10 Tips for Being the Perfect Wedding Guest

Wedding Guests Toasting Champagne

With wedding season in full swing, we could all use a refresher on how to be a great guest. In a world in which ghosting is almost the norm and social media trolls pollute the webosphere, politeness can easily fall by the wayside. The latest essential resource on modern manners is Emily Post’s Etiquette, 19th Edition: Manners For Today (HarperCollinsPublishers) by Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning, two great-great grandchildren of Emily Post, the original manners expert.

1. RSVP Promptly.The book’s 698 pages cover carpooling do’s and don’ts, what to do when you meet the president and first lady and even how to use chopsticks. In chapter 53: A Guide For Wedding Guests, you’ll learn what you should never wear to a wedding, and what to do when you’ve had too much at the open bar. Here are ten steps to being the perfect wedding guest.

One of the biggest gripes of couples planning a wedding is not getting RSVP cards back from all of the invitees. This is frustrating because they need to know how many guests to prepare dinner and seats for. Let them know as soon as possible if you can make it. If you get a plus one, give the couple the name of your date as well, and do NOT show up with a date if you only replied for yourself or if your invite didn’t specify a plus one.

2. Don’t bring your kids unless they’re on the invite.

Nothing ruins the most important day of your life like the shrill shriek of an angry baby or unruly tots making a mess of the centerpieces. In some cases, the couple would rather spend a civilized evening in the company of adults. Your kids are not invited to the wedding unless the invitation clearly lists their names or says, “The Smith Family,” in which case, the whole gang can go. “It’s rude to ask a couple to make an exception for your children or to subject them to the embarrassment of having to say ‘no’ to such a request,” the co-authors warn.

3. Choose a gift wisely.

You don’t have to buy something from the registry, but, Post and Senning suggest, “checking a couple’s registries may give you a better idea of their taste and needs, even if you purchase off registry.” You also shouldn’t feel like you have to spend a fortune. “The amount you spend is strictly a matter of your budget, how close you are to the bride or groom, and what you think is an appropriate gift.” Money in an envelope is perfectly OK.

4. Know what not to wear.

The invitation usually states how formal or casual the wedding will be, but there are some things you should immediately rule out. Avoid:

  • “Clothing that’s too skimpy or overtly provocative (Save the plunging necklines, miniskirts, and bare backs for other occasions.)
  • Costumes, except when you’ve been expressly asked to dress to the wedding theme.
  • Blue jeans (unless the wedding is very casual and you know that the groom and his attendants will be in jeans) and T-shirts.
  • Any jewelry that calls attention to your own faith when attending a service of another faith.
  • Casual shoes or boots with formal or semiformal outfits.
  • Sunglasses worn indoors (except for a legitimate medical reason).
  • Boutonnieres or corsages unless supplied by the hosts (to avoid being confused with members of the wedding party or immediate families).
  • Baseball or sport caps; large fashion hats that block other guests’ view of the ceremony. Because you are not a Middleton sister!

5. Be on time.

Try to arrive twenty minutes before the time listed on the invitation. Sometimes, the unavoidable happens and you find yourself running late to the ceremony. The co-authors advise, “If you arrive to see that the wedding party is already assembled in the foyer, stay out of the way. Hopefully, there will be an usher to assist you, and there may be a side door you can enter quietly. Don’t enter during the processional or a prayer. If there’s no usher present, wait until the service has begun; then slip in as quietly as possible and take a seat at the rear.


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