Top 10 Wedding Guest Etiquette Questions Answered

Weddings give way to an endless list of questions for both brides, grooms and guests, especially given that the etiquette rules are evolving with every coming year. I remember when we were married in 2011 (I was a novice when it came to weddings!), I constantly flipped through my Emily Post and Martha Stewart books as well as The Knot and Brides magazines to ensure every facet of our planning followed proper etiquette, and that I was also a great guest. As a bride, I learned about letterpress invitations, seating charts and cake flavors. As a guest, I learned about wedding gift giving, dress codes, and the role of a bridesmaid. Six years later I’m all the wiser, and now excited to share my advice (both from research and real life experience!) with you my dear readers. And so, today I’m going to share the top 10 questions of wedding guests in the hopes of helping you all to be your best selves at the next wedding that you attend. Cheers to a great week!


Do I have to buy a gift from the registry?

You do not have to buy a gift from the registry, however couple’s often appreciate when you do so. Think of it this way – the registry is a curated selection of the exact gifts that the couple wants, and so they have taken the guesswork out of gift giving and made it oh so easy on their friends and family. If you are adamant about not buying off the registry, strive to give them something truly special.


Can I wear white? Can I wear black?

Guests should never ever wear white, cream, off white or any shade that resembles these fair hues – this color is reserved for the bride. Yes, you may wear black.


What if I’m running late to the ceremony?

Please, dearest guest don’t be late! The start time is not a suggestion, it is the actual start time of the ceremony so do everything you can to be punctual and aim to be there about 20 minutes ahead so you have enough time to find parking and take your seat. However sometimes life happens and if you are late and the ceremony has already begun, wait for the processional to finish and then quietly stand or take a seat in the back. Do everything you can to be quiet and not cause a disruption.


How do I know if I have a plus one?

It will be noted on the invitation via “and guest.” If the invitation is only addressed to you and there is no “and guest,” come solo as your fabulous self.


What is black tie optional? And is the dress code just a suggestion?

Black tie optional means men may either way tuxedos or dark suits, and women can either wear full length dresses or dressy cocktail dresses.


Can we bring our children to the wedding?

Unless the couple has invited your children to the wedding (this would be noted on the invitation), do not bring your children to the wedding. Many couples prefer their wedding to be an adult occasion, and so it’s important to respect their wishes.


Do I have to bring a gift to every event leading up to the wedding?

Yes, ideally you would want to bring a gift to any showers or engagement parties leading up to the big day. Since it can get pricey, give yourself a budget ahead of time so you can stay within your means and you can decide how much you would like to allocate towards each gift.


Can I mail my gift ahead of the wedding or do I need to bring it?

Absolutely! This is actually preferred by most, since it is more convenient for both you and the couple. Most stores where couples register (Williams Sonoma, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, etc.) have all of the registries online making gift giving just a click away.


Do I have to attend the ceremony or can I just go to the reception?

You need to attend both the ceremony and reception. The couple has lovingly invited you to witness their vows and then celebrate, and so share in this special day with them from start to finish. Plus, they are likely to remember who attended and who didn’t!


How do I know when the reception is over?

Cutting the cake signals the end of the event, and that guests may leave. Although, after their cake, many will choose to have another glass of champagne and hit the dance floor!

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