It’s a common situation for brides and grooms. You’re making the rounds at your wedding, and a well-meaning relative stops you and proceeds to talk your ear off for what feels like forever.
While it’s always nice to have a long conversation with loved ones, your wedding reception is not the time. There’s cake to cut, photos to take and a dance floor to tear up ― not to mention all the other guests you need to greet. Still, in these situations you might feel trapped but don’t want to be rude.
“Guests understand that the newlyweds are obligated to make the rounds and chat with everyone at the event, so it’s totally OK to politely excuse yourself from too-long conversations and keep circulating,” said Nick Leighton, an etiquette expert and co-host of the “Were You Raised by Wolves?” podcast.
But what exactly is the best way to stop a guest from monopolizing your time? Below, Leighton and other etiquette experts share their advice.
Express your gratitude.
When excusing yourself from a conversation at your wedding, the key is to be polite and gracious.
Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert, author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, shared a suggested script for what to say if a family member is monopolizing your time:
“Thank you so much for coming and sharing this special day with us. You have always been a special part of our family and it means a lot to have you here. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to continue to say hello to other guests but I will see you a little bit later on in the evening.”
Keep a friend on standby.
If you don’t want to always be the one to end conversations with guests, consider designating one or two people to assist you in these moments.
“The couple can think about deputizing (in advance) one of the members of the bridal party to drag them away for a moment requiring ‘attention,’” suggested Thomas P. Farley, aka “Mister Manners.”
He suggested having them intervene and gently saying something like “I’m so sorry to interrupt ... our bride is in big demand. May I steal her away for a moment?”
Practice teamwork with your spouse.
Talk to your partner in advance about how you’ll navigate these moments.
“This is a great opportunity for the newlyweds to practice teamwork,” Leighton said. “Partner One: ‘You’ll have to excuse us. Honey, we’ve got to say hello to your cousin Chad.’ Partner Two: ‘Oh, you’re right. Well, Lisa, thank you again so much for coming. It was so nice catching up with you! Save room for cake!’”
Make an excuse.
While most wedding guests understand that the happy couple needs to spend time with everyone, some don’t quite get the concept.
“If a bride or groom is feeling that a guest conversation is putting the damper on vital mingling, they should feel comfortable saying some version of, ‘Will you excuse me, Justin? I think I might be needed for the cake-cutting’ or ‘Can we chat a little more later? I’m getting the high sign from the photographer that I’m needed on the terrace,’” Farley said.
“If no variation on that theme is suited to the situation, a bride or groom can simply go with, ‘I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you’re here to celebrate our special day. See you a bit later on the dance floor?’” he added.
Use body language to signal you need to move on.
“If the bride and groom ― or bride and bride, or groom and groom ― aren’t careful, the guests will monopolize their time, so it’s up to them to work the room and let the guests know they can move on,” said Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach.
In addition to verbal cues, there are also body language signals you can send.
“Often if you touch a person’s hand or look off to someone else in the distance and smile, your body language can indicate that you need to move on,” Whitmore said.
Take a photo together.
A good way to put an end to a conversation is by thanking your guest for being part of the big day, offering a hug and then excusing yourself, noted Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting.
She suggested saying something like, “Great Aunt Tilly! It is so wonderful to see you. We are just thrilled you are here to help us celebrate our big day. It would not have been the same without you. Let’s get a picture! Hug, hug. If you’ll excuse us ... we hope you enjoy the celebration.”
Say you’d love to meet up after the honeymoon.
It’s probably not possible to get more than a brief chat in with most attendees at your wedding, so if you’d like to have a proper conversation, make plans to get together in the future.
“Say something like, I am so glad you were able to be here. Thank you so much for coming. Why don’t we catch up with each other for coffee or a night out after the honeymoon,’” suggested etiquette expert Juliet Mitchell, also known as Ms. J. “Then gently move on.”