Expert Advice Things Wedding Guests Shouldn't Do

Expert Advice: 7 Things Wedding Guests Shouldn’t Do, Part 1

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When you RSVP to a wedding, you’re also accepting the responsibility of being a good guest by following the implied and stated wedding day etiquette. From understanding the dress code to sitting in your assigned seat, the role of a guest is to contribute positively to the couple’s big day rather than take away from it. Read this article before attending your next wedding so that you don’t become “that person.”

Don’t Stress The Couple During Wedding Planning

“This is mostly for parents, but don’t fight your child the whole wedding planning process. I can’t tell you how many tear-filled planning sessions I’ve been a part of because the parent is trying to realize their own wedding dreams through their child, force outdated traditions upon their child’s wedding, or simply try to prevent the wedding from happening altogether. If your child wants to marry someone of the same sex, be happy for them and support them. If your child doesn’t want to throw the bouquet and garter, don’t force them to do so (it’s a horribly outdated practice anyway). If your child wants a small intimate wedding with their friends, don’t force them into a 300-person gala with all of your friends. Listen to their wants and needs and support them. Yes, you may be paying for it, but no, it’s not about you!” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

“Don’t count yourselves as the exception! The couple spends a lot of time deciding on wording for invitations, programs, and their wedding website, whether it’s making hotel recommendations for out-of-town guests, adults-only reception requests, or pleas for an unplugged ceremony. Please don’t throw in your two cents or think that the request doesn’t apply to you. The couple may have a room block pre-setup at the hotel the wedding is being hosted at, or they are getting ready in – please don’t throw in other recommendations or put down the chosen hotel.” -Jessica Ralph, President and Lead Planner, Parties A’La Carte

Don’t Forget to RVSP or Bring Uninvited Guests (Including Children)

“Don’t RSVP yes, and then not show up or RSVP no, and then show up unannounced. The couple pays per guest well in advance, and barring some last-minute true emergency, not showing up is wasting their money. They’ve paid upwards of $100+ for you to attend their wedding…show up! Don’t bring uninvited guests! If your invitation didn’t include a guest, don’t assume you can bring one. Weddings are expensive; don’t add to the budget. If you have a question, refer to the couple. And, don’t get upset if your invitation says “No Kids.” As a parent and someone who’s worked a bazillion weddings…I have SEEN things! Traumatizing things! I truly believe children don’t belong at weddings, or at least the whole wedding. Weddings are celebratory in nature, there’s heavy drinking, and they often run late into the night. Not everyone wants kids running around or throwing a tantrum, and most of the kids don’t want to be there anyway. Get a sitter, or don’t attend. If you are allowed to bring your child, make sure they’re well-behaved and know how to act in public.” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

 “RSVP in a timely manner. We know that sometimes you get that card, tuck it away, and forget to send it off. But, with skyrocketing wedding costs, most likely, the couple has trimmed their guest list and would love to add a few of those people back in if you’re not able to attend. On the same note, don’t RSVP with a ‘+1′ if they were not included in the invitations. The couple has already spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way that everyone could have a +1 if at all possible. The same applies to bringing kids; it might not be appropriate for the venue, fit in their budget, or it might just be their personal preference.” -Tammy Waterman, Master Wedding Planner and Owner, Special Moments Event Planning

“RSVP…on time! Oftentimes guests assume that the couple knows they are coming. Bridal party, cousins, work bestie, whomever you are, return that RSVP card. RSVP cards are sent with a return addressed envelope, pre-stamped, don’t let that money go to waste! Some invitation services offer to keep track of RSVPs, and they don’t know to count your bestie of 25 years. Those numbers dictate so much in the budget: food and beverage numbers, rentals, and space, meaning every RSVP counts, so send it in and on time!” -Jessica Ralph, President and Lead Planner, Parties A’La Carte

“Don’t show up if your RSVP was “no” or you failed to RSVP at all. It costs the couple and their families a lot of money to provide their guests with a beautiful evening, and they are still paying for those guests that don’t show. There isn’t a place setting for you, and the kitchen hasn’t accounted for you. It’s disruptive and rude. You had weeks or even months to respond. Everything is planned out based on the decision you made to respond “no” or not at all. The same applies for bringing an uninvited plus one.” -Karen Cerboni, Owner and Lead Planner, EventFull Weddings

