How To Be A Decent Person At A Wedding

Just make sure you look like this [Via Perez Hilton]

Just make sure you look like this [Via Perez Hilton]

The big day is finally here! You’ve sent in your RSVP, you’ve selected and sent a gift, you know what to wear, and now it’s time to see your dear friend(s)/family/strange coworker tie the knot! But what happens at a wedding and how do you know what to do?

The Ceremony

  • Show up around 15-20 minutes before the time stated on the invitation. The time on the invitation is generally the time the bride intends to walk down the aisle and you do NOT want to be skittering into the ceremony behind the bride. If you do end up late, wait until the bride is all the way at the end of the aisle and then quietly take a seat in the back.

  • If you are staying at the “official” hotel with a provided shuttle, make sure you know when and where it is picking up so you are on time!

  • Traditionally friends and family of the bride sit on the left and friends and family of the groom sit on the right. If there are two brides or two grooms, these sides may be labeled. If you are close with both,  you sit where there are less people. However, almost no one is going to care if you forget, and many couples may explicitly state that you sit wherever you want.

  • Everyone seems to stand when the bride walks down the aisle, so go with the crowd. Either the officiant should tell everyone to sit, or people should just sit when they start talking, but this doesn’t always happen. There’s not much you can do about it, but I hope if you get stuck standing that the ceremony is pretty short!

  • Obviously turn your cellphone off.

  • Many couples are starting to request that people not take pictures during the ceremony. If they haven’t specifically asked you not to, you still can, but you might consider just enjoying the moment! These days many couples post their official pictures online for people to see later and they are going to be MUCH nicer than an Instagram shot of the bride with everyone’s head in the way. Plus, no couple wants to look out at their guests and see a sea of iPhones.

  • If the ceremony is religious or has unfamiliar elements, hopefully there will be an explanation of anything you might be asked to do or not do. Otherwise, just sit back and watch.

The Reception

  • After the ceremony, there might be a variety of things happening. There might be photos, everyone might head straight into the reception, you might have to go to another location for the reception, etc.

  • When you get to the reception there might be a receiving line (there probably won’t be a receiving line), in which case, you need to stand in line and wait your turn to congratulate the couple, and greet their parents before going into the reception.

  • When you get to the reception, there might be a cocktail hour, there might be a sit down dinner, there might be assigned seats, there might be assigned tables, just go with the crowd when figuring out what to do.

  • I think cash bars are extremely poor hosting (we will get to this later), but they do happen, so keep some emergency cash on you, just in case.

  • There might be a box for cards, so put it there if you brought one.

  • In the olden days, you were supposed to stay until the bride and groom left, but since couples are more likely to stay until the bitter end now, the cake cutting has become the signal of the end of “official” activities and you can properly leave any time after that.

  • There is some debate on whether or not you must say goodbye to the couple before you leave. I say, say goodbye if you can, but don’t worry too much if you can’t find them or they are deep in conversation or dancing.

  • Many etiquette sites will tell you not to get drunk at wedding. I’m not going to say that, but you should take into consideration if you are a good or bad drunk or are likely to get sick or cause problems.

6 thoughts on “How To Be A Decent Person At A Wedding

  1. Might I suggest “the couple” rather than “the bride and groom”? Sometimes it’s two grooms or two brides. Other than that, good advice, I think! I was actually not aware that the whole “walking down the aisle” part happened 15 – 20 minutes in advance of the stated ceremony time, though. That seems…odd…to me, especially since I have yet to attend a wedding that actually started at the stated ceremony time.

    • Good point! We’ve amended, though in some places it still applies (like bride’s family on the left and groom’s family on the right. If there are two brides or two grooms, you can probably assume this doesn’t apply!).

    • Yes! Thank you so much for pointing that out!

      As to the 15-20 minutes- the guests should plan on arriving at the ceremony time 15-20 minutes before the time stated on the invitation. The time on the invitation is the time the ceremony is supposed to start. Though, of course almost no one starts on time. But it’s just to ensure that you are there and have time to greet people and get settled and ensure that everyone is in their seat when the bride walks down the aisle/the ceremony starts.

  2. Question: How do you handle tipping at a non-cash or ‘open’ bar? I’ve always assumed guests should also tip. Is it one for the night or per drink? per couple?

    • At an open bar, the hosts should provide the gratuity to the bartenders at the end of the night. Guests do not tip. Some bartenders will put out tip jars anyway, feel free to ignore these. In fact, I have heard of couples being furious to find out that the bartenders were soliciting tips from their guests (when the gratuity was part of their contract) and essentially receiving double tips. Guests should never have to open their wallet at anytime during a hosted party.

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