With wedding season about to kick into high gear, we think everyone can use a little refresh on the dos and don’ts of attending someone else’s big day. Whether you’re the maid of honor, the best man or a guest of a guest, it never hurts to brush up on traditional nuptial etiquette. Here, the 12 most important things to keep in mind.
If you do nothing else, RSVP on time—early if you can. Weddings are incredibly stressful for those doing the planning, and RSVPs are typically requested four weeks out, crunch time for the bride and groom. The last thing they need to worry about is chasing you down to see if you're attending. Unsure if you'll be able to make it? Give them a quick call and explain your issue—trust us, they'll appreciate your honesty.
If "and guest" is not indicated on your invitation, don't pressure the couple into letting you bring one. Chances are they would have invited you with a guest if they could have. They're likely dealing with budget issues or venue capacity restrictions (or both) and have probably spent hours poring over the guest list to ensure their nearest and dearest can witness this important day. This extends to children as well—don't assume they're invited unless their names are on the envelope. The one thing we can do as guests is respect the list.
Do not contact the bride or groom with logistical questions in the week leading up to the wedding, and definitely not on the day of the event. If you have questions, reach out to the wedding planner, best man, maid of honor, parents or literally anyone else who can help before you contact the future Mr. and Mrs.
Take a moment to think about the vibe, and choose your attire accordingly—a flowy maxi for a beach wedding, florals for an afternoon barn soiree, sparkle for a downtown affair. Pretty much anything goes these days—black, red, sequins, long, short—but one rule remains steadfast: Do not wear white, or anything remotely close to it. If you're questioning whether or not something could be considered white, just stay away from it. The bride deserves her moment.
While it's true that you have one full year from the wedding date to send a gift, it's best to send it ahead of the event or bring a card with you. We're all busy, and the likelihood of forgetting afterward is high. Unless you know the couple incredibly well, stick to the registry—trust us, they've spent hours putting it together and it truly represents the items they want in their home. Monetary gifts and gift cards are also totally acceptable to send ahead or bring on the day. Try to stay away from bringing large gifts to the wedding; it just gives the couple one more thing to remember to bring home.
Just do it. This is a big moment for the bride and groom, and everyone should respect that, not to mention that the day is likely on a tight schedule. There's a lot to accomplish, and everything is probably planned to the minute, so don't be the one to throw it off course. If you've been invited to multiple events—rehearsal dinners, post-wedding brunches and so on—be timely for all, and go to as many as you can. This is the time to show up for your friends—they will really appreciate the support on such an important weekend.
First and foremost, silence your phone as soon as you arrive at the venue. When it comes to taking photos, just be wary of sticking your arms in the air to get a good shot. In fact, if you can help it, avoid it altogether during the ceremony. The couple is spending loads of money on professional photographers to capture their day, and it would be a shame to have their pictures cluttered with arms and iPhones of guests. The rules loosen once the party starts—that's the time to let your inner shutterbug loose. Go crazy taking candids and selfies, and use that hashtag! The couple will love scrolling through everyone's pictures the next morning and seeing the event through your eyes.
If you've got dietary restrictions, either make them known early or make do with your options without complaint.
Be up for anything—even the electric slide, if it comes to that—but don't get overly tipsy. Certainly enjoy yourself, but you don't want to be the second story line of the night.
If you know the bride and groom from work, you may have never met their parents, or maybe you grew up across the street and have known them since birth. Either way, it's always nice to introduce yourself or take a moment to thank them for a beautiful experience and congratulate them. Along the same lines, definitely interact with the bride and groom, but don't pull them into any deep, profound conversations. They've got to talk to everyone and are likely floating on air, so we suggest a quick hug and a send-off straight to the dance floor.
Even if you're not totally into it—the bride and groom likely spent a lot of time thinking about those little gifts and DIYing them, and they don't want to see piles of them sitting on the table at the end of the night.
All in all, be mindful that it's the bride and groom's day. Do everything you can to contribute to making it special and easier on them, and never add extra stress or pressure. Let them slip into line for the restroom, join them for that 7am day-of yoga class they insist on, make sure their champagne glass is always full and get out there on the dance floor and give it your all. They worked really hard to create this experience for you and they want to see everyone having a good time—so get to it!