Much is written about etiquette for the bride and groom, but little is mentioned about etiquette for wedding guests, yet the conduct of guests can create unnecessary stress before the wedding and on the wedding day. Following are issues for wedding guests to consider that will make the wedding experience more pleasant for everyone involved.
Return response cards in a timely manner even if you do not plan to attend. Couples must give their caterer an accurate guest count and they need the response cards to do so. Do not assume that your children, a date, or visiting relatives are automatically invited if their names do not appear on the invitation. Many venues, not to mention budgets, are not large enough to accommodate unlimited numbers of guests.
If the ceremony will be held in a church, guests may not be able to wear sundresses, short skirts, shorts, and other revealing or casual attire, including baseball caps. Do not wear caps, jeans, or shorts to any wedding except a very informal outdoor gathering.
Arrive on Time
If you are late and the processional or ceremony has already started, take your cue from the wedding coordinator or church coordinator. They will allow you to enter when there is opportunity to do so. If the processional is in progress, don't interrupt. Instead, wait until the wedding party has entered, then quietly slip in a side door and choose a seat in the back. Do not enter down the center aisle unless there is no other option.
Do not take pictures during the ceremony. Many churches do not allow flash pictures and you may disturb the ceremony. The professional photographer is the only one who should be taking pictures and he/she will know the rules of the church or event center.
When to Stand
At most ceremonies, the guests stand when the bride enters. Take your cue from the mother of the bride or from the officiant. Remain standing until the officiant asks you to be seated.
When to Sit
When the ceremony ends, remain in your seat until the ushers dismiss you, or if there are no ushers, until the mothers of the bride and groom have been escorted out. Allow family members of the bride and groom, who will be seated near the front, to exit first.
If you bring children, keep them under control. If they become disruptive during the ceremony, take them out. Many churches have a cry room with a window and sound where you can still observe the ceremony. During the reception, don't allow the children to run wild. Don't expect the photographer, coordinator, or DJ to supervise them for you. If your children cause damage, be prepared to pay for it. Otherwise, the bride and groom will be held responsible and friendships could be ruined.
If a buffet is served at the reception, don't pile your plate full unless you are at the end of the line. Be courteous of those who have yet to eat.
Don't drink too much. You are there to celebrate with the newlyweds, not embarrass yourself and them.
The wedding day is the bride and groom's special day. If each guest displays courtesy and thoughtfulness, the day will be a smooth and enjoyable experience for everyone in attendance.