How To Be A Great Wedding Guest

It's wedding season! Be on your best behavior! 

Over the last few years I have seen some absolutely abhorrent behavior from wedding guests and it can leave me feeling very pessimistic but deep down, I know there are good, respectful and kind people in this world! Right? Since wedding season is upon us, it's always good to have a refresher on what is expected of you! It's time to break out the fancy manners.

So, here is some short and sassy instruction from yours truly on how to be the perfect wedding guest (illustrated by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt gifs because... well... I love Kimmy)! 


So, you've received a wedding invitation. YAY! You're loved so much that two people want you to celebrate their magical day with them! Make sure you return your reply card as soon as possible. Don't wait until the deadline and please, for the love of God, don't forget to return it all together. The last thing the bride wants to do is make phone calls tracking down replies the day she owes the venue and caterer a final count. 

Nail down your outfit early - you don't want to have a panicky closet raid the morning of the wedding. Follow the dress code noted on your invitation (it's there for a reason) or choose something appropriate for the season and time of the ceremony. For a summer mid-afternoon wedding or a spring luncheon, light colors and floral prints are appropriate. For an evening winter wedding, a black suit and cocktail dress are recommended. You can usually get a grasp of the formality of the wedding by the invitation and where the event is being held. Regardless, plan ahead and even if the invitation says "casual", your jeans and work boots are not appropriate. 

The Ceremony

Ah! It's wedding time! Time your arrival carefully! You do not want to show up overwhelmingly early and you also don't want to be late. It's appropriate to arrive 15-30 minutes prior to the ceremony start time listed on the invitation. When you arrive, find your seat quickly and unless there is a special circumstance, you should be going right to the ceremony site. Don't mosey into the reception space or get cozy at the cocktail hour patio. Each person coordinating the day is waiting for you to sit down at the ceremony site. Do not leave random empty seats between you and other guests. Likely those chairs have been counted out perfectly. If you are late, wait outside/away from the ceremony space until the processional is over to quietly find your seat. Do not stand around the processional area or you'll be the random person standing in the background shot of the bride walking down the aisle. 

Stand when the bride enters.* 
This isn't hard. It's tradition. When you see her, stand up (*unless you are physically unable).

Stay in your damn seat and stay seated. Glue your butt if you have to. I cannot tell you how many ceremonies that I have photographed where guests get up to walk around, take pictures on their phones and just... get a better view. While you've been invited to share in this special day and I'm sure you want to hear and see what's going on, please... please... stay seated in your seat. 

You should also stand when the bride and groom exit their ceremony! However, the bride and groom, bridal party and immediate family should be permitted to exit before you start to move to cocktail hour. Trust me, the bar will be there waiting for you. Have patience! 

You should not be taking pictures! The bride and groom likely invested thousands of dollars on a professional photographer. They want the first impressions of their day to be those gorgeous professional images - not your cell phone shot. Without even realizing it, you could be impeding on the photographers ability to do their job without even realizing it. Hence, disrespecting the bride and groom's investment. It is also extremely overwhelming for the bride to walk down the aisle facing 50 iPhones pointed at her. She would much rather see your beautiful faces! You've been invited to dance, celebrate and share in their joy. Embrace the day with your hearts, not your devices. In addition, it's important to not post any images on social media until after the ceremony or after the bride and groom have told you that it's OK. This goes without saying, it's also key to make sure your phone is on silent or turned off. 

The Reception

Personally, I always felt that these were really simple, common sense courtesy things but after shooting weddings, I know now that we all need a fresh reminder of good manners. 

During the reception: 

  • Do not talk during the first dance and parent dances. So often I capture weddings where the chatter between guests is so loud, you can barely hear the song. Even if it's boring AF, be respectful for a few minutes and just quietly watch those dances. It will mean the world to the bride and groom. 
  • Don't dig into the dessert bar until after the bride and groom have cut the cake! Seriously! Just because it's set up and looks freakin' delicious, doesn't mean you can eat it. Patience is a virtue. 
  • Don't get so drunk that you destroy things that the bride will have to deal with later. Yes, I've seen it happen too many times. As a photographer and a bride, we want you to enjoy that open bar - a lot. But don't be the person who breaks things or causes property damage. Someone has to deal with it later and that someone is usually the bride. 

Okay! Now you know the dos and don'ts for being the best wedding guest ever! Go on your merry little way and enjoy an incredible season of gorgeous and fun wedding celebrations!