How to Be the Perfect Wedding Guest

Wedding behavior normally falls into three categories: good, bad, and clueless. Few events remain where so many traditional rules still apply. Happily, being the guest they remember for all the right reasons is easier than you think.

Répondez S’il Vous Plaît

Only the bride is allowed to be late to the wedding. Being prompt, however, starts long before the ceremony. Send your RSVP ASAP—whether you’re going to attend or not. While that fairytale wedding may look effortless, it’s a major production, and your RSVP affects everything from seating plans to catering orders (please let the bride know if you have any dietary restrictions).

If your invitation doesn’t include a plus-one, it’s probably because of budget; unless you’re the father of the bride paying for the wedding, don’t ask about adding to the guest list. Also, don’t assume that your plus-one can be a child. If the bride says “no children,” hire a babysitter and enjoy the day out. Whatever you do, never promise and then not attend.

Dress Code

White, cream, and ivory are the bride’s colors; this is her day. There are plenty of other pastels to choose from if it’s a summer wedding or if dark colors wash you out. Silver, peach, coral, or light blue are all appropriate, but make sure that you’re not wearing the bridesmaids’ dress color. Stay away from gold, even pale shades, because it’s too attention-seeking, as are sequins, glittery metallic, and animal prints. Wearing all black to a daytime event that isn’t formal can also be seen as controversial, perhaps more so in the past than now.

Of course, all this goes out the window if it’s a themed wedding, and the bride specifically requests that you wear any of the above.

Camera Clicks

Having everyone raise their phones to film the show is bad enough at a concert; it should never, ever happen at a wedding. The bride and groom have paid for a professional photographer for the day. Stay out of the photographer’s way; nothing ruins their work faster than your arm in the shot as they try to capture the bride as she comes down the aisle. This is particularly important during key moments such as the couple’s first kiss or the cutting of the cake.

Don’t post any photos or videos online without the couple’s permission; you don’t want to, even unintentionally, steal their thunder on their big day.

Dining Dignity

Guests are often hungry by the time they get to the reception; the bride and groom are, too, so you can wait to go up to them to offer your hearty congratulations. Allow them 20 minutes to rest and enjoy their meal; they’ll most likely come around and greet you afterward.

If it’s a buffet and you’re at table No. 12, be patient. The caterer has a plan to maximize efficiency. Once your table is called, don’t stampede up there like a herd of wildebeests. If you know you’re going to be that hungry, put a granola bar in your purse or suit jacket and eat it between the ceremony and reception. In any case, don’t make a fuss over minor inconveniences.

Reception Responsibilities

While it may be romantic to dance with your spouse to your “first song” after being inspired by the romance of the day, don’t request songs from the DJ or band. The song list has already been selected by the happy couple, so allow them to control what comes through the speakers.

Likewise, unexpected wedding toasts make everyone nervous because they have a tendency to be cringe-worthy. If the couple passes the microphone around, go for it, but keep it short.

Do have a great time. Don’t let the bride and groom be the only ones on the dance floor; after all, a wedding is a party.