As a professional photographer here in Southwest Missouri, I have had the privilege of attending a lot of weddings. After being a witness to so many beautiful ceremonies and receptions, I have picked up a few tips for being a great wedding guest. These tips can make all the difference to the happy couple’s special day. Here are some of my best suggestions for becoming an memorable wedding guest, in a good way...not the drunken passed out before the receptions way lol (trust me, this has happened):
1. RSVP on time: No matter how busy you are, it’s important to always reply to a wedding invitation on time. People usually plan their weddings well in advance, and couples are counting on their guests to confirm their attendance as soon as possible so that they can plan accordingly with their venue, wedding planner and catering service...to name a few.
2. Arrive on time, but not hours early: Being prompt is essential for making the event go smoothly. In my experience, unless the couple has said yes to arriving early and helping out, it's not always a great idea. There's so many moving parts leading up to ceremony time that there isn't time to entertain or chat much with guests prior. As much as it's a magical day for the couple, they want it to be a magical for you too and wouldn't want you to sit around waiting on them. In my experience Brides want their grand entrance to be at the ceremony so they try hard not to be seen prior by even the guests. So keep that in mind and always check.
3. Fill in the gaps: I see this happen alot where guests arrive that are not the immediate family, so they try to give room by sitting rows and rows back, but this can cause the ceremony to look slightly empty and Brides especially take note to when it looks like they don't have many people that showed up. So a good rule of thumb is that the first two rows on either side are set for the immediate family, sometimes three but not usually. From there start filling in, don't be afraid to sit next to people you may not know, ceremonies are such a short part of the day. We just want it to be full of all their loved ones, so leave the empty seats in the back.
4. Follow the dress code: When a couple set a dress code for their wedding, it means that they’re attempting to create a certain vibe for the day. As a guest, you should always respect their wishes and dress accordingly. Avoid wearing white/cream outfits unless specifically told that it's ok, just assume it's not ok. Don't out do the bride with a ball gown or prom dress (yes I've seen this and it's been awkward for the Bride). If you must wear a tshirt because you're not sure, please just make sure it's not a graphic tee, keep it simple and not distracting. It’s also a good idea to have a few emergency items handy, such as a spare pair of flat shoes, just in case something happens or your feet get fatigued from all the dancing later on.
5. Put the phone down: We all know that the average person spends a significant portion of their day stuck to their phone, but weddings are special and it’s important to give the couple your full attention. IF you must take some shots and have not been asked to keep the phone off, then keep it discrete, it really doesn't bother me as a photographer as long as you aren't going out into the aisle and blocking shots. Plus you can take as many photos and videos as you like at the reception, just make sure you don’t spend the entire time glued to your phone. And if they hired a professional photographer I'm sure they will be happy to share the captured images with you after they receive them, just ask!
6. Enjoy what the couple has put together for you: Couples put a lot of thought into how they want their experience to be, but also your experience as a guest too. If they hired a professional DJ service, they want you to enjoy the music as well as a couple of dances, try to get out there for a few and not leave the dance floor empty the entire night. Enjoy the bar service if there's one, but responsibly. If there's something where you can participate in it, please do. The couple had you in mind when they hired all these services or put together things like guests books, etc.
7. Bring a gift: Most couples will create a registry or provide a list of possible gift options. You should always try to stick to their list as much as possible and make sure that your gift is something they’ll appreciate and use. Gift cards to where they are registered are also a great way to gift the couple if you don't have time or feel lost in deciding what to get. Don't underestimate just cash too, a lot of couples use this towards their honeymoon and from my own experience, this is so appreciated.
8. Be responsive, but be respectful: Participate in the activities and conversations, but don’t overwhelm the couple with too many questions. There are so many moving parts of the day and two sides of families and friends for the couple to greet so you don’t want to monopolize the couple’s time. Side tip: have a little bit of cash on you incase the couple is doing a dollar dance or some sort of activity where cash is apart of it, plus if you want to tip the bartender if they have one.
9. The drama can wait: Weddings are already stressful, it's one of the biggest events a couple will plan in their lives. With all the family and friend dynamics it can be overwhelming especially with split families. Maybe your ex husband is there too, yikes...but the entire wedding party doesn't need to know all the dirty deets of how he did you wrong or mean glares in photos that he is also in. If you choose to attend do so out of love for the couple and leave the drama for another day. Be as polite as possible and keep it moving, it's one day and we want it to be memorable in a good way for this happy couple.
10. SMILE for the camera: This one is especially from personal experience. A couple hires me to capture the details of their day and that includes all the loved ones that attended. I know, you don't like pictures of yourself, it's not about you, camera makes you uncomfortable... I too feel this way with a camera pointed at me, but I try to remember it's not about me and it's for them. So smiling at the camera for just a moment or pretend to smile at the person next to you and give the couple great shots of their guests to look back on. I promise these shots are not the shots I'm posting on my socials or using to advertise, they are soley for the couple to enjoy! Plus if you smile real quick, I snap it and then leave you alone ;)
Hope this was helpful! And no I didn't post any terrible mishaps from wedding's I have shot as I don't want to out anyone...just know I've seen it, captured it and the couple most likely has it in the wedding gallery to keep forever, lol. And of course these tips are really based on traditions and my experiences working in the wedding industry. Every couple is different and if they say it's ok, then go for it. Let's just give them a special day to remember and hopefully these few simple tips can help you be the best wedding guest for their big day!
Congratulations to the happy couple! If you want more info on my wedding services I've linked my wedding page below for you!