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23 Rules For Proper Wedding Etiquette Everyone Must Know

Beyond putting on a dress or suit and getting to the open bar as quickly as possible, most of us don’t think too much about how we behave at weddings. It’s supposed to be a party, and as such many of us show up with the sole intent of having a good time, with a side order of bagging a groomsman or bridesmaid just to round out the evening. In fact, there’s a whole arrangement of unspoken rules that go into a wedding, which most of us ignore completely. That means its time to en-knowledge yourself to avoid being the cause of a wedding disaster. Here’s the 23 rules every wedding guest needs to follow to make the couple’s special day shine for the right reasons.

Always RSVP


In planning the wedding, the happy couple only sends invitations to people they want to attend, which means they need to know if you’re going to be there, and they need to know if you aren’t. Tell them one way or another, 100% of the time.

How To RSVP If You Will Not Attend


Say “No” or check the little box that says you won’t be attending. The people planning the wedding need to know how many fish plates and chairs to have, which means they need to know if you aren’t coming as much as if you are. If you were on the guest list, they’re expecting you, so let them no simply that you won’t be there. Don’t dazzle them with B.S. about why, just tell them you aren’t showing up. Cut and dried.

How To Tell If You Get a Plus One


If a wedding invitation expressly states that you can bring a guest, then you can. If it doesn’t say anything about a guest, you’re on your own. It’s that simple.

How Many People to Bring


Weddings where you don’t know anyone, or only a few people, are miserable. Which means you might be tempted to cart along a posse so you have some familiar faces in the crowd. The rule here is that everyone named on the invitation is invited. If you are the only one listed, you’re the only person who gets to show up.

If An Invitation Reads “How many people are in your party?” or Something Similar


Invitations that have a blank space for how many people you’re bringing mean how many people on the invitation are attending. This is part of a form. If “and family” or “and guest” are on the invitation, then you can put the appropriate number. Otherwise, it’s a moot point because one is the only answer.

You Can Bring Your Kids If…


If their names are on the invitation, the kids can come. If the invitation says “and family” the kids can come. Otherwise, get a babysitter. If they’re not invited, they’re not expected. It’s as simple as reading the invitation and not reading into the invitation. People don’t want to send an invitation that expressly excludes anyone, but the implication is typically one invite means one guest unless it states otherwise in clear terms.

Sending a Gift If You’re Not Going


You can send a gift if you aren’t going, but it’s not compulsory. That is an old tradition which has fallen out of style because of greedy couples who sent out invites to people they knew wouldn’t come. Anyone who tells you it’s mandatory to cough up something out of their registry is being a lousy host and should be ignored.

Asking For Extra Guests


If this is your dear, dear friend, then they have already taken that into account and given you as much space as they can spare. If your invite is just for you, don’t flummox their plans and ask for more. That’s money out of their pocket. Be a gracious guest and don’t even ask. If you refuse to go without your precious plus one, no one will miss you. Harsh, but true.

Bailing Out


Life happens, and the marrying pair know that, and so does their catering company. If you won’t be able to attend, tell the couple as soon as humanly possible. They can then inform their planner or the food and booze people so that adjustments can be made. Should a situation arise where you said you would be going and then have to change, offer to pay for your meal, and the meals of anyone else you were going to bring. That’s just being a polite guest.

Taking a Gift


If you attend their wedding, you’re soaking up their food and booze, dancing to the DJ or band they supplied, and should not arrive empty-handed. Take something, however simple.

Using The Gift Registry


Registry gifts are a tool that you can use or ignore. They’re there to help guests who don’t know what to get the couple, but aren’t required. Go off book if you want, or stick to it. Completely up to you, but remember that your name is on the card, so they’ll know if you skimped.

If There’s No Registry


Without a registry, you might not know what the couple wants. In this case, give them cash or just guess. Give them something that they can easily sell on Ebay if they don’t like it.

Giving Group Gifts


If you’re broke, consider jumping in with a few other guests to get a bigger, better gift off of the registry. Couples often register for dream stuff they don’t expect to get, but it’s a great wedding surprise if you pool your resources to get some amazing stuff.

Giving Cash


Cash is king in a wedding as much as on the street. Writing a check is a great gift that lets the couple decide how to use it. Frankly, they’re going to be selling some of the gifts they get anyhow, so you’re saving them a step. There’s nothing tacky or thoughtless about pocket money.

Pre-Wedding Parties


Weddings have a lot of extra nonsense that goes along with them. If you’re in the wedding party – and the couple will tell you if you are – then you must attend the rehearsal dinner and the wedding. That’s it. If you aren’t in the party, show up on the wedding day and call it good.

Wearing White


Don’t do it. Many couples don’t care, but it’s easier not to do it and risk a hassle. In fact, it’s usually not the couple that will attack you about it, but their bloodthirsty family.

Dress Codes


If the invitation specifies a dress code, here’s the common attire that is expected:

Black Tie: Tuxedos and formal dresses only.

Formal: Tuxedos, formal dresses, or dark suit-and-tie combinations.

Semi-Formal or Cocktail Attire: Dark suits and party dresses or formal pants with a nice top and jacket, should skirts and dresses not be your thing.

Festive: Peacock it up with some splashy colors, sparkles, and velvet while still sticking to mostly suits and skirts.

Dress Casual: Blazers and sport coats with ties, fun skirts and suits, and slacks. No jeans. Think business casual with a sense of fun and frolic.

Casual: You should still leave the jeans at home and go with some chinos, slacks, and a decent button-up shirt or blouse. No shorts unless specified.

Don’t Be Late


Be fashionably early. This is an event that has a timetable, even if that timetable falls apart. Don’t make anyone wait for you.

Don’t Film


If the couple wants pictures or video, they will take care of it. They don’t want your grainy footage capturing every misstep along the way.

Turn Your Phone Off


It shouldn’t need to be said.

Don’t Give a Speech


If you’ve been asked to speak, then stay sober and have a nice, short, prepared statement to make. Otherwise, sit down and stuff your pie hole.

Monitor Alcohol Intake


You can and should get a load on, but not if you’re going to get emotional. Keep track of your booze intake and if you start getting emotional, eat something and take it the hell outside. This day isn’t about you.

Have Fun


Don’t sit on the sidelines or be a huge, judgemental wet blanket. You can be cool, eat some chicken, make some bad jokes, and be nice to everyone for a few hours. If you can’t, go be a web writer who talks about wedding rules.