Want to guarantee an invite to weddings beyond the one you're attending this weekend? Acting the part of a gracious, respectful guest is step one. Here's a cheat sheet for charming the bride and groom.
RSVP on Time
Wedding invitations are sent six-eight weeks in advance. If you receive yours on the earlier side of this window, don't stash the RSVP card with the thought, "Oh, I have tons of time." If you do, most likely you'll forget all about it. Your official deadline to get it in the mail? Four weeks before the big day. Since wedding vendors will need a final head count from the happy couple two-three weeks in advance, there's no room for your RSVP to show up any closer than that to the wedding date.
Be an Informed Attendant
Don't accept a role in a wedding unless you're aware of your duties. In addition to gifts, attendants may need to contribute to the shower and help with the bachelor or bachelorette party. They're also responsible for their own attire, transportation, and often hotel rooms. The only one of these you may get to skip is hotel since traditional etiquette dictates that the bride and groom provide their attendants' lodgings. However, opinions still differ on this one so ask if you're unsure.
Know What's Mandatory
Of course your engaged friends would love if the entire wedding party attended the welcome party, the golf game arranged for the morning of the wedding, the luncheon afterward, the rehearsal dinner, and the after brunch. But that's a lot to ask. The extra events you should attend if invited are those directly connected to the wedding itself: The rehearsal, rehearsal dinner if at all possible, and any pre-wedding hair-and-makeup sessions. Attendants should place a high importance on bachelor party and bridal shower as well, but they are not required to attend.
Never Add Your Own Plus One
Wedding invitations are addressed with a purpose and you're expected to read them as such. For example, "and Guest" means you're welcome to bring a companion whose name the bride and groom doesn't know. If only your name is written on the invitation? Only you are invited.
Don't Assume Kids are Welcome
Similarly to the plus one situation, if children are invited, their names will be written on the invitation. The senders may list the children invididually, or they simply write "The Smith Family" meaning the whole gang is invited.
Also to keep in mind: Some couples decide they aren't able to entertain kids younger than a certain age, so they may list an older child's name and not another, indicating that the youngest isn't invited. (They didn't just forget about baby.)
Arrive on Time
Making an entrance after the bride is not acceptable. Plan to be in your seat 30 minutes before official show time. If there is an unforeseen obstacle preventing you from getting to the ceremony on time -- heavy traffic, late babysitter, wardrobe malfunction (they do happen!) -- never interrupt a ceremony service. Wait until the "I dos" are done and guests have left their seats to join the celebration.
Look the Part
Not every wedding dress code is as straightforward as black-tie or casual. For everything in between, refer to this guide to wedding guest attire.
Plus: Wedding Budget Questions
Be Seated Appropriately
It's still a general rule not to sit in the first couple rows of pews at a church ceremony or rows at an outdoor affair. Ushers should be briefed about the most important people on the guest list who'll be taking those spots, so if you aren't sure where to sit, look to them for guidance.
Respect the Bridal Suite
The room where the bride is getting ready before the ceremony is often off-limits. Most times there's a sign on the door requesting privacy, or an usher that asks you don't enter. Even if there's no clear sign not to enter, try to resist the urge to pop your head in as the bride busily prepares for her big entrance. You'll have ample chances to offer congratulations after the ceremony, plus she'll be able to give you her full attention.
Don't Play Paparazzi -- Unless Instructed
Your friends getting hitched are most likely not Brad and Angelina, but it doesn't mean they won't be annoyed if photos of their big day leak at an alarming rate -- especially if they aren't the most flattering. And just as your phone tends to distract you throughout the day, it's going to distract the bride and groom if you have it out at the ceremony. Let the happy couple see your smiling face instead of the back of your iPhone, and keep it in your pocket until reception time unless instructed otherwise.
"Open bar" does not mean all-you-can drink. It means that the bride and groom have offered to pay for your cocktails for the evening -- how kind of them! A wonderful way to show your gratitude is to indulge at an average pace so you can continue to celebrate the happy couple till the wee hours of the morning.
Treat the Venue Kindly
Once the DJ cranks up the music, it can be easy to forget you're partying on rented property. To score the space, the bride and groom took responsibility for keeping it intact by signing a contract and most likely putting down a deposit. To ensure they get their money back, your friends are looking to you to treat the location well.
Mail Your Gift
To prevent the bride and groom (or most likely their wedding planner) from having to haul dozens of boxes back to the newlywed suite, mail your gift prior to the wedding to their home. Check to see if the stores at which they registered give guests the option to ship gifts directly to an address. They do? You're set!
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