The Wedding Guild Series: How To Be A Great Wedding Guest
Let’s face it, we’ve all experienced that special guest who crashes a party unannounced or the guest who didn’t pay attention to the requested dress code and showed up in jeans and boots at a black-tie affair (cue those famous Garth Brooks lyrics). And then there’s the guest who thought it appropriate to bring an uninvited "plus one" along...
We don’t envy the hosts who experience obnoxious guest behavior (and trust us when we say Team MLE has seen our fair share of inappropriate guests). But stop and think for just a moment… have you ever been that guest at an event? We certainly hope not! To ensure you’re prepared to be a great guest and attend that next wedding with class and style, we thought it beneficial to share some advice with you, the invitee, on some appropriate guest dos and don’ts:
Don’t wear white to a wedding!
“The wedding day is the bride's time to shine so don’t wear anything that will upstage her. The bride should be the only vision in white (or ivory) on her wedding day. Regardless if she chooses to wear true white, ivory, cream, etc., the color palette is reserved for her. Out of respect for the bride (and tradition in general) steer clear from wearing white on the wedding day!"
Do follow the dress code.
“The couple has put a lot of time and effort into planning the day of their dreams and following their requested dress code helps establish the overall tone of the event! Not only are you being respectful to the couple's wishes, you won’t feel out of place. MLE encourages couples to include dress code information within their invitation suite and also on their wedding website. If you don’t receive dress code information, ask the host what is most appropriate. It’s better to ask and know than to assume and be under/over dressed. Need help understanding what all of that black tie, white tie, cocktail, casual verbiage means? Visit this post where MLE decodes all those confusing dress codes!”
Don’t get offended if you’re not invited to everything.
“Simply put, some couples prefer an intimate ceremony surrounded by close family and friends and decide to only include a larger guest count at their reception. Others wish to keep the entire celebration intimate from start to finish. And some simply can’t afford to celebrate every aspect of the wedding with everyone. The point being, there are many factors that play into a couple’s decision to invite or exclude guests from certain events. If you find yourself excluded from the rehearsal dinner but invited to the reception, don’t get offended. Rather, attend with a smile and best wishes for the happy couple. You’ll never know all the factors regarding how a couple allocated their guest list (or wedding budget) and that’s okay. The reasons behind those decisions are private and should be respected without unnecessary drama.”
Do respect the parameters of the invitation.
“There are multiple events associated with a wedding celebration (engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, welcome parties, rehearsal dinners, wedding ceremonies, dinner receptions, post-wedding brunches, etc.). Each event serves a unique purpose and therefore, has a defined guest list. Just because you’re invited to one or more of the celebrations doesn’t mean the couple must invite you to all of the celebrations. Be grateful for the couple’s decision on where and how to include you and respect the parameters of their invitation.”
Don’t deliver a spontaneous, unplanned speech.
“Nobody enjoys listening to a unsolicited, scatterbrained speaker who bounces from one unorganized topic to the next. The best toasts are planned, practiced ones. Prepare in advance, make it personal, and keep it short and sweet. And don’t go slurring your words. Hold off on having another drink until you’ve made it through your speech. Bottom line? If you haven’t been asked to give a speech, don’t."
Do Practice your speech!
“If you’ve been asked to give a speech, practice beforehand. That means out loud in front of other people. Although you may feel silly, practicing out loud in front of others can be extremely helpful. Your practice-audience can provide productive feedback and help you understand what material is suitable or better left for the after party. Practicing your speech will help ease butterflies when the time comes to deliver, and you’ll feel at ease and able to engage with your audience. Don’t forget to grab your glass when the time comes, and be sure to invite all guests to raise their glass alongside you as you toast (not roast) the bride and groom.”
Don’t take off with wedding décor, cards or gifts!
“Unfortunately we’ve had to stop guests on their way out the door and kindly ask them to return items not intended for them. Napkins, chair sashes, table numbers, centerpieces, etc. If you’re a guest, the only thing you should be leaving with is the intended wedding favor and the personal belongings with which you arrived. Centerpieces, décor, other guests’ coats, and yes, the table numbers should be left behind. Be a classy guest. Not a nasty guest.”
Do be mindful of the space you’re in.
“Event venues have rules and regulations that a couple must agree to follow when selecting where to celebrate. Most of which include noise regulations, restricted areas, designated vendor rooms not meant for guests, and other policies you’re likely not aware of. Ultimately, the couple is held responsible for any damages to the venue including lost/stolen property. Simply put, be mindful of the space you’re in and respectful of the venue’s rules and regulations.”
Don’t leave the event without acknowledging the couple.
“Everyone knows the bride and groom are always held up in conversations throughout their wedding day, but don’t just leave without attempting to say hello. Even if it is quick, it is polite to take a moment to say hello and thank them for inviting you, and for hosting such a wonderful celebration! Of course, please do so at an appropriate time.”
Do sign the guest book!
“A wedding guest book is a lifetime keepsake for the bride and groom to remember the friends and family who shared in their special day. Unfortunately, it’s useless if nobody signs it. Make an effort, sign your name, leave a cute note, and know it’ll be appreciated for a lifetime.”
