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Wedding Etiquette 101: Here Are 13 Things You Absolutely Need To Avoid Doing When Attending A Wedding

By Diana Clarke··  7 min read
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In the midst of wedding season, we’re here to make sure you don’t accidentally commit a faux pas on someone else's big day.

When it comes to weddings, there are all sorts of unwritten rules that accompany them. Whether they’re traditions that have existed forever or rules that have emerged in recent years, it’s best to stick to them for the sake of respecting the couple (and their families). So we’ve compiled a list of wedding no-nos to save you from potential mishaps while attending your next wedding.

1. Wearing White

This means white, off-white, cream, ivory, eggshell, champagne, really pale blue… anything that even closely resembles white or could look like white in a photograph is off-limits. White is for the bride, and the last thing you want to do is upset or upstage her.

This doesn’t mean your outfit can’t have any white at all. But if you’re having any doubts, it's better not to risk it and choose something else. The only time it’s acceptable to wear white is when it’s requested by the bride and groom as part of the theme of the day. See more tips on picking out the perfect wedding guest dress here.

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2. Not Adhering to the Dress Code

I know, sometimes wedding lingo feels like a foreign language. Black tie? Dressy casual? Beach formal? (What on earth is beach formal!?) Unless the bride and groom have spelled it out for you, it’s your responsibility to figure out what’s appropriate for the day. 

If the wedding is black tie, you need to pull out your favorite full-length evening gown. A beach wedding means you can leave the stilettos at home and opt for a sundress and sandals. But please, dressy casual does not mean jeans and a t-shirt (that’s never appropriate). 

If the bride and groom have made a special request, like wearing all black or all white (yes, it’s okay to wear white if the couple requests it), make sure you follow it. You don’t want to be the only guest who couldn’t get the theme right. Whether provided with a dress code or not, a good general rule is that it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. 

3. Wearing Something Overly Flashy or Revealing

Just like wearing white, avoid wearing something overly flashy or revealing that could steal the spotlight from the happy couple. So you should probably leave your brightest bold print or sparkly NYE-style sequins at home for the day. And a wedding is certainly not the time for cut-outs, super low necklines, and itty bitty mini dresses. Check out our wedding guest dress recommendations here.

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4. Making a Scene or Making the Day about You

We’ve all heard about proposals happening at someone else’s wedding. Yikes. 

This day isn’t about you, so blend in with the crowd as much as you can. Don’t sit in the front row at the ceremony unless you're part of the couple's immediate family. Don't pick a fight with your boyfriend or friend or the groomsman who ghosted you a couple months back. Don’t talk about your own romantic life (or lack thereof) all day long. If you catch the bouquet, we’re happy for you; if you didn’t, maybe next time. But either way, let the focus be on the couple getting married. There's no valid reason for why a guest should be stealing away their spotlight at any point throughout the day or night.  

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5. Arriving Late

Think about how much the bride and groom had to do in preparation for this big day. The least their guests can do is show up on time with a smile on their face! 

This also applies to leaving. Unless you have a good reason (like little kids who need to sleep), don’t clock out hours before the party is over. Conversely, when the happy couple has made their grand exit and the party’s clearly over, leave promptly. You don’t want to be the last person lingering around while the vendors and staff are trying to clear out the place.

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6. Complaining about the Weather, the Food, the Drinks, the Guests, Etc.

If there’s ever a time to “say something nice or not say anything at all,” it’s at someone else's wedding. Although it might be tempting to complain about the weather, the seating arrangement, or the time spent waiting around, it’s better just to keep those thoughts to yourself. You don’t need to give your two cents about every detail – just enjoy the day!

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7. Giving an Unsolicited Speech 

For those of us who would be bold enough (or drunk enough) to do this, please don’t. Toasts and speeches are usually reserved for the family and the bridal party only, and by prior invitation.

Weddings run on a strict schedule. Whatever you have to say, it’s probably not worth taking time away from other events of the evening that the bride and groom have planned.

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8. Overindulging in Alcohol

I’m sure the bride and groom want you to have a good time at their wedding – but maybe not too good of a time. 

An open bar isn’t an invitation to overindulge, and getting drunk isn’t cute or classy. You’ll likely meet a lot of new people at a wedding, and you don’t want to leave a bad first impression. And who knows what else could happen: you could get an unflattering picture taken, say something unintentionally rude, or you might even spill wine on the bride. Getting drunk is temporary, but photographs and first impressions last much, much longer.

If you’re worried about going overboard, maybe don’t drink at all or limit yourself to one glass of wine with dinner. Ask your date or a friend to hold you accountable. You can still have a good time without alcohol. 

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9. Asking for a Plus One

If it’s not suggested in the invitation, don’t ask for a plus one. Either go solo or decline. There’s likely a good reason you weren’t offered a plus one. It could be related to cost or space at the venue, but either way, it needs to be respected. 

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10. Showing Up If You Didn’t RSVP

It doesn't matter how busy you are, the bottom line is that you absolutely need to RSVP. There are so many details that go into planning a wedding, and it’s a real headache for the bride and groom and wedding planners if they don’t know their exact guest count. There are usually seating charts to configure and food orders of “the chicken or the beef” to submit. If you don’t RSVP within the time requested, don’t show up.

Alternatively, if you did RSVP and you can no longer make it, you need to let the bride and groom know as soon as possible. You could be taking someone else’s spot who wants to be there.

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11. Getting in the Way of the Photographer and Videographer

Technology is incredible these days, but your iPhone pictures won’t be better than the professional photographer’s pictures. So put the phone away and enjoy the moment; let the professionals do the work. You're there in person, so resist the urge to watch the ceremony through your phone screen. There's nothing worse than seeing an iPhone (or a sea of iPhones) sticking out from the aisle in every professional photo.

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12. Asking the Photographer To Take Special Photos of You

Once again, a gentle reminder that this isn't anyone's day except the bride and groom's. The photographer already has enough on their plate without wedding guests' special requests. There will be lots of downtime during the day for you to take pictures with your boyfriend or your besties on your iPhone. 

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13. Posting Photos to Social Media of the Bride and Groom Before They Do

Wedding etiquette is as old as time, but social media etiquette is relatively new. So we’re here to tell you: don’t post pictures of the bride and groom on social media before they do. It’s okay to post pictures of you and your husband or your besties, but not of the newlyweds. Let the happy couple reveal their professional photos to the virtual world on their own timeline. 

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Closing Thoughts

Weddings are supposed to be fun and they still can be while following some general wedding etiquette rules! Remain the classy, chic, and polished lady we know you are and you’ll have a good time while still respecting the happy couple. 

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