Wedding Guest Etiquette 21 Tips

Let’s be honest, weddings aren’t the same as when your parents got married. And as more and more Millennials and Gen Z couples get hitched, the rules of wedding guest etiquette are changing too. From relaxed attire to hooking up with another guest at the wedding, some of these do’s and don’ts might surprise you! I asked 1200 of my Instagram followers 21 hot wedding guest etiquette questions and here are the results!


Wedding Guest RSVP Etiquette

1. Showing up without RSVP’ing

So you forgot to RSVP but still want to attend the wedding? 84% of couples said, “Stay at home!”. While I’m sure the couple would like to have you there (hence the initial invitation), they’ve planned their day around how many confirmed RSVP’s they have. There may not be a place for you to sit or a meal with your name on it. On top of that, some venues charge per guest. So if you just show up, you’ll be dropping an unexpected cost on the couple and you don’t want to be that person. The best thing to do is to get your RSVP back to the couple on time so they can account for your attendance.

Handmade wedding invitation

2. Bringing an uninvited plus one

You received a wedding invitation, but there’s no place for you to add that you’ll be bringing a hot date? 92% of couples said, “Please don’t bring unexpected guests”. Let’s face it, weddings are expensive! When you decide to bring a guest who wasn’t invited you’re adding extra costs for the couple. They invited you because you’re important to them and they are willing to pay to have you there. So leave the hot date at home! You can attend a wedding stag and still have a great time, I promise!

What do you wear as a wedding guest?

3. Should I wear white to a wedding?

Are you considering wearing your favorite white outfit to a wedding? Even though weddings are changing, wearing white is still looked down upon. Most couples agree, wearing white is a no-no. So unless it’s your wedding, pick a different outfit and let the bride shine in her white gown!

4. Can I wear jeans to a wedding?

This depends on the wedding. Is the wedding at a ranch, outdoors or just plain laid-back? If it’s casual and there’s no dress code – go for it! Half of the couples surveyed said, “Jeans are OK!” if it isn’t a formal wedding.

Wearing jeans to a wedding

5. Should I wear a hat to a wedding?

The same rules apply here as wearing jeans. If you want to wear your ballcap because you just don’t feel like yourself without it, consider the setting of the wedding. If you want to wear your derby hat or fedora to a formal wedding, that’s OK too! Bring your style as long as it fits the dress code.

Wedding Guest Etiquette Before and During the Wedding Ceremony

6. Texting or calling the couple on the wedding day

Wedding days are busy! Most couples start getting ready for the big day early in the morning and they don’t have time to answer your texts or calls. If you really need to get in touch on the day of the wedding, try reaching out to someone you know will be with the couple that day. A parent, the best man or maid of honor are great contacts for lingering questions. And most importantly, don’t be offended if no one gets back to you! In most cases, you can find the answers to your questions within the invitation or you ask them when you arrive at the wedding.

7. Seeing the couple before the ceremony

If you aren’t apart of the immediate family or bridal party, please don’t ask to see the couple before the ceremony. The final 30 min before the ceremony can be hectic for the couple. Last-minute makeup touches, getting a moment alone to take some deep breaths or getting one last conversation in with mom before walking down the aisle take precedence. You’ll get your chance to see and talk to the couple after the ceremony, so save your congratulations post nuptials.

Bridal party seeing bride before wedding ceremony

8. Posting pictures of the couple before the ceremony

So you have the honor of being with the couple before the ceremony, lucky you! And as excited as you are to see your best friend or child walk down the aisle, keep the pictures to yourself until after the “I do’s!”. With cameras and social media at our fingertips, it’s easy to take photos and instantly post for the world to see. But instead of sharing right away, let the couple have their moment and keep those photos on lockdown until you get the go-ahead.

9. When should I arrive at a wedding?

100% of couples surveyed agree – do not arrive any more than 30 minutes before the wedding! Unless there is a cocktail hour being hosted before the ceremony, you really don’t need to be there any earlier. Weddings are notorious for starting late and you won’t be doing anything else but waiting around. Most importantly though, don’t arrive late! Showing up once the ceremony has begun is just plain rude. Even if you try to sneak in and have a seat, you will still get noticed and distract other guests from enjoying the moment.

