As the marriage proposals flow in, we bet at least one or two of your friends has been squealing with joy and showing off a new ginormous solitaire diamond engagement ring, meaning somewhere down the line you are bound to be a wedding guest. We know people have mixed feelings about attending weddings and they run the gamut; you have the jealous type who wishes it was them, the self proclaimed wedding guru who doesn’t actually plan weddings but uses Pinterest all the time (opt for a local wedding planner instead), the parents with young children who aren’t sure what to do with their perfect angels, serial wedding guests who are exhausted from going to a million weddings this season, the friends of the couple’s parents who leave early, etc. etc. But what if this is the first wedding you have been invited to and you want to be the perfect wedding guest? What if you don’t know the proper attire or gift or how to respond to that complicated RSVP card?! Calm down and take a deep breath; we’ve got you covered. We’re breaking down each and every thing you can do (or can make sure you don’t do) so that you don’t make for a sucky wedding guest.
Alright, let’s talk about invitations first. Since that is the first step in becoming a wedding guest, and is frequently frankly, abused, we thought that we would start there. You will probably receive your formal invitation about 6-8 weeks before the wedding and although that might make it seem like you have oodles of time to respond, please don’t procrastinate on this. Check your schedule and commit to your choice. Couples have to plan things such as meals, tables, chairs, and other wedding event rentals and this depends on their ultimate headcount. If you can send in your RSVP as soon as possible, you will save the bride and groom a lot of stress and time tracking you down.
We frequently get asked how do I know if I get a plus one? Well, the answer is actually quite simple! Who is your invitation addressed to? If it is addressed to you and your partner or you and guest, then yes you definitely get a plus one! If it is only addressed to you, then odds are the couple isn’t making space for someone else as well. We also want to point out that even if your invitation asks how many guests will be attending, if it is only addressed to you, you should not write in 2 to let the couple know you are bringing a date or a friend just don’t bring one. We don’t mean to be harsh, but we see this happen far too often and it puts the bride and groom in a tough position. Did you know the average guest costs $100 per person for the couple? So no, they don’t want your random tinder date as a plus one.
In addition to the plus one rule, don’t assume that all of your children are invited as well. People don’t generally write “adults only” on their invites so as not to seem rude, but unless the invite is addressed to and family or has the children’s names included, you will want to hire a babysitter. Consider it a date night out!
Before you even arrive, you’ll have to plan your outfit and you will want to pay attention to the invite when doing so. Some will designate the wedding as black tie, black tie optional, or cocktail attire. There are tons of other options, but these are the most common. Whatever you do men, for the love of God, jeans and a polo do not a cocktail outfit make. And ladies, definitely don’t wear white! Unless the invite specifies a type of coloring in the attire (all white wedding), let the bride have that for her special day! If you have to ask “is this too much white?” then the answer is likely yes! We absolutely love utilizing Rent the Runway for wedding attire needs as we all know that you reach a point in your life where it feels like you’re attending a wedding every weekend and buying a new outfit for each and every event can get expensive! With Rent the Runway, you can simply rent an adorable and chic outfit for the big day and return it afterwards.
We love to arrive to parties fashionably late as much as the next girl, but a wedding is not the appropriate place to do so. Arriving after the bride is such a faux pas! We can’t tell you how many times guests have arrived late and actually tried to find a seat while the bridal party is walking down the aisle so that they can slide in before the bride. If you arrive late and the processional has already started, you will need to hang back and find your seat after the bride has made it to the altar. To avoid this mishap completely, plan to arrive to the wedding around 20 minutes early, even 30 if you want a prime seat! A hot trend right now is pre-wedding sips; if you come early you might get treated to a delish cocktail!
Do not, we repeat DO NOT spend the whole ceremony on your phone. Just turn it off so you won’t even be tempted. Not only is it super rude to be texting or (god forbid) calling someone while the bride and groom are pledging their lifelong love to each other, but they also already hired a wedding photographer; they don’t need you to be one too. There is nothing worse and more distracting than a guest standing in the aisle trying to get the perfect shot. Even if the couple has a wedding hashtag for Instagram and Facebook, they don’t want or need you to document the ceremony. You can take all of the pictures you want and post incessantly during the reception – cake cutting, first dance, your meal, etc., but please turn it off during the ceremony. Everyone will thank you.
