There are a lot of blogs out there offering hints and tips for couples on how to prepare for their big day, what to do on the morning of your wedding and how to cope with such a big life change. But there are less blogs available on the unwritten etiquette for wedding guests. It may seem so obvious and yet, in my some 10 years working in wedding venues and at events as well as being a guest myself, there are some ‘classics’ that crop up time and time again that really should be avoided.
The key to being a good wedding guest is to practise true empathy and to really and truly put yourself into the position of the couple. Lateness, talking during speeches, ignoring requests, being fussy with food, making everything about you - these are just some of the things I' have seen in my time and I know I’m not the only one. Basically, don’t be an a***hole and you’ll most likely be going home with all of your friends, a slice of cake and with any luck, a sore head the next morning. Here are a list of my top things NOT to do as a wedding guest!
DON’T BE LATE
I know what you’re all going to say….’DUH’!!! But I guarantee you, if you ask 3 people you know who have got married in the last 5 years, they will tell you that at least one person or one couple rocked up late to the ceremony and had to sneak in during their nuptials. For me, lateness is just so unnecessary and so inappropriate. If you know you take a million years to iron your shirt or put your eyebrows on, then get up 30 minutes earlier and sort your lives out. There is nothing worse than late guests turning up when the ceremony is in full swing and having to make the ‘walk of shame’ to some spare seats at the back. It’s disrespectful and there is really no excuse. (Also, if you are so late that you’ll be walking in during the ceremony, just wait outside until it’s over. If you didn’t care enough to arrive on time, you clearly don’t care about seeing the iconic moment when the couple are legally married. Grab a coffee and think about what you’ve done).
LEAVE YOUR DRAMA AT HOME
Sometimes, we fall out of favour with people. We still love them but they are not necessarily high on our list of dinner guests. However, a wedding is one of the most special and life-defining moments that anyone will go through during their lifetime and as such, we often still go out of our way to invite these people. They could be family or long-term friends and ultimately mean something to us.
If this is YOU, do everyone a favour and make sure you do one of the following. 1) Politely decline and wish the happy couple well or 2) leave your drama at home! 364 days of the year might be about you (although it’s doubtful) but on this 1 day, make it about someone else. Leave your issues at the door, have a glass of champagne and enjoy the celebrations. If you can’t do that…GET, IN, THE, BIN.
EAT WHAT YOU’RE GIVEN AND DON’T COMPLAIN
Back to basics with this one! If you didn’t reply alerting the couple that you are allergic to prawns or that you are now a vegan, then prepare to eat whatever the waiting staff put in front of you. Not what you would put on your ideal menu? #mermaidhairdontcare
If you don’t eat pate, then pop it on someone else’s plate, enjoy a bread roll, hunker down and pray for mains. Don’t judge the food, don’t bad mouth the food and don’t complain if it’s not enough - you probs won’t starve. You’re not paying and therefore, you are not permitted to have an offensive opinion. Make small talk with your neighbours and in general, remain delightful.
DON’T GET PLASTERED (too early on…)
There is nothing worse than all of the attention being on you for the wrong reasons. If you’re wasted before you arrive, do everyone a favour (including yourself) and go and grab a sandwich and an Evian and sober up. Drink slowly throughout the day and work your way into a marvellous stupor with everyone else, just in time for the final dance of the night (which should always be ‘We Are the Champions’ fyi). Please don’t think that you’re funny drunk on a table full of sober people, because you’re probably just annoying lol that’s right. We’re laughing at you, not with you. Sense the tone of the wedding and drink responsibly AND respectfully.
RESPECT THE SEATING PLAN
Believe it or not, I’ve seen guests swapping their place cards to different TABLES in the past. Without being too harsh…..’get a life’ lol. If you can’t see any familiar names, enjoy an hour and half of meeting new people and then sit wherever you like thereafter. Swapping place cards stuffs up seating for other guests and causes unnecessary hassle when people are trying to find their seats (and it’s a bit awkward and weird). If you don’t like it, grab a seat outside and enjoy the views!
THE CAKE CUTTING & FIRST DANCE
For me, the best way to execute these two iconic moments of your day is to have one and then the other. Cake cutting and straight into first dance. It keeps the evening moving and you can get everyone involved in both special moments. (If only they would all move).
If you hear the venue staff, catering teams or indeed bridal party asking you to head to the dancefloor to be part of the cake cutting and/or first dance, don’t be a jerk. Just go. The bar will still be there when you get back, I guarantee it. But these moments, no matter how small they may seem to you as a guest, are moments that the couple will never get back. Make it special for them and crowd around, take photos and throw out the occasional supportive ‘woop’! Your beer will still be cold when the 5 minutes have passed.
