12 Wedding Guest Mistakes You Might Make And Not Realise It

Experts break down some surprisingly common faux pas wedding guests should avoid.
Remember the happy couple is meant to be the center of attention at a wedding.
wundervisuals via Getty Images
Remember the happy couple is meant to be the center of attention at a wedding.

We all know the basic wedding etiquette rules. Don’t wear white unless specifically asked to. Don’t choose someone else’s special day as the moment to propose to your partner. Don’t ignore your table assignment.

But there are some less obvious ways guests might be rude at a wedding and not realise it. We asked a few etiquette experts to share some of the most common faux pas they’ve observed.

Read on for 12 rude behaviours to avoid at a wedding – along with expert advice for getting things right in the etiquette department.

Monopolising the couple’s time

The newly married couple obviously wants to spend time with their wedding guests, but if they were to properly catch up with every single person, there would be no time for dining, dancing, cutting the cake or anything else. Guests should be mindful of this.

“The bride and groom are going to make their way around the reception floor and while you want to wish them congratulations, you don’t want to monopolise their time,” says Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “A few minutes is all that is necessary. This is not the time to get into a lengthy conversation.”

Take a moment to wish the happy couple all the best on their big day and then let them carry on with the festivities.

Making a spectacle

“One would hope it would go without saying, but the attention should be on the couple,” says Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “Guests should refrain from screaming, fighting, being overly intoxicated, or sharing private information about the couple during this happy occasion.”

It’s great to get in the celebratory spirit at a wedding, but take care that you don’t cross the line into making a spectacle.

“There’s sometimes that guest who tries to upstage the couple by showing off on the dance floor, so then everyone remembers the person who stole the spotlight from the bride and groom,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. “Don’t be that person.”

Don’t take the wedding flowers unless they’re offered.
Larisa Gherghe / 500px via Getty Images
Don’t take the wedding flowers unless they’re offered.

Taking flowers

It’s not uncommon for wedding guests to go home with a beautiful flower arrangement from the reception or ceremony. But make sure you only do this with express permission from the newlyweds, wedding coordinator or other trustworthy source.

“Don’t take the flowers unless they’re offered,” Whitmore says. “Maybe the couple wants to donate the flowers to charity, or maybe they want to take them home.”

Requesting songs

Again, unless you’re encouraged to do this, don’t go up to the band or DJ and request a song. And if they say no, don’t get pushy.

“The couple is likely to have a playlist or pre-selected songs,” says etiquette expert Juliet Mitchell, also known as Ms. J. “In this case, the DJ might tell the person the song list has been pre-set. End of story.”


“Along the line of ‘making a spectacle,’ there are a surprising number of wedding guests (school friends or vengeful relatives) who choose wedding celebrations to divulge past missteps, true parentage, or embarrassing romantic histories of the wedding couple,” Smith says. “This is not the time or place. If it is not already public knowledge, keep your juicy gossip tidbits to yourself.”

Whether you’re giving a speech or regaling the people at your table with stories about the couple, be mindful of the content you choose to include.

Weddings are not the time to share embarrassing stories or secrets.
Hinterhaus Productions via Getty Images
Weddings are not the time to share embarrassing stories or secrets.

Failing to RSVP

“If someone is kind enough to invite you to their wedding, do take the time to respond,” Smith says. “Adding to their to-do list and forcing the hosts to chase you down is rather rude.”

Similarly, make sure you only RSVP for the people invited, ie, don’t write in a guest’s name if you didn’t get a plus-one. Don’t show up at the wedding with extra people either.

“Some people bring extra guests, in addition to their plus-one,” Mitchell says. “But where are you going to put these other guests? It’s irritating.”

Taking photos during the ceremony

Our phones can take great photos these days, but remember the couple has most likely hired a professional photographer to document this occasion.

“When an announcement is made not to take photos of the ceremony and people do it anyway, that is very rude,” Mitchell says.

Even if there’s no announcement or request in the program, it’s best to put your phone away during the ceremony. Or if you simply must take a photo, try to be quick and subtle about it. Don’t lean into the aisle and block the photographer’s or videographer’s perfect shot with your phone.

And whatever you do, make sure your phone won’t go off during the ceremony.

“You don’t want your text notification or phone ringer interrupting the couple’s vows or other poignant moment in the service,” says Anne Chertoff of Beaumont Etiquette.

Be mindful of how much you drink.
FG Trade via Getty Images
Be mindful of how much you drink.

Telling the couple what’s wrong

Like all events, weddings have hiccups. When you notice something is amiss, however, don’t march up to the newlyweds to point it out.

“Instead of adding stress to the couple, or their parents, on the big day, notify a member of their wedding planning team or catering staff if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” Chertoff says.

Drinking too much

Just because there’s an open bar doesn’t mean you need to take full advantage and order endless drinks. “Refrain from drinking excessively,” Mitchell advises.

Whitmore similarly cautioned against getting too inebriated, which can often lead to making a spectacle or staying at the venue later than you should.

“You’re supposed to be a gracious guest, be there in support of the couple and have a good time without going too far,” she says.

Skipping or arriving late to the ceremony

Resist the urge to skip the ceremony, even if you expect it might be long or boring.

“Being a witness of the wedding vows is the important part,” she says. “To just show up for the party is in poor taste.”

Don't skip the ceremony and only go to the reception.
Delmaine Donson via Getty Images
Don't skip the ceremony and only go to the reception.

Furthermore, be sure to show up to the venue on time. You don’t want to be awkwardly walking in with the bridal party procession.

“Even if it means mulling in the parking lot or sitting bored in the pews, guests should make it their mission to arrive at the venue well in advance of the wedding couple,” Smith says.

Of course, unexpected delays happen, so in these unavoidable instances, just make a subtle entrance.

“If you are running late, try to enter the ceremony as quietly as possible and sit in the back as not to interrupt the service,” Chertoff says.

Taking a to-go plate

Even if you see leftovers, Mitchell advises against asking the catering staff for a to-go plate. As with flowers, you don’t want to take anything unless you get the go-ahead from the couple or other people with authority at the event.

“I have noticed of late that the bride and groom may have ‘to-go’ containers fixed and prepared to take so as not to waste food,” Mitchell says. “But don’t ask for a to-go plate, regardless of how casual the wedding is.”

Not showing up

“Saying that you will attend and then skipping out is even worse than not RSVP-ing,” Smith says. “The hosts have planned for you to be there, included you in the seating charts and catering counts. Your absence creates holes in the affair.”

If you have a last-minute emergency and can’t attend, try your best to tell someone who will be at the event so that they can inform the coordinators.

“Instead of calling the newlyweds-to-be, reach out to one of their parents to let them know and send your best wishes as well,” Chertoff recommends.

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