Be A Good Guest At The Wedding

Kaitlin + Clara who were married this past fall. Photos by Nathan Kavlie Photography.

What a delight to be invited to a wedding, whether it’s for your closest friend, a family member, a work colleague, or maybe even your boss. The rules are the same; no matter how close or not close you are to the bridal couple.

  • The save-the-date card is a relatively recent tradition. In our complicated, too-busy world, this early   “warning,” sent out weeks or maybe even months before the official wedding invitation, lets you make sure you can clear your schedule well in advance and reserve a hotel room if necessary. This is especially important if it’s a destination wedding. HINT: You can always cancel a reservation with enough notice, but you can never get a room at the last moment!
  • Read the invitation! Is it for you, or you and a guest? HINT: If it’s just an invitation to you, if you know anyone else who’s likely to be going, put a group together. If you feel lost without your companion, feel free to send regrets.
  • If you can’t attend the wedding or reception, send your apologies on a handwritten note; it’s much more personal and it lets your hosts offer an invitation to someone else they may have hoped to invite. HINT: RSVPs do not require an excuse, so don’t offer TMI; just give ample notice.
  • Check the gift registration! It’s an easy way to see what gifts the couple really need or want, minimizing the chance of a return. HINT: Send your gift to the couple’s home in advance of the wedding. There’s no need to rush at the last minute—and you don’t have to haul that toaster to the event itself.
  • Knock yourself out! A wedding is a joyous occasion; give it the effort and attention it deserves. Hair, nails, shoes, and wardrobe…you not only want to look dazzling yourself, you want the married couple to feel that they have stylish friends. HINT: This is your big chance to let everyone know that you could get married if you wanted to!
  • Arrive on time! If the invitation says the wedding starts at 5, that’s when the married couple arrives, not the guests. Get yourself to the church (or wherever) 20 minutes early. HINT: This gives you a little time to relax, unwind, and scope out the available crowd/competition.
  • Fill the gap. The time between the wedding and the reception often is photo time for the wedding party, just hanging around time for the guests. It’s all too common to drink away this lull in the activity, but if you want to be on your best behavior during dinner, don’t start too early. HINT: Instead of going to the bar, go to a movie, head to the mall, check out some local sites or just take a walk.
  • Take it easy on the alcohol. You look great, you’re going to have nice time, but don’t convince everyone you’re a drunk. Open bars can spell trouble; pace yourself. There’s a long night ahead of romantic dances and social interaction; you want to be at your best. HINT: Alternate alcoholic drinks and something non-alcoholic.
  • A wedding dinner is the same as a dinner party at someone’s home. It’s your job—and your pleasure—to contribute to the conversation, even if you have just met the others at the table. HINT: The best way to get people to like you is to be interested in them.
  • Dance as though your grandmother is watching—because the grandparents of the wedding couple probably are. For any other evening, there may be a pair of go-go boots with your name on them, but leave them at home for the wedding reception. HINT: No juking, it’s just filthy. Save it for the stag or stagette party.
  • When you’re ready to leave, track down both the newlyweds and thank them personally. It doesn’t matter if you spent half the night crying because you saw that ex with someone else. Wipe away the smeared mascara and pull yourself together enough to make a lovely exit. HINT: Bonus points if you thank the parents of the newlyweds, who may be footing the bill.
  • Be proactive in giving thanks. As you patiently wait for the note thanking you for the lovely chip-and-dip set you gave the couple, kick them out a note of congratulations and gratitude for wining and dining you all night. HINT: If you’re worried that your gift didn’t arrive, don’t be afraid to ask how they liked it. They might be grateful to be able to get that thank-you out of the way.

It is an honor and a privilege to share in someone’s wedding. Enjoy the day, but also show the bridal couple the respect they deserve by being the best guest ever.
In researching this article, we tried hard to find etiquette and ideas specific to gay weddings, but the only differences we could find were the names of the wedding couples. Don’t outlaw Love! Remember to show your support for Minnesotans United for All Families at MNUNITED.ORG 

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