Wedding guest etiquette can be confusing. From knowing what to wear to how much to spend on a gift for the bride and groom, there’s a certain code of conduct that underpins good wedding etiquette. Here’s our guide to the inadvertent faux pas that every wedding guest should be aware of.
RSVP as promptly as possible or, at the latest, by the date indicated on the invitation. It sounds simple enough but you’ll be surprised by how many people don’t pay attention to this straight-forward request. Remember, your RSVP is essential to helping the couple plan and determine the cost of their special day. A timely response is not only common courtesy but will make the whole affair so much less stressful for the couple.
Dress to impress (but not to compete)
While everyone knows the golden rule – don’t wear white – be aware of the hidden dress code for wedding guests. Firstly, if you want to be remembered for the right reasons, avoid all black or attention-grabbing red ensembles as well as hem or necklines that are too revealing. Leave lace to the bridal party too. The best advice is to dress how the invitation suggests. Take your cues from the tone and style of the invite, the wedding venue and time of day. If the ceremony is to be held in a religious building channel Royal Enclosure at Ascot and be respectfully modest. Invited to the evening do only? Slip into a cocktail dress and you’re good to go. If you’re unsure of the dress code, ask someone close to the wedding party, but never the bride – she has enough on her plate to worry about. Remember, if in doubt play it safe, after all your wedding outfit will be forever immortalised in the photographs, so this is not the time or place to push limits or debut a daring new look.
Get to the church on time
It’s the bride’s prerogative to be late for her wedding but there’s no excuse for guests. Always aim to get there at least 30 minutes before the ceremony is due to start. If you’re travelling from a distance, or with little ones in tow, make sure you plan your journey and leave in good time. If for any reason you’re really late, don’t slip in behind the bride as she makes her entrance, stand at the back until you can discreetly take a seat.
Send a gift
Selecting a gift for the bride and groom can be a minefield. It’s often easier if the couple have a gift list for you to choose from. If this is the case, make sure you select something from it. Don’t go off-piste and try to impose your own personal taste. You may love South American art but there’s no guarantee the bride and groom share your sartorial style. If there is no list and the couple haven’t indicated their preferences, then the question of how much to spend on a wedding gift is one that many guests toil over. While there’s no hard and fast rule it is generally considered good etiquette to cover the cost of your plate. Consider how much you would spend on a night out including food and drink and use that as a guide. Oh and if you can’t attend the wedding, good etiquette dictates that you should still send a gift anyway – no ifs or buts!
Congratulate the family
Even if you haven’t met the couple’s parents, seek them out and congratulate them on a beautiful wedding. This is especially important if there isn’t a formal receiving line. There’s a good chance the bride and groom’s parents have contributed to the big day in some shape or form so make a point of saying thank you and telling them how much you’ve enjoyed yourself. It will mean the world to them.
It’s common for brides and grooms to worry that their guests aren’t enjoying themselves. Put them at ease by clapping in all the right places during the speeches, making an effort to mingle with other guests and filling the dance floor as soon as the party starts.
Take an invited guest (including your children!)
Don’t assume you can bring a plus one to the wedding unless your invitation specifically says so and don’t, under any circumstances, call the bride and ask if you can bring your latest Tinder match either! By doing so you’re essentially asking the couple to pay for an extra person and could be putting them in an uncomfortable position. Likewise, if your children aren’t named on the invite, don’t assume they’re invited. Embrace being child free for the day and book a babysitter.
Be all about you
If you’ve just got engaged or have recently tied the knot, don’t be all about your own wedding. It’s bad form to start sharing your Pinterest boards or honeymoon photos with other guests over the wedding breakfast. Today is not about you, it’s about the just married Mr and Mrs.
The trend for ‘unplugged’ weddings is growing, so unless the couple have an official wedding day hashtag, be cautious about what you share on social media. However tempting it may be to show off the gorgeous newly-weds, it is respectful to wait until either the bride or groom have publically posted pictures before you post your own.
Drink the bar dry
A free bar is a generous gesture so don’t take advantage and drink it dry. Though you’ll no doubt want to let your hair down, never lose sight of where you are and why. Be gracious and pace yourself, that way you can continue to toast the happy couple well into the small hours.