Recently, I have been privileged to have an "up close and personal" view of weddings--the planning, the bridal party, the day of bliss. In addition to getting a clearer view of what my own wedding will be like, I have learned a lot of what to do and what not to do as an attending guest. Perhaps wedding etiquette is not something people are familiar with...I continue to be in shock when I hear of things guests have done or asked to have done. So I thought I would share my wisdom with you for your own future benefit. #1) DO put yourself in the bride and groom's shoes before asking or doing anything.
Keep in mind that the bride and groom are spending a heck of a lot of money on this event. They usually have a legitimate reason why they are doing anything they are doing that you might question. Keep Rule #1 in mind for all the remaining rules.
#2) DO keep an attitude of gratefulness and surprise when invited to a wedding.
Never assume that you will be invited to a wedding. Maybe you and the soon-to-be Mrs. were quite close in elementary school, but now she might fall in love with a wedding venue that only allows 80 people so cuts must be made. Maybe you were roommates with the groom. But maybe the cost of the catering company is so high that he can't afford to get a photographer, so having fewer guests will allow him to capture moments that can be kept forever in an album on his coffee table. Maybe you invited them to your wedding, but now you don't see each other very often or keep in touch and they use that fact as reason to keep you off the list.
I continually got notified of friends getting engaged this year. With each one I wondered, "Hm, I wonder if I'll be invited," and then I moved on. Quite a few pleasant surprises came in the mail telling me to save the date. I viewed each one with an, "Aww, how sweet of them to invite me!" It's all in your attitude. In my opinion, you have no right to assume you must be invited to ANY wedding unless you are family.
This may be a new way for you to look at it: by attending a wedding, you are making a public statement that you will be there for the couple in the future because you were a witness to their vows to each other. You are promising to make sure they uphold those vows. You should be part of their future together, encouraging them, praying for them, and making sure they keep their word. It's a big deal to be invited, because they're counting on you to stick around after they're married. I don't want just anyone to be at my wedding. I want people whom I know will continue to be in my life after the fact.
Making a guest list is one of the most difficult tasks and one that has potential to create a lot of conflict between the couple and their parents. Remember Rule #1.
#3) DON'T ask to bring someone.
I haven't met many couples that say, "It was hard coming up with enough people to fill the space." I have met a lot of couples that say, "It was so hard taking people OFF the list after we made it because we just didn't have enough room!" If the couple is in on etiquette, then you'll be allowed to bring a guest if you fall under one of two conditions: 1) You won't know many people there, or 2) You've been with your significant other for over a year. If neither of these apply to you, then mum's the word. If one of those DO apply but the couple fails to comply, then you still shouldn't say anything. It's just rude. If you're that bothered to go by yourself, and can't change your perspective to I know it really means a lot to them that I come, which is why they invited me in the first place, then don't go at all. Make room for someone else who will be more grateful to take part in their special day.
#4) DO offer to help if you really mean it.
Due to the present economy, or perhaps a desire to not have a cookie-cutter wedding, many couples choose the DIY approach. When this happens, they can use all the extra hands they can get. Once you've received your invitation and know you're on the list, offer to pick up the food on your way over. Offer to be part of the set-up or tear-down crew. Worried about messing up your nice dress? Bring an apron! That's what I did for my best friend's wedding! It even happened to have wedding cakes on the fabric. It was made for that day! But don't say it if you don't mean it, and it is much more helpful to be specific about what you can help with rather than giving a broad statement, "Let me know if I can do anything to help!" I've watched many brides battle with uncertainty about what exactly they can ask those people to do--not wanting to overstep a boundary or inconvenience someone unnecessarily.
#5) Unless your invitation says, "Mr. & Mrs. _________ and family" DON'T bring your kids.
Maybe you think it's rude for a couple to uninvite your children and make you hire a babysitter for the night, but remember Rule #1. They have a reason for it. Maybe it's because they don't want babies screaming while they say their vows on the beach. (It's already hard to hear due to the ocean breeze and crashing waves!) Maybe it's because they know your kids will be bored sitting through 3 hours of toasts, dancing, and fancy food, and as we teachers know, boredom creates misbehavior. Maybe it's because they wanted to invite you and other people their parents are friends with but the guest list didn't allow ALL of you to have your kids. How are they supposed to pick whose kids get invited and whose kids don't? Put yourself in their shoes.
I realize that schedules change and it's hard to know if you'll be available two months from now, but please RSVP by the given date to the best of your ability. And if you must cancel, DON'T DO IT THE WEEK BEFORE THE WEDDING! They're paying for your food and your chair and your champagne. Give your final RSVP before the catering orders have been placed. If you don't think you'll be able to go in two months, it's best to just RSVP "no" and make room for one of the other friends that there hadn't originally been room for. Perhaps you'll save them from their entitled attitude for not being invited in the first place if they haven't been so blessed as to read this blog. ;)
#7) If you're not invited, DON'T show up!
I'm appalled that I even have to say this, but I have known it to be done. Just because you have access to their wedding website that has the time and location on it, doesn't mean it's a free for all. How awkward is it when they have to set up an extra row of chairs at the ceremony because you came and took somebody else's seat?
#8) It's NOT your day!
Above all, remember this: the wedding is not about you. It's about them. They should be able to do whatever they want to celebrate this moment that they want to stay in their memories forever. If they want to only invite family, that's their choice. If they want to have a money dance to make you dig even deeper into your pockets, that's their choice. If they want to forgo renting umbrellas and make you sit in the sun during their hour long ceremony, that's their choice. If they want the father-daughter dance to evoke streams of tears, that's their choice. If they want to seat you at a table of people you don't know, that's their choice. If they want to dance the polka and then smash dishes against the wall, that's their choice. If they want a 15 minute ceremony and a 4 hour reception, that's their choice. By agreeing to come, you are agreeing not to make a fuss or complain about yourself. You're signing up to be a part of their day however they saw it fit to include you in it because it was important to them to have you there. Remember, it's all in the attitude.