Expert Advice: 14 Things Wedding Guests Shouldn’t Do, Part 2

When we asked our Marry Me Tampa Bay preferred wedding pros about their thoughts on wedding guest etiquette, they shared so much insight that we had to make it a series. In Things Wedding Guests Shouldn't Do, Part 1, we discussed RSVP deadlines, showing up late to the ceremony, and what not to wear. Part 2 dives deeper into the day, discussing guests who drink too much or go rogue during dinner services. Read on as our experts guide you through the complexities of modern wedding etiquette. 

Don't Try to “Help”

“Enjoy the wedding! We know that everyone wants to be involved, but sometimes, enjoy being the guest. Couples spend a lot of time and money to make this day comfortable and beautiful for everyone, which typically means hiring professionals to plan, decorate, cater, and bake. While we know that family and guests would love to come help decorate, there is often a company to set up tables, chairs, linens, and centerpieces. There are artists to do the bridal party’s hair and makeup and a planner to coordinate the vendors and venue. Come to the wedding in your Sunday Best, and eat, drink, and dance the night away! Leave the work to the professionals and just enjoy your time with family and friends all together in one place.” -Jessica Ralph, President and Lead Planner, Parties A'La Carte

“Relax and enjoy the party. The couple and their wedding vendors have put countless hours into the planning and timing of the wedding day. They’ve got this! Just relax and enjoy being a wedding guest.” -Tammy Waterman, Master Wedding Planner and Owner, Special Moments Event Planning

Don't Waste Valuable Photo Time

“Weddings are exciting and many times, the guests don't get to interact with the couple until after the ceremony, but timelines exist for a reason. When guests rush over to the couple right after the ceremony for hellos and hugs, it causes delays in the family and couple photos. We only have planned a short amount of time for pictures before the reception, so crowding the couple cuts into the photo time they paid for and causes stress on the couple since they don't want to be rude. Waiting until after they are introduced at the reception would be much easier on the vendors and the couple.” -Joy Hmielewski, Owner/Lead Photographer, Joyelan Photography

Don't Enter the Reception Too Soon

“Do not go into the reception room until you are told to do so. There is normally a lot of set up still happening, or the photographer is trying to get detailed photos of the room before everyone comes into it. Often times the couple does not get to see their reception space before everyone is in it, so these photos are really special so that they can cherish and look back on the day. If set up is happening, or a room flip is going on, you will be in the way, which is dangerous to you and the staff. During a room flip, there are tables being rolled out and stacks of chairs being moved, and if you are in the way, you are slowing down the short time that we have for a room flip and also putting yourself in danger of having things drop on you or be run into.” -Delaney Driver, Owner/Lead Planner, Wilder Mind Events

“Please, for the love of God, stay at cocktail hour. I said it. I mean it in the nicest way too. If the couple has not seen the reception space, why in the world, as a guest, do you think it's okay to go, find your seat, place your purse, your child's backpack, and your coat at the table? This isn't your home. The photographer probably hasn't taken photos yet of the space. The couple wants it to be a grand reveal. Don't make months of planning and designing messy and ruin that for her. Please enjoy the apps and signature cocktails they hand-picked for their guests!” -Kelci Zicconi, Owner/Lead Planner, Kelci Leigh Events

Don't Overserve Yourself

“Don’t get drunk. Overly intoxicated people take the focus off the couple, can cause damage, and can be an embarrassment for the couple and their families. Don’t be that person. It’s a night for grown-ups, and guests should behave accordingly.” -Karen Cerboni, Owner/Lead Planner, EventFull Weddings

“More and more wedding venues are choosing not to allow shots or limit the number of drinks a person can get at one time. It’s not the bartender’s decision, and it’s something the couple knew when they booked the venue. So, please don’t harass the bartender or make a scene. Also, don’t take your drinks onto the dance floor! If I had a dollar for every time we had to clean up broken glass and spilled drinks on a dance floor filled with people in bare feet, we could retire,” -Tammy Waterman, Master Wedding Planner and Owner, Special Moments Event Planning

“Please people, don’t act like this is the first time you’ve been to an open bar. The couple, wedding planner, and venue coordinator have worked tirelessly to make sure everything goes smoothly, and the last thing they need is someone grabbing the microphone or falling on the dance floor. Save the couple some stress, and drink responsibly! -Cindy Dervech, Owner, Breezin' Entertainment

“Be kind to the vendors and staff working the wedding. Don't get visibly angry at the bartender and berate them because the couple didn't have your particular brand of vodka on the bar. It's not the bartender's decision, and they don't make the rules. Respect the rules of the vendor or venue. If the vendor or venue has a common ‘no shots' or ‘no doubles' policy, just say ok and move on. Don't go complain to the couple about this because they know the policies and signed the contracts. You'll be fine, I promise.” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

“I have seen so many guests drop the glasses of their drinks on the dance floor. Not only is that a safety hazard, but it stops the dance floor vibes because a clean-up needs to be made.” -Amanda Biery, Owner/Lead Planner, The Olive Tree Weddings

“Don't get sloppy. We love an open bar as much as the next person does, but if you are a sloppy drunk or aggressive drunk, tone it down. We are all adults here, and this is still a formal event. Have your fun, but know your limits.” -Delaney Driver, Owner/Lead Planner, Wilder Mind Events

“Be kind to the vendors and staff working the wedding. Don't get visibly angry at the bartender and berate them because the couple didn't have your particular brand of vodka on the bar. It's not the bartender's decision, and they don't make the rules. Respect the rules of the vendor or venue. If the vendor or venue has a common ‘no shots' or ‘no doubles' policy, just say ok and move on. Don't go complain to the couple about this because they know the policies and signed the contracts. You'll be fine, I promise.” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

Don't Change Your Table

“Don't complain about your assigned seat or worse, move your seat. This can be very disruptive to the servers when a guest moves their seat, especially when guests have pre-selected their meals. The couple chose which table and possibly seat they put you in just deal with it if you aren't happy. You are actually only sitting for a few minutes before everyone is up and about mingling.” -Karen Cerboni, Owner/Lead Planner, EventFull Weddings

“It may not seem like a big deal, but switching your seats at the start of the reception can potentially delay dinner service. If your seat has been assigned, there is a good reason for this. It may be obvious, like a sticker on your escort card, or it may be more discreet, but either way, there is a system in place to ensure everyone gets the correct meal in a timely manner. This is especially important for those who have dietary restrictions. By moving, you could screw up the dinner selection and throw the catering staff off. It may not seem like much but small occurrences like this can end up delaying events like the welcome speech, formal dances, etc. Ultimately, it can cut down the party time and make things more difficult. Wait it out, and once dinner is over and dancing begins, feel free to mingle around and switch your seat!” -Melanie Eubanks, Owner, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

“Listen to the seating chart. Please do not just sit at a table because you like that one better. You taking someone else's seat (without them agreeing to trade with you) will literally mess up the entire seating chart. I have had times where I have had to ‘kick people out' of that seat because the actual couple who was supposed to be at the table was off to the side standing because they had nowhere to go.” – Delaney Driver, Owner/Lead Planner, Wilder Mind Events

Don't Touch the Gifts

“If at all possible, arrange to have your wedding gift shipped to the couple’s home in advance of the wedding. Gifts need to be moved from the venue to the couple’s hotel room or home, and many times they are leaving for their honeymoon right after the wedding. Also, s card filled with cash is always a touchy subject. Yes, couples love and appreciate the cash as they can spend it on things they really want or need. But, at the same time, a lost card creates a really uncomfortable conversation for everyone involved. Ideally, the couple has a secured box for all of their gift cards and has assigned someone to watch them, collect them, or hold on to them. Please avoid the urge to be helpful and handle the couple’s cards” -Tammy Waterman, Master Wedding Planner and Owner, Special Moments Event Planning

Don't Change Your Meal at the Reception

“We understand. Picking your dinner months in advance can be tough if you’ve never tasted the food and are unsure of the semantics of the meal. When your options are listed as ‘chicken,’ ‘beef,’ or ‘fish,’ that could mean anything. Maybe you weren’t aware that swordfish was being offered when you decided on the chicken dish, but this isn’t a regular dinner service where you can change your mind at the last minute. Event catering is a different process, and food is purchased in bulk once final orders are in. Just enough of each option is procured so that caterers have the right count and don’t overspend what they charged. When you ask the catering staff for another option than you originally stated, there’s a very good chance they won’t be able to spare it. If you’re unsure what to get, we suggest finding someone with a different selection to split your meal with so you get a little of each option. Keep in mind most meals are served with a protein option, a vegetable option (usually a vegetable medley or broccoli), and a starch option (usually mashed potatoes, homestyle potatoes, or rice.) If you’re a picky eater, don’t make too much fuss for the couple. Eat before the event and arrange to eat after if you think it might be a problem.” -Melanie Eubanks, Owner, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

