Whether you’re the one wearing white or one of the dearly beloved gathered to witness matrimony in the making, there are certain wedding etiquette rules that help to ensure the big day goes gloriously for all involved. In fact, there are codes of decorum for behavior from the the start of the event planning until long after the lights dim on the reception hall. With wedding season just around the corner, we’ve compiled a list of the biggest dos and don’ts, be you bride or guest.
In a word, yes. Even if you're having a very small wedding, this is one of the worst faux pas a bride-to-be can make, according to Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette legend Emily Post and a co-president of the . “It’s not polite to invite someone to a party that’s all about gifts for the honoree and then not invite them to the main event,” she explains. “It’s like saying to the person 'I want your presents, not your presence.’ It’s rude.”
Wedding invitation etiquette dictates that guests who are married or in a long-term, serious relationship should receive a -one on their invite. It’s a courtesy the betrothed should also extend to anyone in their wedding party. But even if you’re a guest who’s been hitched since the dawn of time, don’t bring your spouse if your invitation doesn’t list them by name or read “and guest.”
“If you haven’t been given a -one,” Post says, “the biggest no-no is assuming you can bring an extra guest or just bringing one knowing you’re not supposed to.”
Arriving or staying too late, for starters. “You don’t show up after the ceremony has started,” says , founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach. “And don’t overstay your welcome. After the bride and groom leave you certainly don’t stay and hang out at the bar.”
The day's spotlight belongs on the happy couple. Leave your slickest dance moves at home so as not to outshine them.
Most of all, keep the lampshade off of your head. “You don’t want to become intoxicated and make a fool out of yourself by falling on the dance floor or falling asleep at your plate,” Whitmore adds. “That’s a big one.”
Weddings still carry the obligation of a gift even if you send your regrets—and unlike what you might've heard, the couple should receive their presents within three months after they’ve tied the knot. “Some folks feel like, ‘I didn’t go to the wedding...what do you mean I have to send them a blender?’” Post says. “We often say that sending some kind of small commemorative gift is really nice: an ornament with the wedding date on it, or a picture frame with their initials engraved on it. Something simple."
Cash is always fine, and so is going off the registry. Wedding gift etiquette says it’s totally up to you. So is deciding whether or not you want to bring a present if it’s not the couple’s first trip down the aisle.
“However,” Post advises, “we really encourage people to think about the fact that while it might not be the first marriage for the person you know, it might be the first marriage for the person they’re marrying. We find that most people want to celebrate and honor their friend’s love and commitment with a gift, despite the rule.”
If you’re a guest, don’t assume it’s okay to snap cell photos on the big day and upload them to social media. While many couples are now encouraging this activity with hashtags, if you haven’t explicitly been given the go-ahead and do so anyway, you risk ruining the moment for them. “This is one of those gray areas that isn’t really defined,” Whitmore says. “Use your best judgement. When in doubt, don’t do it and give the couple an opportunity to post pictures of their wedding. You don’t want to burst their bubble.
If you’re the happy couple, consider keeping a leash on endless Facebook posts months after the event—you don’t want to risk alienating your buddies. “Maybe take some time to collect candids from your friends, or from the wedding hashtag if you decide to do that, and then post it all in one album,” Post advises.
“You don’t need to post it in a million different albums. That’s really going to eat up people’s feeds. For each party you might choose to create an album, like for the wedding shower, or bridesmaids luncheon. But I personally tend to go with less is more.”
You’re not doing too badly, according to Post. “Some brides really do open gifts as they come in and that does make it easier to get thank-you notes out,” she says. “That way, you’ve got maybe two or three a week that you’re doing, as opposed to 15. But it’s usually within three months after the wedding that you want to have it wrapped up.”