If you are a wedding vendor, September spells the end of the official “wedding season”. However, if you are the average person with a reasonable number of family and friends, you will know that wedding season never ends.
With that in mind I thought it might be helpful to consider wedding etiquette, from the perspective of the both bride and groom, and guests. There are no official rules as far as I’m aware, but having experienced being a bride that one time, and a guest quite a few other times, I have formed my own views about what the rules should be. And course because they are my views, they are obviously right.
Before I begin I must confess that I, in the past, have been guilty of breaking a few of these rules. I was ignorant then, but after reading this, you dear reader will have no excuse. Especially you Nigerians. (I can say that, because I’m Nigerian).
Let us start with some do and don’t for wedding guests. In no particular order:
DO respond to the invitation. RSVP does not mean “Rice and Stew Very Plenty”, it means “Let me know if you are coming or not because I am not a mind reader, and I need to plan according to numbers”. If your plans change and you can no longer attend, please let the bride and groom know as soon as you can for the same reason.
DO NOT turn up if you have not been invited. This is because the bride and groom will not be expecting you, so would not have catered for you, and most likely will not have allocated you a seat. To turn up when not invited means that you are taking the seat, and eating the food of somebody who actually was invited. I can only assume that people that turn up uninvited just have not considered this before. Well now you know. You’re welcome.
DO keep a low profile if somehow, you end up at a wedding you were not invited to. It shouldn’t really ever happen, but maybe for example, were tricked by a guest who led you to believe they were allowed a plus one, but it becomes clear when you get there that you really were not invited at all. In such cases avoid being snapped by the official photographer, so that the bride and groom do not later look through their wedding album and think “who let him in??” It’s also probably best not to approach the bride and groom to congratulate them. They probably do not know you, and do not want to see you. Just try and blend into the background.
DO NOT make the day all about you. You are there to support and celebrate with the bride and groom. Don’t try and upstage the couple with your outfit. In fact my own personal rule is, the less well I know the bride and groom the less I dress up. If you are going as a plus one, who may not have even be invited, wear jeans.
DO get a gift and/or card. Because even if the only reason you came is to eat and dance, getting at the very least a card, makes that fact less obvious. And because turning up empty handed is just rude. Even if you were not invited. In fact, especially so.
DO NOT buy a gift that the bride and groom did not include on a gift list. There is a very good reason why people use gift lists. It means that everything on the list is something they want/need, and it means that they don’t end up getting the same thing twice or more. Can you see the chaos, departing from the gift list brings? If you really don’t want to buy anything from the list, cash is a perfectly good alternative. But to assume that the couple want a glass figurine when it was not on their gift list is a big assumption. And most probably a wrong assumption.
DO ask for permission before splattering pictures you’ve taken from the wedding all over the Internet. Not everybody enjoys violating their own privacy in such a way, so do check first.
DO NOT complain about where you have been seated. You will only have to sit there for as many hours as you choose to be there. It’s not that big a deal. (If you’ve not been invited, don’t complain about this, or anything else for that matter). Weddings without seating plans can lead to a difficult situation where you do not get a seat at all. Even in such awkward situations, do not complain. Just leave.
Bride and grooms, there are some rules for you too:
DO NOT provide conflicting information on your invitations. Here’s an example “We do not want gifts. Our Selfridges gift list number is…. (But we actually prefer cash)”. If you really don’t want any gifts, it best to suggest some charities that guests can donate to instead. Otherwise just give the gift list number and say no more about it.
DO be thoughtful about items you put on gift lists. Give a wide range of options in terms of price, as when people are attending 10+ weddings a year, they may not want to spend £100 on a gift each time.
DO NOT put too much pressure on guests. This will likely apply to guests who are close to the bride and groom. There may be an engagement dinner at which such guests will have to spend money on food, and on an engagement gift. This will be followed by a shower at which another gift will be expected. Then there may be a hen night/stag do which will involve going out and in some cases going abroad, and spending more money. In Nigerian circles, female friends may be asked to by Asoebi material which in some cases are being sold for in excess of £100, and that’s not including the costs to get it sewn. Sometimes guests will also be asked to abide by a colour code which may mean buying an entire new outfit. By the time your wedding is over, a guest may find he or she has spent the cost of a new car. This is not necessary and should be avoided.
DO create a seating plan. Guests should not have to scramble for seats. How would you feel if you had to leave a wedding and go for pizza because there was nowhere for you to sit, because you had not been properly allocated a seat, because there was no seating plan? Exactly.
DO NOT invite the whole world. Or at least don’t feel you have to. The more people at a wedding, the less personal it feels. Crowded weddings can lead to issues such as the one described above, where a guest could end up leaving the wedding, without you having acknowledged they were ever there.
DO think about your guests and ensure they are fed. A wedding can be a long day. Don’t spend all of your wedding budget on making yourselves and the venue look good at the expense of providing enough food. If food runs out before everyone has been fed, for those guests that went without, that will be the only thing they remember about your wedding.
DO NOT if possible, turn your guests into staff. I understand that sometimes, couples want to save money by getting friends to help out with things on the day. This should be restricted to close friends, and they should have advance warning. Guests shouldn’t really be roped into setting up, serving food, or helping clear up. Especially when they’ve not even eaten because the food ran out.
DO try and do the rounds and greet all guests. It adds a personal touch that makes guests feel that you appreciate them coming. Which you should do, given that they’ve already spent £1000 on hen nights, outfits, and wedding gifts, and after your wedding, they’ve got two more to get to before the night ends.