8 Wedding Etiquette Rules You Can’t Break—Period

Reader's Digest Fiona Tapp ALWAYS RETURN YOUR RSVP It's alarming how many guests simply don't return an RSVP card. Couples base the entire day on... Read More

Reader’s Digest

Fiona Tapp


It’s alarming how many guests simply don’t return an RSVP card. Couples base the entire day on their guest count so it really is unacceptable to turn up without notice. ‘Send your RSVP in as soon as possible,’ advises Larissa Banting, wedding specialist and creator of The Lazy Bride Blog. ‘Nothing is more frustrating to a couple than having a number of guests MIA. Once you commit, you have to show up, short of being on death’s door. And don’t forget to write your name on the RSVP card! It’s amazing how many blank cards couples receive and they have no idea who just RSVP’d!’ Ivy Jacobson, planning editor from The Knot warns, ‘Don’t be one of the five percent of guests that sends in their RSVP one week or less before the big day.’ (Find out the etiquette rules every bridesmaid should follow.)


The most important rule concerning dress seems to be to follow the bride’s instructions. Most couples will clearly state the dress code on their invitations so guests need to pay attention to their wishes. However, there is one wedding guest etiquette rule that all the experts agree on. Guests should never wear white, ever! Julie Gladstone, CEO of Bride & Groom even feels that the color white should be reserved for the bride the entire wedding season, including bridal showers and engagement parties, bachelorette parties, dress shopping outings, rehearsals, and bridesmaid brunches. ‘Under no circumstances should you wear white to a wedding. It is universally known that a bride will, in all likelihood, choose some shade of white for her big day, and therefore, all guests are expected to let her have the spotlight by choosing other shades,’ she says.


When it comes to bringing a plus one along for the celebration, Terrica Skaggs, chief planner and designer at Cocktails and Details advises guests to carefully study their invitation, ‘Weddings are expensive. Only those whose names are on the envelope are invited. It is not OK to bring more than one guest. We once had a nightmare of a wedding where a guest responded ‘plus 24.’ Due to the family relationship the bride felt obligated to accommodate,’ she says. And if the invite isn’t specifically addressed to you and a guest, plan on attending solo. (Find out the secrets a wedding planner will never tell you.)


Bringing a gift is mandatory when attending a wedding, unless the couple have specifically asked guests not to. However there are wedding gift etiquette rules to asking for gifts and you have every right to feel ruffled if you receive a demand for a gift, as Terrica, advises. ‘Couples should never put their wedding registry information on the wedding invitation. Instead, they should use an enclosure card that leads people to their wedding website.’ Jacobson suggests: ‘When it comes to gift giving, give what you can afford and, using your best judgment, feel is appropriate. The average spend on a wedding gift in 2016 was $118.’ If you ship your gift to the couple’s home and are wondering if it was received, you can expect a thank you note within a few weeks.


With the popularity of smartphones capable of taking great pictures, every guest thinks they can get the perfect wedding picture. The trouble is they often get in the way of the real photographer. Danielle Rothweiler, from Rothweiler Event Design, has found this to be a growing problem and it often means the happy couple don’t get the shots they paid for. She has some simple advice for guests, ‘Make sure the professional photographer isn’t going for the same shot. And never upload any photos from a wedding to social media until after the couple does.’


Similar rules apply to respecting the videographer’s process as it does to giving the photographer space to create. Lindsay Blair, the CEO of Blair Global Media, who has 17 years experience working in media and film, affectionately calls those guests who stumble into shots ‘walkers’ and explains exactly why disruptions can be so frustrating. ‘It literally only takes a couple of seconds and your audio and video shot is already out of sync. This doesn’t have the same effect on photographers as with videographer as video requires both audio and video to be in sync.’ Lindsay explains that everyone wants to get a shot of the key moments like the saying of the vows and the first kiss, but that the professionals are the only ones who the bride and groom have actually paid for.


Everyone wants to have a good time at a wedding but not knowing your limits when it comes to alcohol consumption can land you in trouble. Guy Déom from Lac Carling, a beautiful wedding venue an hour from Montreal in Quebec, Canada, suggests guests let the valet take care of the car and not worry about getting home. ‘Weddings are beautiful and emotional events. We strongly advise that all guests book a room with us and sleep over. The next morning also provides more time to wrap up this memorable gathering,’ he says. If you can’t sleep over, appoint a designated driver or take Uber.


Larissa warns guests that although times are changing, that doesn’t mean etiquette doesn’t exist anymore, it just means the guidelines are evolving. ‘The rules are to not post anything on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram until after the couple has had a chance to do so. It’s their day to shine—let them have the honor of posting the photos of their day. And please, turn your cell phone off and put it away, especially during the ceremony.’ Of course, if the bride and groom have created a #cutecouple hashtag and are encouraging you to post, by all means, go ahead.

Read Next:

The Man’s Guide to Selecting Wedding Bands

Reader's Digest Fiona Tapp ALWAYS RETURN YOUR RSVP It's alarming how many guests simply don't return an RSVP card. Couples base the entire day on... Read More

The Man’s Guide to Selecting Wedding Bands