Avoid Awkwardness With This Wedding Etiquette Guide

Weddings are a time to celebrate love and family. And while people enjoy partying, weddings come with their own etiquette rules surrounding the parties, invitations, phone rules, and wardrobe selection. Unless you’re a huge wedding fan or wedding planner, you’re probably wondering about the unspoken rules of this event.

Whether you’re a guest or a future bride or groom, here is your one-stop-shop for all wedding etiquette rules, from RSVPs to plus one’s. With these under your belt, you won’t become that one awkward wedding attendee.

Don’t Hold Up Your Phone During The Ceremony

Wedding guest holds a phone in the way of the photographer

If you’ve been up-to-date with wedding trends, you’ve probably noticed several wedding signs asking for no phones during the ceremony. This isn’t done to be snooty; it makes things easier for the photographer. Families spend a lot of money on a professional photographer, and they don’t want guests ruining the shots by raising cell phones in the air.

“Make sure the professional photographer isn’t going for the same shot,” advises Danielle Rothweiler of Rothweiler Event Design. Remember that you can request photos from the couple later.

Don’t Post On Social Media Yet

A bride poses for a selfie with guests during a wedding celebration.
Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images
Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Everyone likes to take photos of weddings. But unless the couple allowed you to, don’t immediately post them on social media. “The rules are to not post anything on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram until after the couple has had a chance to do so,” says Larissa Banting, creator of the Lazy Bride Blog.

If the couple has set up a wedding hashtag, then it’s safe to assume that they’re fine with social media. Otherwise, wait for the couple to post first.

Here Are The Duties Of A Bridesmaid/Groomsmen

Bride walks with her bridal party and new husband in the back

Most people know that the maid of honor and best man plan bridal showers and bachelor-bachelorette parties. But what do regular bridesmaids and groomsmen do? Fortunately, they don’t need to do much besides being supportive.

As a bridesmaid or groomsman, the newlywed may ask you to help with some wedding preparations and make sure everything goes smoothly. You’ll likely be invited to more events. But other than that, you’re not required to plan anything extensive.

Literally Never Wear White

Obianka Desmond (groom) and Okorie Divine (bride) are getting married with a traditional wedding ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey
Mehmet Eser/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Mehmet Eser/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Who wears white at a wedding? That’s right: the bride. Wearing white to a wedding can be interpreted as trying to steal attention from her. Julie Gladstone, CEO of Bride & Groom, advises against wearing white to the engagement parties and bridal showers as well.

Event planner David Monn says that, when in doubt, wear darker colors. A neutral palette doesn’t draw attention during photos. You can also ask the bride and groom which color palette they’d prefer that you wear.

…But Groom May Wear A White Jacket

Groom wears a burgundy and cream suit at a chic Texas wedding
Pinterest/Green Wedding Shoes
Pinterest/Green Wedding Shoes

There is one other person who can wear white, and that’s the groom. While most people know about the groom’s traditional black tux, many don’t remember the white dinner jacket. During the warmer months, it’s traditional for the groom to don a white jacket.

Of course, not all weddings have to follow tradition. Nowadays, many grooms replace the black tux for a white suit for summer or spring weddings. It’s entirely up to the couple.


Bride holds her wedding invitation and rsvp

There’s a reason why couples send out RSVPs. Returned RSVPs determine how much food, seating, and wait staff the couple will pay for. If you don’t send in your RSVP, the couple won’t have food for you, which only causes the family more stress.

“Send your RSVP in as soon as possible,” recommends Larissa Banting. “Nothing is more frustrating to a couple than having a number of guests MIA.” And remember to include your name and plus one, if applicable.

Not Everyone Receives A Plus One

guest book and guest book sign at a wedding

Never assume that every guest receives a plus one. Venues only have so much space, so bringing a plus one when you’re not allotted one is unacceptable.

“Weddings are expensive,” says Terrica Skaggs, chief planner of Cocktails and Details. “Only those whose names are on the envelope are invited. It’s not okay to bring more than one guest.” If you receive a plus one, remember that it’s a plus ONE–not a plus five, or a plus 20.

Don’t Give Wedding Advice Unless You’re Asked

Group of wedding guests and bridesmaids laugh

Planning a wedding is hard, but that doesn’t mean that the couple always needs help. As a rule of thumb, only provide advice if the couple asks for it. Most likely, the families have their own ideas of what to do and are acting on them.

Because weddings are highly personal, couples need to trust their gut while planning. If friends and family constantly bombard them with different opinions, they’ll feel confused and overwhelmed. Spare them from that grief.

Avoid Complaining And Nitpicking

Guests celebrate the wedding of Nick Ede and Andrew Naylor in Los Angeles
Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Absolut Elyx
Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Absolut Elyx

As the saying goes, never share bad news on a good day. Weddings are thrown to celebrate the couple. Even if you have the worst seat in the house, and the rain came unexpectedly, try not to whine about these inconveniences.

Also, don’t talk about what you would do differently. “This is all about the couple and the choices they have made, and is not for you to pick apart and have an opinion on,” says Bernadette Chapman, founder of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners.

This Isn’t The Time To Deliver Big News

Alice Aoki and Justin Moore Aoki listen to speeches at their dessert reception
Vivien Killilea/WireImage
Vivien Killilea/WireImage

This is one of those rules that should go without saying, but unfortunately, people do this all the time. Stories of people announcing a pregnancy or proposing at a wedding go viral online for their obvious breach of etiquette.

