Modern Wedding Guest Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

wedding guest etiquette

Wedding season is always a great excuse to let your hair down, drink champagne, mingle with old friends and dance the night away. But let’s not forget that attending a wedding is more than just a party. It’s a privilege!

The fact that the happy couple wants to share one of their most significant milestones with you is actually pretty special. Even more so when you consider that they’ve spent months (or possibly even years) planning this huge event – along with footing the entire bill and making sure you’re fed, comfortable and happy.

So with this in mind, why not make the effort to be an absolutely awesome guest in return!

Being a wedding guest comes hand in hand with its own share of responsibilities, too. Each and every wedding is different, but it’s important to take some time to understand what may be expected of you before and during the big day.

From RSVP deadlines to dress codes and plus ones, keep reading for 8 crucial Dos and Don’ts when it comes to wedding guest etiquette!

Wedding Guest Etiquette: Do's and Don'ts
Photography by OneLove Photography

Don’t: Assume You Can Bring a Plus One

Unless your wedding invitation specifically contains the phrase “and guest”, never assume that you can bring a plus one along to the party!

Keep in mind that weddings are an expensive event, and costs can really start to add up quickly. It’s likely that the couple would love the opportunity to extend a plus one for certain guests, but the reality is that it may simply be out of their budget or venue capacity.

If the wedding invitation is addressed to your name only, you can safely assume that this means no plus ones. Unless you think there has been a genuine oversight (for example, your partner of 10 years!), then the correct etiquette is not to ask for an exception.

Keep in mind that each additional guest means an additional cost. Making assumptions about plus ones and bringing an unexpected guest on the day can leave the couple in some stressful situations, particularly if it’s a sit-down reception and they haven’t arranged a place setting or included an extra meal. Talk about awkward!

Wedding Guest Etiquette: Do's and Don'ts
Photography by Stephanie Brazzle

Do: RSVP Before the Deadline

We get it – during wedding season, it seems like everyone is tying the knot and you may find it difficult to keep track of your wedding invitations! But keep in mind that your RSVP procrastination could actually be causing the couple a huge inconvenience and delaying their planning.

Remember that the upcoming newlyweds will need final guest numbers in order to confirm things like their catering, floor plan and seating chart. With so much already on their plate, it’s safe to say the last thing they want to do is follow up each guest just so they can settle their invoices!

Instead, make sure you RSVP at your earliest convenience. If you know immediately whether you can or can’t attend, RSVP right then and there instead of leaving the invitation to linger on your kitchen bench. Your friends will appreciate your promptness!

You should also take note of any extra information the couple has requested from you, like dietary preferences, meal selection or the name of your plus one if offered. If you really want to be an awesome guest, include a note of congratulations and a warm thank you in your RSVP, too!

Don’t: Ignore the Dress Code

Nobody likes feeling over or underdressed in social situations. So remember, dress codes aren’t there to force you into a certain style. They exist to make you feel comfortable!

A dress code helps guests choose an outfit that will suit the tone of the event. For example, a black tie dress code often complements formal venues, while more casual attire might be suggested for a relaxed beach wedding.

Take note of any practical dress code suggestions, too. For example, if the couple has suggested that ladies wear flats, it’s probably because the wedding is located on a grassy lawn. Or, if the venue is known to get cool in the evenings, the couple may recommend a jacket to help you feel warm and cosy. It’s all for your benefit!

Wedding Guest Etiquette: Do's and Don'ts
Photography by Taylor Lord

Do: Read the Wedding Website

Has the couple sent you a link to their wedding website? If so, make sure you refer to this first before calling the bride-to-be with any last minute questions!

Many couples opt to create a wedding website to save them having to answer the same questions from guests over and over again. So, it’s likely that all of the need-to-know details have already been covered in the pages of their wedding website.

If your friends have gone to the effort of creating a resourceful and informative website for you, it’s best to thoroughly read through this prior to the day. Their wedding website should include everything from a schedule of timings through to registry information and directions to their venue.

Reading through the wedding website will also give you a good indication of what to expect on the day, so you can make preparations to suit. This is particularly helpful if you’re travelling interstate or attending a destination wedding, as the couple may have shared discount codes for hotel blocks or included travel tips to help you plan your stay.

Don’t: Take Photos During the Ceremony

There’s a reason why so many couples are now opting for unplugged or device-free ceremonies. As any wedding photographer will tell you, ceremony shots can be completely ruined by well-meaning guests whipping out their mobile phones to capture the moment!

Unless the couple has explicitly invited you to take photos, it’s best to keep your phone away – that’s what a professional photographer is there for. As much as you might want to take a quick snap of the newlyweds, do you really want to be the guest who’s iPhone interrupted the shot of their first kiss?

Instead, turn your phone off completely and allow yourself to actually be present in the moment. Simply enjoy being fully immersed in this special time as it happens, and remember that the couple can always share the professional photos with you after the day.

Wedding Guest Etiquette: Do's and Don'ts
Photography by Luke Going Photography

Do: Be Punctual

As a wedding guest, one of your most important jobs is to rock up on time!

Weddings are usually scheduled to a tee, from the ceremony start time to the speeches and first dance. Although it may be acceptable for the bridal party to be fashionably late, it’s a definite faux pas for you as a guest.

Make whatever preparations you need to ensure you arrive at the ceremony 20 minutes prior to its scheduled start time. If you’re unfamiliar with the venue location, leave a little earlier to allow for travel, traffic and parking.

And of course, if the couple have gone to the effort of organising group transport, you should arrive at the designated pick-up location on time (and vice versa at the end of the night). Nobody wants to be the guest who holds up the bus!

Don’t: Go Overboard with Food and Drink

Food and drink are one of the most memorable elements of any wedding, but they can also be one of the biggest costs for the couple.

If the wedding includes a buffet dinner, feasting menu, dessert station or open bar, be mindful of your serving sizes and only take your fair share of what’s on offer. Remember that the couple have likely organised just enough food and drink to reflect their exact guest numbers, so going overboard with food and wine may leave others empty-handed.

By all means, enjoy the catering, but be respectful of other guests and don’t take advantage of the free food and booze provided. Keep it classy!

Wedding Guest Etiquette: Do's and Don'ts
Photography by Sarah Kate Photo

Do: Have a Good Time

At the end of the day, the main priority for the newlyweds is having an amazing time celebrating with their nearest and dearest. From the decor to the DJ, each element of the wedding has been thoughtfully chosen to ensure you have the best time possible – so return the favour and make the most of it!

Get up and dance, let your hair down, mingle with other guests and celebrate this milestone moment with the happy couple. Enjoy any elements the couple may have organised for your benefit, like lawn games, guest favours or a photo booth.

If the catering, venue or decor isn’t to your particular style, don’t complain or make negative comments. This is a once in a lifetime experience for the couple, so put your best foot forward and cherish every moment!

Show Your Appreciation

Although weddings are always a lot of fun, it’s important to acknowledge the work involved in bringing such a significant occasion to life! Organising a wedding is a huge task for any couple, which makes being a wedding guest even more special.

So next time you receive a shiny new wedding invitation, keep these 8 dos and don’ts in mind from the RSVP to the reception. Not only will this show your appreciation to the happy couple, but you can also help them plan a stress-free celebration that they’ll cherish forever!