Attending a wedding is easy for a guest. All you're required to do is show up and enjoy the occassion, right? Well that is true, but there are some rules that apply when you have been carefully selected above others to attend a really special day.
I'm talking about wedding etiquette.
Couples planning their wedding are usually limited to a certain number of people to invite due to paying per head for catering and alcohol. If you've received an invitation you have been considered carefully, and therefore should be honoured.
Being a good guest begins with the invitation. R.S.V.P. does not mean "response: sometimes, varies, perhaps". R.S.V.P. stands for a French phrase, "répondez, s'il vous plaît," which means "please reply." Couples don't put this on an invitation for fun, there is a reason for a prompt response. They want to know whether you are coming to the wedding or not due to catering per head. Many are guilty for not responding at all because they've decided not to go and therefore think that a non-response means you're a mind reader. Yeah right!
When we sent out our wedding invitations from Australia to our guests, we had an R.S.V.P date of two weeks before the wedding. We didn't hear from some people, so we followed it up with phone calls. Yes they were coming, wouldn't miss it for the world - great!! Our wedding day arrived and those guests did not turn up at all. We could have invited other friends instead. But it was too late and we had empty seats at the reception and still had to pay per head. It's the height of rudeness which only tarnishes your reputation. Yes - you get talked about every now and then.
There's another thing to keep in mind when it comes to invitations. If you're allowed to bring a guest, this will be indicated by "and guest". If the invitation only has your name stated, you should assume the couple request your attendance only. Don't go ringing them and asking to bring a friend! Its bad manners and does not respect the couples wishes. Its even worse to assume it would be ok because "we're family" or "good friends" to bring a guest in tow. This means the caterer will have to scramble up another meal, the couple will pay extra and will need to make room at the tables. In addition, if kids are invited, this too will be noted on the invitation, either as "and family". If it isn't there, hire a babysitter!
Wedding Etiquette rule number one. Respond to an invitation before the R.S.V.P date. No couple should have to 'chase' you up wanting a yes or no answer. If you have something pop up and you cannot attend the wedding - let them know as soon as you do. Think about the money involved and the fact that they can now invite other people in your place.
Wedding Etiquette rule number two. Respect the couple's decision to not include your guest or kids. Perhaps this decision was made due to budget or venue capacity. Don't take it personally and especially don't question this decision, it is not your wedding day and therefore not an opportunity to throw your toys from the cot to get what you want.
The wedding gift dilemna is always a tricky one. If couples have chosen a gift registry, I suggest getting in quick to choose the gift within your budget and not be left with the $200 bread-maker you can't afford. The great thing about wedding registries is that there's little risk involved. Brides and grooms tell you what they want, so you know when they get it, they'll be happy because it's exactly what they like and what they need. A gift registry does not mean that you can go out and buy what you like because you don't agree with being told what to buy, or you think they would like something else that isn't on the list. Again, respect the couples wishes as a gift registry has been carefully thought out and planned. If you can't afford what is on the list, get a group together and go in on an item to make it affordable.
What's becoming more common these days is a wishing well for money. Couples choosing this have usually lived together for years before getting married and have everything they need in terms of household items. Respect the money request as it usually goes toward their honeymoon. But how much to give? Well some people estimate how much the meal and alcohol would cost per head, but I think the gift is separate from the wedding reception itself. You're not expected to pay for your meal at your friend's dinner party, so why should you be expected to pay for dinner and drinks?
They say that its around $75 and if you bring a guest, double it. If you're a close friend or relative, anything over $100. Some people ignore the giving of money to avoid looking like a cheap-skate. If you can't afford that kind of money, just give what you can. Believe me, the happy couple will just be appreciative that you respected their wishes!
If the invitation doesn't state anything about gifts, assume to buy one. This is easy! It's then up to you and your budget what you buy.
If the invitation says "please, no gifts". Respect this and give a card.
Wedding Etiquette number three. Do as the couple request in terms of gifts. They will not think you're being thoughtful by choosing a gift you think they want instead of money in the wishing well or the fact they have stated no gifts. Nor will they appreciate a set of wine glasses that they have plenty of already. Put simply, doing what you want to do is not thinking about the couple at all. If the invitation doesn't state anything about gifts, this does not mean you're off the hook. Buy a gift and take it along, its a gesture.
Here's some general rules about what to wear. The number one rule is DO NOT wear white. Only the bride wears white to a wedding. For another guest to wear white is disrespectful no matter what style - dress or suit. We went to a wedding a few years back where the step-mother wore white. It was rather scandalous even in this day and age!!
An invitation can indicate what to wear to a wedding these days. It might say 'Cocktail', 'Black Tie', 'Formal', 'Smart-Casual'. I'll make a universal rule that applies to all men. A wedding is not an opportunity for you to wear your jeans and sneakers. No matter what, wear a smart pair of pants, shirt and shoes. Dress it up with a tie for cocktail and wear a suit for Formal. Black tie is a dinner suit, usually for hire but who can afford that? Just wear a dark suit. I've seen some dreadful jeans and sneakers at weddings. It just looks like you don't care or even want to be there. Yes it may be all you have in your wardrobe, but I say make the effort and borrow off a mate!
