Wedding Etiquette for Guests: Top 8 Q&As
Q. I've been invited to a friend's wedding, but I don't want to go alone. Is it okay to bring a date?
A: Check your invitation envelope. Does it just say your name or does it say your name "plus guest"? If yours is the only name on the envelope, then you're the only one who's been officially invited. Resist the urge to ask the couple if you can bring a guest anyway. Instead, figure out who else might be attending the wedding solo and plan your transportation (and accommodations) with them, if possible. If it's still too uncomfortable to attend alone, then you can politely decline the invitation.
Q: How do I find out where the couple is registered? It doesn't say on the invite.
A: It shouldn't. If the couple included their registry info on the invitation, it would seem as if they were asking for gifts—and technically, wedding gifts are not mandatory. Check to see if the couple has listed their wedding website on the invite. If so, chances are they've indicated where they're registered somewhere on that. If so, their registry information is probably on their site. If not, start asking around—try members of the couple's wedding party, the couple's family, and if all else fails, the couple themselves.
Q. My husband and I were recently invited to a 3 p.m. wedding ceremony followed by a 6 p.m. black-tie reception. Does this mean that he should wear a suit for the ceremony and then change into a tux for the reception? And does that mean that I have to change into a different dress?
A: Breathe a sigh of relief, because one outfit will be fine for each of you! Though the old school etiquette rules say that you must wait until evening to break out the black tie attire, these days, going formal during daylight hours is acceptable (only tails are now considered improper for a daytime ceremony). You should both don your best duds for the ceremony and the reception, no changing required.
Q: I've heard that you have up to a year after the wedding to buy a gift. Is that true?
A: Technically, yes—but chances are, if you don't send something within two months of the wedding date, you'll forget (and the couple may think you've forgotten)—so try to get it out as soon as possible. The date the couple gets back from their honeymoon is a doable goal.
Q. I recently received an invitation to a wedding reception but not the ceremony. Apparently the church is very small. Is this acceptable?
A: More and more couples are opting to have intimate family ceremonies with a small guest list and then hosting larger receptions that include all their relatives and friends. You may feel like you're missing out on the most important part by just going to the reception, but at least you'll be there to raise your glass to the bride and groom. It's acceptable to only extend an invite to the reception, but it's never acceptable to only extend an invitation to the ceremony if you're also having a reception.
Q: What if there's no RSVP-by date on the invite? How long do I have?
A: Many invitations will specify the date by which you should respond. If you've received an invite without one, your best bet is to respond ASAP. Don't leave it on the coffee table where it might get lost amid the magazines. Instead, check your calendar, mark your reply immediately, and slip it in your bag to send out the next time you pass a mailbox. If you've put off replying for a few days or weeks because you're not sure of your schedule (or just forgot about it), make sure you send your RSVP at least 3 weeks before the date of the event.
Q: I'd love to avoid shipping costs on the gift I've bought the couple and, instead of sending it, just bring it directly to the reception. Is this okay?
A: It's not necessarily bad form to bring your gift to the wedding, but it's not the most thoughtful way to present a gift to the couple, either. Someone has to lug all the gifts back home after the reception is over, and there's a slim chance your gift might get lost in the scramble. If you really want to bring something the day of, opt for a card with a check or gift card.
Q: If I’m a guest at a wedding, when is it okay to take photos?
A: Armed with smartphones and digital cameras, it’s now easier than ever to capture those special moments, but that doesn’t mean you always should. Unless the couple has specifically asked you to lend a hand with photography, avoid using your camera during the ceremony. They’ll likely have invested in a professional photographer. And not only do photos showing a room full of guests on their phones take away from the heartfelt emotion of the moment, some guests trying to snap pics may actually get in the way of the photographer trying to do their job .
That said, unless the couple requests it, you don’t need to lock away your camera all day. Since the wedding photographer can’t be everywhere at once, the newlyweds often rely on guests to take pictures and videos that might not otherwise be possible by the photographer alone. There are bound to be lots of great photo ops, so do be sure to share those special wedding memories by posting on social media with the hashtag the couple has designated for their day. Another great option is using the photo sharing app Veri, which instantly posts photos and videos taken with your phone’s camera and shares them in a digital wedding album.