How to Be a Well-Mannered Wedding Guest

May 16, 2014 | By | Comments (20)

Now that we’ve discussed wedding guest etiquette for before the wedding, we’re moving right along to how to be a well-mannered guest on the day of the wedding. From the dress code to the seating chart, there’s a lot to navigate, so let’s jump right in!

Swan House wedding; Photo: Pink Shoe Photography

Swan House wedding; Photo: Pink Shoe Photography

Be mindful of the dress code. The dress code will often be specified on the invitation or the wedding website, but if not, make an educated guess using the venue and time of day as a guide. For example, a sundress and wedges is probably fine at an afternoon barn wedding, but an evening ballroom wedding requires at least a cocktail dress. Don’t forget to pay special attention to the attire guidelines for ceremonies held in houses of worship.

Don’t wear white. Unless the bride and groom expressly ask you to wear white, don’t do it. Some people consider this rule out of date, since no one will mistake a guest for the bride, but even if you know the bride won’t mind, it’s very likely that other guests will find your choice of attire rude and disrespectful. Err on the side of good manners and leave the white sundress at home.

Arrive at least fifteen minutes before the ceremony. Give yourself time to park your car, pick up your program, and take your seat without even the chance of running into the bride before her walk down the aisle! Weddings are one occasion where there is no such thing as fashionably late. If you do arrive late, despite your best efforts, an usher may be able to direct you inside at an appropriate time. If not, wait for a “louder” part of the ceremony, such as a hymn, before quietly seating yourself in the back.

Keep your camera and cell phone put away (on silent) during the ceremony. Many couples now specifically request “unplugged” ceremonies (see our post about them here), but even if they don’t, resist the urge to snap pictures at the ceremony. Not only is taking pictures distracting to you and the people around you, it can also make the professional photographer’s job more difficult if you’re reaching into the aisles or standing in their way. Additionally, follow the bride and groom’s lead before posting anything on social media. If a “wedding hashtag” sign is up at the reception, feel free to post, but otherwise, don’t share any pictures before the bride or groom post their own.

Don’t attend the reception if you don’t attend the ceremony. It goes without saying, but the ceremony is the most important part of the wedding, and the reception is a celebration of that—not just a party. If you don’t want to attend both, it may be best to stay at home.

Sit in the appropriate seat. If the bride and groom have specified table numbers and seating assignments, sit where they ask you to. They have probably made very thoughtful decisions about where to seat everyone and it’s polite to respect their wishes.

Have fun at the reception! Chat with other guests, enjoy the meal, get on the dance floor, sign the guest book, and wish the bride and groom well. They’ve worked hard to make their reception a wonderful evening for you as well as them, and they’ll be happy to see you having a good time.

Do you have any wedding guest etiquette questions? Let us know in the comments and we’ll address them in upcoming posts!


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  2. Rob Favs

    Do u need to wear a cowboy hat ? What is the selfie policy ?

    October 3, 2015 at 8:34 pm
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    These are all sound and good tips. It’s all good.

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  15. Lisa Olson

    Carol: For both of these questions, we think it’s primarily up the bride! As long of the mother of the bride’s dress matches the formality of the wedding, the colors and style can be whatever the bride and her mother agree on.

    May 16, 2014 at 12:24 pm
  16. Lisa Olson

    Ed JoAnne Baldwin: Definitely! We compiled some of our tips for being a well-mannered guest before the wedding here:

    May 16, 2014 at 12:21 pm
  17. Lisa Olson

    Yarns: Hi! We suggest asking your wedding party at least nine months before the big day to give them plenty of time to prepare, and of course, to help the bride and groom with wedding tasks as needed!

    May 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm


    May 16, 2014 at 12:16 pm
  19. Ed JoAnne Baldwin

    do not take your children unless they were invited.

    May 16, 2014 at 12:04 pm
  20. Yarns

    How long before the wedding should the bride and groom ask people to be in the wedding party?

    May 16, 2014 at 11:10 am

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