Don’t be a party pooper.
“There’s nothing worse than an uninterested guest at a party. The bride and groom have been planning this special day and dreaming of their wedding for quite some time. They've put a lot of effort into making sure they provide a fun guest experience. And, they invited you for a reason! So get out there and join in the party, especially if that means dancing the night away!”
Do have Fun!
“If there’s a dance floor, get your groove on. If the bride and groom start a conga line, jump in. They want to do the Macarena? You do the Macarena! This is their day. Join in the fun and help them shine!”
Don’t ignore the registry.
“Purchasing a random gift or selecting a different make, model or color other than what the couple selected for their registry could ultimately cause the couple more work after the wedding. I registered for 2 sets of towels in neutral colors that matched my home. I received a set I hadn't registered for in a bright color with a very specific theme that was not suited to anything else I owned. I certainly loved the thought behind the gift and appreciated the generosity of my friends and family, but I spent two hours driving around trying to find out where the towels were purchased to return them. And I felt guilty about it the whole time!”
Do be thoughtful when it comes to wedding gifts.
“Receiving a thoughtful and elegant wedding gift can turn into a cherished memory, and personal gifts are always a great idea! My husband and I received a lovely jewelry box with our engagement photo on the top, and we use it every night for our wedding rings.
If gifting something personal is a challenge, rely on the couple’s registry for guidance (they created it for a reason). And be considerate of how the bride and groom would transport your selected gift. It's best to ship large or heavy items right to their home especially if the couple lives more than a few hours from the wedding location. And shipping gifts prior to the event is helpful so they aren't sitting outside for an entire week while the couple honeymoons. Remember, if you buy a registry item, don't forget to let the store know so they can update it and decrease duplicates. If you don't want to gift a registry item, cash or gift cards are always an excellent alternative.”
Don’t show up unannounced.
“If you RSVP’d ‘no’ (and yes, you should ALWAYS RSVP even if you’re not planning to attend), don’t show up at the last minute and expect a seat. A huge amount of work goes into orchestrating assigned tables and, at times, assigned seats. Planners and couples alike spend hours making sure all guests are accounted for. Showing up unannounced is not always a welcomed surprise. If you realize your plans have changed, contact the bride and groom as soon as possible and be prepared to accept and respect their response, no matter what.”
Do arrive early (just not too early)!
“Arriving an hour early is disrespectful. Showing up five to ten minutes early is considered on time, arriving exactly "on time" is late, and late is unacceptable! Don't be the person who walks into a ceremony late. It’s a complete distraction for all involved. The ceremony is the most important part of the celebration, and you don’t want to be the reason the photographer and/or videographer misses a big romantic moment. Additionally, don't be the guest that skips the wedding ceremony only to show up for the free food and drinks! That's just rude.”
Don’t get wasted.
“While the bride and groom want you to enjoy their open bar, don't abuse it. A wedding is not another Saturday night out at your favorite bar. Be mindful of your limit and intake, and consider the reception's location. The effect alcohol has on your mental and physical state at sea level is much different than when drinking alcohol at higher altitudes (i.e., Utah). There is less oxygen present in the air at higher elevations, so the effects of getting intoxicated are magnified. It’s simple science.”
Do respect the seating chart!
“The couple (and probably their families, as well) put a lot of time into placing each of their guests in certain seats and there's likely a reason you're seated where you are. For instance, if you were asked to make a meal selection prior to attending the wedding, your choice and seat have most likely been communicated to the catering staff so they can ensure YOU are served exactly what you requested on your RSVP card. If you really want to chat with that cute guy at table 2, make it a goal for cocktail hour or the dance party.”
Don’t pull out your cell phone during the ceremony.
“The bride and groom have likely hired a professional photographer and videographer to capture their ceremonial moments and the wedding aisle belongs to these professionals so they can execute the job they were hired to do. When guests step (or lean) into the ceremony aisle and hold up their cell phones to take pictures, they obstruct the already limited space available to the photography/videography team to professionally capture the event. And don't stand next to the hired photographer and shoot over their shoulder with your personal camera, phone, iPad, etc. Shooting over the hired professional’s shoulder is flat out disrespectful. Chances are, the couple would like you complete attention during the ceremony. Be respectful of any "unplugged" wishes and mentally present. Power down for 3o minutes. You'll be glad you did.”
Do RSVP by the requested response date!
“It's courteous to let the host know if you do or don't plan to attend their event. A common misconception is that you don't need to reply if you're not planning to attend, but a lack of response leaves the host questioning if the invitation was received (or if the RSVP card was lost in the mail). There is immense pressure on the host to order (and pay for) enough food and beverage as well as makesure there are enough tables, chairs, centerpieces, china, glassware, flatware, linens, etc... Having a final guest count is crucial to the success of any event no matter how large or intimate, so do your host a favor and let them know if you are (or aren't) planning to attend.”
We hope Team MLE's advice proves helpful as you head into your social calendar with confidence! Rest assured, by following these social-savvy tips, you’ll be prepared to wow your host/hostess with exemplary guest behavior!