Forget the guides to etiquette — this is about how to be the kind of wedding guest the bride and groom want you to be. Just as with the guide for parents of the happy couple, this is — seriously — what brides and grooms wish their guests knew. Planning a wedding, though lovely and romantic, can be a very stressful process… and there are a few things you as a guest can do to make life a little easier on the happy couple.
1. RSVP ASAP
Whether it’s yes or no, let the couple know as soon as possible whether you’ll attend — don’t wait until the RSVP deadline. The bride and groom are so excited after all their planning to receive the first RSVPs, so why not be the guests to give them that joy? Also, the “soonlyweds” may be aiming for a certain number of guests, so could be waiting for the first round of “no” RSVPs to activate a B-list of invitations. Thinking you don’t need to RSVP because of course the bride and groom know you’re coming? They don’t. RSVPing no? Mention the reason, so you don’t leave the couple guessing if it’s because you don’t like their spouse-to-be. Don’t worry that you’re being rude by declining; the bride and groom understand not everyone can come, and it’s better they know early to count you out, rather than making spare escort cards and a just-in-case seating plan. If your answer for the moment is maybe, let the couple know that, and when you can give a definite reply: for example, you need a few weeks to arrange a baby-sitter. At least then the bride and groom know where things stand with your invitation. Also, RSVP for the people on the invitation. Only if it says your name “and guest” is it polite to RSVP for a +1. If it says “and family” or the names of your children, your little ones are indeed invited, and your reply should make it clear which of those people will be attending.
2. RSVP “officially”
Pay attention to the RSVP request. If the invitation includes an RSVP card, fill it out and post it back; if there is an email address or phone number to SMS, use them. The point is to make sure the soonlyweds know that, when you give your RSVP, it’s your official answer — just so it’s clear!
3. Bring a gift
You wouldn’t show up to a birthday or house-warming party without a gift, so why do so for something more significant like a wedding? Anyone who thinks weddings are simply a gift-grab has clearly never organized one; big-day gifts don’t cover the costs of the event (let alone “the chair”), so no one is putting their nuptials together to make a profit. Of course, only buy a gift that’s within your means. Can’t afford one? Let the bride and groom know money is tight and you hope your presence will do well as a present (especially if it’s costing you money to join the wedding); they will of course understand. You could even offer to help with wedding preparations in lieu of a gift. Also, buy from the registry. Whether or not you think registries are tacky, you know its tips are items the happy couple want (or need), something they don’t already own, and they won’t receive two because it will be removed from the registry once you buy it. And, buy early. They won’t admit it, but the bride and groom are “registry stalking” — keeping tabs on their registry to see what’s being bought. (Partly necessary so they can see if they must add more gifts, or more gifts in a certain price range.) The bride and groom will be super excited to see the first items disappear from their registry, and will wonder who their mystery purchasers might be!
4. Share dietary requirements
If soon before the big day you haven’t received questions about your dietary requirements, speak up — the couple probably hasn’t thought about it. In the month before the wedding, the bride and groom need to confirm the menu with their reception venue. Don’t assume your old friend the bride of course remembers you’re vegan, have food allergies or religious restrictions. Simply don’t like cucumber or prefer your steak cooked a certain way? Skip sharing. The reception venue probably doesn’t allow for too many or those kinds of exceptions; it’s difficult to feed such a large group and keep everyone happy! Forgot to share your dietary requirements until the night? Notify your waiter you need something different; don’t bother the bride and groom.
5. Dress appropriately
Pay attention to any dress code on the invitation. The bride and groom have added it to achieve a certain atmosphere or theme at their wedding, and also because they don’t want any guests to feel embarrassed by being over-dressed (or under-dressed!). Also, some pointers for female guests. Ladies, don’t wear white. Just don’t. And don’t gently ask the bride if it’s fine (“because you’ll be beautiful anyway so it’s not like I’ll draw attention from you”). It’s not fine, and she might feel pressured to say yes… and then feel awkward and resentful. Similarly, think twice before wearing black; you may have the cutest LBD ever, but if all female guests make the same sartorial move, the event will quickly look like a funeral. Lastly, pay attention to the invitation colors, like fonts and ribbons; it’s most likely one of those colors is the shade the bridesmaids will wear, so skip that color to avoid looking like a bridal party wannabe.
6. Check before you ask
Got a question about the big day? Check the invitation, wedding website or emails from the happy couple regarding hotels, transport, directions, etc before you bother the bride and groom. They spent time putting together those resources for a reason, and if every guest checks every question with them, you’ll end up with stressed-out soonlyweds. Also, consider if your question is one that could be answered elsewhere (Google can help you plan your sightseeing itinerary) or can’t be answered at all (like what the weather will be like on the big day). This advice goes double for the final week before the wedding, when the happy couple will likely be stressed, busy and nervous. If you have a burning question, ask the bridal party or a family member rather than take up the couple’s time… and don’t even think about contacting the bride and groom on the day of the wedding! Got a question or request during the wedding itself, like your table hasn’t received their drinks or the reception room is too warm? Ask a staff member or the wedding planner rather than bothering the happy couple.