Image: Milenko Weddings
Even if you have never been to a wedding before planning your own big day, you quickly learn the ins and outs of wedding etiquette. Unfortunately, some of your guests may not be as brushed up on the subject and faux pas, both intentional and unintentional, can happen.
We have pulled together a list of some of most common major mistakes wedding guests might make and give some advice on how to calmly deal with them.
If you are marrying at a venue that hosts multiple parties in one night, there is a small potential for cheeky wedding wanderers.
Not all of these stories have the happy ending of the movie Wedding Crashers, some can just be a royal pain, especially when they start helping themselves to your food and drinks.
If you notice a few unfamiliar faces in the crowd and your partner has confirmed it’s not their great uncle Charlie twice removed, you can discreetly ask for the site manager or other attendant to escort them out and ensure they get to the right function.
Not listing food allergies
If you are providing catering or a sit-down dinner as part of your wedding, make sure you prompt guests to let you know if they have any allergies or dietary requirements.
Guests have often forgotten about this, only to complain they are allergic to fish when a salmon dish is placed in front of them at the reception.
Make a note of it somewhere on your invitation or RSVP card so they can let you know well ahead of time.
Wearing white or black
While some brides don’t care about what their guests wear, others have been looking forward to being the stand-out in the gorgeous white gown for ages.
Traditionally guests should never wear white because it is, after all, the bride’s colour.
Black is also traditionally off the table, because it’s associated with funerals.
As a rule, you should just avoid both of those colours, unless they are the base colour for a print on a very non bride-like garment.
Broadcasting the wedding on social media
With every moment of people’s lives being posted on social media for the world to see, it’s no doubt guests will want to tweet, Facebook or Instagram about your wedding.
You may even want to make a note on your wedding website to encourage guests to refrain from posting public comments about the wedding, as they may unknowingly offend others who you were not able to invite.
You could also consider creating a private facebook event where people can post to their heart’s content and ask questions about the big day.
Also, to keep guests off their phones during the big day – particularly the ceremony – you could ask your celebrant to remind them there are professionals who are there to capture the moment, so there is no need for them to be snapping on their mobiles.
When guests are travelling from out of town to attend your wedding, they may unwittingly start treating you like their personal travel agent and bombard you with questions on everything from where to rent a car, to where to stay and what attractions or locations they should visit while they are in town.
You can prevent this by creating a wedding website, where you can include links to nearby hotels, entertainment options and also driving directions.
If there are some technophobes among your guests, you can consider giving them some time over the phone, or printing out some of the material on your website to send to them via snail mail.
Showing up late
Sometimes no matter how hard someone tries, they always end up being late.
But this is really unacceptable for a wedding, where the only person given a green card for lateness is the bride.
If you have friends or family who are notorious for being less than punctual, allow yourself a buffer by saying the ceremony begins at 5.30pm and then planning to make your entrance 15 minutes after that.
For those who are really pushing the envelope and have turned up as the bridal music cues, have someone stationed at the back of the ceremony to help latecomers quickly and quietly find a seat.
Not Sending RSVPs
The number of guests at your wedding is a critical part of planning elements from ceremony seating, table plans, catering and bomboniere, but some guests may fail to see the importance of a punctual response to your invitation.
Seeing the RSVP cards with the invitation (if this is the road you choose to take) may even make them think it’s a novelty rather than a necessity.
To deal with potentially late RSVPs, it’s a good idea to set their due date a week or two before the moment when vendors will need definite numbers.
You might also want to consider putting your mobile number on it as a quick and easy way for people to RSVP. It is much easier to type out a text than to write on the card, find an envelope and head to the post office to buy a stamp and send it back.
You could also place the RSVP a couple of weeks out from when you actually mail them, so guests will feel compelled to reply right away.
On the due date, you can send an email out a private email to the stragglers giving them a new deadline of about 48 hours. Keep the tone nice, but firm, and if they fail to meet that deadline, pick up the phone and give them a call to lock in a definite answer.
Sending RSVPs… with a plus one
This guest has returned their RSVP in time, but have taken it upon themselves to invite a new love or to bring a child along as well.
While you’d love to them to come, it puts everyone in an awkward position, especially if you don’t know this plus-one from a bar of soap.
If your venue or finances don’t allow you to stretch the guest list out by one more person, this is best handled the old-fashioned way. Pick up the phone and call them to explain the circumstances.
All you have to do is politely explain the need for a strict guest list and most guests will understand.
To avoid this from happening, make sure you address the invitation accurately. Instead of the “Jones Family”, write “Sally Jones”, and let your parents, the wedding party and other close relatives and friends know about the tight guest list so they can let others know if anyone asks.
RSVPing – then not showing
It is the height of rudeness to RSVP “Yes” and then simply not turn up. But it does happen.
If you unexpectedly can’t make a wedding, protocol is generally to call the hosts right away to apologize profusely and explain your circumstances. And of course, be sure to send a wedding gift.
This is the ideal situation as the couple will have time to plan ahead.
But if it’s your wedding day and you realise that you have no-shows, let your caterer or wedding coordinator know ASAP and they may be able to re-jig seating plans or simply remove a chair and setting to avoid any embarrassing gaps.
You can contact the ghost guest after the wedding to see, first of all, if they are alright and then to express your disappointment that they didn’t bother to turn up if they weren’t dealing with an illness or emergency.
Giving unexpected toasts
Toasts can be emotionally moving and allow some of your nearest and dearest to share unique memories they have made with you and/or your new spouse.
But those you would like to give toasts are often planned in advance so they have time to prepare something they think will communicate the right message to the newlyweds.
The same can’t be said for someone who decides, on the spur of the moment (perhaps with a few too many drinks under the belt) that they would also like to say a few words.
Many a cringe-worthy toast has been off-the-cuff and you don’t want this to happen to you.
The solution is simple, let your DJ or MC know who is going to be giving toasts on the day and don’t allow them to hand the mic over to anyone else.
If the worst happens and the guest manages to get hold of the mic, gesture to the DJ to carefully start the next song or cut power to the mic.
Buying a non-registry gift
Some guests feel that buying a present from the registry is impersonal.
They might then go out to buy you something that is a little more… original, shall we say.
While this can lead to a pleasant surprise for you, it can also leave you with a gift you will never use. To avoid this, be sure to list your registry and wishing well options on your wedding website and invitations.
But should you receive an interesting gift from Aunty Janice and Uncle Chris, there is only one way to deal with it. Thank them with a heartfelt card expressing your gratitude for them taking a more personalised approach to their gift.
After all, while gifts have come to be expected at weddings, they are most definitely not a requirement of attendance.
Drinking Too Much
It can happen to anyone. Mix a jovial atmosphere with an open bar and suddenly a guest has gone from having the time of their lives to a blubbering mess.
While you can’t limit the number of drinks each guest consumes, you can grant the bartender permission to cut off anyone that’s had one too many.
You can also make sure there is plenty of water on the tables and enough food to help soak up the alcohol.
If you are at any stage worried about the safety of your guest or think they might try to drive home, get someone to call a taxi for them and make sure they get into it.