A week or so ago, we posted a quiz on our blog called "Are you a Bad Guest?", because year on year we see brides and grooms deal with so much drama that has nothing to do with planning the wedding and everything to do with guests who manage to make a day about others into an activity about their own needs.
Sadly, the worst behavior is typically saved for the actual reception itself. My belief is that the offensive guests usually aren't self-aware enough to realize that they are being rude or inappropriate. So, to quote an Oprah-ism, "If you know better, you do better", I thought I would prepare a simple check list of 10 things to not do if you are a wedding guest. These are all culled from real life experience, no fiction here.
1. Don't wear white... unless you are Pippa Middleton or a guest of Kim Kardashian and were asked to do so.
This seems like common sense, but you would be amazed at how many times I've seen guests show up in white, or near white dresses. Probably the worst case of this was when a bride's future Mother in Law arrived at the church wearing a white gown, but that's a story for another time. In any case, there is a full spectrum of tones that you can wear to a wedding, including black... so why not just leave white for the bride?
2. Arrive at the time on the invitation.
There is a myth, particularly in New York, that the "real" start time is actually a half an hour after the invitation time. It isn't really. It's at the time that was carefully selected and it would be appreciated if you got there at that time. And, if you do arrive late, please, please DO NOT walk in, see that the ceremony is happening and then exclaim loudly "Oh My God! Did we miss it? But Ceremonies NEVER start on time." They actually do. And this one did, so just be quiet and move on with it. Similarly, while it is appreciated that you didn't want to be late, it isn't always appreciated when you arrive an hour before the invitation time either. We all recognize that you want to "beat traffic", but killing time is what Starbucks' are for.
3. Arrive with the people to whom the invitation was addressed to.
No, it wasn't a mistake that your children's names weren't on the invitation. When your envelope arrived and it didn't say "and guest" it actually was completely clear "whether or not you could bring a date?" (the answer is no, because it didn't tell you to on the envelope).
4. Don't bring a boxed present with you.
Yes, it is true that there are some bulky items on wedding registries like lamps or toaster ovens or ice cream makers and what have you, and it IS the right thing to do to purchase the couple a present. The wrong thing to do though is to bring that present with you to the ceremony and reception. It's inconvenient and you don't get extra credit for showing up with a gift. You have a year to send them a present, so just order something or the registry and have it sent to them.
5. Some people will have been asked to make toasts, if you aren't one of them, please do not try and make a toast.
First of all, speeches at weddings are generally the low light of the night. Secondly, the couple almost always carefully selects the people who are invited to speak at the wedding. Third, if they didn't choose you, no matter how amazing you think your words of wisdom might be, you should keep them to yourself.
6. Similarly, do not make requests of the band or DJ.
Hmm. How do I say this politely? Someone paid for this band or DJ and they took the time to hire professionals AND to review the songs that they wanted played and not played. They did not pay this person or group of people to be human juke boxes, no matter how badly you may want to hear Beyonce or what have you. And, part two of this is, please don't, don't, don't ask to sing with the band, it doesn't matter how much everyone loves your version of "Delilah" or "Mony, Mony."
7. Don't expect special food.
If you have dietary restrictions or allergies that are very severe, it's probably a good idea to give someone a heads up when you respond to the invitation. If you have super severe dietary restrictions, it's probably a good idea to bring your own snack or eat before you arrive in case you don't like what is presented to you at the event. It's totally reasonable to expect something for you to be there, but not rational to assume that if you are a Vegan with a gluten allergy that you are going to be thrilled with the special dish that is presented to you. Carry a Vitacost bar or something like that in case you aren't happy instead of complaining about it.
8. Don't complain to the bride and groom at the wedding.
When I had my own wedding many moons ago, we had a catering mishap at the reception and it took way too long to get food out to the floor. For me, as a professional, it was a horror that I tried to not let traumatize me. For most of my guests it was a fabulous excuse to keep drinking without being interrupted by the nuisance of food. Except for my Aunt Fran, who wasn't content complaining to the bartenders, waiters, my friends and my family. She just couldn't help herself and had to walk up to me while I was on the dance floor, pull me away and tell me that she was hungry and mad about it.
9. Don't Complain to the Bride or Groom after the wedding either.
A few days before my last client's wedding the groom rang me anxious to know my opinion on bathroom attendants. I told him I didn't think it was necessary, but was curious what brought it up. He told me that one of his colleagues had a huge, black tie reception a few weeks ago and that his aunts kept calling his colleague to complain that there weren't any bathroom attendants. WHY they would feel that this complaint merited post-event attention is beyond me, but the point is, it wasn't appropriate. Even if it was the worst wedding you've ever gone to, you weren't invited as a critic, and they don't need your constructive criticism. Chalk it up under "not the best night ever" and move on with your life.
I'll leave it at that. Wait until you get home. Please. No area of a wedding is private enough for this.