Wedding etiquette: 12 things you should always follow

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Wedding traditions are transforming as couples plan more personalized and creative celebrations. However, there are certain timeless wedding etiquette rules that should never be disregarded today. Adherence to these guidelines holds significant importance in ensuring a pleasant atmosphere for all participants, allowing them to fully enjoy the celebration without encountering any awkward or inappropriate circumstances.

In this article, Viva Wedding Photography will cover etiquettes everyone needs to know, from invitations to gifts, attire, and photos. By following these rules, you can create a smooth and enjoyable wedding experience for yourself and everyone involved.

Wedding etiquette for couples

1. Send wedding invitations early  

One of the first and most important rules of wedding etiquette is sending out your invitations early. Your wedding invitation cards not only serve as a means to inform your guests about the details of your wedding, but they also play a key role in setting the tone and expectations for your wedding.

Wedding etiquette for invitations
Wedding etiquette for invitations – Photo by: Paper Divas

You should send out your wedding invitations at least six to eight weeks before the wedding date and include all the relevant information, such as the date, time, location, dress code, RSVP deadline, registry details, etc. You should also address your invitations properly and politely, using your guests’ full names and titles. For example, “Mr. and Mrs. Michael Jones” or “Dr. Jennifer Lee and Mr. David Lee.”

2. Don’t Ask Anyone to Sit at a “Singles” Table

Seating chart wedding etiquette is the next aspect that you might concern about when planning for the celebration. Make sure that everyone has a seat and feels comfortable and welcome at your wedding. However, you should avoid asking anyone to sit at the “singles table”, as this may seem rude and insensitive. 

Seating chart wedding etiquette
Weeding etiquette for seating arrangement – Photo by: Greenvelope

The “singles table” is where you sit all the single or unattached guests together, hoping they will mingle or find a match. This may make them feel awkward or uncomfortable, as they may not know anyone else at the table or feel pressured to socialize with strangers. Instead, you should seat your guests according to their relationships and preferences, such as family members, friends, co-workers, etc.

3. Don’t Make Guests Wait Too Long For the Party to Start

The party is where the fun and excitement of the wedding happens, where the guests can mingle, enjoy food and drinks, dance to music, and celebrate with the couple. However, if the party starts too late or takes too long to begin, the guests may feel bored, tired, or impatient. They may also lose interest or enthusiasm for the wedding or even leave early.

Wedding etiquette: Do not make your guests wait too long
Cocktail hour at a wedding – Photo by: Pinterest

Therefore, we suggest following this wedding etiquette and trying to start the party as soon as possible after the ceremony. You should also plan and organize your wedding timeline and logistics carefully and efficiently so that everything runs smoothly. 

We recommended having a cocktail hour as a pre-party event. It will take place right after the ceremony, where you serve some drinks and appetizers to your guests while they wait for the party to start. A cocktail hour can keep your guests entertained and satisfied. It also gives you time to take photos, change your outfits, or prepare for your grand entrance.

4. Don’t drink too much  

A common wedding etiquette the bridal and the groom often make is overindulging in alcoholic beverages. While it is totally fine and normal to have a few drinks and toast your marriage, you should also be mindful and responsible for your alcohol consumption. Overdrinking may cause unpleasant consequences, such as forgetting some parts of your wedding day or doing something that offends your guests.

wedding etiquette: do not drink too much
Wedding alcoholic beverages – Photo by: Martha Stewart

You can always have a few drinks in moderation and limit yourself to a certain amount or type of alcohol. Drinking plenty of water and eating some food are effective ways to help you balance out the effects of alcohol. In addition, it is worth considering delegating some tasks or responsibilities to someone else who can help you monitor or control your alcohol intake. 

5. Don’t Ask Your Guests to Pay for Anything on the Wedding Day

One of the most generous and gracious aspects of hosting a wedding is paying for everything on the wedding day. You want to treat your guests with hospitality and appreciation, as well as make them feel comfortable and pampered at your wedding. However, you should avoid asking your guests to pay for anything on the wedding day, as this may seem rude and tacky. 

wedding etiquette: do not ask your guests to pay for anything
Money-related Wedding Etiquette – Photo by: LoveToKnow

Asking your guests to pay for anything on the wedding day may imply that you cannot afford or plan your wedding properly. You may end up offending or disappointing your guests, who may feel unvalued. So, this is poor wedding etiquette you should never do.

