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How to be the Perfect Wedding Guest

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 4 12

               Well you heard through the grapevine your friends from school are getting married!  You should be expecting some invitations in the mail but you haven’t got a clue what to do.  Don’t sweat, there is a simple timeline you can follow to ensure you’ll have the best time there and the bride and groom will be proud to call you friend. 

                First you’ll be receiving your “save the date.”  This is NOT the invitation.  This is the prequel to the invitation, the invitation’s invitation if you will.  Basically this piece of paper says “you better start saving now because soon you’ll be spending a lot of money and making a lot of plans around us.”  Once this invitation arrives, start to prepare your finances.  You’ll need to buy a present about a month before the wedding, you may even get invited to special event parties such as bridal showers, bachelor parties, etc. in which case you’ll need more than just a gift.  You may have to chip in money for the stripper, the karaoke room or even buy a funny gag gift.  Put a little extra money aside just in case this happens.  You may also choose to give your only gift during one of these parties, just be sure to factor in that this gift will be given sooner than the wedding.  You’ll need money for a hotel, I’d suggest looking up rates in the area the wedding may be and saving an average of that.  You may get lucky and live close enough to the reception that you can drive home afterward but if there is an open bar involved I’d suggest getting a hotel regardless.  If it is NOT an open bar, plan on having spending money for that.  You may want to get yourself something nice to wear, if you already have something, Kudos, you don’t have to spend extra money.   If you are lucky enough to be invited to stand and support the happy couple, plan on spending triple digits for a tuxedo rental or dress and alterations, sometimes even, shoes, accessories, hair & make-up, etc.  Once you’ve figured out and set aside the proper finances everything should be smooth sailing.

                It is now 3 months before the ceremony.  You have received the OFFICIAL WEDDING IVITATION.  This should include information about location, hotels, maps, registry, and possibly even various wedding parties.  Within one week of getting this invitation, reserve your hotel room.  It is better to be safe than sorry and you don’t want your car to go back to on a night like that.  They don’t need any money; they just need a card number so you should be able to book a hotel without spending anything.  Next, ask off from work if you are scheduled to work that day.  I’d be sure and ask off for the next day as well if you plan on “having a great time.”

                Around 5 months before the date is when you’ll be renting your tux or purchasing your dress, but if you’re not standing, 2 months prior is a good time to start shopping.  If you already have something appropriate, you’re good to go.  THE NUMBER ONE RULE TO WEDDING ATTIRE: DO NOT WEAR ANYTHING WHITE AND/OR LIGHT IN COLOR.  Of course you don’t want to look dirty or skanky, this is dressy event, you will get an idea of the attire on the invitation but the main thing to remember is this is the BRIDE’S day to wear white. 

                It is now a month before the wedding date.  You may already have you’re attire, you may have already attended a party or two.  If you haven’t given them their gift, it is now time to purchase it.  On the invitation, the couple should indicate where they want their gift to come from.  Some want a donation made in their name, some pick places such as Bed, Bath and Beyond, Crate and Barrel or Macy’s.  Either way, everyone understands some of us can’t afford the biggest and the best.  Just make sure the gift is something within their registry.  If you plan on giving cash or a check, make the donation a little bigger than what you’d spend on a gift.  So, make a donation to their registry website, go to whatever place they registered and buy an item within your budget, or set aside the cash in a sealed envelope next to the invitation so you don’t spend it.  Once you get this taken care of, you’re practically set.  When it gets into the weeks before, you may find yourself going to the last minute bachelor/bachelorette parties, giving your gag gifts, pitching in for the karaoke room, etc. but that little extra money you saved will more than likely be utilized here. 

                It is now the weekend of.  If you have prepared, everything should fall into place.  You can check into your hotel with the money you set aside for your reservation, you’ve have the present you already bought beforehand and you’re new digs are pressed and hanging in your car ready to go.  A few more rules to abide by:  On the day of be courteous if you have to wait a little bit.  Bring tissue if you tend to be emotional.  Don’t forget the gift if you’re bringing it the day of.  Have your route ready so you’re not late to the ceremony.  Leave with time to spare in case you get a chance to check into your hotel beforehand.  Turn your cell phones OFF and keep your babies silent please, this is their moment; don’t ruin it with one of your own. 

