The Complete Guide to Modern Wedding Guest Etiquette

From dress codes to RSVP rules: how to navigate wedding etiquette in these times of relaxed, informal weddings
Flower Crown

Shutterstock

The Complete Guide to Modern Wedding Guest Etiquette

Wedding

Shutterstock

Just as weddings have changed dramatically from serious, traditional white weddings of the past, so has wedding etiquette. As a wedding guest, you need to make sure you’re up to speed with what is expected of you at today’s weddings. It’s now totally acceptable to RSVP to an invitation by email, and for a wedding gift to be money to go towards a honeymoon, rather than a new salad bowl. However, there are still many rules and regulations that need to be followed: Just because weddings now seem more relaxed, doesn’t mean that etiquette can be ignored completely.

Do: Be Honest With Bride and Groom

Wedding

Shutterstock/Wedding Stock Photo

If the bride has asked you to be a bridesmaid — which is going to involve lots of time, work, and responsibility — or if the bride and groom are having a destination wedding on a faraway island, and you can’t deal with what they’re asking of you, tell them. They’d rather you were honest with them rather than silently and begrudgingly spending all your money and time on their wedding, and going about it in a passive aggressive way.

Don’t: Bring a Gift

Don’t: Bring a Gift

Shutterstock/IVASHstudio

Yes, you should give the bride and groom a gift, but you should not bring one to the wedding. Even if they love the gift, they don’t want to spend the day ferrying gifts around when they have so many other things to be doing and paying attention to.

Don’t: Bring an Uninvited Plus One

Wedding Guest

Shutterstock/Halfpoint

We know that weddings are often more relaxed than they used to be, but this doesn’t mean that numbers are unlimited. Only bring a plus one if it was included on the invite, and you have confirmed it with the bride and groom.

Don’t: Change RSVP

Wedding

Shutterstock/Alexander Tihonov

Unless something unbelievably life-changing or life-threatening comes up just before the big day, there is rarely an excuse good enough to make up for changing your RSVP. So many details of the day are based on the exact number of people attending, so don’t mess up the wedding‘s logistics by changing your attendance status because you’ve been invited to go on an exotic holiday.

Don’t: Contact the Bride on the Day

Bride

Shutterstock/StockLite

If you’ve lost the wedding invitation and have forgotten the start time, or are not sure of the address, or what to wear, contacting the bride to ask for help may seem sensible. However, she’s far too busy to detail with your questions: Ask a friend or family member instead.

Do: Follow Rules on Children

Children at Wedding

Shutterstock/Pavel L Photo and Video

If the bride and groom have decided to set a “no children policy” on their wedding invitation, don’t start asking questions, and definitely don’t just turn up with them. They have made this guest list decision for a reason; don’t question it.

Do: Give a Gift

Gift

Shutterstock

If you attended a wedding, you must give a gift. It’s simply impolite not to. Choose a gift from their registry that best fits your budget (if they don’t have one that does, group together with some friends), and make sure you buy it fairly promptly after the wedding.

Do: Give a Thoughtful Toast

Toast

Shutterstock/MNStudio

If you have been asked to give a speech or toast at a wedding, make sure you give it lots of thought and attention. The speech should be emotional, amusing, and, most importantly, grandma-proof. Make it personal and kind: If you don’t, you may be about lose yourself a friend.

Don’t: Go Off-Piste With Gifts

Gift

Shutterstock/tonefotografia

The bride and groom have created a wedding list, asked for money towards their honeymoon, or requested a charitable donation for a reason: They don’t want to receive a random selection of gifts. You may not want to contribute to anything on their list, but that’s what they’ve requested, and if you give them something they don’t want or like, it’s just a waste of your own time and money.

Don’t: Invent Food Allergies

Wedding Food

Shutterstock/Denis Tabler

You may try to avoid gluten or dairy in your daily diet because you think you feel better without it, but this doesn’t constitute an allergy. Only alert the bride and groom to your dietary requirements if you really are allergic, and may end up in hospital if you eat that food item.

Don’t: Photograph the Ceremony

Don’t: Photograph the Ceremony

Shutterstock

The wedding ceremony is an emotional, delicate part of the wedding day, and you should be sensitive to this. This means, you shouldn’t grab an aisle seat and spend the entire time filming the marriage on your phone. Save your photos and videos for later: Let the professionals capture this sensitive part of the wedding day.

Don’t: Put Your Phone on the Table

Don’t: Put Your Phone on the Table

Shutterstock

You may have terrible table etiquette and always eat with your phone on the table, but mind your manners and put your phone in your bag or pocket at the wedding banquet. Make conversation with the people next to you, and try to enjoy the wedding, rather than admiring life outside the party.

Do: RSVP as Requested

Do: RSVP as Requested

Shutterstock/shutteratak

These days it’s not unusual for a wedding invitation to request an RSVP by email, rather than by post. However they request the RSVP, make sure you follow the instructions. The method and date are set so that they get the responses in enough time, all in one place. Don’t make wedding planning even more of a logistical nightmare by ignoring the invitation’s demands.

Don’t: Share Bad Photos Online

Social Media

Shutterstock/ginger_polina_bublik

There will inevitably be photos of the bride and groom all over social media as soon as the guests catch sight of the newlyweds. But make sure that you’re not sharing any photos that the bride and groom aren’t going to like. They don’t want to see any less-than-perfect photos of their wedding day.

Don’t: Skip the Ceremony

Don’t: Skip the Ceremony

Shutterstock/Ivanna Dobra

If you’re having a year where it feels like every other weekend is spent at a wedding, it can be tempting to start skipping the wedding ceremony, and just attend the party afterwards. But this would be a fatal wedding etiquette mistake. It may be dull to you, but this is the most important part of the day for the bride and groom, so attend the ceremony, whether you want to or not.

Do: Thank Everybody

Wedding

Shutterstock/Joshua Rainey Photography

It is now likely that the wedding wasn’t paid for entirely by the bride’s family as it traditionally would have been. It’s probable that the bride, groom, and both their families pitched in to make this event happen, so make sure you take the time to thank all of them at some point during the wedding day.

Don’t: Wear a Flower Crown

Flower Crown

Shutterstock/Gorosi

As fewer brides are wearing veils and tiaras to their weddings, more and more are opting for a flower crown instead. A stunning headband of fresh flowers may go perfectly with your summer dress, but don’t be tempted: Only the bride (and maybe the bridesmaids, with the bride’s permission) should wear flowers on her big day.

Don’t: Wear White

White Dress

Shutterstock

However low-key and relaxed the bride may say be, she still wants this to be her special day, where she is the center of attention. By wearing white, you’re automatically putting yourself in competition with her: Play it safe, and steer clear of this color when deciding what to wear.

Do: Wish the Bride and Groom Good Luck

Wedding

Shutterstock/IVASHstudio

While the bride and groom won’t want to be bothered with questions on details of the wedding on the big day, they will appreciate every single message of good luck they receive, whether it’s a card, a text, or a Facebook message. Just make sure it’s not a phone call: They don’t have time to respond.

Do: Write a Thank You

Do: Write a Thank You

Shutterstock/focal point

In this age where your invitation may have come via email, you may have RSVP’d via text, and you may have sent the bride a good luck Snapchat video, putting pen to paper is a rare occurrence. However, writing a thank you note for a wedding is one time when you should definitely resume this “old-fashioned” method.