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How to Be a Good Wedding Guest

This year I may not be officially planning weddings, but have been helping out some other wedding planners. All of my years doing this, I was always astonished how some guests act at weddings. Its like common sense and courtesy goes out the door for some reason. Any wedding vendor in the industry knows exactly what I mean. There's always that one person who is difficult. That person that vendors, and sometimes guests, try to avoid.

There are tons of books on proper wedding etiquette for the couple planning, but their needs to be one for the guests. Consider this my entry into that book. Please read over, keep it in the back of your mind for when you attend a wedding, and share with those you know going to one.


This is large and in all caps for a reason. If you take anything away from this post, this is the big one. I'm always astounded at some of the rude comments I would hear from those attending a wedding. Don't like the bridesmaids dresses? Think the food is bland? Hate the color choices? Don't like how the venue is set up? It doesn't matter what you think. The adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," is perfect for a wedding. The couple getting married spent a lot of time, effort, and money putting that day together. Most couples want their guests to have fun and enjoy the day; but the day is about the two saying I do. Enjoy the fact that they invited you to be part of this important day in their lives; and leave the snide comments at home.

Photo from Tera Nelson of a lovely venue set up I wanted to share.

Who's Invited?

When you receive your invite, check the name on the invite. If you have kids and the invitation does not say their names or and family; it is probably an adult only function. The invitation may note adult only somewhere as well. If you are single and it does not say and guest; that usually means you don't get one. If you are unsure if children or a guest is allowed; just ask. However, do not get upset if you don't like the answer. It's the couple's day and they may want an adult only function. They also may be limited on space at the venue, and can't allow plus ones. They also may be trying to keep costs down. It doesn't matter the reason just respect their wishes. Under no circumstance bring a child or show up with a guest if they were not invited, or approved by the couple. There will probably not be a place for them to sit, a meal to eat, and you may be asked to leave.

Photo taken by Tyler Tripett Photography.

Be on Time

Weddings days have a timeline they are trying to follow. Trust me when I say the couple and vendors involved spent many hours fine tuning it. Things don't have to be to the exact minute but it makes the whole day go smoother for everyone (guest included) if its close. My experience is that most ceremonies start a few minutes late. Usually its because we are waiting for the last minute guests to get settled into their seats. If you are arriving right around the start time of the ceremony, please find a seat quickly so things can get started. Save any hello's for people you know until after. I also understand things happen beyond your control that may cause you to arrive late. If you get there and the ceremony has started, please stay out of the way and quietly find a seat when appropriate.

Ask Questions Before the Wedding Day

If you are uncertain about things surrounding the wedding, ask ahead of time. If you aren't sure what to wear, if its outside, if their is a shuttle service, etc.; find out before the day itself. Please do not text or call the couple the day of the wedding to ask them these questions. If there is an emergency situation see if you can reach one of the parents, someone in the bridal party, or their wedding coordinator.

Be Quiet During Special Moments

There are some moments that a loud noise can ruin. This is the ceremony, the toasts/speeches, and the special dances. When you arrive to a wedding, make sure to silence your cell phone as not to interrupt these moments. If you have young children who get fussy or start to act up during these moments, please take them out of the area.

Photo taken by the awesome duo of J&A Photography.

Don't Bother the DJ

While most don't mind you talking to them, please know there are a few rules. First, don't get upset if a song requests doesn't get played. Usually the couple has worked with the DJ to create a song list that takes up most of the night. The song requested could also be on the couple's do not play list. Next, don't walk up and ask to take the microphone because you want make an announcement, give an unplanned toast, or do some free style rapping. Most of the time its not fun, its awkward. Finally, keep in mind most of their equipment is expensive, so don' think you can start spinning your own mixes. Just let the DJ do what he or she was hired to do. Note: these rules work for the band as well.