                At the reception, also learn to be patient.  If they are taking pictures afterwards this can cause quite a delay and you may get restless, just be patient.  It may be a good idea to bring a bag of peanuts or something to snack on in case you get hungry.  Eat and socialize but pay attention when there are speeches, announcements, etc.  Dance your backside off but do NOT use this date as an opportunity to get drunk for the first time in a year, be warmed up because it will more than likely be a long night and no one likes to deal with a sloppy drunk at a wedding.  Please behave yourself and don’t complain, out loud.  Yes, we all have differences, we get it, you would have done it differently, but you didn’t because it is their day, not yours.  Last but not least, it is polite to stay at the reception until after the bride and groom have left.  It is not required, however, under certain circumstances.  Be prepared, be patient, be polite.

                These simple steps will assure you to have the greatest time at a wedding!



Apr 27, 2011 8:23pm
Following this would take care of all the planning. Thanks for the article.
May 24, 2011 1:59am
I'm so glad you wrote this. I'm attending my first wedding soon and had no idea what to expect.
May 24, 2011 4:52pm
As somebody that is getting married for the first (and only) time in September I have to thank you so much. This is a must read for any wedding guest.
May 25, 2011 2:46am
I have a few comments.

First, when I was a bridesmaid for my cousin's wedding. She paid for everything - the dress, the shoes, the makeup, the hairstylist. I couldn't imagine a couple making their bridesmaids/groomsman pay for everything. Unfortunately, she broke up with her fiance a month before the wedding.

Second, choosing what you wear for a wedding is very important as you will most likely have your picture taken and will have to live with that decision forever. For my brother's wedding, I wore the ugliest red t-shirt with a diamond heart on the front and a really skanky short white skirt. I don't know what I was thinking and every time I see a picture from that day, I cringe.

Third, I agree with the not getting drunk part of the article, especially if you are in the wedding party. At my cousin's wedding (a different cousin than the one from above), the entire wedding party got wasted. Her new husband, in his drunkeness, confessed to cheating on her with the secretary at his work. For the rest of the reception, the bride stayed on one side of the room and the groom stayed on the other side. It was the weirdest weddings I've ever been to. The newlyweds ended up filing for divorce the next week.

Anyways, that's all I have to say on the subject. Great article!!
May 25, 2011 3:31pm
The cell phone advice just saved me a world of shame. It didn't even cross my mind.
May 25, 2011 7:47pm
Great tips on "How to be the Perfect Wedding Guest." Thanks for sharing.
May 29, 2011 1:27pm
Love the idea. Will surely keep them in mind when invited to the next wedding
May 31, 2011 7:12pm
This will come in handy as I've just been invited to a co workers wedding. Thanks!
Jun 6, 2011 10:45am
A while ago, my best friend wedded. He invited me but I chose not to attend for fear of what to wear or the lack of it, despite the fact that I had a lot to choose from. This article is timely because another friend of mine-a coleague at work is walking down the aisle soon. I will be a perfect guest.
Jun 10, 2011 3:16pm
Excellent tips for being the perfect wedding guest.
Jun 18, 2011 8:59pm
For the men: for the cost of about two rentals, you can buy a tuxedo. If you get a conservative style (black, shawl or regular collar), you can wear it to every wedding, symphony or opera opening, charity gala, etc. Even if you don't go to such things now, you may well wish to someday in the future when you are rich and successful!

Also, please, never bring the gift to an event. Many gifts get accidentally left behind, or worse, broken, and if not, the bride has one more thank-you note to write when she returns from her honeymoon and is trying to settle into her new routine. If you buy a gift from a registry, you can have the gift sent to the bride's home, and if you do it a month or so before the wedding, you will receive a prompt thank-you note and the bride will privately be heaving a sigh of relief that she won't face an entire mountain of thank-you notes afterwards!

Just to show how that can help, most gifts were delivered to my home about a month before my wedding. The UPS driver showed up each morning about ten, and I would open the gift just enough to peek and see what was inside and who had sent it. I could have all my thank-you notes done before noon, when the postman came, and all the gifts put tidily away in their permanent homes by one in the afternoon.

Because I had so many requests for it, we had a small party about ten days before the wedding for the guests who wished to do so to view the presents. I set up a nice table with a gorgeous cloth (a wedding gift), and put all the presents on display. About twenty people, including family members who wanted to brag about how much money they spent, showed up and stayed for drinks and a small, informal dinner. A few more guests also brought their presents that night. The next morning, all was put away and tidy again!
Jun 18, 2011 9:00pm
Forgot to mention that when I came back from my month-long honeymoon, I had three thank-you notes to write for the presents brought to the wedding reception. It was much easier than having seventy notes to write!
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