“Every wedding has a timeline of due dates that have to be adhered to so that everything can flow smoothly and be prepared for in advance. The couple has deadlines they have to meet as far as final guest count, final meal selections, escort cards, seating chart, etc. If the couple has to call you to ask about your RSVP after the due date, that’s taking time away from a million other things they are preparing. Don’t assume the couple knows you’re coming, what your meal preferences are, or if you have dietary restrictions. Life changes when you have a child and this especially goes for big events like weddings. While weddings can be a great way of getting the entire family together, please keep in mind that not every wedding is ‘child friendly’ and the couple does not have to change their event to cater to their guests. If the couple wants to focus on having a party with drinking and dancing, they may not want to have to worry about being on their best behavior in front of the kids. They may not want to risk a crying baby interrupting their ceremony or they may be limited in their guest count and want to focus on friends and family that will remember the event vs. a child who might not. Whatever the reason, if the couple states the wedding is ‘child-free’ or if the invite does not include your child’s name or phrasing like ‘ Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Family,” please do not assume they are invited or must be accommodated. There are plenty of reasons why a couple may have a child-free wedding so please respect this decision and plan a babysitter ahead of time.” -Melanie Eubanks, Owner, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

“When your invitation is addressed to just you, don’t ask to bring a guest or plus one if you were not given one. If your friends or family decide they don’t want kids at their wedding, respect that it is their wedding day and don’t ask or push for a special reconsideration or exception.” -Lauren Gertz, Owner and Lead Planner, MDP Events

Don’t Dress Inappropriately (Or Wear White)

“When a couple chooses a venue, decor, florals, etc. they usually have a particular ‘feel’ or ‘vibe’ they are going for and as a guest, you should dress accordingly. Most wedding invitations or websites will have details on a dress code so that guests are appropriately dressed. This doesn’t necessarily mean you must be decked out to the nines for every event but, dressing according to the dress code would mean you won’t show up to a garden wedding in a full-length satin gown in the Florida heat. It goes vice versa in that you wouldn’t want to show up to a black-tie event (that usually comes with a higher price tag for the couple) in a sundress that is more appropriate for a picnic at the park. Adhere to the dress code and when in doubt, ask the couple for any specifics they can give.” -Melanie Eubanks, Owner, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

“Unless it has been a specific request by the couple, do not wear white! Don’t wear a wedding dress. Don’t wear anything that could be interpreted as a wedding dress. Don’t wear ivory or any other color resembling white. We will notice. We will all notice! Refrain from outfits of mostly light colors in general. Let the bride shine if there’s a bride. If it’s two grooms, look to the invitation for attire inspiration, or ask the couple. Pay close attention to the location and weather at the time and dress the part.” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

“Unless otherwise stated by the couple (both, not one or the other), do not wear any colors that could remotely resemble a typical bridal dress color. Whether your attire is a knee-length dress, a floor-length dress, or a suit, these colors are meant to be reserved for the couple. Wearing something that resembles the color or style of a wedding dress can be seen as slander to the bride, and if that’s exactly what you want to do, save yourself and every one the grief and just don’t go to the wedding. There is a whole spectrum of colors to choose from, and that creamy lace dress that you look amazing in and think is ‘perfect’ for this event can have its moment to shine…on another day. Also, for certain cultures, these colors are used for mourning and are not considered appropriate for a happy celebration such as a wedding. Take our advice and don’t end up the next guest to get called out on social media for an avoidable fashion faux pas.” -Melanie Eubanks, Owner, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

“Dress to impress. It is better to dress up than to dress down on a wedding day. If you are unsure about the dress code check the wedding website and formal invitation If you do not know what the dress code means, then a quick Google search can give you better ideas of what that dress code entails. Always dress it up a little bit more than you think.” -Delaney Driver, Owner and Lead Planner, Wilder Mind Events

“Dress appropriately, and of course, do not wear white! In addition, make sure your attire is for a wedding, and not a nightclub. You will be in the background of the couple’s photos that they have paid for and will cherish forever.” -Cindy Dervech, Owner, Breezin’ Entertainment

“Remember the attire for the wedding and check the invitation or wedding website. If the wedding is cocktail attire, don’t wear jeans or casual attire, this is something that should be understood. We get you may not love to dress up, but be respectful!” -Lauren Gertz, Owner and Lead Planner, MDP Events

“Unless it has been a specific request by the couple, do not wear white! Don’t wear a wedding dress. Don’t wear anything that could be interpreted as a wedding dress. Don’t wear ivory or any other color resembling white. We will notice. We will all notice!”

-Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

Don’t Bother the Couple The Day of The Wedding

“Don’t crash the bride’s getting ready room. It is very common to see friends outside of the immediate bridal party trying to stop by the bridal getting ready room to wish her well, hang out before the ceremony or try to grab a photo before. If you weren’t invited to hang out with the bride while she gets ready or beforehand, wait to share your congratulations at the wedding.” -Tammy Waterman, Master Wedding Planner and Owner, Special Moments Event Planning

“Do not, I repeat, do not text the couple on the wedding day. This is an absolute hard no. If you have information that needs to be communicated, go through someone other than the couple. If something came up and you are bailing on the day and are no longer attending, there is literally nothing we can do about it since it’s the day of the wedding, and everything is paid for. Telling them you can’t make it will most likely irritate them, make them sad, or stress out. Text the wedding planner or a trusted member of the family, not the couple. Better yet, don’t even text them at all about wedding questions until you have looked through the wedding website. The wedding website will become your best friend and, if done correctly, will have every piece of information you will need to know. What should you wear? What time is the ceremony? Are there room blocks? Is this an indoor or outdoor wedding? All of these questions should be answered under the FAQ page and throughout the wedding website. Please read over all of this before you reach out with any questions you might have so that the couple is not repeating themselves.” -Delaney Driver, Owner and Lead Planner, Wilder Mind Events

“Weddings can be so exciting, and wanting to congratulate and show love to the couple is a natural feeling. Keep the warm comments and affection for the reception once dinner is over though. There is a lot going on prior and while you want the couple to know you’re thinking of them, most are busy getting ready and handling their nerves prior to the event. They’ll appreciate you letting them have this time for themselves since they will be the center of attention for the rest of the day. Also, if you have any questions, call someone else who’s attending or someone from the bridal party before dialing up the couple. Most likely, they won’t have their phone on them in the first place but, again, they will have a lot on their mind as is, and the less they have to deal with, the better.” – Melanie Eubanks, Owner, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

Don’t Show Up Late

“Show up early for the ceremony. You should always show up no later than 15 minutes before the ceremony time. If the ceremony is at 5 p.m., do not show up at 4:55 p.m. because by the time you park and find the ceremony, you are late. We bring our couples down the aisle promptly, and a lot of times, we are delayed because guests are showing up and trying to find seats right when the ceremony is going to begin. You could be the literal reason that a ceremony does not start on time, which is extremely inconsiderate and rude. More often than not, we will start without you, and then you will be ‘that person’ who is trying to sneak into the ceremony without being noticed because you were late. If you want to be a gold star guest, arrive at the venue about 30 minutes before so you can take your time to park, find the ceremony spot, and have about 15-20 minutes to spare and mingle.” -Delaney Driver, Owner and Lead Planner, Wilder Mind Events

“Be respectful on the wedding day! Don’t be late for the ceremony. We all know there can be last-minute issues, outfit changes, or traffic. Plan and get to the ceremony on time! Also, get to the guest transportation on time so the trolley or bus doesn’t have to wait for you and make all the other guests late to then push the ceremony time behind.” -Lauren Gertz, Owner and Lead Planner, MDP Events

“Timelines are strict on wedding days, and if there was ever a day to be on time, or preferably early, the wedding day is it. Time slots with vendors and venues are booked and sectioned out, and if you’re late, there could be a chance you miss part of the event and have to wait off to the side or in another area. Most weddings allow for a ‘prelude’ that runs thirty minutes prior to the ceremony start time. This is the window you should arrive in. It’s best to arrive as early as possible in this window, and cutting it close can result in the ceremony starting late (which potentially means the entire event could get pushed back/ shortened.) Be safe and plan to be seated fifteen minutes before the ceremony start time.” -Melanie Eubanks, Owner, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

“Try to be on time. We know things happen, but it’s very awkward and more disruptive than you might realize when you and your entire entourage try to ‘sneak’ into the wedding ceremony unnoticed.” -Tammy Waterman, Master Wedding Planner and Owner, Special Moments Event Planning

“Nothing’s worse than a couple being in the middle of a beautiful moment in their ceremony and a guest interrupting it with their late entrance. Wait until the ceremony is over, or arrive on time. Also, don’t get mad if one of the wedding staff won’t let you into the ceremony if you’re late. They’ve likely been explicitly instructed by the couple to do so.” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

“Guests arriving late to the ceremony drives me crazy. Arriving late can disrupt the ceremony and draw attention away from the couple. Plan your journey in advance and make sure to arrive 20 minutes before the ceremony time.” -Arron McNeile, Owner, McNeile Photography

Don’t Play Wedding Photographer for the Day

“We need to have a little chat about something super important: not getting on the bad side of the wedding photographer. All too often, we see guests who are incessantly taking photos during critical parts of the day that our couples have spent a lot of money for us to capture. When those epic moments go down during the ceremony or reception, like the vows or the couple’s first dance, please resist the temptation to whip out your phone or tablet like a boss and lean over in the aisle. Seriously, it’s like blocking the photographer’s shot with your own personal mobile fortress. They’ve got the skills and gear to capture the magic, so let them do their thing without you accidentally photobombing the frame with your tech. Some of the most amazing moments get blocked or are impossible to capture because guests are trying to capture them. Keep those gadgets in your pocket or purse, and let the pros work their magic. Trust me, the couple will be grateful for those pristine memories untainted by your unintended cameo.

