9 Wedding Guest Etiquette Rules to Live By

9 Wedding Guest Etiquette Rules to Live By

Ashley Peterson

April 29, 2020

If you’re attending a wedding at some point in the near future, you should understand early on that – while each bride and groom celebrate differently – there are some etiquette rules that have stood the test of time. Avoid wedding faux pas by following some of the rules below!

Before the Wedding

1. RSVP On Time

First off, you should RSVP. The couple typically pays per guest for a variety of items – chairs, food, alcohol, etc. – so you should always RSVP. But, even further, you should RSVP on time. The bride and groom usually have to pay their vendors within a certain timeframe prior to the wedding, so if you wait until after the RSVP date to send yours in, you’re probably messing up their budget or going to cause them to have to pay additional fees to their vendors.

2. Buy a Gift From the Registry

If the bride and groom provided you with the information to their registry, don’t be the person who gets them something they didn’t ask for. If the couple didn’t ask for a Vitamix blender, don’t get them one – you never know, they might already have it. It doesn’t matter if Target was doing a great sale on blenders. Stick with their registry, especially because it’s something they need. If you want to, you can add an additional personalized wedding gift along with the gift from their registry. Stick to something small, though, such as an ornament for them to add to their tree on their first Christmas as a married couple. If the bride and groom haven’t specified what gifts they’d like, don’t arrive empty-handed. Simple gifts, such as monogrammed blankets or engraved mason jars, are great personalized gifts for couples, especially for newlyweds.

3. Plan Out Your Route

If the ceremony is being held somewhere you’ve never been before, make sure you check out the available routes beforehand. In case of road closures, traffic accidents or inclement weather, it’s always good to know alternative ways to get where you need to go. This is true especially if the reception is in a different location than the ceremony – you don’t want to miss cocktail hour or the start of dinner because you got lost.

At the Ceremony

4. Arrive On Time

Can’t stress this one enough. Do not be late! Some couples even make late guests wait outside until the processional – or make them miss the ceremony in total. Typically, the bride and groom will include that information on their invitations. Regardless, you do not want to be late and you definitely don’t want to disrupt the ceremony.

5. Do Not Use Your Phone

As tempting as it might be to whip out your phone and start taking pictures of the couple’s first kiss as husband and wife, don’t do it. Even if the couple hasn’t specified they want an unplugged ceremony, there’s a pretty good chance they hired a photographer – and paid a pretty penny for it. Your social media can wait, and the bride and groom may prefer you to use the edited professional photos they paid for. If you need to take a call or send a text or two, that’s okay – just make sure you place your phone on silent and excuse yourself from the ceremony. Your best bet is to place your device on Do Not Disturb.

6. Cheer When the Couple Kisses

Don’t just clap politely – cheer with excitement! The bride and groom are married, and you got to witness the wedding! Make sure you cheer as loudly as possible and show them how excited you are for them.

At the Reception

7. Do Not Get Drunk

Don’t be this person. No one wants to hold your hair back while you vomit or carry you to a taxi at the end of the night. Just because there’s an open bar doesn’t mean you have to drink all the available bottles! Do yourself and the other guests at the wedding a favor and limit your drinking. Enjoy a couple of cocktails and make sure you have something in your glass to toast with, but don’t overdo it. Someone else’s wedding is not the time for you to lose all inhibitions. Even if the bride and groom are throwing back shots of tequila, practice some self-control.

8. Eat When Your Table is Tapped

If the bride and groom have a buffet at their reception instead of a plated dinner, wait until a catering staff member, the DJ or a coordinator informs your table that you can go get in line. Not only will it annoy other guests who followed the rules, but the bride and groom will feel disrespected by your decision to go get food before your table is called. They put a lot of time and effort into creating the seating chart for the reception. If you have dietary restrictions that require you eat at specific times, make sure the bride and groom know about your specific needs when you send in your RSVP. You can also bring yourself a snack or two, but eat your snacks in the bathroom or outside so as not to disturb the other guests.

9. Have Fun

Above all, don’t forget to have fun! It’s important to follow the rules, but it’s equally as important to have fun while celebrating the bride and groom. A wedding really is a big party, so have lots of fun! Dance all night, laugh and make sure the photographer gets lots of pictures of you. Enjoy your time with the bride and groom as they journey into this new phase of their lives together.

There’s a lot of rules that go into attending a wedding. But, one of the most important things you can do is watch the other guests for cues. A lot of the older guests have been to a variety of weddings, so follow their lead. Plus, it helps to know the bride and groom well – you’ll know what they’re comfortable with and what they’re uncomfortable with. Pretty soon, you’ll be a wedding guest pro!


Ashley Peterson is the Director of Marketing at GiftsForYouNow. Her favorite part of the job is connecting others with sentimental and personalized gifts that foster lifelong memories. Ashley is also a mother of two and enjoys spending time with her family and exploring the outdoors.