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3 Tips from a newlywed for being a good wedding guest

Wedding Guest


Cecilia Pigg - published on 05/21/19

Wedding season is right around the corner -- don't forget these basic rules of etiquette.

I got married a few years ago (do I still qualify as a newlywed? I’m going with yes) and I remember the joy and stress and craziness and excitement of wedding planning like it was yesterday. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. A good deal of energy and elbow grease and emotion went into planning our day of celebration and grace. So, in an effort to support future brides and grooms and their families everywhere, here’s what I wish people would keep in mind regarding wedding etiquette. If you’re going to any weddings this year, these are a few notes just for you.

First of all, RSVP.

Please, just do it! And the sooner the better. It is so helpful for the couple to hear back from their guests. Even if you’re only 75% sure one way or the other. It brings a lot of peace of mind to everyone involved in planning if they have an idea of how many people to expect instead of staring at a bunch of questions marks on the guest list. If you have to change your answer last minute and can’t come, or if you can make it unexpectedly last minute and just show up, everything will work out. But, just having an answer from you early on helps many other decisions move forward.

Next, let’s talk wedding registries and gifts …

If you don’t bring a gift to a wedding, that’s okay. Seriously. Many guests prefer to send gifts before or after the wedding date. And frankly, your being at the wedding is a gift in itself. If you do bring a gift with a card, take note: One of the best cards I got had the name of the gift-giver, their mailing address, and a short description of the gift inside the card and this was heaven-sent when it came to writing thank-you notes.

Some people have a go-to gift they give all couples. Some people just pick something random off the registry and call it a day. Some people grab some cash or write a check. Whatever your gift-giving style is, embrace it. The couple will appreciate it. And if they don’t, they will grow in wisdom and maturity in the coming years.   

Once you’re at the wedding, participate!

Do the bride and groom have a strange icebreaker game at the reception tables? Join in! Are they asking everyone to put their handprints on a quilt? Just suck it up and dip your hand in the paint. Listen to the speeches. Respect the phone-free zone sign or any signs they have, no matter how extraneous or silly they seem. And then eat, dance, enjoy yourself. Make friends. The bride and groom want this to be an enjoyable memory for everyone, and they worked hard to make it happen. Whether or not the event runs smoothly and enjoyably, it can still be a great day or evening for you. Just go into it with the right attitude — an attitude of adventure and joy usually goes a long way.

My wedding reception changed location at the last minute due to an impending tornado warning. Our priest forgot to announce us as man and wife. Many people who RSVP’d “yes” didn’t show up (which just meant extra food, which was happily consumed by others). But in the end, everything worked out wonderfully and our guests happily participated in the dancing and games we had set up. It was a memorable and joyful evening, made so by the guests who attended. So, check “yes” on that invitation, and lean into whatever is happening at the particular wedding you’re attending.  

Happy wedding season!

Read more:
Is there a new etiquette about writing thank-you notes?

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4 Summer etiquette faux pas to avoid

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