For women wearing dresses - cocktail is usually a fun party dress with not too many sparkles and sequins. Black tie and Formal is a cocktail dress or long gown you'd wear to a ball. You can get away with sparkles and sequins here. Smart-casual can be an in-style dress for the season or black pants with a nice top and heels - definitely no boots. Boots are for winter and even then, wear heels. Boots are for cowboy themes only and then it becomes cool.
Universal rule for women. Don't wear skimpy outfits that are too revealing - unless of course you're on my big fat gypsy wedding. Then its just normal...
Having a skimpy outfit is inappropriate especially if its a church wedding or other religious belief. You don't want to offend the couple or their families.
Wedding Etiquette number four. Wear what is indicated in the wedding invitation or wear what is appropriate for the type of wedding - whether it be a church wedding, garden wedding, day-time wedding, night-time wedding, summer wedding or winter wedding. Weddings is your chance to dress up in outfits you don't normally wear. So make the effort and remember the rules above. No white, no jeans and sneakers, no skimpy outfits! Again, you don't want to offend the couple or their families.
On the day wedding day, don't be late. The last thing anyone wants to hear is the sound of your clicking shoes coming down the aisle of a church or the whispers of "excuse me, sorry" as you're making your way to a seat. If you're late, be respectful by standing at the back. Too bad if you're a family member and want to take photos up close, you should have known better.
The wedding reception is usually held an hour or two after the ceremony, and it's up to you to amuse yourself during this period. When arriving at the reception, be there early. Don't get distracted at the pub or fall asleep at home. There is nothing worse than arriving after the bridal party - it looks terrible, is embarrassing and everyone remembers you as the 'tardy one'.
Wedding Etiquette number five. Be on time. A safe rule to apply is arriving half an hour before the indicated time on the wedding invitation.
If children are invited to the wedding, be responsible for them. Don't let them run around unruly just because you're having a great time catching up with family and friends you haven't seen for a while. It's unfair to assume other people will look out for them and will amuse them in your absence. It's important that kids remain on their best behaviour. It's not only annoying to other wedding guests to put up with crying, laughing and playing but it's disrespectful to the bride and groom. If your children insist on being a distraction, take them outside, better yet - get Nan and Pop to pick them up early.
Wedding Etiquette number six. Be responsible for your kids and their behaviour. Everyone wants to enjoy themselves at a wedding. Don't let the bride and groom regret their decision to include the children on the invitation!
At the reception it's normal for assigned seating. The couple have taken hours and plenty of debates about where you will be seated and with whom. This does not mean you can swap with Roger because you want to be seated next to the hot chick or you feel you should be seated at the nearest table to the bridal party because you're her 'best friend'. Assigned seating is assigned seating. Respect it and suck it up. It's only an hour or more of dinner and speeches. Who knows, the people at your table could be really interesting and cool - give them a chance and introduce yourself. By the end of the night you'll all be chatting like long lost friends.
Be aware of speeches and announcements. There's nothing ruder than guests having their own gossip session when the Groom is making the most important speech of his life. You look stupid and yep, people will talk about you. Also be aware about interrupting speeches with your own version of the 'story' or your two cents worth. If the bride and groom wanted you to make a speech, they would have asked. We've experienced weddings where a guest over-indulges on the open bar and jeers through the speeches. It's annoying, rude and only makes you look silly.
Wedding Etiquette number seven. Sit where you've been asked to be seated. Do not take it upon yourself to swap or sit where you'd like. It's un-cool and the bride will notice!
Wedding Etiquette number eight. Leave the speeches to the people who are giving them. They don't need help and no-one appreciates interruptions. Hec, we all usually want the speeches to be over and done with so we can all party. Don't drag it out any further!
Wedding Etiquette number nine. Watch how much you drink. There are so many stories when it comes to weddings where everyone remembers 'that drunk person'. It is frowned upon because it can tarnish an otherwise lovely night. No-one wants to see your willy while you pee in the bushes next to the window. No-one wants to see your underpants when you fall over. No-one should go to the mens loos because the womens are occupied with you being sick. No-one wants to be strangled and told how much you love them, and no-one should endure your aggressive state just because they've asked you to stop drinking or asked to leave. An open bar does not mean an invitation to get as drunk as possible.
Wedding Etiquette number ten, and my favourite. Enjoy the day and keep your opinions to yourself. The bride and groom planned their special day with you in mind. They considered your comfort and entertainment, food and drink so don't complain if the bridal party were late and therefore dinner was. Don't complain about having to find somewhere to go between the ceremony and reception, don't voice how you have to sit next to 'so and so'or that you don't drink beer or wine. Be a good guest who is polite and respectful. The bride and groom shouldn't have any regrets on their important and special day!