You aren’t going to believe the words that are about to come out of my mouth and onto this computer screen. I’m 31 and I went to my first bridal shower last weekend. My friends are all doing their own thing when it comes to getting married. Many eloped, my sister was very non traditional (that’s her above!) and well many of my friends are still single. My friends Kyle and Jessie who are getting married in a few weeks, are really my first friends doing things the more traditional way.
This has pushed me into a Googling frenzy trying to figure out proper wedding etiquette. I was raised Jewish so for weddings, it’s always just money for the gift and registries aren’t a thing. So a lot of this is new to me and I’ve had to ask friends and Google what the hell is appropriate and custom. Typically I always ask my mother for help, but times hve changed. So I’ve reached out to friends who have attended dozens of wedding, and have had their own for some help. Through all my research I wanted to share 10 wedding guest etiquette tips to know from showers to the actual big day.
10 Wedding Guest Tips To Follow
1. Don’t Assume You Have A Plus One
Unless your invitation says your name PLUS guest, you are just the only person invited to the wedding. The way the envelope is addressed will be the indicator if you have a plus one. Traditionally you would get a plus one if you’re in a serious relationship or married. Us single gals usually don’t get a plus one. Why would we expect the bride and groom to pay for a strangers meal? Exactly.
2. RSVP On Time
It’s just common courtesy to RSVP to the happy couple accordingly. This goes for all events. It takes seconds to do and now many couples have online RSVP which makes it even easier than ever. They’ve got planning to do, so getting this done in respect to their deadline is common courtesy.
3. Arrive 10 Minutes Early
I made this mistake at Kristin’s wedding in Charleston. I assumed since SHE’S always late that something starting at 7pm meant arrive at 7pm. Not bride walk down the aisle at 7pm on the dot. You never know what the timeline may be for the event, so if the invitation says 7pm, just arrive a few minutes early to be on the safe side.
4. Put The Damn Phone (And Camera) Away
It’s becoming more common that the couple asks to leave phones off or away during the ceremony. But I’m sorry, it should be a no brainer regardless if they ask or not. They’ve paid good money for photographers and videographers to capture their moment and nothing will ruin a photo more than someone using their phone. They’ll share the photos on social media eventually, so let them have their cell phone free moment. So put the phone down, and enjoy the moment.
5. Respect The Dress Code
You don’t want to show up to a black tie wedding in a sundress, and you sure as heck don’t want to show up to a casual day time wedding in a gown. If you’re unsure of what to wear here’s a quick guide.
Casual – Anything goes, but again don’t come too dressy or you’ll stick out. Also, leave the jeans at home. Choose easy dresses that you’d wear out on the weekends with friends. For the men, choose khakis and a nice button down. No jeans, no sneakers.
Cocktail Attire, Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual – This is usually a great cocktail dress for the ladies that falls in between casual and formal. Think your nicest office appropriate shift dresses, fun cocktail dresses like this or even a great jumpsuit. For the gentleman, a suit and tie works but you can also omit the suit jacket and go for a sport coat. Leave the tux at home and also the polo shirt.
Formal Attire or Black Tie Optional – This seems to be the most common I’m seeing on invitations and it means dressy! For the ladies, try a long dress or if you want to go short, just make sure it’s a luxe fabric (this has been my wedding go to) or a beautiful dressy cocktail dress. There’s also some really great jumpsuits out there that would be perfect for a formal attire. It’s definitely possible to grab one of your cocktail attire dresses and really dress it up with the right accessories, makeup and hair. So you may not need a whole new dress, but definitely keep in mind the full look. For the men, dark suits or a tux are preferred.
Black Tie – The most formal of all, so choose a glamorous piece. You can definitely do any length, but make sure it’s still formal. I like to use Rent The Runway anytime I’ve had to attend a black tie affair. Also, make sure your accessories are formal as well. Grab a glitzy clutch and statement earrings to pull it all together. Leave the cork wedges, and leather pumps at home. Choose suede or satin heels, or beautiful strappy leather sandal like these could work. Men should only be in tuxes for this type of event. Below are a few favorite black tie dresses, short and long, that I’m loving.
6. One Big Gift, Or Several Small Gifts
My Mom and I had a full blown debate over this one. I was invited to a bridal shower and instead of bringing a small gift, I ended up just giving them a big gift (several items off their registry for a perfect cheese spread!). Mom said I can’t show up to a wedding empty handed, but times have changed. With online shopping and delivery straight to the couple, no one really shows up with gifts anymore unless it’s money. Plus, with so many events, bachelorette, engagement parties, showers and so on, there’s no way they can expect you to buy something for every single party.
So either choose many small things that add up to the full amount you’d like to spend, or do one big gift. Just make sure they kind of know. I made sure to address them both in the card even though it was her shower.
7. If You’ve Traveled Far, You Can Gift Less
If you had to hop on a plane or get a hotel room to attend the wedding, it’s totally acceptable to gift slightly less than you normally would. You’ve had to shell out quite a bit of money to attend, but again, showing up empty handed (or shipping items, you know how it goes now) is still not okay. Bring something smaller, or more meaningful if you’ve had to travel far to attend.
8. Buy From The Registry
While at the bridal shower last weekend, the bride’s sister said at her shower, she received one single napkin off her registry. I couldn’t believe it! Although it was technically off of the registry keep in mind that people are looking for sets. So if you can’t afford all that they’re asking for, skip to something else. If you think they want a completely different silverware set, don’t do it. The couple has taken time to shop and find the things they both love to put on their registry. If you hate what they picked out, give money or a gift card.
There’s definitely a chance if you shop a little late, (hello procrastinators!) that there may not be much left on the registry. Depending on your relationship with the bride and or groom, you can either gift money, or a personal gift. For our friend Emily’s wedding, we waited way too long to shop and wanted to do a group gift. Instead of buying her the one set of plates that were left, we got her something more personal. Since none of us but myself have met the groom, we chose to gift something more special to just the bride. Emily was truly a southern bride, so we thought she’d love a beautiful set of pearl earrings. She may hate them, but she can always swap them out at Tiffany’s if she likes. This is a complicated line to walk, so tread carefully when going off the registry!
9. Don’t Wear White
And there’s also the don’t wear red rule but I disagree with that one. If you can help it, let the bride be the one to wear the stunning white dress on this particular day (or off white, or ivory). And PS, even if it’s a wedding between two grooms, also stay away from white. Let the men shine!
10. Congratulate & Keep It Short
At any party, it’s always important to say hello to the hosts. At a wedding, make sure you congratulate the bride and groom on their big day. Keep it short though as they have an entire room of people to say hello to. If you’re super close with the couple and see them often, let them have their day to see friends and family who traveled to see them on their big day. They may not get a ton of time with them so be sure to respect their time.
Featured image by Sydney Bruton