ALSO, when I say ‘crowd around’, sitting on a table next to the couple is NOT the same thing. If the dancefloor is in the centre of the room, unless requested, get out of your seats and CROWD AROUND the couple. It makes for a MUCH better atmosphere and after all, it’s about the couple. Not you. For the cake cutting, CROWD AROUND for the countdown. Take photos and relish the merriment! To summarise - be a good human.
STAY AWAY……FROM THE DRESS
This one sort of correlates with getting seriously drunk as usually, it’s the seriously drunk ones that forget all personal space limitations, sorry……personal dress space limitations. I remember one wedding many years ago when one of my brides came to me in tears because someone hadn’t seen her and in a drunken blur, had stepped THROUGH her train with a nice big size 12. Luckily, I had an emergency kit and I sat on the floor and stitched the lace back onto the dress. Give the couple the respect they deserve. Keep make-up away from the grooms shirt (air cuddles are underrated) and give the bride ample space to move without damaging her attire. It’s worth more than your right arm.
RESPECT THE VENUE
If anything gets damaged at the venue or goes missing because you think it’s funny, the couple are the ones that lose out because it will 100% guaranteed come out of their pockets. As the only points of contact for the venue, they take full responsibility for the premises on the night of their wedding - that includes you. If you’re children have been lucky enough to be included, don’t let them turn feral. Keep an eye on them and make sure they stay out of mischief as well as you.
DON’T JUST, NOT TURN UP
Ultimate un-cool points awarded to people who don’t turn up to a wedding. Did you know that per head, you are worth anything from £70 to £250 ON YOUR OWN which has been paid in order for you to attend and is non-refundable. If you decide you’re not going, give at LEAST 4 weeks notice, BEFORE the final bill is paid.
REPLY ON TIME TO YOUR INVITATION
Make things simple for the couple and reply on time. There will be a generous deadline date on your invitation - read it. Without your acceptance or refusal, budget control goes out the window, seating plans can’t be created, menus can’t be decided upon and in general, it’s just an unnecessary headache! Reply on time AND in the preferred method of the couple which will be on the invite. (NB. Sending a text saying ‘I’m coming’, doesn’t count).
DON’T WEAR WHITE
You know it’s wrong. Even if you think it’s outdated, today isn’t about what you think (quite frankly). Unless you KNOW the bride is wearing black and she has OK’d guests wearing white, just steer clear. Rule of thumb - if you have to ask if your dress looks ‘too white’….don’t do it.
DON’T HECKLE DURING THE SPEECHES (unless it’s invited…)
Unless the best man, groom, bride or bridesmaid gives an opening to be heckled or you know is SUPER confident, just keep your mouth shut. It’s not cute and it’s not funny, especially as public speaking is quite high on the list of people’s ultimate social fears. If you feel your heckle diarrhoea coming up, pick up your drink and hold it to your face until the feeling has subsided.
DON’T KICK UP A FUSS IF YOU DON’T GET A PLUS ONE OR IF YOUR KIDS AREN’T INVITED
New boyfriend? Going well? Best week of your life? So happy for you! He’s not made the cut….it’s super unreasonable to expect to bring a +1 if they have never met the majority of people in attendance, especially the couple! Bring him along for the evening and he can nibble on the filo prawns and have a dance, but don’t throw your toys out of the pram if your friends don’t want to pay £120 for a stranger.
Same with children - if the invite says ‘no children’, then it means, ‘no children’. Don’t get me wrong - I totally understand that some people don’t have a family/friend baby sitting option for the day and it might cost a chunk in childcare. But ultimately, it’s not as much as the bride and groom have paid for their day which they want you to be a part of. It’s your choice whether you attend and pay the childcare fee or not but don’t begrudge the couple for wanting a child-free occasion. We all love kids (most of the time) but realistically, it is a grown up celebration, so it’s often a lot easier to leave your kids at home!
Adhere to these few and very simple suggestions and you will be classed as GREAT wedding guest and not be exiled from the family or friendship group. It’s not hard to enjoy a wedding. Everyone is normally excited, you get to dress up, have great food, drinks, dancing and copious quantities of merriment. So relax, enjoy and celebrate with new and old friends.
DO THE RIGHT THING. BE A GOOD PERSON. BE A GOOD GUEST.