It sounds simple enough, however speaking as someone who has both gone through the planning process as well has witnessed the process as a wedding professional for over 25 years, here is my advice.
1. Read and send back your RSVP card.
This is perhaps the single most annoying thing that guests don’t do. In the weeks leading up to their wedding, a couple has so many things on their mind that reaching out to you about your response card should not be one of them. Don’t assume you can bring a date either. If your invitation is only to you, realize that they have invited you and not you and a date of your choosing. Their budget or size of reception space may simply not allow for all of their single friends to bring a date. I stood up to a wedding years ago and because of their bride and groom’s wishes, two of their single friends ended up dancing and enjoying the reception together and they have been married now for over 20 years with 4 kids. You may actually enjoy yourself more without the burden of bringing someone just for the sake of bringing someone.
2. Put your camera and or phone away during the ceremony.
The couple has hired a professional photographer. Your phone is not going to take better pictures than their photographer. In the process of you and countless other guests sticking your phones up in the air to get your picture, you are possibly ruining the professional photographer’s picture in the process. The clergy typically give your photographer and videographer specific instructions about where they are allowed to capture the moment from so as not to interrupt or disrespect the service. Based on this, their picture may simply be 20 people’s phones in the air with the bride and groom in the background.
3. Respect the couple’s wishes on their wedding day.
As I have said before, planning a wedding is very stressful and most couples I have met over the years really want their guests to have a good time. If you don’t care for their style of wedding, keep it to yourself. If the weather isn’t perfect for their outdoor ceremony, realize that it is only 30 minutes of your day and it will still be ok. They know that it is hot, or humid, or a little chilly, but it has been their vision so be a good guest. If the song that you want is on their Do Not Play list with the band or dj, let it go. They obviously don’t care for the song for one reason or another.
4. Don’t say good bye during the reception.
If you are leaving before the reception is over, don’t interrupt the newlyweds from enjoying their night because you are leaving. Yes, it only takes a minute or two but if they have 150 guests that becomes a lot of goodbye time. Be polite and simply slip out of the reception and let them enjoy their night.
5. Bring a gift or write the check.
Yes the couple getting married wants you to be there but with your acceptance of their invitation is the responsibility of bringing a gift. There are Walgreens and CVS stores on every corner in America with an ATM inside them. You can take 5 minutes to put together a gift for the couple. If you don’t bring a gift, make sure that you send a gift as soon as possible following the wedding.
6. Get there on time.
I know that everyone hates waiting in lines, or sitting in the waiting room at a dr’s office but think about it from the couple’s point of view, they want you there to celebrate. They don’t want to walk into a room filled with partially empty tables or a half filled ceremony location because you didn’t plan accordingly.
7. Turn off your phone.
If you have children home with a baby sitter, I understand the need to be available in the case of an emergency. Recent statistics show that the average American reaches for their smart phone every 6 minutes while they are awake. You can silence your phone and still see if you are needed for any reason.
I know that this sounds so dumb. I also know that no one is going to force you to do anything that you don’t want to do but the biggest fear I see every day meeting with couples is the idea of an empty dance floor. I think they fear that more than how the food will taste. One of the biggest fears that couples have is that their wedding will be boring and the guests will leave early. They may have their “friend” djing and the “friend” is terrible. I have been there and own the t-shirt but there is still no reason that you can’t enjoy a slow song or two with your date or dance a few with your group of friends or family. Think about it from the couple’s point of view. You may actually enjoy yourself in the process.
9. Be brief. If the couple comes around the tables to visit or to say hello or they are hosting a receiving line. Please understand that they can’t have a 15 minute conversation with every guest they have invited. Be brief, wish them well and enjoy the day with them.
10. Take your wedding favor home with you.
I know that you may not need another 3” picture frame in your house. I know that the little champagne bottle may never get consumed but take it home anyhow. The couple is doing their best to show their guests a great evening and they picked these favors because they felt their guests would like them. Don’t leave them at the table with your empty glass from the bar.