You’re attending the wedding because you’re close to the bride or groom, right? So it’s only natural that you want to help their special day go as smoothly as possible. Being a wedding guest can be confusing; unlike a member of the wedding party, a guest’s role doesn’t come with a clear-cut checklist or a professional planner. So if you feel like scoring major brownie points with your friends, start researching ideas now so you can be the best guest at the wedding.
Respect the Invitation
Yes, your boyfriend is smart, funny, and a great dancer. You know he’d be a real asset to the wedding reception. The only problem is you’ve been dating for all of two weeks and the wedding invitation came addressed to you alone. Unless you’re close enough to the bride or groom to ask directly whether an extra guest is all right, err on the side of not bringing one. There’s nothing more embarrassing (for both you and your hosts) than showing up with an extra person in tow and finding out that he hasn’t got a name card at the dinner table.
The same etiquette goes for children; yes, yours are charming and well-behaved. But unless the wedding invitation specifically names each member of your family, assume the invite is for you alone. Some venues (especially those that serve alcohol) specifically prohibit underage guests, and arriving with your kids could cause complications for everybody at the wedding. Plus, if your hosts already told other guests to leave their children with a sitter, your kids’ arrival might cause a blow-up.
What if you suspect your hosts made an honest mistake? It’s considered good etiquette to invite both halves of a committed couple, so if your spouse or long-term partner didn’t get an invite, you’re within your rights to inquire whether there was a mistake. If the couple is under serious financial constraints, they may have made the decision to split up couples–in this case, it’s your decision whether you’d like to attend singly or send your regrets.
You told your best friend that you wouldn’t miss her wedding for the world, so do you really need to also mail her a piece of paper? If you want to make things easier for her, the answer is yes. Keep in mind that your friend is juggling an organizational mammoth of a task. Unless she also happens to be a professional event planner, chances are she has never put together a large-scale celebration before. It’s all too easy to flip through RSVP envelopes for a head count and forget to include your verbal RSVP–for that matter, some flustered brides and grooms even forget to count themselves.
Since many wedding vendors require head counts for contracts, it’s essential to RSVP as soon as you cement your plans to attend. (Don’t wait longer than one month before the wedding.) That way, you give your couple the widest window of time in which to find good prices and book top-quality vendors.
Be on Time
It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many guests think that the “ceremony start time” listed on the wedding invitations means “suggested arrival time.” Plan to arrive at least a half-hour early to ensure that you won’t be the one holding up your friends’ marriage vows.
If an emergency happens and you do end up arriving late, don’t cause trouble by trying to enter the ceremony. Imagine all of the guests turning around expecting to see the bride’s big entrance–and seeing you scuttling to your seat instead! Stand politely and watch the ceremony from the back until a venue attendant ushers you in at an appropriate time.
Don’t Pose a Distraction
If you really want to be a stellar guest, make sure your actions don’t take away from the couple’s spotlight. After all, this is their (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get married. For female guests, not posing a distraction means not showing up in a white dress. Male guests shouldn’t show up in distracting fashions either, so keep the loud Hawaiian shirts home unless the ceremony is actually on the beach.
Make sure your phone is set to silent during the ceremony; even vibration mode still makes an audible buzzing sound, and if the videographer is standing near you the noise will record surprisingly loudly.
If you bring children to the wedding, remain aware of their behavior at all times. Children make wonderful additions to weddings. However, if a baby starts crying during the ceremony, it’s polite to carry the baby out of the room until things quiet down. Make sure your children are making the celebration even more special through their impeccable behavior; no one wants to be the parent of the little boy who just knocked over the wedding cake.
If you want to take pictures, by all means, do (unless you’re attending an unplugged wedding, that is). But remain mindful of the professional photographer. Don’t take flash photos when the photographer is also aiming his camera, as your flash can wipe out the carefully-balanced lighting during key moments. Be careful of springing out of your seat or rushing forward unexpectedly to catch a great picture, too–the last thing you want is for your friends to pay for professional shots of the back of your head!
Celebrate with Joy and Love
Following good guest etiquette is important, of course, but the single most important thing you need to do to be a great wedding guest is to celebrate the occasion fully. Keep joy and love in mind no matter what you do–after all, you’re sharing the most romantic day in the couple’s lives with them, and that’s a huge honor. Give your smile free reign to shine and celebrate with an open heart. That way, even if you make a minor etiquette mistake here and there, you’ll still be a perfect guest.