By Ally Mullord
So you’ve been invited to a wedding. How lovely! Weddings are beautiful celebrations of the deep, eternal love between two people who have dedicated their lives to each other.
They are also expensive, time-consuming, and absolute etiquette minefields. This article is a brief overview of how not to be a terrible wedding guest.
Sadly, a wedding is not your special day. (Your birthday is your special day.) A wedding is the couple’s special day, so go along with whatever they ask. Within reason.
Step One: The Invitation Arrives
After months of arguments over colour scheme (“It is acceptable to match the ink colour of your invitations with the primary colour theme of your wedding”) and font choice, the couple have sent the invitations and yours has arrived!
What do you do with it?
- Reply before the RSVP date. If you don’t RSVP but turn up anyway, no-one will talk to you and you won’t be allowed any food. If you can’t go, you still need to RSVP so the couple can invite someone better instead.
- If the invitation doesn’t include your partner or children, don’t take your partner or children. It seems straightforward, but apparently people mess this up all the time. (The couple get to choose who goes to their wedding… when you get married, you can choose who goes to yours.)
- Don’t be offended if your partner isn’t invited – the couple aren’t intending to shun your new boyfriend, they’re just trying to keep costs to a minimum. Inviting your boyfriend means inviting all the boyfriends. At $100 a head.
- Don’t be offended if your children aren’t invited – it’s probably not your specific children that the couple are trying to avoid. It’s more likely that a) the couple want people to feel comfortable drinking; b) the bride is secretly pregnant and worried a crying baby could make her lactate in her gown; or c) the couple plan to sneak off and consummate the marriage in the ornamental gardens, and don’t want to be interrupted by a group of jungle explorers.
- Unless you’re seriously, deathly allergic to something, don’t include your special dietary requirements in the reply (unless there’s a space for you to do so). There will be a vegetarian option, and if you’re worried about ingredients or preparation check with the caterers on the day. They will understand that cheese makes you a bit gassy. No-one else cares for your ‘mild lactose intolerance’.
- Don’t get offended if you aren’t Important In The Wedding! The bridal party selection is a diplomatic minefield. Sometimes close friends have to be passed over so that older friends and easily-offended relatives don’t throw a massive wedding tantrum. And that’s okay, because it means when they’re farting about with the photos you can already be at the bar.
- If you have questions about the wedding, don’t ask the bride or groom – they have enough to do without being constantly badgered by guests who want to know if the Number 19 bus stops outside the church. Ask around amongst other guests, or ask the bridal party or the family of the couple.
Step Two: Selecting a Present
- For the love of God, if there is a gift registry, use it. If the couple wanted a wide selection of thoughtfully selected toasters and wine glasses, they wouldn’t have done a registry – and unless you’re a very close friend of the couple, they’re unlikely to appreciate your hand-carved penguin fertility totem. I know a registry feels dumb and impersonal but you can get around that by finding something on the list that has a personal connection: “I selected the fruit platter because of that hilarious time we had once with a fruit platter.”
- If the couple have a cash option, just give whatever you feel comfortable giving. If you really can’t afford to give anything the couple will understand, but you do still need to give a card.
- If the gift is a card, cash or voucher, take it to the wedding. Bigger gifts (kitchenware, washing machines) are better posted. If you take a gift, don’t thrust it hurriedly at the couple as they make their way down the aisle – ask someone (not the bride or groom) where to put it. There will be a table set aside specifically for this purpose.
- Put a card with your gift so the couple know who it’s from. (If you want to get a thank-you note.)
Step Three: Getting Dressed
- “I get dressed every day,” you are thinking, “I’m going to skip this section.” No! Don’t! Or you will forever be remembered as that person who wore denim on denim.
- The dress code is usually stated on the invite (if it isn’t, ask other guests or dress on the formal side). Once you’ve found out what the dress code is, Google it and wear something within the guidelines.
- Wear something comfortable. Wedding videos are better when you can’t see someone in the fourth row squirming in their seat throughout because their pants are riding up their butt.
- Keep it classy (ladies). If you’d wear it to a club, don’t wear it to a wedding.
- White dresses are unacceptable, black is frowned upon at more traditional weddings, and camo is right out. (Extra information for people considering camo: comb your mullet! Don’t bring beer.)
Step Four: The Actual Wedding Bit
- Don’t be late! If you are late, don’t scoot up the aisle behind the bride muttering, “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” like someone trying to go to the bathroom at the movies. Wait at the back until an usher makes a “Sit down, you tosser” gesture.
- Don’t take photos during the ceremony – partially because it’s distracting, but also because you’re there to share in the ceremony, not play paparazzi. Photos after the ceremony and during the reception are generally fine (unless the invitation says no cameras)… but don’t put any on Facebook until the couple have approved them.
- Turn off your phone and children. If your children come back on during the ceremony, take them outside.
- It’s traditional not to swear in a church. It’s also traditional not to text, tweet or harvest your FarmVille crops.
- The ceremony may not be very interesting. Sit quietly and pay attention; think of it as an endurance test (the food and beer at the reception is the reward). Don’t whisper to other guests, don’t giggle at the couple’s self-written vows, don’t wolf-whistle when the bride arrives, don’t make lewd gestures at the bridesmaids.
- If the ceremony is more religious than you are, you don’t have to join in; watch the rest of the audience for cues on when to sit and stand, and be quiet during the religious bits.
- If confetti gets thrown at the couple when they leave the church, don’t throw it in the bride’s eyes.
Step Five: The Reception
- Sit where you’re put. Even if you’re stuck on a singles table full of divorced hairdressers you have to stay there because the couple have spent approximately the length of their engagement working out the seating plan, and if you randomly move then along comes Uncle Maurice and all of a sudden there’s a wedding punch-up.
- If there’s a buffet don’t charge in, grab all the smoked salmon, and then retire smugly to your seat. No-one likes a buffet hog.
- Don’t give a speech unless you’ve been specifically asked to give a speech, no matter how good your speech is. Same goes for toasts.
- Don’t get significantly drunker than the bridal party.
- If you’re lucky enough to have slept with the bride or the groom, don’t share this with everyone else at your table. Or anyone.
- Don’t make song requests! The couple has paid for your food and beer, the least you can do is refrain from inserting ‘Mustang Sally’ into the happiest day of their lives.
- Don’t hog the couple – they are like the smoked salmon, everyone wants to spend some quality time with them.
One of the 10,000 wedding sites I visited while researching this article says, “Only special people are invited to be wedding guests”.
Be special in a good way.