The Wedding Guest's Guide to Etiquette

Receiving a wedding invitation means the bride and groom regard you fondly. You are someone with whom they wish to share their special day. You have not been included casually or as an afterthought, as wedding guest lists are planned carefully. Therefore, etiquette dictates your behavior as a wedding guest must be appropriate and suited to the occasion.

Do RVSP timely. According to etiquette expert Emily Post, your most important job as a wedding guest is to respond in a timely manner to the invitation, especially if you are unable to attend. The bride and groom have a lot of planning to do with the wedding, and many things hinge on the number of guests that will be attending.

Don't bring extra guests. Respect the invitation. If it is addressed to you and a guest, go ahead and bring your "plus one." However, if you respond that you will be attending solo, do not bring a guest at the last minute. Some couples request that children not attend their wedding. Always respect the couple's wishes, and do not bring your children if they have not been invited.

Do attend the ceremony. If the invitation lists time and information for the ceremony, you should make every effort to attend the ceremony and not just appear at the reception.

Don't be late. If something unforeseen happens to delay your arrival to the ceremony, wait patiently at the back of the church or venue until the usher can unobtrusively seat you.

Do dress appropriately. Take your cue from the wedding invitation. If the invitation states formal attire, it is inappropriate to attend wearing khakis and a button-down shirt. Likewise, appropriate dress for a beach wedding will not be the same as dress for an evening wedding at a country club.

Don't take pictures at the ceremony. Never take your own photos during the wedding ceremony. Your flash may interfere with the professionals who are capturing the wedding on film and video for the couple.

Do offer your congratulations. Wedding guest etiquette requires you to offer your sincere congratulations to the bridal couple, as well as to thank them for allowing you to share their day. If the couple hosts a receiving line, don't skip it to get into the reception early. Take the time to congratulate the newly married couple.

Don't monopolize the bride and groom. The bride and groom will want to mingle and spend time with all their guests. Monopolizing the newlyweds can cause hurt feelings among the other guests and make the couple uncomfortable. They will not want to hurt your feelings, but they can't spend all their time talking with just you.

Do turn off your cell phone. Always turn your cell phone to mute during the wedding ceremony. Nothing will spoil the romantic mood than a phone ringing, loudly vibrating or erupting into a musical ringtone. Phones also should be muted at the reception during the meal and while toasts are being shared.

Don't drink excessively. Loud, obnoxious behavior brought about by excessive consumption of alcohol is never appropriate wedding guest etiquette. It is rude and disrespectful. If you know you tend to overindulge, don't tempt yourself. Stick to nonalcoholic drinks, and avoid embarrassing yourself and the bridal couple.

Do give a gift. Even if you are not planning to attend the wedding, giving a gift is the proper etiquette. Never bring the gift to the ceremony. In most cases, it is proper guest etiquette to send your wedding gift to the bride's address or to a place designated as the gift table at the reception.

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