Many people have attended weddings, but not all the people you invite to your wedding will know how to be a GOOD wedding guest. We’ve all seen someone get too drunk or heard about someone who caused drama at a wedding. Buzzfeed even has a whole article with wedding horror stories from real weddings! If you’re attending a wedding in 2023, read these guidelines to help you be a better wedding guest and help your friends have an amazing day!
Tips to Be a Better Wedding Guest
Upset you didn’t get a plus one or have to hire a sitter for a kid-free wedding? Remember it’s not about you
Whether you’re a relative, a guest, or if you’re in the wedding party, remember this day is about the couple getting married. Drama during the planning process can really add stress or unnecessary pressure on the couple to make different people happy. Most of this drama has to do with people feeling sad they don’t get a plus one, wanting a bigger role in the wedding, feeling entitled to make decisions because they’re paying for something, or trying to change the couple’s plans.
No one wants to disappoint their friends or family, but it’s important for guests to understand it’s not your day. If you’re a family member or guest, the best thing you can do is support the couple and respect their wishes while offering help where needed. If you don’t get a plus one, have to hire a babysitter for a kid-free wedding or if you don’t get asked to be in the wedding party, remember the couple made these decisions for a reason! They can’t make everyone happy. The only people they need to make happy on their wedding day are themselves and each other!
One of the biggest pet peeves for couples is when guests don’t RSVP using the method they have requested (paper RSVP card or wedding site). It’s not enough to tell the couple in person “You know I’ll be there” and expect them to remember it. It adds one more thing to their list. Send back the RSVP card by the specified date, or go to their wedding site and officially RSVP. Food costs around $125/person, so having an accurate guest count can save the couple money and ensure they’re not short on food. They need to get these details to their caterer and know how many people will be there to make their seating chart well in advance. If you’re a maybe, let the couple know up front and ask them how they’d like you to respond until you can be 100% sure.
Check the couple’s wedding website 1-2 weeks before wedding day
Please do NOT text the couple on their wedding day asking “Where is the wedding again?” Or “What time is the ceremony?” I have heard from COUNTLESS couples how stressful and annoying this is. The whole purpose of save the dates, invitations and wedding websites is to avoid a hundred guests asking the same questions while the couple is literally getting ready to walk down the aisle. If you truly did look at all the information beforehand but are lost, ask another guest who is not in the wedding party to avoid overwhelming the couple. Look at the wedding website a week or two before their wedding and ask them then if you have doubts.
Get the couple something on their registry
Most couples create an online registry or honeymoon fund. They have taken time to pick items they need or want, so please stick to the list! If you buy something completely off the list, it may be an item they already have, can’t use, or it may not match their decor and personal taste. Cash is always a great gift that they can use on anything they need! If the couple has created an online registry, you can have your gift shipped to their house before wedding day! This will save them from having a trunk overfilled with gifts they have to unpack later. Remember to include a personalized note or card so they know who it’s from. Include your address on your card or gift so they can send you a thank you note.
Unplugged ceremonies are the new norm
PUT YOUR PHONE AND CAMERA AWAY DURING THE WHOLE CEREMONY. ESPECIALLY THE KISS. The couple wants to see your face, not a black rectangle pointing at them. I didn’t realize this until I was a bridesmaid and looked out to see… phones, digital cameras and iPads looking back at us. It made me sad knowing my friends would see that instead of their guests’ faces. 99% of couples getting married have hired a photographer, and in most cases a videographer, too. I promise you, your blurry iPhone photo from the fifth row side view is not going to end up framed on their wall. If you are thinking about bringing your new big DSLR camera you got for Christmas, DON’T. That’s an even bigger distraction in the photos and harder to Photoshop out than a small cell phone.
When you are busy taking your own pictures at a wedding, you are getting in the photographer or videographer’s way, making their jobs harder. Every photographer can tell you a story where someone with their phone stuck their hand out in the aisle right before the kiss and blocked the shot. If you have your phone or camera out, you are not going to be in any of the ceremony photos because the photographer is intentionally blocking you out. Like I said, no one wants to see a rectangle over someone’s face in their wedding gallery!!! This happens at weddings all the time, including ones that have big signs that say unplugged ceremony. If a photographer asks you to put your phone or camera away, please do it. The couple has likely asked them to remind guests of their wishes for an unplugged ceremony. Couples invest their money in photography because it’s what they’ll have to remember this day. Back to number one on this list – remember it’s not about you.
As always, silence your phone before the ceremony – people’s phones and alarms go off often during people’s weddings and it’s distracting.
*Disclaimer: If you have a child and are giving them iPad/phone time to keep them entertained during the ceremony, that is totally fine! This section mainly pertains to people being disruptive with their phones and taking pictures throughout the ceremony.
Be attentive and present during the toasts, dance, and cake cutting
As a wedding photographer, I see people ignore the sweetest and most memorable moments of the reception. If you’re not into watching the first dance, or toasts, or cake cutting, at the very least please don’t talk obnoxiously during those events. I’ve seen couples get upset and have to ask people to quiet down during toasts. It makes them feel like what’s happening there isn’t important to you. It’s a time where you can learn more about the couple and what brought them together, and that should matter to you. Couples spend time and money to plan a beautiful and fun experience for their guests, the least you can do is pay attention during the few special moments they share with family members and close friends.
Dance at the reception!!!
Ever since the pandemic started, people have been leaving weddings after all the main events or not dancing at all! There’s nothing sadder than an empty dance floor and people leaving a great party at 8:30 pm. The couple has paid for a DJ or picked out a playlist for you to have fun! If the music isn’t your favorite or no one is out there dancing, request a song from the DJ. Dance at least 3 songs, and convince other people at your table to get out and dance too! Wedding party – pick a song that will get the entire wedding party and the newlyweds on the dance floor. This will lead to some amazing photos and memories the couple will never forget!
Keep it classy – stay hydrated
This last tip is especially important at weddings with open bars especially – stay hydrated (with water). Open bars are tempting because it’s like a buffet – might as well get your money’s worth and drink as many free drinks as you can! It’s important to drink water throughout the night, eat enough food and pace yourself on drinks. You can also pre-game your hydration with Liquid IV packs (not tequila) to prevent you from getting drunk too quickly. No one wants a guest to vomit on the dance floor or see anyone getting sloppy and belligerent on their wedding night. Additionally, make sure the newlyweds have had enough to eat and drink water too!!! Couples may spend so much time preparing for the wedding in the morning or talking to family and friends that they don’t eat enough. Before you order them multiple shots at the bar, make sure they are hydrated to avoid them being hungover or sick later.
Are there any more recommendations you would add to this list? I hope these tips are helpful for you to keep in mind if you’re attending a wedding in 2024.
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Johanna Hribal is a wedding photographer based in Louisville, Kentucky. She enjoys traveling to other states and countries for weddings and elopements whenever possible! People love her colorful and vibrant edits, and the way she captures their love in a natural and non-intrusive way. Click here to visit her website to learn more about current wedding collections.