“Do not change your entree selection at the reception because you liked what the rest of the guests got at the table instead of what you chose. Please do not argue with the waiter that you did not order that when it is clearly marked on your escort card.” -Tammy Waterman, Master Wedding Planner and Owner, Special Moments Event Planning

“Don't withhold dietary needs and allergies. Don't expect a venue to suddenly be able to accommodate your anaphylactic allergy if you haven't made them aware of it with plenty of advanced notice. Also, don't expect them to be able to magically come up with a vegan meal if you haven't told anyone. We can't read minds and plan for all ordered meals in advance.” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

Don't Start Dinner or Dessert Service Yourself

“Dismissing your own table for the buffet line as a guest at the wedding reception is a huge no. You are a guest. They wanted you at the wedding to celebrate their love. Be polite. The couple is served first, the family of the couple are second, and the wedding party is third. There is a method to the madness of dismissing tables, whether the DJ is helping or the planner is coming to each and every table. You shouldn't be starving; you had an hour of lovely apps, with most likely a grazing table and beverages. Wait your turn.” -Kelci Zicconi, Owner/Lead Planner, Kelci Leigh Events

“For the love of God, don't put your fingers in the dessert displays until the cake is cut or it's announced that the desserts are open. This sounds silly, but if you are the first person to do it, everyone else will too. I have had a couple who wanted photos with their dessert display, and by the time they got to it, half of the desserts were gone.” -Delaney Driver, Owner/Lead Planner, Wilder Mind Events

“Wedding guests should not help themselves to the dessert station before the couple has cut the cake. Don't take the fizzle out of the couple's moment to announce the cake cutting and that dessert is being served. Cutting the cake is a special moment and signals the beginning of dessert service.” -Karen Cerboni, Owner/Lead Planner, EventFull Weddings

Don't Bother the Couple During Dinner

“Wedding guests should leave the couple alone during dinner. Respect the fact that they have had a long and very busy day, and this is probably the first time they have sat down in hours. They personally chose the food they like, paid a lot for it, and are probably starving. Let them have a moment to sit back, take a breath, and finish their dinner before approaching them. There will be plenty of time to wish them well after they eat.” -Karen Cerboni, Owner/Lead Planner, EventFull Weddings

“I've experienced many weddings and guests that are lovely and obviously very happy for the newlyweds. Most are mindful of the couple's wishes and designs for their wedding. Although it comes from a place of happiness and excitement, I often see guests visit couples while they are trying to dine. They come up to visit and chat and take pictures, and the couples stop eating so they can oblige them. Of course, couples understand that their guests are here to share in this momentous occasion, but this prevents them from eating (and causes food to get cold from the constant interruptions). The meal is part of the wedding experience, and if guests could allow the couple to dine interrupted, this will allow them to enjoy their meal and then have time to visit with guests.” -Eric Abril, Director of Event Services, Yacht StarShip

Don’t Make the Day About You

This event is about them. Don’t take away a vendor's focus on the couple by wanting a series of headshots or having a list of songs to request from the DJ. The vendors are here to make the couple’s day special and are their main focus.” -Melanie Eubanks, Owner, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

“Buckle up buttercup, because if you're not one of the two people getting married, it isn't about you! If you'd like to weigh in at all about the planning, vendors, lodge a complaint, demand something, keep it to yourself. The couple has gone through grueling months of painstaking planning. Congratulate the couple, and move on with your life.” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

Don't Be a Sloppy Guest

“This should go without saying, but don't fight at weddings. Just don't. Be a mature adult, and either swallow your pride and understand it's not your day, or don't come! It's that simple. Vendors are not bouncers, and ending a wedding with police reports and handcuffs isn't fun for anyone. This also applies to getting sloppy drunk and passing out or getting sick in front of everyone. Get it together!” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

Don't Give A Long Speech

“Keep the speech short and sweet and, most importantly, about the couple and their love. Speeches always tend to be more of a history lesson or sound like you're at a funeral talking about the past or fun times that have nothing to do with the spouse. Also, my favorite saying is, ‘If you aren't on my timeline to make a speech, you aren't making a speech.' Sounds harsh, right? Maybe it is, but we have lots of drunk guests who think they need to say a few words and join to speech train, and it kills the vibe or ends up being extremely awkward/uncomfortable for everyone and the couple. Let me know if you want to hear a great wedding speech story.” -Amanda Biery, Owner/Lead Planner, The Olive Tree Weddings

