Matrimonial Manners: An Etiquette Guide for Novice Wedding Guests

It only takes one guest to ruin a bride’s perfect vision of her wedding. For anyone who is a wedding guest veteran, you know exactly who I’m talking about. That one guest who decides cargo shorts are the best choice for the day, texts during the vows, and single handedly depletes the best canapes! In our family, he’s called “Uncle Carl.”

 

Don’t be a Wedding Party Pariah

If you’re a wedding guest novice and don’t want to be defriended, disowned, or disinherited, the following etiquette guide just may save you, or someone you know, from becoming a wedding guest pariah.

 

Food Facts

We understand that these days people have very specific dietary requests: Vegetarian, vegan, lactose-intolerant, food allergies, raw food, chickens certified to have had pleasant past-lives etc…

This is all good, but please don’t request a special meal on the day of the wedding. Most wedding invitations will include a card giving you meal options and ask you to identify any special meal requests. This is arranged months before the wedding so that the caterers can plan and prepare.

Off site catering is not like a restaurant where the entire menu is available at any given time. Everything is meticulously choreographed to happen in the proper sequence. So ordering coffee upon arrival won’t work if it’s being served with dessert at the end of dinner.

The Hot Seat

Never take your seat before dinner is announced, even when you see your name card. If the reception is starting with drinks on the dock that’s where you should be.

 

Canapé Creeper 

Don’t crowd the kitchen door. The servers are trying to serve everyone and won’t forget you. Never sneak up behind a server to help yourself – that’s just rude, and a little creepy.

 

Don’t be a Buffet Buffoon

A caterer has to plan the number of portions of any item in advance. Caterers normally add a buffer, but remember, it’s not the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Golden Corral.

Please never pick off the buffet before dinner is announced! If you can’t wait to eat, plan to have a snack before you arrive at the wedding.

 

Don’t Get Handsy

When partaking of the buffet, always use serving utensils – never your hands.

There is no need to pile your plate so high that it looks like a 7th-grade volcano experiment. Wait until everyone has been served before going back for seconds.

 

Bride and Groom Come First

The bride and groom always eat first–always and forever more. And please, let them eat! It’s probably the first time they’ve eaten all day. They can hear about your fantasy football league later–or never. Let them enjoy their much-deserved meal before interrupting.

Not Ready for a Closeup

Unlike Norma Desmond, the bride and groom are not ready to have your iPhone flash in their face as they walk down the aisle. Unless you are the hired wedding photographer, or your name is Annie Leibowitz, don’t take pictures during the ceremony – you’re there to experience and enjoy the celebration. The bride and groom have hired one or two photographers (often at great expense) to capture their special day.

If you absolutely need to get some photos for your IG feed, the bride and groom are happy to pose with you after the dinner.

 

No Flashing

Flash photography is also verboten. You can easily ruin the professional photographer’s photos by having your flash go off at the same time as they’re taking that perfect shot.

 

Dessert Diplomacy

We get it. We love dessert too, and as much as our inner 12-year-old wants to make a mad dash to the table, take a breath and wait for the bride and groom to see it and let the photographers capture it first. You’ll have your cake and get to eat it too.

 

Setting the Bar

The bar isn’t self-serve, and will have a menu. Ask for something that’s on the menu (no “Sex on the Beach” please), and for heaven’s sake, never ask for a triple of anything unless it’s soda water. There are laws around serving alcohol!

 

Save the Day!

Equipped with these rules, you’ll never have to worry about being “that guest”! You may not need this list, but you may know someone who does. If you have a relative or friend who may be new to the wedding experience, feel free to send them this link! Who knows, you may just save someone’s big day–or your own!

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