Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weddings: The Role of the Guests

I know this topic is going to upset some people but we need to discuss the obligations of the guests once they receive a wedding invitations. Most brides, mothers of the rides, wedding planners, caterers or anyone involved in a wedding will tell you there has been a serious breakdown in the appropriate etiquette of the invitee's role in a wedding. So hang on, after extensive research, I am going to set the record straight.

1. When you receive a wedding invitation, you are obligated to follow the proper etiquette of a wedding guest, whether you attend the wedding or stay home. 

2. Within one week of receiving a wedding invitation, you are to RSVP. This means you!!!! Sit down and put pen to paper. Typically, the bride includes a response card in the invitation with a stamp. Walk the response card to the mailbox and stick it in. 

A clear 40 percent of wedding invitations go unanswered. Shameful, And we aren't talking about strictly young people. All generations are part of that percentage. 

We sent Save the Dates to most of the invitees... so the wedding invitation wasn't a surprise. 

The poor mother of the bride has to make the embarrassing email, phone call or worse Facebook message to find out if dear friends and even relatives are coming to her daughter's wedding. 

3. If you have RSVPed to a wedding and find you are unable to attend, you are responsible to let the bride's mother know as soon as possible by telephone or note card. You also need to explain your absence. 

4. It is unacceptable to skip the wedding ceremony and simply attend the reception. The ceremony is the reason you are invited. Don't be tacky. 

5. Once you are sent a wedding invitation, you are obligated to give a wedding gift. A wedding announcement does not require the obligatory wedding gift but the invitation does require a gift but you should send a card or note to congratulate the couple. 

6. If you are invited to a wedding, you may be invited to a bridal shower. Again, RSVP to the shower invitation. If you attend a bridal shower, you are obligated to bring a small gift, 25 to 50 dollars. If you do not attend the bridal shower, you are not obligated to bring a gift. We had people that attended bridal showers and never brought a gift. While the guests are fun to spend time with, the purpose of the bridal shower is to shower the bride with love and gifts. 

7. A bridal shower gift is not in place of the wedding gift. Clearly these are two seperate events. Do not confuse the two. 

8. There is a popular misconception that you have one year to give the newlyweds a wedding gift. Not true. You have two months to give the gift. Proper wedding ettiquette would have you send the gift to the bride or the bride's mother ahead of the ceremony.... I will get to this point next.

9. Do not bring your wedding gift to the ceremony. Send it or drop it off ahead of time. The poor mother of the bride has to gather all the presents at the end of the ceremony or the end of the reception. 

10. If you are an out of town guest, you are responsible for your own accommodations. Now the bride will help by blocking rooms at local hotels and negotiate a lower group rate, but you are responsible to find your own rooms. 

11. Arrive at the ceremony, fifteen minutes before the beginning of the ceremony. The bride wants to make a grand entrance and a late guest will make this more stressful. 

12. Do not take pictures during the wedding ceremony. The ceremony is a special time between the couple and typically, making a covenant to each other either before their Lord or whatever. The sound of cameras detracts from the solemnest of this special time. Trust me, the bride has paid enough for a wedding photographer. She does not need your cell phone pictures. 

13. Send the mother of the bride a note about the highlights of the ceremony. I have never done this step before but I will from now on. As a newly minted wedding veteran, any note after my daughter's wedding would have been greatly appreciated. Most weddings take a year to plan and the mother wants to know that the guests felt the effort the families, bride and groom took to plan this special event. 

Okay, if you happened to make it through all my research , the sources are Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post. 

Most people think they know etiquette but few people actually look in the book to do the research. Well, if you are invited to a wedding... make sure you refer to this post... and you will be the perfect wedding guest.


  1. Great tips Cynthia! I am appalled at peoples manners!!!! Especially at something so momentous as a wedding!
    I was at my nieces wedding a couple of weeks ago and one of the guest came so flamboyantly dressed that HE actually upstaged the wedding party. It was horrid and in such poor taste!

    What an honor is is to be invited to the most special day in someone's life!
    One thing we drilled into our children's heads is that they were to always be in the parking lot of the church 20 minutes before the service!
    My other issue is with people critiquing the wedding. For heavens sake, as an invited guest we should all be there to uplift and support the dear bride and groom.Nothing but kind words! If one does not like something let "FOREVER HOLD THEIR PEACE!
    As you can tell, I have a whole lot to say about weddings and guests behavior!!! Sadly, many people's manners are so lacking! I've been to 20 weddings in the last 3 years( all of my children's friends are in that marrying age group) and I have seen some behavior that would make their mama's cry!
    Great tips!!!!

  2. Hi Cynthia, I absolutely agree with you on most of your points here. Sadly, etiquette in general has seen a significant decline. While I witness breaches of etiquette in all generations, I do see them a lot more in people around my age (20s). Is it that our parents were too busy and stressed to teach us? I know that my mother worked to instill a sense of etiquette in me and my sister, and I am so grateful to her for that. I feel that following simple manners, like "Don't clink your spoon against the cup when you stir tea or coffee," or "Never sip from the stir stick," or "Never take the wedding gift to the ceremony," make one's life a little sweeter, a little more graceful.

    I'd like to ask a question in regard to your assertion that if you are invited to the wedding, you are obliged to send a gift. I have noticed that in a quest to collect an abundance of gifts, people seem to be inviting everyone they can think of to their weddings. I think this in itself is a breach of etiquette. A wedding is not an opportunity to be greedy, but a time to share a special moment with SPECIAL people in your life. I have seen coworkers tack a wedding invitation on a bulletin board, essentially an open invitation--in this instance, am I obliged to send a gift? What if that coworker works across the hall and has only spoken three words to me in four years?

    I once received a wedding invitation from a friend of a friend whom I had met only once. It struck me immediately as fishing for gifts. Do you think I should have sent a gift in that situation?

    I have also heard from a few recent brides that they invited people they they knew wouldn't come to the wedding, and that they didn't care about seeing, but from whom they counted on receiving a gift. Essentially, they admitted to inviting some individuals just to receive a gift!

    I think that you're right that sending a gift after receiving a wedding invitation is the polite and proper thing to do. However, I would also hope that the bride and groom and their parents would make an appropriate guest list and only invite those who have a true connection to the couple or their families. Sadly, I think that in this age of greed and consumerism, wedding guest lists are starting to include everyone from the plumber to the mail carrier.

    Do you think that the same rule applies no matter the connection to the guest?

  3. Johanna, gift fishing was my first thought too! I only send gifts to those who have a special place in my life, or whose wedding I intend to attend. I live in a place where gift fishing is, sadly, very common. I send only a card to obvious fishers.


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