How to be a model wedding guest

Sarah Connell Sanders
 |  Correspondent

Two and a half million weddings are anticipated to take place in 2022, according to recent estimations from The Wedding Report.

If the eight “save the dates” on my refrigerator are any indication, large celebrations are back in favor. Many of my cousins, college roommates and colleagues found strength in their relationships over the course of the pandemic. They waited patiently for the right time to reaffirm their love in the company of friends and family. Now, we dance.

I took the liberty of chatting with a few of the brides-to-be in order to get a better sense of their expectations for the big day. A lot of common trends emerged immediately regarding guest behavior. Here’s what they had to say.

RSVP on Deadline: You would be surprised how many brilliant minds on the guest list might not register the importance of slipping a response card into the mail. My sources reveal close family members are often the worst culprits. “Well of course we’re coming,” they say when the awkward follow-up call takes place, “We assumed that was obvious.” Guess what, Aunt Buffy? It was not obvious. Let me be clear: No one is enough of a VIP to claim an exemption from the RSVP.

My husband and I took a digital route by asking guests to confirm attendance via our wedding website. Google Forms helped to streamline the process, but it was nowhere near as personal as receiving a hand-calligraphed slice of heavy cardstock in a wax-stamped envelope. The bottom line is, should the couple spare no expense sending out physical RSVP cards, you must respond accurately and on time.

Comply with the Dress Code: If the invitation says black tie, do not show up in your swim trunks. Conversely, if the invite requests casual dress, then it’s time to ditch the tuxedo. Read the invitation closely to make sure you don’t get it wrong. I learned that the hard way. (Sorry, Wendy!) Check the wedding website once more before leaving the house. Most outdoor events even indicate whether or not heels are appropriate for the terrain. Follow instructions.

One last note on wardrobe — unless you are specifically requested to do so by the bride, do not wear white to a wedding. You are not Pippa Middleton. This rule includes but is not limited to: ice blue, cream, silver, taupe, champagne, alabaster, pale gold, and eggshell. I don’t care how great your butt looks in the dress; if it photographs white, then it’s a no-go.

Stick to the Registry: Odds are, the happy couple has gone through the trouble of picking out exactly what they need or want for this next chapter of their lives together. Appease their decisions. With the exception of cash, it is very rare they will appreciate your taste in placemats more than their own. There’s nothing worse than hearing from Uncle Cosmo, “I know you registered for THOSE wine glasses, but I decided to get you THESE wine glasses because they are much, much nicer.” Guess what Uncle Cosmo? If the couple wanted THESE and not THOSE, they would have put them on their bloody registry. Stick to the plan.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. If your contribution is something truly sentimental that goes off-registry, say, a family heirloom or a custom piece by the bride’s favorite artist, then, by all means, give from the heart. But, if you simply assume your style is superior to that of the bride and groom, please resist the temptation to take liberties.

It’s Not About You (Especially if you are a plus-one.): I can say with complete honesty and fondness in my heart that every wedding my husband and I will attend over the next few months will fill us with profound joy and gratitude. The bride and groom will see it on our faces. We will treat the dance floor like a time portal to Studio 54, even on the occasion that I am nine months pregnant. We love weddings.

With that, I understand not everyone wears their emotions so broadly, and that “non-dancers” live among us. It is also possible for a plus-one never to have met the couple of honor prior to the most important day of their lives. Do us all a favor. If you are a random or a robot, try to put on a bit of a show. By no means should you make yourself the center of attention, but at least smile. Show everyone how lucky you feel to be included in this momentous occasion. Turn to your neighbors and say things like, “Have you ever seen such a stunning bride?” and “I thought those vows were absolutely touching.” Do not permit yourself to look bored when the father of the groom lives out his lifelong dream of delivering a stand-up comedy routine in front of a packed house. Laugh at his corny jokes. Anything less than an amused grin is unacceptable.

My own wedding was full of logistical hiccups. We had to move the ceremony inside when a flash flood materialized without notice. Our reception venue blew a transformer and the air conditioning went down on the hottest day in July. Literally, none of it mattered. I don’t think I would go back and change any of the day’s hijinks even if I could. In the end, it was all a part of our wild nuptial ride. The reason none of it bothered my husband and me is because our guests made us feel so loved. No amount of torrential rain or sweat could stop them. We saw it on their faces and in their dance moves. The guests were crucial to our matrimonial bliss. I intend to repay the favor time and time again.

Do you have a pivotal wedding guest suggestion? Find me on Instagram at @sarah_connell and let me know what I missed.