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Weekly Wedding Etiquette: For Wedding Guests

Being a wedding guest is always an enjoyable honor, but it’s so important to be mindful of what’s expected of you as an attendee. I’ve brought you a few modern rules to live by the next time an invitation arrives in your mail.


Contrary to the common belief that gifts may be sent up to a year after the big day, proper etiquette is to send a gift before the wedding or within three months afterwards, though of course any gift is better than none! Choose something meaningful, with the couple’s current circumstances in mind; for example, if they already share a home, they likely have enough appliances or china already. It’s always a good idea to browse their registry, but of course you are free to give them a present of your choice, accompanied by a gift receipt in case they happen to receive multiple. Memorable and touching gifts include items like personalized home goods or heirlooms, experiences like symphony tickets or a hot air balloon ride, or simply a monetary gift. Checks or cash are especially tasteful when enclosed in a card with well wishes and a message of intent (such as “we hope this gift gets you one step closer to your dream home!” or “enjoy dinner on us!” – anything to let the newlyweds know you are thinking of them). For anything other than a card, modern etiquette rules state that you should mail the gift rather than bring it to the reception.


This is perhaps the most crucial of all wedding rules: you simply must RSVP. Your hosts need to know how many and which guests to expect, for seating charts, catering numbers, dinner orders, and more. Remember that the only guests invited are those to whom the invitation is addressed. If your children are invited, the invitation will say so. The same applies to a significant other or a ‘plus one.’ It is in poor taste to ask the bride or groom to invite additional guests–remember it is their day of celebration, as well as their budget. Whether you plan to attend, or you can’t due to financial, travel, or childcare reasons, send your reply through whichever means specified: an email, a call, through a website, or by mail. If no ‘RSVP by’ date is included, send as soon as possible, or at the very latest four weeks before the wedding. For regrets, a handwritten letter expressing your joy for the happy couple and your sadness that you won’t be able to attend is also a kind gesture, and can be sent along with your gift.


For any last-minute questions about location or schedule, be sure to first check the invitation or website. As a last resort, contact a member of the bridal party or a family member of the bride or groom. The couple will have plenty to deal with on their wedding day, so they likely won’t have time to answer questions.

Social Media

A wedding photographer always captures beautiful and sweet moments of the ceremony and reception, but guests often take just as memorable pictures that the bride and groom love and cherish. It can be tempting to photograph the ceremony, but you should refrain unless you are explicitly encouraged to do so. In the era of fun couple hashtags, many weddings embrace a steady flow of social media posts; in this case, when taking photos, be certain to not block anyone’s view or the photographer’s angles. Additionally, it’s proper modern etiquette to refrain from posting photos on social media until a few days after the wedding, especially of the bride and groom, who will likely want to be the first to share photos.


With that being said, we’ll reiterate the importance of being present for the wedding ceremony. Even if it’s hours long, this moment is a formal display of the couple’s commitment and love for each other, and it’s a joyous one! You should never leave the ceremony early (unless you have a fidgety child or fussy baby, and then you must), nor should you arrive late and interrupt. It’s almost never acceptable to attend only the reception, but some couples may opt to have an intimate ceremony or a religious one, then celebrate with all of their family and friends later on– in which case, enjoy the party!


If your invitation doesn’t state expectations of dress, it’s perfectly fine to inquire to the bride or groom in advance. Always err on the side of overly formal rather than too casual, and remember the unspoken rule of avoiding white dresses. Proper etiquette used to be that black tie attire should be worn only at night, but at modern weddings, you are welcome to wear your gown or tuxedo to an afternoon ceremony.

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