple is happy to see the day unfold finally and their expectations met.

Avoid complaining about any details to do with the wedding.

The food may not have met your expectations, or perhaps the decor didn’t match what you had in mind but keep this to yourself.

9. Don’t Overindulge in Drinks

wedding celebration, drink

We all love open bars at weddings and the chance to sample a drink or two to celebrate the couple. Some couples have an open bar, while others opt for a cash bar where guests can pay for alcoholic beverages.

Don’t request the most expensive whiskey. Be respectful at an open bar.

Also, avoid drinking too much as you may mess up the reception. Some guests also make the mistake of encouraging the groom or others to drink too much.

Drink in moderation and avoid buying shots for anyone at a wedding.

10. Reduce Your Tech Use

Groom occupied with phone at beach wedding ceremony

While most of our lives revolve around technology, you sometimes need to put your phone away. Switch your phone off or silent when taking a seat at the ceremony.

Turn the flash off if you plan on taking photos during the wedding ceremony. Moreover, avoid replying to text messages during the ceremony as this can distract the guests sitting next to you.

Other Tips on Wedding Etiquette

Avoid calling the couple on their wedding day. Instead, find someone else who can answer any urgent questions you might have.

Please don’t visit the couple when they are having their lunch or dinner. Allow them to eat as they might be very hungry. You can talk to them later.

You should not bring a physical gift to the ceremony location; instead, send it to the couple’s home. You can give a card with cash to the couple or place it at a designated spot in the reception area.

Refrain from giving a toast unless the couple requested you to do so.

Avoid carrying wedding items like flower arrangements, candlesticks, or pictures home.

If the couple is willing to provide transportation to the reception, kindly accept it and don’t insist on driving your car.

Final Thoughts

Wedding ceremonies are meant to be fun and memorable. Understanding wedding etiquette is respectful to the couple and allows you to enjoy the day and have a good time. Remember to be active by mingling with the guests, admiring the first dance, and having fun.