Another hint: instead of bringing a big bulky gift, holding it during the ceremony and then placing it on the gift/guest book table at the reception, send the larger presents (preferably from their registry!) directly to the couple’s house to keep them from lugging tons of gifts home from their newlywed suite. If you’re planning on just bringing a card with a gift inside, this is fine as it is a lot easier for the bride and groom to manage.
Be social! Don’t simply talk to your date or the couple of friends you already know who are in attendance. Mingle with other guests and have a good time! You will more than likely have assigned seating during dinner so make sure to chat with others beforehand. Cocktail hour is the perfect time for this! There may be limited seating at cocktail hour so make sure that seating is saved for elders. You will have plenty of time to sit during dinner, toasts, etc.
While socializing, make sure to enjoy all of the wedding entertainment that your couple has planned. They may have hired special musicians, a caricature artist, cigar rolling and more. A trend we love to partake in during cocktail hour is the bride and groom’s signature cocktail choices. If they have these, try one out! They are likely made up of the couple’s favorite drinks or a concoction that means something to them so make sure to check it out (I mean who doesn’t love to suffer for free alcohol?!) Also, don’t forget to sign the guest book or take part in an interactive guest book, if that is what they have planned. They want to know who attended and guest books are great keepsakes for couples to look back on for years to come. Don’t be a party pooper!
As the reception is generally the largest chunk of the whole day, there are tons of dos and don’ts so we will just go in chronological order. When you are being ushered from cocktail hour to the reception, please go promptly. The bride and groom will probably wait for everyone to get seated before they do their grand entrance as a married couple so don’t make them wait on you! Grab your escort card and find your seat, then stay seated. All eyes should be on them at this point, especially if they go right into their first dance. Don’t divert anyone’s eye by constantly getting up to go back to the bar or to take a potty break.
When your meals arrive after the couple’s entrance, take what you ordered. Oftentimes your escort card will somehow designate your chosen meal. Remember that this is the meal you picked when you sent in your RSVP card so don’t try to tell the wait staff that you changed your mind because your partner’s meal looks so much better. There are only a set number of each entree so if you attempt to switch it up, you run the risk of stealing someone else’s meal – and odds are they chose what they wanted the first time and aren’t as indecisive as you. Don’t punish them because you want to be picky. Also, DON’T ask for seconds. This is just ridiculous. Usually wedding meals are very large portions and a sit down wedding dinner isn’t an all you can eat buffet. We once experienced a guest ask for to-go bags of seconds at a wedding which was a bit ridiculous and greedy, if you ask us.
After dinner is when the party really gets started, but hold on a minute. You will have to sit through toasts first. Honestly, some are funny, some are full of inside jokes you will never understand, and some go on for way too long but you just have to get through it. Don’t talk, don’t mingle around, don’t do anything that will take attention away from the Maid of Honor, Best Man, Father of the Bride, etc. who is giving the toast. Not only does it take guts to get up there and speak in front of everyone, but the couple really want to hear what their closest friends and family have to say to them on their big day. If you weren’t someone they requested to give a toast, DO NOT think you can just get up there and give one. No one wants to hear your drunk ramblings about that one time in college when you and the groom got super smashed and stole a sign from one of the English buildings. Let those chosen give the toasts and sit quietly and listen. It will be over soon and the bride and groom will appreciate your courtesy.
Post toasts is the time to really break it down. The DJ will begin to put on more dance music and the bride and groom will probably hit the dance floor; you should too! There is nothing more sad than an empty dance floor at a wedding and we guarantee that the couple will be upset if no one is boogieing. Nervous about your date seeing your horrible dance moves? Shimmy yourself over to that open bar, take a shot, and hop out there. Trust us, you will have a fantastic time.
The DJ will feed off the atmosphere so make sure to create those party vibes! If the DJ let’s you know that requests are not an option per the couples request, try to respect that. Yelling at the DJ, throwing money at them like a stripper, or general bullying won’t help your cause. And for heaven sake, don’t drunkenly drag the couple to the DJ to get permission. Trust that the DJ is a pro and has been through the play list with the couple and is respecting their wishes. (And lets be real, no one wants to hear The Chicken Dance!)
So, now that you know how to be the perfect wedding guest, go out there and show off your skills. We’re counting on you to show other sucky guests the light as well… Don’t let us down.