Your Day, Your Way: Being the Best Guest

A wedding is a chance to celebrate and show off your dance moves and the last thing you want to do is commit a serious faux pas. Whether you want a refresher course on how to be the best guest or you have questions as a first-time bride, here are some “guest etiquette” tips that may help.


There’s a reason that couples spend the extra money to send you a pre-stamped RSVP card. Even if they don’t, it’s important to RSVP and on time. This goes for all the events of the weekend, including the rehearsal dinner.


There are so many reasons why the couple needs to know if you’re in or out, including the cake size, catering estimates and seating. If you know you’re going to attend or if you’ll miss it, make it a habit to RSVP right away. If you’re unsure, give yourself until a week before the “RSVP by” date to decide. Put the card or invitation where you can’t miss it, such as on the refrigerator or paper clipped to your calendar.


If you have to cancel after you’ve accepted the invitation, be considerate and call the couple to let them know. Also, if the guest you’re bringing can no longer come or you’re going to bring someone else in his or her place, let them know as well.

Plus One

If you aren’t invited to bring a guest, it’s not okay to RSVP plus one or to bring a guest. It puts a strain on the couple and their budget, as well as the caterer. If you have any questions, call the couple and ask for clarification.


This includes children as well. Even if you think your child won’t cost extra because he’ll just pick off your plate when it comes to dinner, there may be a reason why children weren’t invited to the reception and it’s best to respect the bride and groom’s wishes.


Traditionally, guests have a year to send a gift, but a good rule of thumb is to take care of it by the time of the wedding. Typically save the days and invitations are sent weeks in advance, which allows you ample time to find a gift. If you do decide to send a gift after the wedding, give yourself a deadline. You might not think it matters when they get your gift, but if the couple registered for 10 sets of china and have only received eight, they might be inclined to purchase the last two to finish their set. If you decided to buy them a set several months later, they will most likely have to return it.

When getting a gift, whether it’s money, a card or something off the registry, it’s best to mail it to the couple ahead of time. It’s tempting to bring the gift to a the wedding, especially if you pick something heavy or bulky that would require costly shipping, but it’s not the best etiquette (and yes, I know this goes against every other party rule of bringing the hostess or guest of honor a gift).

If you’ve ever been a bridesmaid, you understand. More often than not it’s the bridesmaids who are in charge of collecting all the gifts from guests, hauling them from the ceremony to the reception, stashing them somewhere at the reception, transporting them from the reception to someone’s car or hotel room, and then making sure they get to the couple’s home. If you really don’t want to ship the gift, you can drop it off ahead of time with either the bride and groom or someone else who’s willing to take it to them, such as a bridesmaid or parent.

Many consider it customary to send a gift even if you cannot attend the wedding. If you’re unable to attend, use your best judgment as to whether or not you want to send a gift.


If the invitation specifies certain attire, be considerate when choosing your outfit. While black tie may seem formal to you for an afternoon wedding, the bride and groom have their reasons and it’s considerate to respect their wishes. Remember, if you want certain attire at your wedding, you would appreciate everyone following suit! This also goes for brides and grooms who prefer that guests wear a certain attire—specify it on the invitation to keep everyone on the same page.  

Here’s a quick guide:
White Tie (aka ultra-formal) – Full tux, with tie, vest and shirt for him and long gown for her. 
Black Tie (aka formal) – Tuxedo for him and cocktail or dressy evening wear for her.
Black Tie Optional – Dark suit and tie or tux for him. Cocktail, long dress or dressy skirt for her.
Creative Black Tie – A trendy alternative to Black Tie. Tux (often without a tie) for him and cocktail attire for her. 
Semi-Formal (aka after five or informal) – Dark suit for him and cocktail dress for her for an evening event. Suit and tie for him and a shorter dress or pant suit for her for a daytime time.
Cocktail Attire – Dark suit for him and short dress are appropriate for her.
Dressy Casual – Dressed up casual wear, such as a sport coat for him and dressy pants and top for her.
Casual – Typically anything goes but use common sense!


Show up on time. Not 5 minutes late. On time. If the invitation says 5 p.m., arrive at the ceremony at least 15 minutes early.


It’s always a good idea to have some extra cash with you in case you need to tip the valet or bartender, or for a cash bar.

And don't forget to have fun! 

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