Wedding guests travel far to celebrate the newlyweds, not the new mom or recently engaged couple. “This is their special day,” says Joanne Archer of Expert Home Tips, “Don’t steal their thunder!”

When In Doubt, Buy From The Registry

Wedding guest holding a wrapped wedding gift

Wedding registries greatly benefit the newlyweds. The couple spends a lot of time deciding which items they most want or need. If you don’t know what to gift the newlyweds, pull from the registry. That’s what it’s there for.

If you know the couple personally, you can opt for your own gift. “When it comes to gift-giving, give what you can afford and, using your best judgment, feel is appropriate,” says Ivy Jacobson, planning editor of The Knot.

Engagement Party Gifts Are Never Required

Ian Jordan (R) walks into surprise birthday party/engagement with Karamo Brown
Tasia Wells/Getty Images
Tasia Wells/Getty Images

A lot of people debate whether to bring a gift to the engagement party. According to tradition, it’s not required. Bridal parties and weddings generally require gifts, but not the engagement celebration.

If you want to give the couple something, they’ll surely appreciate it. Try to send it in advance to prevent clutter at the party. Otherwise, you can give them a card. Your presence at their party should be enough for most families.

Never Assume That Your Kids Are Invited

A young page boy and a young bridesmaid walk up the chapel steps for the wedding of Lady Gabriella Windsor and Mr Thomas Kingston
Chris Jackson – WPA Pool/Getty Images
Chris Jackson – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Young kids are family just like everyone else. In photos, they can make wonderful memories as flower girls and ring bearers. At the reception, however, most couples prefer adults only. Children can quickly destroy a wedding display if they’re unattended for a moment.

Read the invitation carefully before assuming that your kids can come. When in doubt, ask. Most wedding invitations arrive at least three months before the event, so you’ll have plenty of time to arrange a babysitter.

Whom Should You Invite?

Guests toast at a wedding

While compiling a guest list, many couples fret over who to invite. Venues and budget both restrict the guest list. Fortunately, you don’t have to invite your parent’s neighbor’s daughter. To narrow down your guest list, create some guidelines.

Does the person know both the bride and the groom? If not, you can leave them off. Has a guest been dating a significant other for less than a year? Don’t give them a plus one. It can be hard, but restricting the guest list is necessary.

You Don’t Have To Invite Someone Who Invited You

Packaging wedding invitations
Getty Images
Getty Images

As the couple arranges their guest list, many encounter a common question: Should they invite someone if they attended that person’s wedding? Despite what some people say, you never have to invite someone who invited you to their wedding.

Size restriction, limited resources, and a strict budget are all valid excuses for withholding a wedding invitation. If someone gives the couple a hard time for it, that’s their problem. The couple may invite whomever they want.

Send An Invitation Even If Someone Can’t Come

A mock up of same sex wedding invitations on display at the Gay Wedding Show, 2014
Nigel Roddis/Getty Images
Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Should you send a wedding invitation to a close friend or family member knowing that they won’t be able to make it? Wedding planners say yes. Those who don’t receive an invite will feel left out or forgotten.

While they may not attend the event, guests will help out by purchasing a wedding gift or visiting your bridal shower, engagement party, or bachelor parties. Even if they can’t make any of the events, they’ll appreciate that you were thinking of them.

Keep The Speeches Short And Sweet

Jamie McMillan starts off a wedding speech with an inappropriate joke

If you’re assigned to give a wedding speech, here are some tips to keep in mind. David Monn recommends keeping the speech under two minutes. Also, stick to subjects that elevate the couple’s future. No “you had to be there” stories, according to Monn.

Usually, only three people give wedding speeches: the couples’ parents, and one reserved for someone special. The more people offering speeches, the shorter they should be.

Keep The Event Moving Smoothly

Engaged Torrance couple Jason Imhoff and Renee Chudy won the Ultimate Wedding Experience contest
Scott Varley/Digital First Media/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images
Scott Varley/Digital First Media/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

Yes, a wedding is the bride and groom’s big day. But their guests are also arriving from far away to attend this event, so the couple should prevent them from feeling anxious or bored. The easiest way to do so is to keep the wedding moving.

Wedding coordinators ensure that guests aren’t sitting around for longer than 45 minutes, including dinner. Small activities such as corn holes will keep kids entertained, and the couple won’t have to deal with complaints.

Look Out For The Videographer

A cameraman assists a bride while shooting her wedding video in a Shanghai park
LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images

Just as the couple spends a lot of money on the photographer, they also pay the videographer to capture their special moment. A brief disruption can impair the final product, according to Lindsay Blair, CEO of Blair Global Media.

“It literally only takes a couple of seconds, and your audio and video shot is already out of sync,” Blair says. Don’t be a “walker” who stumbles into the shot and screws up the wedding video.

Don’t Go Out Of Control

Groom and his groomsmen making a toast

Yes, plenty of guests will let loose at a wedding party. But we’ve all heard those stories of blackout drunk guests destroying the cake or revealing some dirty secret. Don’t be that guest.

Guy Déom, the owner of a wedding venue in Quebec, recommends letting the valet or venue take care of your car and taking a Lyft or Uber home. Many venues will let guests keep their car there overnight. “We strongly advise that all guests book a room with us and sleep over,” he says.