Now, for today’s blog I don’t want to go all Emily Post on you and make you feel like you should be sitting up straighter in your chair or anything, so I will preface my Ten Commandments of being an awesome wedding guest, by telling a true story.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, many aeons (well, ok years) before I became versed in the rules and regs of Wedding World, I was invited to a friend’s wedding. Following the ceremony, I made for the bar, as is my wont, and the bar happened to be at the rear of the reception dining room, so of course I checked out where I was sitting enroute. As you do.
I was displeased to see that I knew none of the guests seated at ‘my’ table, while some good mates were seated at another table. What did I do? I started swapping place cards around. Shock. Horror. Gasp. Not as easy at it sounds either because a number of the guests at ‘my’ table had the same surname, suggesting they were family, thus not allowing me to merely swap one or two cards. So the card-swapping took on a feverish and complicated tone as I became increasingly confused of who I guessed should be seated with whom.
In the nick of time, enter stage left a furious bride, who silently and grimly returned the seating cards to their rightful places.
She didn’t speak to me for the whole evening. And I do not blame her. Looking back now from the lofty heights of my vastly improved knowledge of Bad Guest Behaviour, I blush for shame, and the memory still haunts me to this day.
So here’s the thing – being a guest at a wedding is not only a pleasure and a joy, it is also a responsibility. As guests, we owe it to our hosts, the couple, to do nothing to spoil the smooth progress of this, the most important and happiest day of their lives, a day which has been carefully and thoughtfully planned sometimes many months or even years in advance. Here are our Ten Commandments for wedding guests, based on our own professional experience. And in my case, on the horrible memory of the day I almost wrecked the seating plan.
Thou shalt not mess up the seating chart.
Well I had to make this numero uno didn’t I? Switching place cards around is a no-no, end of story. You can bet that where there’s a seating chart, which is the case at most weddings, the couple (or more likely the bride) will have spent countless anxious hours agonising over it to try and be sure everyone will be happy. Let’s not spoil it ok? Furthermore, a plated dinner may have been pre-ordered, and switching places makes things awfully confusing for the wait staff. There may also be allergy or diet considerations accounted for, and sorting those out in a switched-around table chart, can be a nightmare. And may we please add here, a plea that guests refrain from invading the reception space early, in order to check their seating? Hint – your place is reserved for you, no need to leave jackets on the backs of chairs or purses on your side plate, thus wrecking our gorgeous decor set-up before the photographer has had a chance to capture images.
Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts.
Thou shalt show up. AND RSVP please.
Seems like a no-brainer but it happens. There’s a reason that RSVPs have a deadline – so many things rely on the final guest count that it is just plain rude to keep the couple guessing till the last possible minute. Or not to let them know at all and force a frantic bride (or her mom) to track down tardy guests for a yea or a nea. As for saying yes and then not showing up when your presence is expected and your meal has been paid for….again, rude in the extreme unless you have a cast iron reason like illness or emergency.
Thou shalt not bring uninvited guests.
Need we explain this one? Weddings are not the same as a potluck social gathering or a birthday party. Every single guest is accounted for in terms of budget and space, and showing up with a plus-one who was not invited or expected, is simply beyond the pale. In addition, the food at catered weddings is ordered in quantities based pretty precisely on the final guest count, and caterers and banquet staff simply do not have extra food in reserve ‘just in case’ extra people show up.
Thou shalt not nit-pick.
Okay so you shudder at the choice of turquoise and black as the wedding colours. You think the bride was unwise to have selected a mermaid style dress. And as for the food, well you would die before you’d offer these choices at YOUR wedding. Guess what? It’s not your wedding. Let’s please keep the sniggering comments to zero. It’s amazing how even whispered comments can be heard by the guests seated in front of you at the ceremony. And no-one likes a Negative Nancy at a wedding.
Thou shalt not wear white.
Pretty simple rule this one – don’t try to upstage the bride. If your only possible outfit is a formal white jacket and skirt or pants suit, that could not in a million years be mistaken for bridal wear, well maybe. But that boho chiffon-y floaty number that might be worn as a bride? Leave it in the closet.
Thou shalt not abuse the open bar.
Few things turn even the politest group of guests into a plague of locusts, than the open bar at a wedding. We’ve seen it, and it ain’t pretty. Where the couple have been so generous as to provide an open bar, we are sorry to sound like your mom but please drink responsibly, both for the couple’s pocketbook (open bars can quickly spiral into the insanely expensive) and for your own decorum and chances of lasting out the night without making a fool of yourself.
Thou shalt respect the ‘unplugged’ rule.
Yes, this is the world we live in. Increasingly, in this age of iPhones and social media, couples are requesting that guests switch off from phones and electronic devices completely during the ceremony. Standing discreetly at the back during ceremonies, as wedding planners do, we are often amazed to see guests texting or checking their phones (really people?) during the ceremony itself, even during the vows. So we love this rule. And the rule also applies to posting on social media. Ask permission first, and if the couple prefer no Instagram photos go whizzing out there until they themselves have shared photos, please respect their wishes.
Thou shalt not aspire to be the 2nd shooter.
This relates to the previous rule. If this is not an unplugged wedding and the couple are fine with guests snapping some photos, please please refrain from obstructing the professional photographer or their second shooter if they have one. There is nothing that makes professional wedding photographers more crazy than guests who stand in clear line of sight when the bride or the couple are walking down the aisle. Same with after-ceremony photos – if the photographer is using a light meter to judge the exposure, they don’t need your camera or phone flash going off at their shoulder because it can wreck the metering.
Thou shalt control thine offspring
If the couple have been so generous as to invite children along to their wedding, it is likely they will also have thought to provide a children’s table at dinner with small games or toys or colouring to entertain their younger guests, and possibly a separate room to retreat to with babysitting or videos provided. But equally, they may not. And even the best behaved kids can sometimes lose it during the long-drawn-out progress of a wedding day and evening. The rule here is, depending on the age of the kids, go prepared with your own diversions and be prepared if all else fails, to graciously withdraw with the screaming baby or the fractious toddler
Thou shalt not hog the mic.
If it were left to us, no wedding would have an open mic. But if it is open season on speeches, for heaven’s sake make it short, sweet, respectful and clean. We’ve all been guests at weddings where some poor sap makes a rambling, incoherent, embarrassing or deeply unfunny speech. Don’t be the guest that makes everyone cringe.
So there you have it. Our Ten Commandments of Guest Etiquette to commit to memory. Oh and there’ll be a test later.