We all know the basic wedding etiquette rules. Don’t wear white unless specifically asked to. Don’t choose someone else’s special day as the moment to propose to your partner. Don’t ignore your table assignment.
But there are some less obvious ways guests might be rude at a wedding and not realize it. We asked a few etiquette experts to share some of the most common faux pas they’ve observed.
Read on for 12 rude behaviors to avoid at a wedding ― along with expert advice for getting things right in the etiquette department.
Monopolizing the couple’s time
The newly married couple obviously wants to spend time with their wedding guests, but if they were to properly catch up with every single person, there would be no time for dining, dancing, cutting the cake or anything else. Guests should be mindful of this.
“The bride and groom are going to make their way around the reception floor and while you want to wish them congratulations, you don’t want to monopolize their time,” said Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert, author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “A few minutes is all that is necessary. This is not the time to get into a lengthy conversation.”
Take a moment to wish the happy couple all the best on their big day and then let them carry on with the festivities.
Making a spectacle
“One would hope it would go without saying, but the attention should be on the couple,” said Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “Guests should refrain from screaming, fighting, being overly intoxicated, or sharing private information about the couple during this happy occasion.”
It’s great to get in the celebratory spirit at a wedding, but take care that you don’t cross the line into making a spectacle.
“There’s sometimes that guest who tries to upstage the couple by showing off on the dance floor, so then everyone remembers the person who stole the spotlight from the bride and groom,” said Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. “Don’t be that person.”
It’s not uncommon for wedding guests to go home with a beautiful flower arrangement from the reception or ceremony. But make sure you only do this with express permission from the newlyweds, wedding coordinator or other trustworthy source.
“Don’t take the flowers unless they’re offered,” Whitmore said. “Maybe the couple wants to donate the flowers to charity, or maybe they want to take them home.”
Again, unless you’re encouraged to do this, don’t go up to the band or DJ and request a song. And if they say no, don’t get pushy.
“The couple is likely to have a playlist or pre-selected songs,” said etiquette expert Juliet Mitchell, also known as Ms. J. “In this case, the DJ might tell the person the song list has been pre-set. End of story.”
“Along the line of ‘making a spectacle,’ there are a surprising number of wedding guests (school friends or vengeful relatives) who choose wedding celebrations to divulge past missteps, true parentage, or embarrassing romantic histories of the wedding couple,” Smith said. “This is not the time or place. If it is not already public knowledge, keep your juicy gossip tidbits to yourself.”
Whether you’re giving a speech or regaling the people at your table with stories about the couple, be mindful of the content you choose to include.
Failing to RSVP
“If someone is kind enough to invite you to their wedding, do take the time to respond,” Smith said. “Adding to their to-do list and forcing the hosts to chase you down is rather rude.”
Similarly, make sure you only RSVP for the people invited, i.e., don’t write in a guest’s name if you didn’t get a plus-one. Don’t show up at the wedding with extra people either.
“Some people bring extra guests, in addition to their plus-one,” Mitchell said. “But where are you going to put these other guests? It’s irritating.”
Taking photos during the ceremony
Our iPhones can take great photos these days, but remember the couple has most likely hired a professional photographer to document this occasion.
“When an announcement is made not to take photos of the ceremony and people do it anyway, that is very rude,” Mitchell said.
Even if there’s no announcement or request in the program, it’s best to put your phone away during the ceremony. Or if you simply must take a photo, try to be quick and subtle about it. Don’t lean into the aisle and block the photographer’s or videographer’s perfect shot with your phone.
And whatever you do, make sure your phone won’t go off during the ceremony.
“You don’t want your text notification or phone ringer interrupting the couple’s vows or other poignant moment in the service,” said Anne Chertoff of Beaumont Etiquette.
Telling the couple what’s wrong
Like all events, weddings have hiccups. When you notice something is amiss, however, don’t march up to the newlyweds to point it out.
“Instead of adding stress to the couple, or their parents, on the big day, notify a member of their wedding planning team or catering staff if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” Chertoff said.
Drinking too much
Just because there’s an open bar doesn’t mean you need to take full advantage and order endless drinks.
“Refrain from drinking excessively,” Mitchell advised.
Whitmore similarly cautioned against getting too inebriated, which can often lead to making a spectacle or staying at the venue later than you should.
“You’re supposed to be a gracious guest, be there in support of the couple and have a good time without going too far,” she said.
Skipping or arriving late to the ceremony
Resist the urge to skip the ceremony, even if you expect it might be long or boring.
“Being a witness of the wedding vows is the important part,” she said. “To just show up for the party is in poor taste.”
Furthermore, be sure to show up to the venue on time. You don’t want to be awkwardly walking in with the bridal party procession.
“Even if it means mulling in the parking lot or sitting bored in the pews, guests should make it their mission to arrive at the venue well in advance of the wedding couple,” Smith said.
Of course, unexpected delays happen, so in these unavoidable instances, just make a subtle entrance.
“If you are running late, try to enter the ceremony as quietly as possible and sit in the back as not to interrupt the service,” Chertoff said.
Taking a to-go plate
Even if you see leftovers, Mitchell advised against asking the catering staff for a to-go plate. As with flowers, you don’t want to take anything unless you get the go-ahead from the couple or other people with authority at the event.
“I have noticed of late that the bride and groom may have ‘to-go’ containers fixed and prepared to take so as not to waste food,” Mitchell said. “But don’t ask for a to-go plate, regardless of how casual the wedding is.”
Not showing up
“Saying that you will attend and then skipping out is even worse than not RSVP-ing,” Smith said. “The hosts have planned for you to be there, included you in the seating charts and catering counts. Your absence creates holes in the affair.”
If you have a last-minute emergency and can’t attend, try your best to tell someone who will be at the event so that they can inform the coordinators.
“Instead of calling the newlyweds-to-be, reach out to one of their parents to let them know and send your best wishes as well,” Chertoff recommended.