How to Be the Perfect Wedding Guest: 12 Dos and Don’ts

Being a wedding guest is no easy task. Sure, the bride (and her bridal party) may have been planning the big day for months and are under a lot of pressure to make sure the day runs smoothly. But as a guest, there are a lot things to know before stepping foot into the ceremony. Aside from finding the right outfit that doesn’t overshadow the bride (and stays within your budget), there are other aspects like gift-giving, appropriate arrival time and social media etiquette that gets everyone in a frenzy, especially first-time guests.

How much money are you supposed to give the happy couple? What’s the protocol for bringing a date? Do you have to stick to the registry? If you have question marks floating around your head for any of the above questions, fear not. With the help of Weddingbells Associate Editor Roseanne Dela Rosa, we broke it down for you. Let us present the ultimate handbook for being an A+ wedding guest.

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Do I have to stick to the gift registry?
It’s always nice to give the happy couple the things they have on their wish list. However, there’s always the odd guest who will diverge away. If you do decide to go that route, include a gift receipt because you don’t know if the couple already has it, or just isn’t into it.

How much money am I expected to give?
It’s subjective. It kind of depends on your relationship with the couple and how close you are with them. If you’re super close, then you obviously want to give more in that situation. A good way to tell is to see how elaborate their wedding is in terms of the venue and menu, but $100 is a nice starting point. And you work your way around that value depending on the situation. At the end of the day, give what’s comfortable, but don’t be cheap. Reverse the situation and see how you would feel in their shoes.

What happens when destination weddings come into play?
It depends. From the couple’s perspective, you are asking your guest to pay for their flight and their lodging to be at your wedding. That’s already a lot. Being there is typically good enough. But if they’re family, you can always give a little extra. It’s custom to give a gift, but from a bride and groom perspective, it’s typically not expected. It’s a tricky situation. You’re taking time off of work, paying for flight, lodging and other expenses, so it’s not cheap.

I’ve attended their engagement party, a stag & doe and bridal shower and have given a gift at all of them. Am I expected to give a gift on their wedding day?
Regardless of pre-party wedding gifts, you are still expected to bring a gift to the actual wedding day. In terms of value, that’s subjective, and again, it depends on your relationship with the couple.

What time should I arrive at the ceremony?
Ceremonies rarely start on time, but that doesn’t mean you should come late. The last thing you want to do is arrive at the same time the bride is walking down the aisle. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the ceremony time on the invitation. This isn’t the time to be fashionably late.

Where do you sit at the ceremony?
At some weddings, there are usually ushers there to guide you. But more often than not, you can generally sit anywhere. Remember to not occupy the first two to three rows. This area is usually reserved for the bridal party and immediate family members.

What time do I need to arrive at the reception?
Since there’s usually a cocktail hour before you enter the reception area, arriving anytime within this time frame is acceptable. Ideally, you would like to give yourself ample time to find your table and settle down in your seat. Lot of couples these days like to do entrances in the beginning, so again you don’t want to be walking in when everyone is already seated.

When’s the appropriate time to leave the reception?
If you can’t stay for the whole event, the best time to dip out is after the main course. But do send a note in advance, as the couple will be busy on the day-of (especially if they have a huge guest list).

Can I tweet, snap and Instagram?
Social media is a tricky thing. Some couples are very down, while some are not. Typically the couples who are really into social media will encourage you to post. A good indicator will be to look out for their hashtag on their website, invitation or on display signs when you first enter. That’s your cue to just go for it. However, do keep in mind that you don’t want to be snapping or taking photos every single minute of the ceremony. Choose your moments wisely.

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What do I write on a wedding card?
Less is more. Happy quotes and heartwarming messages like “Congratulations” or “I’m so happy for you” or “Best wishes” are always great. The one thing that should not be included is giving specific advice. Do keep in mind that brides like to open their cards and presents next day with their family, so writing something super personal may not be wise.

Can I request a plus one?
Typically, the couple will let you know when on the invitation if you’re allowed to bring a plus one, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. That being said, remember to ask well in advance. You don’t want to ask a week before the wedding when all the arrangements have been made for seating and food.

I’m a guest’s plus one. Do I need to give a gift?
Yes, it’s still customary. However, pitch in with your date. It’s generally not recommended to give a gift to the couple when you don’t really know them.