Wedding Guest Etiquette 101

Wedding Guest Etiquette 101 // Toledo Wedding Guide

words by Eve Green


The inception of the modern wedding has ushered in a new era of wedding etiquette for guests. Everyone knows not to show up at a wedding in a white gown or jeans, but there are plenty of other standards to follow in order to be a great guest. Avoid an accidental wedding guest faux pas and consider TWG’s Wedding Guest Etiquette 101.

Before the Wedding

Your role as a wedding guest begins when you receive your first invitation, whether that invitation is for an engagement party, bridal shower, or for the wedding. Remember these key rules as you prepare to attend the events surrounding the big day.

1. RSVP in a timely manner

The couple must make a number of important decisions based on their guest count. Guests should RSVP promptly in order for the couple to stay on schedule and meet vendor deadlines for decisions. Even if you won’t be in attendance it’s crucial that you send back your RSVP with regrets. If you RSVP “yes” and then have to cancel last minute, always let the couple know you will no longer be in attendance. They will be far more understanding if you inform them rather then just being a no-show. If you give them enough notice they may even be able to update with their caterer rather than having to pay for food that will go to waste.

2. Don’t assume you can add a plus one

If your invitation doesn’t include the name of your partner or doesn’t say “and guest” then it’s safe to assume you aren’t allowed to bring a guest. If you haven’t been invited to bring a date, don’t ask the couple if you can. It really puts them on the spot. If they had the money in their wedding budget to give you a plus-one they would have already. Also, if the names of children or “and family” isn’t listed on your invitation, this is likely an adult only wedding and reception.

3. Check out the registry

We always recommend guests check out the registry early on while there are still plenty of gifts from which to choose. As a guest, you are under no obligation to purchase from the registry, however, it is a collection of items the couple truly wants and needs to set up their home together. So it’s always a great idea to refer to the registry unless you are opting for a monetary gift or perhaps an item with sentimental value such as a family heirloom or something handmade.

At the Ceremony

1. Dress for the occasion

It’s important to keep the ceremony location in consideration when planning your attire, especially as some churches are more conservative than others. Don’t upstage the bride by wearing a completely white or ivory dress, though it’s perfectly acceptable to wear a dress with some white or ivory on it. Traditionally, black dresses at weddings were frowned up as they resembled funeral attire, but that rule is a relic of the past. We can’t think of anything more timeless and chic than an LBD (little black dress) at a wedding celebration. And finally, do not underdress for a wedding. That means no jeans, shorts, or flip flops - unless you’re on a beach!

2. Arrive on time

Guests sometimes struggle to know when exactly they are supposed to arrive for the wedding ceremony. Here it is: always arrive 30 minutes before the time listed on the invitation. If you do end up arriving late, ushers will most likely motion for you to allow the processional and the bride to make their way down the aisle before you quietly find yourself a seat in the back.

3. Turn off your phone

Everyone has a smartphone and therefore the ability to be paparazzi at a wedding. Save your photography skills for the reception and keep your phone turned off and out of sight during the ceremony. Professional photographers hired by the bride and groom need room and the correct lighting to do their work, and that can be made difficult when guests are stepping out into the aisle to get a good shot, or letting their flash go off.

At the Reception

1. Drink responsibly

We all love cocktail hour, but there’s nothing worse than an overly-intoxicated wedding guest passed out at their table or stumbling around the reception. Some guests may need a little liquid encouragement before cutting it loose on the dance floor, but just remember to drink responsibly while enjoying yourself. Also be sure to be respectful of the venue. Any damage to the facility or the property inside is sure to come back on the bride and groom and any repair bill will be their responsibility.

2. Wait until the dance floor is open to guests

Guests usually know not to utilize the dance floor until the bride and groom have had their first dances and the cake has been cut. However, this extends to children as well. Don’t let kids run wild until the dance floor is open to everyone.

3. Be kind to the dj and musicians

What guest doesn’t want to hear and dance to their favorite song at a wedding reception? Part of the fun for the newlyweds is seeing their friends and family dance and have a great time. As such, they have put a great deal of thought into the set list. Just remember not to get overzealous with song requests as the bride and groom surely have a selection of music they would like to hear on their big day.

Weddings should be fun day of celebration for not only the bride and groom, but for all those in attendance. Simply remember to be respectful of the couple and all the time, thought, and money that went into planning their special day.