11 UK Wedding Etiquette Dos and Don’ts that You May Not Know
Wedding etiquette refers to what is considered polite and acceptable to do at a wedding, and more importantly, what you shouldn’t do.
In the past, wedding etiquette has been very formal and strict – leaving guests with a pit of dread in their stomach that they might accidentally make a faux-pas. However, many modern couples are far more relaxed about the dos and don’ts of weddings, making a more relaxed, enjoyable affair for all.
That doesn’t mean to say that you can do whatever you want. Here are 10 wedding dos and don’ts that anyone attending a wedding should know. This will also be useful to any brides and grooms planning their big day – so you’ll know what to expect from your guests!
Planning a wedding is stressful, as many of you can attest to. If you’ve planned any big event before you’ll know just the kind of headaches you can get from trying to juggle all the things that need doing. This includes planning and organising your guest list, figuring out how many people are coming, and working out a seating plan.
This is why guests should reply promptly and give the couple plenty of time to arrange for your being, or not being, there. The RSVP date isn’t the date you should send your invite back – it’s the latest cut-off point. Please ensure you send it back way before then – the couple will love you even more!
If you’re planning a wedding, always include a strict RSVP deadline on your reply cards. Where possible, make this deadline at least a week earlier than necessary, to allow a ‘grace period’ for any late responders.
Whatever your opinions on marriage, weddings, and love in general, you should keep them to yourself on the day. The couple might not have planned things exactly as you would have done, but they’re not you. So, remember that whatever the couple have decided to do is right for them, and they won’t appreciate you chiming in with negative comments.
This goes for religious ceremonies. You might not be religious, but the couple are. And your job as a guest is just to respect that and be appropriate – whatever that may entail.
If it’s your wedding coming up, remember that only you and your partner’s opinions count. You don’t have to take anyone else’s opinions into account if you don’t want to!
Honour the Couple’s Wishes
If you’ve been invited to both the ceremony and the reception – lucky you! But don’t just go to one and not the other, without informing the couple of your intentions. And even then, it should only be for a real emergency or problem.
If the couple have invited you to both events then you should respect that enough and go to both. We know that the reception is more fun, but they obviously want you there for a reason! The same goes for those who are only invited to the reception. Don’t even think about showing up for the ceremony as you likely won’t be allowed in, and there won’t be a space available for you!
If you’re planning your own wedding, you can separate evening guests from day guests by using special evening wedding invitations and wording them unambiguously, so that invitees won’t get confused.
This goes for men and women. The couple will have decided on a theme or dress code for their wedding and you should stick to it. This will most likely mean suits and ties for men, and hats and dresses for the women – if the couple has gone with a formal option. Some couples choose to have a more informal dress code, so adapt your outfit accordingly.
The dress code is usually found on the wedding invitation or on an additional note card included in the envelope. If you’re ever in doubt, get in touch with the bride’s mother to ask her. Generally, she’s the person who sets the tone for how everyone else should dress. And of course, NEVER wear white!
Respect the Seating Plan
You might be disappointed that you’re sitting next to Great Aunt Maggie instead of the cute swimming instructor, but do not, under any circumstances, kick up a fuss about the table plan. The couple have likely spent many a long night arguing about who should go where and what they’ve ended up with is the best outcome possible.
Don’t go switching seats just because you’re not happy with yours. The seating plan is there for a reason, and if people switch it can cause chaos. This is true of your table too – you might think it’s okay for you to switch seats with other people on your table, but this can still cause problems. Look for your place card and then stick to that seat!
Bring or Send a Gift
Obviously, we know this is a tricky one. Some people don’t have the money to buy gifts, as well all the other expenses that go with a wedding. Hopefully, you won’t be dealing with Bride- or Groom-Zilla, so they’ll be reasonable about the gifts they expect people to bring. Ask the maid of honour, or someone else in the wedding party, whether the happy couple have a gift list – and if they do, try to choose something from it if you can afford to.
If you’re on a budget, something is better than nothing. A card with a gift voucher is bound to be appreciated, no matter the value. You should also make sure to send a gift or at least a card if you’ve been invited to the wedding but can’t attend. It will show the couple that you’re still thinking of them on their special day.
Don’t – Forget to RSVP
This should go without saying, but a surprisingly large number of wedding guests just plain don’t bother to RSVP – that is, inform the bride and groom whether they plan to attend the wedding.
After receiving your invitation, you must return the RSVP card (or use whatever method stated on the invitation), and state your intentions before the deadline. The couple absolutely need to know how many people are coming in advance, in order to arrange the seating plan and tell the caterer how many meals to make.
Even if you’re not planning to attend the wedding, you still need to let the bride and/or groom know! Otherwise, they’ll have to waste their time chasing up everyone who hasn’t replied.
Don’t – Be Late!
This is a fairly obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people think they can just slip in the back unnoticed while the ceremony is going on. The doors of the venue are likely to be closed when the ceremony begins, and you squeaking the door open is going to turn a few heads. It’s the happy couple’s big day, so save your grand entrance for another event!
The ceremony start time will be listed on the wedding invitation, so pay attention to it, and arrive no later than that time. Build extra time into your journey just in case there’s traffic – it’s always better to be a little early than a little late.
Don’t – Assume Your Partner Is Invited
Although many couples will give their guests a “plus one” (i.e. allow each guest to bring a guest of their own), this isn’t always the case. This is especially true of couples who are planning their wedding on a budget, or have a limited number of spots available.
If you’re allowed to bring someone, your wedding invitation will say (for example) “Karen Smith and Guest”. If the “and guest” part is missing, it means you have not been allocated a plus one, and shouldn’t bring your partner.
The same goes for your children. If the whole family is invited, the invitation will read (for example) “the Smith family”. If it says “Mr and Mrs Smith”, it’s safe to assume your children are not invited. Ask if your in doubt and respect the couple’s decision.
Showing up with someone who hasn’t been invited can throw the whole day off. There won’t be space for them to sit, and the caterers won’t have enough food for them. Not to mention, bringing someone along uninvited is just rude!
Don’t – Spend the Whole Time on Your Phone
Never make a call or text during the ceremony. Imagine the happiest moment of your life and you look up to see everyone you love there with you, and they’re on their phone. It will upset the couple, and it is just rude. If you really have to take or make a call, discreetly exit the venue and do it outside.
This also goes for photos during the ceremony. Chances are, the couple will have hired a professional wedding photographer to capture their day and they don’t want the photos messed up by other people trying to take photos. You also shouldn’t post anything on social media (especially photos) until the day after the wedding (unless the couple have explicitly stated that you can).
Don’t – Rush Off Early
You might be tired, you might not be a party person, or you might just be more introverted and spending time with lots of people isn’t your idea of fun. We’ve all been places where we’ve wanted to leave. But at a wedding, to leave early is quite rude, and can upset the couple.
The general rule of thumb is wait at least until the first dance is over, and then you can say your thanks and goodbyes if you don’t want to stick around for the party. Make sure you thank the couple for inviting you and wish them well. Remember it’s customary to congratulate the groom and give best wishes to the bride. We’re not sure why, but it happens!
Now you’re ready to be the best wedding guest ever, so go and brush your dancing shoes off, you’ve got a party to go to!