Skip to content

Article: Wedding Guest Etiquette: Rules to follow and mistakes to avoid

Wedding Guest Etiquette: Rules to follow and mistakes to avoid

Wedding Guest Etiquette: Rules to follow and mistakes to avoid

We HAD to share this fantastic article from Vogue’s website with you, it’s a great way to understand and appreciate the etiquette your guests SHOULD adhere to whilst at your wedding…

Vogue IMG

Photographed by Jonathan Becker, Vogue, January 2005

We’ve all been invited to plenty of weddings, but there is still some confusion regarding the protocol around the timeless social institution. In our latest anonymous etiquette column,’s editors consider the unspoken rules and inadvertent faux pas of which every wedding guest should be aware.

The hidden dress codes
Everyone knows the golden rule: don’t wear white. Sometimes, though, when a wedding takes place in the summer, guests are drawn to their lineup of breezy ivory dresses as potential options. “I have a whole closet full of white dresses that don’t look at all bridal,” shares one fashion editor. “But why wear one and potentially hurt someone’s feelings?” Many agree, but there is room to play with. “If it has a print on it or a motif that isn’t too overwhelming,” one writer says, “then it’s fine.” Still, don’t push the limits. “After wearing a cream dress to a ceremony, I was told by several people at the party never to wear it ever again to a wedding.” If the dress code is confusing to you, play it safe. “I never know what to wear to a wedding that’s happening at 5:00 p.m. Do I wear a day dress or something more for the evening?” wonders one fashion editor. The staff suggests that if a wedding is taking place at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., you should wear something that easily transitions from day to night; any ceremony after 6 p.m. should be strictly cocktail. What about the old rule that red is also off-limits? “I think red is fine, just don’t show up looking like Jessica Rabbit,” says another fashion writer.

Paper matters
It’s simple: RSVP by the date indicated on the invitation. If a date isn’t provided, just reply with your answer as promptly as possible. And what if there isn’t a response card? “Then the rule is that you should send your RSVP on your own stationary,” advises one editor familiar with Emily Post’s Etiquette.

About that plus-one
Regarding plus-ones, the entire staff agreed: Under no circumstances can you ever ask for one. “You’re essentially asking the couple to pay for an extra person,” says one writer. But the importance of plus-ones is at times underrated. “I’m eternally the single girl, and just because I don’t have a boyfriend doesn’t mean I don’t want to go with someone to a party,” says one writer. A beauty editor agrees: “For my upcoming wedding, I only have one rule—everyone gets a plus-one.” And if a couple can’t afford to invite so many guests, a good rule of thumb is to offer the option of a plus-one to at least everyone in the wedding party, which is usually made up of close friends and family.

Gift-giving basics
“A wedding is the one time you can give a couple what they asked for,” explains one beauty editor. “So why not just give them what they want?” For guests who want to go off-registry, one editor suggests a gift certificate to a special restaurant, or perhaps a night at a nearby bed-and-breakfast. Never try to get a piece of art for the newlyweds. “Unless you’re Julian Schnabel, don’t try to impose your taste (however impeccable) on anyone else,” she adds. And what if you’re regretfully not attending the event? On this point, our editors’ opinions differ. Some are fine with forgoing a present if you aren’t attending a wedding, while others believe you should always, always, get the couple a gift—regardless of whether you are able to go or not.

Keep your behavior in check
Everyone agrees: the guiding principle is never to outshine the bride. Aside from the obvious—don’t get drunk—several of our editors have additional words of advice after experiencing less-than-well-behaved guests at recent outings. “One of my friends got proposed to at a wedding, and people spent the rest of the evening congratulating her instead of celebrating the couple getting married,” shares one writer. In other words, it’s never acceptable to pop the question at someone else’s special day. Another editor remembers someone who “got on stage with a pashmina on their head and start singing with the band.” While it might seem obvious, it’s worth stressing that it’s always a good idea to avoid the stage, and to stay as far away from the microphones as possible. Cringe-worthy speeches are unfortunately common, with one writer suffering through an especially embarrassing one for the bride. “Never bring up an old flame—even if it’s part of the joke. Trust me, it’s never appropriate during a wedding toast.”