Wedding Guest Etiquette Do’s & Don’ts of Celebrating the “I Do.”


You’ve been invited to attend a grand wedding and you should feel honored that the happy couple wants to celebrate their marriage in your presence. Huzzah! It’s going to be a great party, but a sophisticated one. To show how much you value their friendship and support their union, follow a few time-honored rules of etiquette and continue being the rockstar friend that you are. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts:

1. The Invitation

So, you received the invite – it’s classy and beautiful. The couple really put a lot of thought into it, didn’t they? The majority of invites include a variety of information and possibly most importantly, the RSVP card. What comes next?

DON’T neglect the RSVP! The couple has limited space and a lot to do before the Big Day, making plans according to the exact number of guests attending. Whether you will attend or not, let them know ASAP. Don’t show up to the wedding having sent the RSVP the day before or (Lord help us) bring it with you to the wedding.

DO honor the couple’s wishes. If they did not allow you to add a “plus one”, don’t plan on taking a date or a friend. If it is an “adults only” affair, don’t plan to bring the kiddos. (If this is a deal-breaker for you, mark the RSVP card accordingly.) This is not your day; it belongs to the couple and they get to set the rules.

DO choose a wedding gift from their registry. These items were carefully chosen, to help them start a home life together. Don’t go off the cuff because you “know” Jaime and Peyton and you’re sure they will “love it.” #theywon’t


Dave receives his invite and checks his calendar. He sees that he can attend and immediately sends his RSVP. Not provided the option for a plus one, he knows he will attend this shindig “stag.” He heads to the store and purchases a lovely little hand mixer from the couple’s registry (so they can make tasty cakes and sweets). Great start!

Doofus receives his invite, takes a look, marks it on his calendar and leaves the invite on the coffee table. The RSVP card did not include a plus one option but he doesn’t care. A wedding is for partying, right? He immediately calls his best buddy Dingbat and tells him to get ready to party. A week before the wedding, he goes online and buys a “Big Mouth Billy Bass” for the couple’s den because it’s “funny” and “they’ll love it.” “Take me to the river …” he sings as he drives down the road to failure.

2. The Attire

The day of the wedding is approaching and it is time to make sure you will be dressed for the occasion. Making yourself presentable for the ceremony is a way of honoring your friends; it has nothing really to do with your comfort. Again, this is not your day.

DO make an effort to look your best or follow the wedding theme (a big thing nowadays). If it is a country theme, then by all means put on the boots and the hat. A “Star Trek” wedding? Then be the best “Chekov” you can be. You get the picture. If it is a traditional wedding, then plan to dress up and look nice.

DON’T outdress the wedding party, wear white or your leisure clothes (unless the theme calls for it). Every wedding has that guest who is stuffed into a faded t-shirt, wearing jeans with holes in the knees and a pair of old sneakers decorated by the lawn-mower. Do you know what everyone says about that guy? “Geez, he could have at least made an effort.” If other guests notice it, so does the wedding party. The least you can do is make an effort. The opposite also applies: Don’t be overdressed. Find the sweet spot in the middle.


Dave peruses his wardrobe and realizes that it may be time to purchase something new to match his favorite tie. He heads to the store and finds a nice dress shirt and a smart pair of slacks. When the day comes, he showers, combs his hair, puts on his new clothes (complete with that tie), steps into his dress shoes and heads out the door … dressed for success!

Doofus rolls out of bed an hour before the wedding, picks up his favorite t-shirt from the floor, gives it the old college sniff test and decides it’s passable. He pulls on a pair of faded jeans straight from his dresser drawer and decides to go sans socks. In the bathroom, he quickly runs some water through his hair and gargles some mouthwash. He then throws on a pair of loafers and waits for his plus one, Dingbat – who arrives dressed in full tux. “Awesome,” says Doofus as they head out the door. No, Doofus. Not awesome. Not awesome at all.

3. The Ceremony

It’s time for the main attraction. You made it to the venue and are being seated with the other guests. The ceremony officiant is standing at the head of the aisle waiting for the wedding parties to enter. How do you behave in this situation?

DON’T show up late or not at all. Many people seem to forget that the ceremony is the important part. Two people you care about have made the big decision to take vows before witnesses and spend the rest of their lives together. You can do them the honor of being punctual and present. Don’t skip it and show up at the reception. That’s bad mojo, man.

DO pay attention. Listen to the vows, sing the songs, and know when to sit quietly. The couple are already nervous and hoping everything goes smoothly. Help it become so. No outbursts are needed here. Just your attention and happy wishes.


