Wedding Guest Etiquette
Hooray, you're invited! ...Now what? When you aren't the bride, groom, attendant, or family member,you still have an exciting role to play at a wedding celebration. Your presence at the ceremony and reception is a wonderful way to support the two people who want you to share their happy moment.
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Great guest etiquette starts as soon as you receive an invitation:
1. RSVP. Immediately.
RSVP is French for “please respond” (répondez s’il vous plaît). Your most important obligation as a guest is to respond to the invitation immediately, especially if you are unable to attend. At the very least, it allows your host and hostess enough time to give an accurate count to the caterer. There is usually a card to return with your reply. If not, you may write a formal reply or a note indicating your intention.
2. Respect your invitation.
Do not ask your host or hostess if you can bring a date or your children. The invitation will be addressed to the people invited. If you may bring a guest, your invitation will read “Mr. John Phelps and guest.” If your children are invited, they will either receive their own personal invitations or their names will be listed under yours on the envelope. This is not the time to question your host’s decision, to argue or to beg for an exception. And, please, do not add their names to a reply card or show up with them anyway!
3. Send a gift.
If you are invited to the ceremony and/or reception, you should send a gift, whether you are attending or not. Generally, gifts are sent to the bride in advance of the wedding. In some localities, gifts are brought to the reception and placed on a special table. If you hear from family that the couple would prefer a charitable donation—as in the case of an older couple or an encore wedding—please respect their wishes. If you receive an announcement after the wedding has taken place, you may send a gift if you wish, but you have no obligation to do so. It is nice to acknowledge the announcement with a card or a note expressing your best wishes.
4. Be on your BEST behavior.
Be on time, wear appropriate clothing and be respectful during the marriage ceremony. Pay your respects to the hosts, the wedding party and other guests at the reception.
"The good guest is almost invisible, enjoying him- or herself, communing with fellow guests,
and, most of all, enjoying the generous hospitality of the hosts.”
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For more information on wedding invitation etiquette, we recommend Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette, 6th edition, by Anna Post and Lizzie Post. Released in 2014, this edition has new and expanded chapters on invitaiton wording, enclosures, and addressing. View our full line of wedding etiquette books.