6. Don’t procrastinate on Thank-You Cards

Sending out thank-you cards to your guests is undeniably one of the happy couple’s most courteous and considerate gestures. Thank-you cards serve as a meaningful way to convey your sincere gratitude for guests’ attendance and gifts. In addition, it also shows your respect and consideration towards their precious time. 

wedding etiquette for thank-you card
Wedding etiquette for thank-you cards – Photo by: Etsy

We recommend sending out your cards as soon as possible after the wedding, preferably within two to three weeks. Additionally, in the world of traditional wedding etiquette, there exists an emphasis on making your thank-you cards personal and specific. It is highly advisable to express your gratitude by personalizing each card with a handwritten note that mentions the guests’ names.

>>> Read more: 6 Wedding Thank You Card Etiquette: How To Express Gratitude

Wedding etiquette for guests 

7. Return RSVP on time

You should send your RSVP as soon as possible, but at least by the deadline indicated on the invitation. The deadline is usually two to three weeks before the wedding date. Still, it may vary depending on the couple’s preferences.

One of the key rules of wedding guest etiquette is to return your RSVP on time. This shows your respect and consideration for the couple and their wedding planning. By promptly submitting your RSVP, you are helping them with:

  • Finalizing their guest list and seating chart
  • Confirming their catering and venue arrangements
  • Ordering their favors and stationery
  • Managing their budget and expenses
Wedding etiquette rsvp
Wedding guest etiquette RSVP – Photo by: The Spruce

If you delay or forget to return your RSVP, you are causing them stress and inconvenience. You may also risk losing your spot at the wedding, as some couples may have a waiting list or a backup plan for no-shows.

Once you have confirmed your attendance or absence, stick to it unless there is an emergency or a valid reason. Following wedding etiquette RSVP shows your commitment to the couple and their wedding celebration. You are also avoiding any potential conflicts or misunderstandings that might result from changing your mind at the last minute.

If you have to cancel or modify your RSVP, you should do so as soon as possible and with a sincere apology. In addition, it is highly recommended to explain your situation while expressing your willingness to assist with any adjustments or potential expenses that may result from your change of plans.

8. Bring a “plus one” only if the invitation allows it

One of the most common questions that wedding guests have is whether they can bring a plus one to the wedding. A plus one is an additional guest or date that an invited guest can bring to the wedding, usually a romantic partner or a close friend. While it would be nice to have someone to accompany you to the wedding, you should not assume that you are entitled to a plus one. You should only bring a plus one if the invitation allows it.

Wedding plus-one etiquette
Wedding etiquette plus one for guests – Photo by: The Derrick

If the invitation is unclear or does not mention a plus one, you can contact the couple or the host and politely ask them if you can bring a guest. However, you should not pressure them or expect them to accommodate your request, as they may have valid reasons for limiting their guest lists, such as budget, space, or personal preference.

Certain weddings may also have a specific requirement wherein they are exclusively intended for adults, so children are not to be included in the reception. While this is rare, you should respect the couple’s preferences and the plus one wedding etiquette.

9. Stick to the dress code 

A common mistake to make when attending a wedding is to dress inappropriately.

If there is a suggested guest attire, you should follow it. The easiest way to find the dress code is to check the invitation. The invitation will usually indicate the level of formality and the wedding style, such as black tie, cocktail, casual, rustic, etc. You can also look for clues from the date, time, location, and season of the wedding, as these factors may affect the type and color of clothing that is suitable for the event. For example, a summer beach wedding may call for lighter and brighter colors, while a winter church wedding may require darker and warmer colors.