“Don't give long-winded toasts! We have seen toasts that are at longest 30 minutes long, whattttt?! No one wants to sit for that long and listen to you take up the reception, which is typically 3-4 hours long.  Keep it short and sweet; funny is ok, but be kind! One to three minutes is the acceptable length of time that will be awesome and memorable.” – Carrie Wildes, Owner, Carrie Wildes Photography

“Don't derail the timeline! If you haven't been asked in advance to read during the ceremony, sing a special song (or sing at all), make a speech, or participate in any public way, don't insert yourself into the timeline spontaneously. This will throw off the entire evening and delay everything else that has been planned down to the minute. If you have been asked to make a speech, make sure it's respectful and is about the couple. Please refrain from recounting late-night adventures in bachelorhood and that ‘one night in Vegas.' Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

Don't Take the Decor, Unless Given Permission

“Florals for a wedding can be absolutely stunning, and once the event is over, why would anyone want them to go to waste? While most florists are fine letting guests take flowers home, always ask before taking the centerpieces or decor. While the flowers are fine to take, the container could be a rental that the couple would be held responsible for if one were to go missing. Always ask a vendor; most florists will return at the end of the night to collect the items before taking anything away from the event. If you can’t find a vendor with an answer, ask the couple, their parents, or someone in the bridal party before running off and potentially costing the couple more money.” -Melanie Eubanks, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

“Don't feel entitled to take the centerpieces. Many couples rent all or parts of their decor, especially centerpieces. If you haven't been explicitly invited to take the centerpiece, don't help yourself. You could be costing the couple additional expenses by taking a vase or element that needs to be returned to the florist at the end of the night. Also, there are non-profit services that will deliver fresh centerpieces to hospices and nursing homes, and you may not know the couple has previously arranged for this service.” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

Don't Stay at the Venue After the Wedding Has Ended

“For every vendor you see working an event, and even the venue itself, there is a contract that the couple has signed stating a start and end time of their event. Once the time has come, guests should leave the reception promptly. That doesn’t mean the party can’t continue somewhere else, but things need to wrap up in the current location. The venue and vendors all have a contracted end time, and if you stick around the venue to chat with family or ask the DJ to play ‘one more song’, you are pushing those times, and it could lead to the couple being charged overtime fees. If a reception ends at an earlier time or if you feel like you’ll want to spend the entire night celebrating, make plans for once the event ends and don’t overstay your welcome. As the song goes, ‘You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.' -Melanie Eubanks, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

Do Be A Nice Human

“It takes a team to get an event like a wedding to run smoothly, and as vendors and venue coordinators, we want everything to go well not only for the couple but for the guests as well. We’ve been working on this event for weeks prior and have become familiar with the ins and outs of the timeline, details etc. So, if a vendor asks you to leave the bar at cocktail hour and head to the reception or to please take your seat for the ceremony, it’s not because they want to be difficult. We want to make sure everything goes as planned, so please follow any directions given so you can get to the fun sooner!” -Melanie Eubanks, Lemon Drops Weddings & Events

“Be nice and respectful to the vendors. We are humans and are there to happily serve you so that you have an awesome wedding experience. If you have special requests or questions, ask respectfully and kindly. We are all more than happy to serve you, but when you demand and are rude about things, it will not get you very far. Bonus point: if you see a staff member going above and beyond, compliment them! It is so nice to hear positive feedback from guests, and that will literally make their week!” -Delaney Driver, Owner/Lead Planner, Wilder Mind Events

“Do compliment the vendors and staff. You have no idea how much it means for a manager or server to hear how great an evening was, how wonderful the food was, or how beautiful it all looked. These compliments get passed along and really do make every wedding special.” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

Be kind to staff, be responsible with your alcohol, and don't cause drama or act out when it is not your big day!” Lauren Gertz, Owner/Lead Planner, MDP Events

Do Be Weather Smart

“If it's an outdoor wedding and there is rain in the forecast, come prepared. Bring a raincoat and umbrella. Most couples are getting married outside because that is the view and background they have been dreaming of. Rain is such a bummer on the wedding day, and a lot of times, we can still have the ceremony outside, even when it drizzles. Come prepared and with a happy heart to watch your friends get married in whatever condition they choose to do so.” -Delaney Driver, Owner/Lead Planner, Wilder Mind Events

Do Tip the Staff

“Bring cash to tip bartenders, servers, valet attendants, etc. Most companies have digital payment forms, but cash is always king!” -Leigh Wilson, Director of Events, Red Mesa Events

Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.