10. Drinking before the ceremony

If there’s a hosted bar or drinks available before the ceremony, most couples say “Enjoy yourself!”, but please don’t get sloppy drunk before the festivities begin. There will be plenty of time during the reception to get your drink on.

Groom and groomsmen having  drink before wedding ceremony

11. Taking pictures during the ceremony

90% of the couples said: “Please keep your phones and cameras in your bag or pocket during the ceremony”. And if you’re feeling slighted from getting pictures, think of it this way – couples have spent a lot of money on a photographer to capture photos. They invited you to be present with them in the moment, not to be capturing it on your iPhone or point and shoot camera. So sit back and enjoy the momentous sharing of love between two people! The memories you have will be much stronger than a blurry photo you took of the bride walking down the aisle.

Family taking pictures of wedding couple during ceremony

Wedding Guest Etiquette During the Reception

12. Talking during first dances

This is the one that surprised me the most! 65% of couples said it’s OK to chit chat during the first dances. But don’t go crazy hooting and hollering. Even if you aren’t paying attention, let the couple enjoy this moment – it’s the only first dance they get!

A wedding couple sharing their first dance as newlyweds

13. How long should my toast be?

So you’ve been asked to give a toast, but don’t know how long you should plan on talking for? The best rule of thumb is to keep your toast to 5- 10 min long. In most cases, you’re not the only one giving a toast, so you don’t want to take up too much time.

14. Do you want to give a toast but weren’t asked?

Unless the DJ or MC opens the floor up for unplanned toasts, don’t grab the mic. Weddings run on timelines and the couple may have only planned for a certain amount of time for toasts. You’ll have a chance to congratulate the couple when they do their table visits.

Groomsmen giving a toast to the bride and groom

15. How long should a couple visit each table?

The couple should spend 5 min at each table saying hello and thank you for coming. Don’t keep the couple too long chatting, they have other people to see. If you want to talk more, wait until they’ve completed all of their table visits.

16. Can I eat dessert before the cake cutting?

If desserts are offered before the formal cake cutting, eat away! But in most cases, you should wait until the couple cuts their cake. I know little Bobby has been staring at those cupcakes since you sat down at the table, but make sure he doesn’t et his chocolate fix until the couple shares their first bite of dessert. Once the initial slice has been made, it’s game on for your sugar fix!

Wedding couple cutting their cake

17. Is it OK to leave a wedding early?

Traditionally, you want to wait until the cake cutting to leave, but 64% of couples said it’s OK with them if you need to leave early. Just be sure to find the couple and let them know you need to bow out early.

18. Can I sing karaoke at a wedding?

So you’ve had a few drinks and your thinking about grabbing the mic to serenade the couple? Think twice. Unless you have the voice of Celine Dion or discussed it beforehand with the couple, you should probably keep it to yourself. A lot of the time, the couple has spent hours perfecting their reception playlist and you don’t want to interrupt the party with your off-key antics. If you really need to belt it out, head to the karaoke bar afterward and have at it!

Wedding guest singing to the bride and groom

19. I met someone at a wedding, is it OK to hook up?

62% of couples said, “Go for it!”, but maybe save the making out for the hotel room. The couple wants you to have a good time and if you met another guest that makes your heart race, that’s awesome! But be careful not to let the alcohol let things get too racy on the dance floor. This could be the beginning of something good and you don’t want the toasts at your wedding to recount a sloppy first meeting.

20. Criticizing the details of the wedding

Couples spend a lot of time and money selecting the details and vendors that are the right fit for them, so it doesn’t really matter what you think! Don’t like the decor, oh well. Don’t like what they picked for dinner, get over it. You can be picky about the details when it’s your wedding!

21. Can I take extra wedding favors?

If a couple gives favors to guests, it’s best to just take one per guest. But more than half of couples surveyed said if there are extra favors – take them!

Wedding favors for guests

In the end, the most important wedding guest etiquette tip is to have a good time and enjoy the moment! The couple invited you because you’re a meaningful person in their life. So put down the phone, soak the in the memories of the day and feel honored that you get to witness a real-life love story!

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