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Wedding Guest Etiquette – The 2011 Update

Back in 2009 I wrote a post on wedding guest etiquette, so how do I feel about it two years later? I still think most of it is true! I thought I’d update it

1. The couple sets the wedding guest list, and that’s that

I think most of us want to be at weddings because we care about the couple and we want to show our support. However, keep in mind how expensive of an affair a wedding is and many couples these days are footing the bill themselves

– Respect the couples’ privacy! If you know when/where they’re getting married keep the information to yourself especially if it’s a small wedding
– Don’t assume you’re invited to the wedding
– Don’t assume that if you’re invited you can bring a +1, especially if you’re not married or engaged to him/her
– If the wedding invite names your guest(s), don’t bring a guest who isn’t named
– RSVP on time! Otherwise, you might be getting chicken instead of steak… (just kidding!)

2. Give some kind of gift… or card… and for couples, don’t expect gifts from everyone

A lot of my audience is likely young, and I know, you are never obligated to give a gift. Still, I believe in generosity and giving what you can.. if you had to shell out hundreds of dollars for a flight, make a gift or hand in a card. And couples, same for you, don’t expect that everyone will show up with a gift or card, sometimes, there are reasons. Don’t mention it, don’t be bitter, just thank them for coming. Also, from a cultural point of view, there are several cultures and cases in which a cash gift is preferred over a registry (for example, a couple moving to a new city and can’t take fragile china with them) and stating that on a wedding website is not considered tacky. The best way to figure out whether couple prefers one or the other is simply, ask them!

3. Don’t judge

There is no “right way” to host or decorate a wedding… weddings are personal in nature. If the couple didn’t ask for your opinion, there’s no need to give yours. In the end, every decision is (hopefully) theirs. Couples – people have a lot of expectations for you, and it can be difficult. Manage it the best you can, but also do not make a decision that is going to make you bitter for the rest of your life.

4. Watch your drinking

I have unfortunately witnessed one, maybe two cases of guests who were so drunk that it ruined the party for other people or endangered other people’s wellbeing. I personally believe that a wedding is not an open invitation to get smashed. Look out for one another, and just keep things safe, if you are of drinking age you are an adult so no one else is really going to chaperone you. You want the happy couple to be happy at the end of the night.

5. Don’t wear white (especially if the bride is)

Ladies… if you wear a completely white, long gown to a wedding, you will be whispered about, talked about, pointed at, and remembered as “that girl who wore white!”. There are many many other colors in the rainbow to choose from! And if you don’t have anything in your closet, try Rent The Runway

6. Snap-happy people – don’t let the moment pass (both) your eyes by

We get it, we are all consumers of media, the more instant, the better. However, the couple likely paid thousands of dollars for a photographer. I suppose they’d like to see photos of their guests smiling at them, rather than guests with cameras with red focus lights hiding their faces, or even worse, interfering flash. So, seriously, especially during the ceremony – when bride is walking down the aisle and the first dance – just ENJOY the memory. Take it in…. trust me, the view is better out of both your eyes than out of one eye in a camera’s viewfinder.  Also, if you’re tweeting, uploading, Facebooking during the ceremony… please, respect the importance of the wedding ceremony and wait until it’s over! And aspiring photographers – never represent a wedding you attended and took photos as a wedding you shot as a primary photographer, this is a risk that can lead to a lot of hurt feelings and damaged expectations down the road. Just make it clear that “I was a guest” or “I assisted the photog” (if you are actually the second shooter).

Got any other etiquette questions? Feel free to ask in the comments =)

Shang Chen Photography has rebranded to Saavedra Photography
Based in NYC | Open for select photography commissions on Sundays only

April 22, 2011 - 6:06 pm

Amy Sonricker I really like your comment about not letting the moment pass you by… I have made the mistake of taking loads of pictures at an event (it’s not just weddings!) and then wishing I would have just relaxed and enjoyed myself!!

April 26, 2011 - 2:32 pm

Anna Love your informative posts! Solid advice =)

April 27, 2011 - 4:42 pm

Tricia I like this post! I should forward it to all my guests to make sure they’re all on their best behavior come June 25!

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