The SheerLuxe Guide To Wedding Guest Etiquette

The SheerLuxe Guide To Wedding Guest Etiquette

Whether you’re in the midst of your first proper wedding season, or a hardened veteran, we could all do with brushing on our big day etiquette. That’s why SL has enlisted the help of the modern manners experts at Debrett’s to bring you a brief refresher on how to be a wedding guest the bride and groom will be glad they invited…

DO: RSVP As Early As Possible

Because the bride and groom have planning to do damn it, and you’re only holding them up! This is also the time to make the couple aware of any allergies or dietary requirements you may have – under no circumstances should you make a fuss on the night of the wedding. According to Debrett’s, asking for special dishes or cross-examining waiting staff about ingredients is simply bad manners.

DON’T: Go ‘Off-List’ With Gifts

Tearing up the wedding gift list rulebook is a brave move – only do so if it’s an incredibly close friend or family member getting married, and you know exactly what they want (if in doubt we’d strongly advise chatting to them first to see if they’re happy with you planning a surprise). And if you’re debating giving a gift at all, remember while you’re not obligated to, it’s considered polite, however small the present may be.

DO: Stick To The Dress Code

If there’s a specific dress code, it will usually be clearly stated on the invitation. In any doubt? Just contact the bride or groom to check ahead of time. Debrett’s also advise wedding guests to dress more formally and modestly than they would when among friends in other events settings, and say this is particularly important where cultural sensitivities may come into play.

DON’T: Be Late To The Wedding

It may sound like a given, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who show up ‘fashionably late’ to big events (note: this is only acceptable if you’re the bride). Plan your route in advance and leave room for delays to ensure you’re punctual – the time of arrival on the formal invitation should be strictly adhered to. As Debrett’s says, if the invite says 7:30pm, you should arrive at, or very shortly after, 7:30pm – not earlier or far later.

DO: Let Someone Know If You’re Delayed

In the case of a genuine delay then get a message to whoever’s running the show (likely the maid of honour or best man) as soon as you can – especially if a seated ceremony, dinner or reception is involved. In the case of a stand-up reception, guests running late needn’t notify anyone, but should try to slip in quietly.

DON’T: Bring An Unauthorised Plus One

Even if it’s just to the reception – always ask first. And if you have been allowed a plus one, Debrett’s advise briefing your guests about all the details of the event (timings, dress code), too.

DO: Have Fun Once You Arrived

According to Debrett’s, it shows good manners to be appearing to have fun. That means guests should be sufficiently relaxed on arrival in order to make the atmosphere as light and convivial as possible – even at the most formal of weddings.

DON’T: Make Contentious Small Talk

That means religion and politics; personal remarks, including compliments and jokes that could be misinterpreted, are all off limits. Instead, keep small talk light – but ensure the conversation is flowing. As a wedding guest, it’s your job to be sociable – that also means making an effort to include those who don’t know anyone.

DO: Remember Your Table Manners

Once you’ve been seated at a wedding dinner, guests should pause before starting to eat – although Debrett’s notes that it’s not necessary to wait for everyone to be served before tucking in. Fast eaters may need to slow down to allow time for others to be served at a large gathering, while slow eaters should also be aware of others and not delay the staff. At the end of dinner there may well be a toast – in which case, don’t forget to stand. And even if the tables are being cleared during the speeches, you should still try to remain as still and quiet as possible.

DON’T: Make A Grand Exit

If a wedding invitation states the time the reception finishes, you should adhere as closely as possible. Have to leave early? Try to notify the relevant person, and if you can’t it’s best to slip away with no fuss. If the bride and groom place themselves in a suitable position for leave-taking (i.e. near the door), guests should say goodbye and thank-you. However, if they’ve been caught up and you’re not a close friend or family member, then it’s acceptable to make a discreet exit.

DO: Send A Thank-You Card

All wedding guests should send a prompt thank-you card or letter to the bride and groom. It’s in this note that you can apologise for not having been able to say goodnight and thank-you properly on the night, too.
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