Wedding Etiquette (for guests who don’t love weddings)

It is okay to admit that you are not a fan of weddings; they aren’t for everyone. That does not mean you are against love or have a heart of stone. Weddings are a lot of work to put together, and even the most enjoyable weddings require effort on the part of the guests. But even if you don’t like attending weddings, there are some basic rules that you MUST follow out of courtesy. If you can’t manage these basic rules, simply RSVP no (as soon as you get your invite). 


It is so easy to get the wedding invite, put it aside and forget all about it. Maybe you have a million other things more important to worry about when you open it. In reality, it will take less than a minute to check your calendar and make a split decision to go or not go. Either you are free and want to attend, or you are busy (or don’t want to go). Most couples send out a save the date well in advance, so hopefully you already know your availability and had been planning to get the invite. Bottom line: RSVP right away!

If something is holding up your decision (work schedule, travel, etc.) contact the couple and let them know that you will RSVP as soon as your schedule is available, and set a reminder for yourself!


Rule 2- Don’t Add your Own Plus One

Attending weddings alone can be really intimidating. I have gone stag, and while it wasn’t the most fun, I really wanted to be there for the couple. It is the most intimate and expensive day of their lives. It’s their day, their money, their memories. So if the envelope is only addressed to you, and there is no line for a plus one, DO NOT bring a date (and for the love, do not ASK the couple if you can bring a date)!

Want to make it more fun? Look for other guests who are alone at a wedding (even if you brought an invited date). Include them, make small talk or ask them to join you on the dance floor. Going solo is tough, so try and make the single ladies/men feel welcome!

Rule 3- If you are right on time, you’re late

Biggest wedding faux pas is showing up late. If the wedding starts at 3 PM, it will start promptly at 3. Not 3:15 or 3:30. So give yourself plenty of time to park, look up traffic while you are getting ready - PLAN AHEAD!

If due to unforeseen circumstances, you do arrive late, wait outside or somewhere inconspicuous until it is appropriate to enter. You don’t want to walk in as the bride is coming down the aisle. Even if you have to miss the ceremony, that is less rude than causing a disturbance.

Rule 4- Pay Attention
Being a spectator at many clients’ weddings, I can’t even tell you how many wedding guests barely pay attention to the services or special moments.  This is a HUGE deal for the couple. They took care to invite YOU out of all the people they know, because it is meaningful for them to have you there.  If you don’t care enough about them to listen and watch, don’t attend.  

Here is a list of important moments to pay special attention to:



Toast (no matter how long they might drag on)

First Dance

Cake Cutting

Family Dances 

And anything special the couple decides to do 


Rule 5- Sit Down and Follow Direction

If the couple has assigned seating, sit where you are asked. Even if your friend is at another table. Don’t ask people around you to switch places, don’t pull up a chair. In the big picture, dinner is usually about an hour. You can manage mingling with strangers while you enjoy the meal.  Moving seats around disrupts service, setup and flow.  

Also, when instructed to be seated for dinner, to get up to go to the buffet, or that the bar is closing, follow along.  Odds are you are delaying the entire night’s schedule by not following directions.


Rule 6- Interacting with Vendors and the Venue 

The couple has likely hired a number of vendors, along with the venue for the event. Be courteous, stay out of their way, listen if they ask you to do something. Here are some major DON’Ts (based on actual encounters with guests):

Photographer- Do not ask them to take photos of you or your family/friends. Do not hold your phone in the way of any photos they may need to take. 

DJ/Band- Do not request music unless there was a specific instruction to request songs. Do not get on stage to dance or sing with the band unless asked.  

Venue- Don’t get in the way during setup/teardown. Do not request special meals or different meals from what you ordered. (If you have dietary restrictions, tell the couple in advance of the actual day.) If the bar is closed don’t go and get your own drink and don’t complain to the staff, or worse, the couple. You could disrupt the entire flow of the evening with what you think is a simple request.


Rule 7- Basic Etiquette

Aside from the major No-Nos listed above, there are general guidelines that everyone should follow at a wedding:

  1. Do not drink yourself into a stupor.  You do not want to be “that person” to pass out or throw up on someone’s wedding day.

  2. Do not ask for food to go, no matter how delicious it was.   

  3. Be polite when helping yourself to the buffet or dessert stations. We all love sweets (at least I do) but only take what you are actually going to eat and (see rule above) wait until the staff is done setting up before you start taking things.

  4. Do NOT be rude to the staff.  Every single person working that day is following the direction of the couple and what they wanted their day to look like. Listen, agree and be as helpful as you can.  If you can’t be helpful, then at least be quiet. :-)


You may think you are one guest out of a couple hundred, and no one will notice if you aren’t the most well behaved. But remember how special this day is to the couple hosting, and that they incurred an expense to invite you to celebrate with them. They said yes to including you which means they probably had to exclude someone else. Share in their joy, be respectful, and have fun! Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with sending a gift and well wishes and staying home that evening!

All Photos by Aster + Olive Photography (5.30.2015)

Brandi HamerstoneComment