Wedding guest etiquette attire
Guest wedding etiquette attire – Photo by: Green Wedding Shoes

When choosing wedding outfits as a guest, you may also want to consider the following: 

  • Your comfort and confidence: Wear something that fits you well and makes you feel confident and comfortable. Don’t forget to consider the weather and the venue conditions, such as the temperature, humidity, wind, etc., and dress accordingly. You should avoid wearing anything that is too tight, too loose, too revealing, too flashy, or too uncomfortable.
  • Your respect and consideration: When attending a wedding, it is essential to carefully select your attire to reflect your respect and consideration for the couple and their chosen wedding theme. We recommend you follow some basic rules of wedding guest dress etiquette, such as:
    • Do not wear white or anything that resembles a bridal gown. This is reserved for the bride only, and wearing it may seem like you are trying to upstage or compete with her.
    • Do not wear black or anything that resembles funeral attire. This is considered inappropriate and disrespectful for a wedding, as it may seem like you are mourning or unhappy for the couple.
    • Do not wear red or anything too bright or flashy. This may draw too much attention to yourself and distract from the couple and their wedding theme.

10. Give an appropriate gift

Even though it’s poor wedding etiquette for couples to require gifts, guests are still expected to bring something to the wedding.

The first thing you need to do is to find out if the couple has a wedding registry or a wish list. These lists can help you choose a gift that matches the couple’s needs, preferences, and style. You can also avoid giving them something that they already have or don’t want.

If the couple does not have a wedding registry or a wish list, or if you prefer to give something more personal or creative, you can use your own judgment and knowledge of the couple to select a gift. 

wedding etiquette gift that you should adhere to
Prepare a present for the couple is a wedding gift etiquette -Photo by: Vogue India

Another option is giving the couple cash as a gift. As they offer more flexibility and convenience for both the giver and the receiver, cash gifts are becoming more popular and acceptable in modern weddings. However, there are some wedding etiquette cash gifts that you should follow:

  • Do not give cash in an envelope: This could come out as impersonal and tacky, as it may look like you are paying for your attendance or tipping the couple. Instead, you can give cash in a card or a box, including a heartfelt message or note that expresses your best wishes for the couple.
  • Do not give cash in coins or bills: It is possible that this will come off as impolite and cheap because it gives the impression that you are giving the couple your leftovers or spare change. Instead, we suggested giving cash in checks or electronic transfers and ensuring they are valid and secure.
  • Do not give cash in odd amounts: This may seem rude and unlucky, as it may suggest that you are giving an incomplete or uneven amount to the couple. Instead, consider giving cash in even amounts, preferably ending in zero or five, as this signifies completeness and harmony.

>>> Further reading: Wedding Gift Etiquette: Ultimate Guides You Should Follow

11. Don’t post wedding photos before the couple

An important rule of wedding photo etiquette is not to post wedding photos before the couple. This means you should only share or upload wedding photos on social media or any other platform once the couple has done so themselves or given you their permission. 

wedding photo etiquette: post wedding after the couple does
Wedding etiquette related sharing photos – Photo by: Shutterstock

This is because it may spoil their surprise and excitement. The couple may want to reveal their wedding photos in their own time and have a specific plan or vision for announcing their marriage to their friends and family. Posting wedding photos before them may ruin their anticipation and make them feel less special or important.

Therefore, you should respect the wedding etiquette and wait for them to post their wedding photos first or give you their permission to do so. Also, make sure to follow their guidelines and instructions on how to share or upload their wedding photos, such as tagging them, crediting, etc.

12. Keep your speech short and sweet

Wedding speeches and toasts hold a significant role in the overall celebration of a wedding. It provides a wonderful opportunity for family, friends, and everyone attending the wedding to express their sincerest wishes and heartfelt messages to the couple. 

Wedding etiquette speech you should follow
Wedding etiquette speech – Photo by: WeddingWire

When delivering a toast or speech, it is essential to adhere to some wedding etiquette rules. We recommend balancing conciseness and sincerity, avoiding inside jokes that are only relevant to a handful of the guests. Also, you should not tell personal anecdotes that may embarrass the couple.

Get the confidence and become familiar with the content and timing of your speech by preparing it in advance. You can practice it in front of a mirror or with a friend. Remember to conclude your speech with a toast to the couple’s love, happiness, and future together. At the end of your speech, don’t forget to raise your glass and invite the other guests to join in the toast.

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Whether you are the bride, the groom, or a guest, it is undeniable that wedding season is a great excuse to let your hair down, pop some champagne, and reconnect with old friends. However, it is also important to keep in mind some rules of wedding etiquette, which will ensure you have fun and enjoy the wedding without any worries or regrets.

We hope this article has helped you learn more about etiquette at a wedding. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Viva Wedding Photography would love to hear from you!

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