Wedding Guest Etiquette

Featuring the wedding of Jacques and Anita Louw photographed by the very talented Jackie Visser.


Today I might step on a few toes, but as a bride-to-be this is something that I just have to talk about! It’s a great honour to be invited to a wedding and it is very important to behave in a respectful way. You need to remember that this day is about the bride and groom and about witnessing the celebration of their love for each other.
Here are a few very important ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ to keep in mind.

Do remember to RSVP.

One of the biggest challenges when planning a wedding is the completion of the guestlist. Make the bride’s planning that much easier by paying attention to the deadline on the invitation and sticking to it. RSVP as soon as you have all your plans in order instead of waiting to the very last minute. The bride and groom end up losing a lot of time following up on unanswered RSVPS and this complicates their other planning as well, because there are a lot of little things that need to be finalized and are dependant on the total number of guests.

Don’t assume you can bring a date.

Weddings are extremely expensive and not everyone can afford to invite plus ones! Know that you are an important and valued guest and that the bride and groom appreciate your attendance. Only take a plus one if it is written on the invite, and even so, its good manners to contact the bride to make sure. If the invitation is specifically for you alone, don’t phone the bridal couple to ask if you can bring a date. Most brides would love to invite the whole town if only they could but it’s not always possible.

Don’t text the bride.

The week before the wedding is filled with a long to do list and the bride will feel like there is just not enough time to get it all done. If you have any questions or uncertainties about the wedding, don’t bother her with questions at this point in time. Rather check with a member of the bridal party, a family member of the bride, or another guest. Don’t put more stress on the bride.

Don’t skip the ceremony.

Sure, no one may notice if you didn’t pitch for the ceremony, but you’ll be missing the heart of this special day. You are invited to be a witness when the bridal couple says “I do”, and you are then responsible to remind them of their vows and the beauty of their wedding day, should times get tough.

Do be on time for the ceremony

There’s an unwritten rule that brides are allowed to be fashionably late, but the same rule does not apply to guests! Make sure that you arrive at least 15 minutes before the ceremony starts so that the bride can arrive when she chooses. It is her wedding day, after all, and she should be able to make her special entrance without first waiting for guests who are late to hurry in to their seats.

Do put your phone on silent.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain this. Save yourself the humiliation (and stress!) of suddenly hearing your ringtone playing loudly from your handbag or pocket while the bridal couple are exchanging their vows.

Do help the younger ones to behave themselves.

Make sure that your child or baby does not disrupt the wedding program in any way. This is especially important during the ceremony. If you’re concerned that this might be an issue, it may be a good idea to sit near the aisle or in the back of the venue so that you can easily step out for a minute if your baby starts to cry or becomes restless.

Do pay attention to the dress code.

Pay attention to the dress code and stick to it. If you’re not exactly sure what it means, check with the bride (just not the week or day before the wedding — ask her early on!). Another rule: never, ever wear white (or even ivory) to a wedding unless your invite specifically tells you to do so. Also, even if it is an informal wedding, don’t ever wear jeans.

Do stay out of the photographer’s way.

Of course, you are allowed to be super excited and catch a selfie of the bride and groom! However, there’s a time and place for that. Remember not to be in the way of the professional photographer. The bridal couple are paying a pretty penny to have the photographer there, and the photographer is putting in a lot of effort to deliver a professional service. Please don’t interfere with that!

Don’t get wasted.

Enjoy the bar, but don’t abuse it. It’s as easy as that.

Do remember your wedding favour.

It’s a nice gesture to take your wedding favour home, even if you are not a sentimental person or it’s not your style. To the bride, the wedding favours are carefully planned gifts with some practical use or special meaning. She has spent time and money on them, and would appreciate it if you take your favour home.

Do introduce yourself to the people at your table.

Contribute to an awesome vibe and comfortable atmosphere by introducing yourself to the people sitting with you at your table. Put in some effort to get to know them. Weddings are a fantastic time to catch up with old friends, but it’s also a great opportunity to meet some new ones.

Do put personal issues aside.

If you don’t get along with a specific family member and you have to sit at the same table as this person, just be polite for this one day for the sake of the bridal couple. Remember, this is not about you.

Don’t compare or criticize.

This is especially important if you are a bride-to-be busy planning your own wedding, or if you are a newly-wed. Make mental notes of what you like and don’t like, and learn from what you see, but keep your thoughts to yourself.

Don’t criticize the food.

With so many different preferences it is almost impossible to keep all the guests satisfied when it comes to catering. Food and beverages are a very expensive part of the day, but the bride and groom will always do their best to spoil you. If you have a comment, save it for after you leave.

Do enjoy the party.

This is the most important part! The bride and groom love to see that you are having a good time. Smile and work it on the dance floor. Use this event as an opportunity to celebrate love and meet new people. At the end of the day, your experience of a wedding is what you make of it.

Marli Nel

Marli Nel
Wedding Coordinator
& Bloggist

Young, with a taste for life!
Her heart urging to tell new stories and her being to touch more lives.

A free spirit adventurer and totally in love with the idea of love…

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