Also, if you are an amateur or professional photographer, for that matter, be courteous of the hired photographer that is there! The couple hired them for a reason, and most professional photographers have a statement in their contract saying that there are to be no other ‘photographers’ or professional equipment used by anyone else during the event. Enjoy those weddings you get to attend; if you are behind a camera, you’re going to miss out!” -Carrie Wildes, Owner, Carrie Wildes Photography

“Something a wedding guest should never do is disregard the couple’s wishes. Whether it be the event start time and coming late, ignoring the dress code, or a ceremony free from phones in the aisle, as a guest you should be respecting the wishes of a couple that you agreed to show up for and celebrate. If the couple asks for an ‘Unplugged Ceremony,’ keep your phones, iPads, non-professional cameras, etc. away. This ask isn’t coming from the photographers, but from a couple who simply wants you to stay engaged with them. When they look out into the audience, they want to see faces, not phone cases.” -Shannon Dewitt, Owner, Dewitt for Love Photography

“The ‘unplugged ceremony is a big one that we often see ignored. Photography is a good percentage of the budget, and most photography contracts include ‘exclusivity’ clauses meaning you can’t have other ‘shooters’ beyond them. ‘Oh, I am the cousin; it’s okay, as they pull out their expensive, professional camera and jump in between the hired photographer and the first kiss. Photographers know how to maneuver their way through a crowd to get a ‘money shot,’ but when they are outmaneuvered by a guest with an iPhone camera, important shots that may or may not have been requested by the couple are missed.” -Jessica Ralph, President and Lead Planner, Parties A’La Carte

“One thing that drives me crazy is seeing guests on their phones at weddings. People are gathered there to witness a beautiful moment between two people, not to see everyone’s faces buried in screens. It’s about showing respect for the couple and their special day. Plus, constantly checking your phone can be a major distraction. Let professional photographers do their job without guests getting in their way trying to capture the perfect shot. Put the phone down, enjoy the moment, and be present. Show some love and support for the couple instead of being absorbed in your digital world.” -Arron McNeile, Owner, McNeile Photography

“Put your phone down. Seriously, just put it down. If there’s a sign that says ‘no phones’ or ‘Unplugged ceremony,” this applies to you. No seriously, it applies to you too, Aunt Judy. If the officiant announces ‘no phones’ then it means ‘no phones.’ For the love of all, put your phone down. I don’t care who you are to the couple or why you need your phone out; put it down. You’ll be fine, I promise.” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

“Don’t ignore the unplugged wedding sign at the ceremony. If you see this sign posted, it’s a message from the couple. They don’t want guests taking photos during their ceremony. It’s disrespectful to ignore that. The ceremony should be the most meaningful part of the entire evening when the couple is sharing with each other and their guests’ intimate stories and sacred vows. There will be plenty of time afterward for photos, and you can go on to their photographer’s website later to get a photo of the ceremony.” -Karen Cerboni, Owner and Lead Planner, EventFull Weddings

Don’t Make the Day About You (If You’re Not the Couple)

“Weddings are one of the few occasions where generations of family members gather together to celebrate and catch up with one another. This is often a rare opportunity, and the urge to make announcements/do something special is a hard one to resist. Even so, this day is about the happy couple celebrating their union. Unless you ask the couple ahead of time and they approve, do not assume it is okay to announce your pregnancy or propose to your significant other regardless of your relation to them. If they say they rather not have your special moment happen during their event, respect that decision. There are 364 other days of the year to share the big news. Let the couple have their day that they worked so hard to set up.” -Melanie Eubanks, Owner, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

“Guests who want to be the center of attention are my arch nemesis. Don’t scream and shout during the ceremony, first dance, speeches, or really any of the important/sentimental moments. Our couples pay so much money for photography and video, I promise that no one wants to hear your ‘WOOOO YEAHHHHH’ or vulgar screaming in their first dance video when they look back at that moment. We have had people stand up on chairs and shout during intimate moments. Like….why? There is no need to make a special moment ‘funny’ or take the attention away from the couple and towards a wedding guest.” -Amanda Biery, Owner and Lead Planner, The Olive Tree Weddings

“This should go without saying, but unless you have explicit permission from the couple, don’t propose to your fiance or announce anything big like a pregnancy at someone else’s wedding. There are tons of other ways to do this besides highjacking someone else’s day. Also, don’t hijack the photographer for some ‘quick family photos.’ It’s not a thing; get your own photographer on your own time and dime.” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events


About the Author

Anna Coats

Marry Me Tampa Bay editor Anna Coats created Marry Me Tampa Bay in 2012 to showcase the area’s best local weddings and vendors. She has been featured as a wedding expert on the national talk show Daytime, Fox13, ABC Action News, Great Day Tampa Bay, and Bay News 9 (now Spectrum).

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