You're Invited! How To Be The PERFECT Wedding Guest

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It's important to know how to be a good GUEST!

Although most of us may host only one wedding in our lifetime, we'll generally receive an invitation to several. Maybe several in one year! So, what really are the obligations of being a wedding guest, or invitee these days?

While the bride, groom and each set of families have their roles and responsibilities, so do the invited guests. The following information should clear up what is right, and what is not, with regard to being the "perfect" wedding guest. 

The Invitation

The invitation tells you A LOT about what to expect with regard to how formal the affair will be, what to wear, and obviously when and where the event will take place. It also gives you a decision deadline, and possibly a choice of what you might eat there, should you attend. 

Let's start with the basics. Who's invited?

Only the people invited to attend are the names that appear on the outside envelope. So, for example, if the envelope reads "to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith," then the invitation is for the husband and wife only. This does NOT mean you can bring along your children, or anyone else for that matter.

Similarly, if it reads Miss Cindy Jones without mentioning the words "and guest" or "and escort" then you do not invite, or bring along, a date. Every person attending equates to a cost, and it's very inappropriate to add people YOU want to bring and even worse, to show up with someone uninvited! A wedding is not a party to "crash."

The Reply Card

The little "M_____" that is on the reply card (most people don't know really what they are to do here) is where you write in your formal name: "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith" just as your name appeared on the envelope addressed to you.

If only one person will attend, even though more received an invitation, write in the name of the person attending only. It is acceptable to write a simple note of explanation or clarification on the back of the card.

In the space on the card reading "will _____ attend,” you may either leave it blank, or write "gladly," etc. on the line to indicate you're coming to the event. If you're not attending then write the word "not" in the blank space.

Respond as soon as possible from the day you receive the invitation and don't wait until the due date given. The due date is the very last date before the hosts need to total their list and give a guarantee to the caterer—and they're charged for this total number.

Sometimes the couple also wish to invite more people, but due to space or budget limitations, they cannot do so right away. They usually invite as many guests as possible initially, yet if they receive some regrets, they can then invite additional people on their list.

A prompt response also helps in the planning of other important details like tables, linens, flowers and favors that require advanced orders for the big day. Keep in mind that if you cannot come and you've already said you will do so, call as soon as you know so they can make the proper adjustments.

You’re Going To Attend ... What Next? 

The invitation will often indicate dress formality. It will either be written: Black-tie, black-tie optional, formal attire or nothing written at all. Some country clubs or hotels have reputations of being particularly formal.

If you're uncertain, you can contact the reception location and ask if they have a dress code, of if they know how formal the event will be. Guests should also avoid dressing in the bridal party colors. 

The bridal party wishes to stand out and appear different among the guests. It should also go without saying, you shouldn't attempt to compete with the wedding dress either...so steer clear of white beaded dresses for yourself ladies.

The Gift

Most couples have a registry for gifts — somewhere. This really makes it easy, plus you'll have a well-like and appreciated gift. Should you buy a requested gift somewhere other than where they're registered, it's nice to call their registry store and tell them you've bought that gift. This will keep duplicates from occurring. 

It's also appropriate and proper to send the gift ahead of the wedding day, either to the bride's parents or the bride herself.

Use the return address on the reply card envelope or return address on the invitation as shipping address. If you must bring the gift to the wedding, bring it into the reception, NOT the ceremony.

Oh, and if you don't receive a thank you note within a couple of months after the event, contact the bride and groom or mother of the bride to make sure they received your gift, and that it wasn't lost in shipping or transporting. You may not have received a thank you card because they may not have received your gift!

"Do's" And "Don'ts" At The Wedding

At the ceremony, do NOT take flash photographs inside a church, or temple or other such location. It is typically forbidden by the facility and can completely ruin natural light photographs being taken by the hired professional photographer. 

Also, don't lean or stand in the aisle (with or without a camera) as you can often block the photographer's shot from the back and prevent the wedding party and family from going down the aisle.

After the ceremony is over, leave the ceremony site with the other guests as indicated or move to the outer location so that the bridal party and families can return inside and have their photographs taken if this is part of their schedule. 

This generally is a very rushed time for the couple and they want to get to their reception as quickly as possible. Having guests hang around only hinders the progress. It is also inappropriate and considered rude to stay and take photographs near or next to a hired photographer during portraits and alter return groups. 

Aside from getting in the way, you can interrupt the flow and you can detract subject's eyes from the photographer's camera and ruin the image the couple has paid to have created. Use your camera for your own snapshots, far away from the hired professional.

Finally, the evening or afternoon draws to a close and you can't help thinking how beautiful that floral centerpiece would look in your living room...well, don't give it another thought unless you were clearly told to take it with you!

Sometimes there is a special note on a seating card or at a place setting stating who will get the centerpiece. Sometimes it will be given away during the reception that the MC announces. Other times the hosts may tell the recipient directly, maybe someone who assisted with the wedding planning. 

If none of this has happened to you — leave it behind. It may even be going to a charity as a donation. And yes, they could very well be rented centerpieces that'll be returned!

Be a welcomed guest, not a regretted one. The next time you receive an invitation in the mail, keep in mind that you are one of the few honored people who the hosts carefully selected to share their important day with them. 

You are as special as the day itself and following these suggestions will make it all the more enjoyable for all. Enjoy!

Coach Juli Shulem, PCC, CPC helps individuals manage life easier and with less stress. Easily subscribe to her website and have access to over 100 blog articles with information on Organizing, Life Management, and Productivityplus some good ole' fashioned good sense thrown in. Follow me on Twitter @ADHDCoachJuli, or Facebook at Coach Juli Shulem.

This article was originally published at Santa Barbara Independent Online. Reprinted with permission from the author.