Weddings are great, aren’t they? Full of fun and excitement – and not just for the bride and groom! Weddings are a wonderful time to dress up and enjoy a delicious meal, dance with old friends (possibly new friends, too!) and celebrate the newlyweds on their joyous day. All this excitement comes with a few etiquette rules that should not be overlooked.

1. DO: R.S.V.P.

No matter how close you are to the bride and groom, your attendance cannot be assumed. You must RSVP. And, make sure you pay attention to the “RSVP by date.” In fact, if you already know your reply, mail your card back as soon as possible.

Many weddings have guest counts into the hundreds and often the bride and groom have members of their wedding party assist in RSVP responses and seating arrangements. So, do your part to make things run a bit more smoothly for the special couple. Vendors often require final head counts a few weeks prior to the big day and your prompt response is a greatly appreciated courtesy.

2. DON’T: Assume children are welcome

Some invitations will clearly state “adults only,” while others require further interpretation. If the invite is addressed to “The Johnson family,” then yes, children are welcome to attend and their count should be indicated on the RSVP. Otherwise, consider it best to hire a babysitter for the night.

3. DO: Make dietary restrictions known

Usually, there will be a place on the RSVP to indicate dietary restrictions. This is your time to mention whatever you feel is relevant not only for yourself but for your guest(s) as well. Is a vegetarian meal needed? Say so. Does someone have an allergy to seafood? Mention it. Is a gluten-free alternative preferred? Write it down.

This is not the time to be coy or to think “the bride knows me so well; surly she’ll remember I’ve gone gluten-free!” Wedding meals often cater hundreds of people and while the bride likely does know you’re no longer eating gluten, she is not preparing a home cooked meal for you on a casual Sunday night. Besides, the bride and groom want you to enjoy your meal and not leave feeling hungry because you couldn’t eat half of what was on your plate.

4. DON’T: Assume you can bring a plus one

Receiving an invite to a wedding is a pretty big deal. Especially when you consider how tight guest lists can be. If your invitation was address solely to you – not and guest – the bride and groom have invited you and you alone. Weddings are expensive and the reality is that cuts need to be made. If extra guests were in the happy couple’s budget, they would have extended the invitation to you and a guest.

Try to avoid seeking “clarification” on this issue from the bride or groom – who are busy planning one of the biggest days of their life! It’s not necessary to call, text, or Facebook message either to ask if it’s okay for you to bring a date – just imagine how bombarded they would feel if half of their guest list did this!

5. DO: Gift appropriately

Although times have changed and so have gifting customs, showing up empty handed is a huge no-no! Back in the day, strolling into a wedding reception with a wrapped toaster tucked under your arm was the bee’s knees. Nowadays, with the shift in couples getting married later in life or living together prior to marriage, many newlyweds already have the household items they need. Monetary gifting is now greatly appreciated and often widely expected. Most couples pay for the bulk of their wedding out of their own pocket – unlike the days when the groom or bride’s parents would foot the bill.

Commonly, there will be some sort of shower or Jack and Jill event before the wedding where store bought gifts are expected. Most couples complete a registry at a retailer of their choice and will notify guests where their list can be found. Registry selection is usually a long, tedious process that requires a great deal of effort from the bride and groom. So, although you might not like the gravy boat they chose, keep in mind that it won’t be going home with you. If there’s a list, stick to it and try to shop early.  The “good” gifts are usually first to be purchased.

Another word to the wise: opt to have large gifts delivered directly to the couple’s home.

6. Do: Ensure your attire is appropriate

There are so many different types of weddings including black tie, semi-formal, beach/ destination, backyard, themed, traditional… and the list goes on. While everyone knows the golden rule of wedding attire (don’t wear white!), there are far more grey areas when it comes to how you should dress for such a special occasion. Pay close attention to the invitation. If “black tie optional” is mentioned, the bride and groom prefer a fancier dress code. If the wedding is on a beach, a less formal dress or suit is acceptable.  If the dress code really is unclear, feel free to reach out to a member of the bridal party for clarification.

As a general rule, you can never be overdressed! But, please, take that with a grain of salt. Should you get invited to a charming backyard wedding, leave the ball gown at home for another time!

7. DON’T: Be late

Yes, weddings tend to run late. But, that does not mean that you should too! Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the venue, find parking and locate your seat. You do not want to make your appearance at the same time as the bride and groom’s rehearsed entrance!

8. DO: Congratulate the bride and groom, and their close family if possible

Many wedding receptions will begin with a receiving line who welcome guests to the party. Aside from the bride and groom themselves, this line up of people usually include the bride and groom’s parents, other close relatives and members of their wedding party. While you may not know any of these people, it is still polite to greet the line and offer your congratulations.

9. DON’T: Exceed your “fair share”

Offering guests a simple gift (or bombinere) is a pretty standard practice for the bride and groom to thank those attending for being a part of their special day. Gifts can range from fancy serve wear to Krispie Kream doughnuts to momentos that have deep meaning to the newlyweds.  While the happy couple want you to enjoy their selection, the gift offering is not a free-for-all. Avoid loading up on “extras” you see left over later in the evening.

This rule also applies to centre pieces. Each wedding is different – some centre pieces are rented and others are purchased with the intention of giving them away at the end of the night. Usually, a fun game is involved in the centre piece giveaway. If you win, it’s yours. If you lose, don’t take the centre piece from the table behind you.

10. DO: Control your alcohol intake

Open bars are very common at wedding receptions. While free drinks are readily available and will be flowing all night it does not mean that you need to take full advantage of it. Pace yourself and know when you’ve reached your limit.


Have any funny stories about a guest you saw breaking these etiquette rules? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!