Dave makes sure to arrive 15 minutes before the ceremony begins to find a seat. He listens to and follows the ushers. He speaks quietly with family and friends around him and when the music starts, he follows the rest of the crowd. He participates in the ceremony without standing out and when the vows are spoken he sheds a tear (even though he promised himself he wouldn’t.) Good on you, Dave.

Doofus and Dingbat arrive 15-minutes late and run into the venue, interrupting the wedding party’s procession. They loudly laugh and ignore the ushers to take an open seat next to the bride’s Great Aunt Becky, whom they annoy with loud whispers and corny jokes. Doofus brings up the ball game on his mobile phone and they both cheer when their team scores a goal during the vows. (Oy.)

4. The Dinner

After the lovely ceremony, it’s time to head to the reception for a celebratory meal, dancing and entertainment. The reception is where good intentions can falter as things get a little more relaxed; the dinner could produce the first pratfall.

DO mind the seating chart. Again, the couple took great care to plan every aspect of their wedding. A person can easily throw the whole thing into disarray by going rogue on seating. Trust the couple to put you where you will best fit.

DON’T belly up to the buffet before the wedding party. This is a serious no-no and could lead to expulsion from the reception and all future receptions. Most reception fare includes finger-foods and drinks to enjoy while you wait for the meal to begin. Only go for the main dishes when YOUR table has been released by ushers and never before. And, by all means, never sample the wedding cake or dessert table until the appropriate time!


Dave gets to the reception and finds his seat, indicated by his place card. He is feeling a bit peckish and goes off in search of available snacks. He finds cheese and crackers, and stops by the bar for a soda, heads back to the table and begins conversation with the family and friends there. Across the room, an eligible partner notices Dave’s attire and calm demeanor. “This guy is refined and handsome,” they think as they catch his eye while he later fills his plate in the dinner line.

Doofus and Dingbat look for their place cards but cannot find them (surprise!). Undeterred, they sit at the table nearest the dance floor, taking up two places reserved for the groom’s family. Dingbat holds down the fort while Doofus gets them drinks from the open bar. This is what they came for, after all. On the way, Doofus snatches a cupcake from the dessert table and peeks under all the lids on the buffet table to see what’s underneath. He tells Dingbat what’s on the menu and they both decide to get up and grab themselves something “before the cretins eat it all.”

5. The After-Dinner Party

Well, you’ve made it so far with no gaffs or faux pas … You are so close to victory. Follow these last couple of suggestions to get through the night unscathed.

DON’T give an impromptu wedding speech or toast. First and foremost, you’re not that funny. If you are not asked to speak, stand down. That awkward anecdote from the past would steal the thunder from the best man or maid of honor. Worst yet, embarrassing either the bride or groom can be grounds for exile. You may however “tap your glass,” clap, laugh and reminisce with friends in private. Keep it classy, people!

DO congratulate the lovely couple and thank them for the invitation. First, they made a big decision and put on a splendid affair. They deserve all the best wishes. Second, they didn’t have to include you; the fact that they did means they think highly enough of you to want you there on their biggest day. Dance with the bride, dance with the groom – each time you participate in the reception traditions, the more you honor them. Make sure to say goodbye before you leave for the night.

DON’T overdo it. Just don’t. Don’t get so drunk you make a mockery of yourself and the entire celebration. Nobody wants to wake up the next morning and find out they were the person dancing with the tie around their head like a high-priced sweatband. Nobody likes that person. Sure, people will be laughing – but not WITH you, if you know what I mean. Instead, be mindful about your libations. Enjoy yourself but know where the line is.


After the dinner and traditions, Dave searches out the newlyweds and expresses his heartfelt congratulations and well-wishes. While speaking to them, he is introduced to Taylor, the person he locked eyes with earlier. They hit it off immediately and when the band starts playing Dave’s song, he asks for a dance. Taylor accepts and they spend a block of songs shaking their groove things. Afterward, they enjoy a single glass of wine and a chat. When the band plays Taylor’s favorite Whitesnake song, they head out onto the dance floor, look into each other’s eyes and smile. Is this love?

On the other side of the room, Doofus and Dingbat were on a mission (which they choose to accept): to get “sloshed.” They hit the open bar as hard as possible. An already buzzed Doofus stands to give an unsolicited toast wherein he recalls a story of what he and the groom got up to one night long ago. The room becomes awkward and uneasy, the silence broken only by Dingbat’s inappropriate laughter. At the end of the night, the disastrous duo has to be carried out and have an Uber take them home. What a mess. Don’t let this happen to you.

Remember: When attending a wedding, don’t be a Doofus when you can be a Dave!

Have fun at the wedding!


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