Don't Block the Photographer

The wedding photos are big part of the day. Its what the couple will look back on for the years to come. Couple's spend a decent amount of money to get a professional to document their day. I understand that most guests want their own pictures as well. That is fine but please don't interfere with the professionals hired. There are tons of other blog posts from photographers that mention how crucial moments were ruined by guests. They hold up their cell phones that then appears in the picture (no one wants to see your hand and phone in their wedding photos), they add a flash that washes the image out, or they jump in front of the photographer during a big moment. This is one of the reasons most couple's ask for an unplugged or camera free ceremony; and some photographers do require in their contracts.

My bad experiences have been during formal and/or family photos. Other family members are standing off to the side also taking pictures. Sometimes its not a big deal as long as they are keeping their distance and not interfering with the photographer. Sometimes though they will step forward after the photographer. Telling everyone to look at them now and smile. While it may seem innocent enough, it slows the entire process down. Most of the time the couple wants to get through the photos so they can enjoy the festivities as well. Plus lets be honest; the photo you just took is probably not as good as the one the pro hired just snapped. I one time had a bride ask me to politely tell her aunt to leave the family photos. She kept jumping in for her own pictures and it was upsetting everyone.

Their will be lots of opportunities for you to get your own images during the reception. Capture the fun moments from you perspective to share with them later. Save the really big moments for the professionals to document.

Respect All Vendors

Even though I just mentioned the DJ and Photographer specifically, respect the venue itself and all vendors working the wedding. They may have been hired help but they are not your servants. They are good people trying to make a living and do not deserve to be mistreated. That includes being talked down to, abusive language, or sexually harassed. I actually had it in my contract that if guests acted this way towards me or one of my staff that we would leave (no refunds), if the problem was not addressed. Luckily I never had to enforce it; however, I had a photographer leave a wedding a little early once. It was during the reception after all the big stuff and people were dancing and getting drunk. One guest was hitting on her pretty bad and not taking no for an answer.

Picture taken by Tera Nelson years ago at a wedding of me, enjoying a few minutes to sit during the ceremony.

Food Rules

Here are some rules concerning food service:

  1. If you have dietary restrictions let the couple know before the wedding day. Usually you can note this on the back of your RSVP card but be sure to tell them. Most caterer's can accommodate special requests, but they do need advance notice.

  2. Don't ask to change your meal option that day. This is for plated meals where you have to select your main course ahead of time. The caterer usually has those numbers and dishes prepared ahead of time, down to the assigned table number. It is usually not an option to switch them last minute. This is also why its important for a plated meal not to move tables or seats until after dinner.

  3. Don't be greedy or hoard food. This pertains a lot to appetizers and dessert displays (such as cookie tables), that are buffet style. If the options seem limited, don't take half of what is available. Wait for everyone to have a chance to partake before you go crazy.

  4. Double check its ok to eat dessert. Most desserts are self serve these days. When you arrive you may see it all on a table nicely decorated and ready to go. Make sure you know its safe to start eating those items before you just jump in. Most of the time the cake cutting signals the start of dessert service, but wait until you see others or an announcement is made. I was appalled when another event planner told me she recently did a wedding where a guest went and cut a slice of the wedding cake, before the couple did their official cake cutting!

Photo from Jana Scott.

Don't Get Wasted

Yes, weddings are a celebration, and yes, most serve alcohol. While their is nothing wrong with having some drinks and get a nice buzz, just don't get hammered. Trust me when I say it never ends well and you will be remembered at that wedding for all the wrong reasons. Some transportations companies have it in their contracts that guests who cannot stand, or are vomiting due to alcohol, are not allowed on the guest shuttle.

Photo taken by J&A Photography.

Don't Wear White

I seen this trending again on social, but some guests showing up in white dresses or suits. One woman even wore an actual bridal wedding dress as a guest! I mean I know I loved my wedding dress, but can't imagine showing up at someone else's wedding in it. Save the all white attire for the people actually getting married; unless they specifically request guests to wear white (and even in that case wear a white cocktail or evening gown, not an actual wedding dress).

Photo from Amanda Nichols.

There are other suggestions and stories that I and other vendors could share; those are some of the big ones. If you don't want a couple to regret inviting you to their wedding; or be "that guest" the vendors talk about; follow these guidelines!


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