THE BLOG

How to Be the Perfect Wedding Guest

03/27/2015 04:14 pm ET | Updated May 27, 2015

If attending multiple weddings is in your future, you are no doubt feeling time-crunched, budget stretched, and a bit overwhelmed. Add the pressure of making dazzling conversation with perfect strangers, and you might consider RSVP'ing "no" to what could turn out to be some of the most memorable moments of your summer.

Here is a quick survival guide to being the perfect wedding guest.

  1. RSVP immediately. Your prompt response is greatly appreciated. If you are asked to fill out a reply card, don't send a text or message on social media instead. Even if you confirm verbally with the bride or groom, follow up with a formal RSVP.
  2. Buy your gift early. It's always the safest bet to purchase a gift off the registry. Keep in mind that the lower to moderately priced items are almost always picked first. The etiquette rule "spend as much on the gift as the cost of your meal" is an outdated statute. When determining how much to spend on a gift, consider your relationship with the happy couple, your personal budget, and the expenses you will incur by attending the wedding. Outgoing costs such as airfare, hotel fees and gratuity to a destination wedding, your bridesmaid dress, and shower expenditures you will be sharing if you are in the wedding party will help decide how much to spend on the gift.
  3. Dress like the guest of honor. When in doubt, the time of day and setting will give you the first clue on what to wear. It will also be stated on the wedding website, or you can ask the bride directly. Fair warning, asking the groom (if he's not fashion friendly), may not provide you with the most accurate information. If it's a "Black Tie" wedding, that means a tuxedo for men and floor length (or very dressy) dress for women. Avoid wearing white if you are not the bride.
  4. Don't be tardy to the wedding. Even if you dread sitting through a long ceremony, arrive at least 10 minutes before the bride walks down the aisle. Your late entry will be disruptive and offensive to the bride, groom, and fellow guests. If you do arrive late, wait outside the door until the usher lets you know when it's most appropriate to take a seat - which should be in the back row. At the reception, the etiquette of when to depart is to stay until the cake has been cut.
  5. No posting pictures without approval. If you are unsure about the photo policy, ask the wedding planner or the bride and groom if they mind you posting your pictures on your personal site. Some couples encourage it, even creating a wedding hashtag, while others would be upset to see images up before they have had a chance to review their own. If you do get the go ahead, stay out of the aisles during the ceremony and don't get in the way of the professional photographer.
  6. No surprise guests. While it may be an unintentional oversight, if you are married or in a serious relationship, if the envelope doesn't include "and guest", don't pencil in your own "plus one" on the reply card. Guests are often limited due to size of the venue or budget restrictions. Kids are another touchy subject. In many families, it becomes a challenge to exclude children, and hurt feelings become a heated topic. The bride and groom should give their guests plenty of time to make arrangements for a babysitter if they prefer an "adult only" wedding. A local affair is an easier situation to handle, as opposed to a destination wedding where you are asking a great deal to leave children behind, or with an unfamiliar caretaker.
  7. Don't swap place cards at the reception. The table is set up for dietary restrictions and switching seats to sit by friends confuses the serving pattern. Guests are strategically seated in a particular order to avoid awkward moments among ex's, in-laws, and to dodge family feuds. This also serves as an indicator to the waiter on where a special menu item should be placed. When you arrive at your seat and realize you don't recognize fellow guests, make it a point to smile, introduce yourself and use this as an opportunity to meet new and exciting people.
  8. Open bar does not mean all you can drink. The standard rule of consumption is one drink per hour. Weddings run out of liquor because they are not anticipating everyone overloading on the free booze. If there are rumblings of the drinks running low, you don't want to be seen as the last one at the bar before they shut it down. Voluntarily switching to water or soda is polite guest behavior.
  9. Dance your heart out. Just don't make a spectacle of yourself on the dance floor. The idea of having fun is to blend in with the crowd, not be tomorrow's Facebook post.
  10. Participate in the festivities. When the bride tosses the bouquet, either join the group or discreetly excuse yourself to the restroom at a strategic time, so you don't appear disinterested in the ritual. Make every effort to have the best time at each wedding you attend. Showing up and demonstrating support for your friends is one of the greatest wedding gifts you can give to someone you care about. Your participation will be noticed and appreciated, just as an empty seat will be remembered long after the ceremony has come and gone.

For more of Diane's wedding etiquette tips, visit her blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, follow her on Pinterest and Instagram and "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook.