That’s right. I’ve been to 44 weddings, and I’ve got five on the docket for this year. I’m basically a professional wedding guest. Now you might think, HOLY BALLS, 44 weddings? It’s true. Though if you subtract my own, it’s 43, and if you subtract the ones I went to before I was an adult it would be 40. Still a whole heck of a lot, right?
In my decade as a pro wedding-goer, I’ve learned a LOT. I’ve learned that weddings are really fun for guests and extremely important for the people getting married. I’ve learned that something will always go wrong at any given wedding, and that’s okay. I’ve also learned that you BEST be ready to dance. Read on for 44 more things I’ve learned from attending 44 weddings.
Just look at all those blushing brides ;)
1. Text the soon-to-be-marrieds the week before the wedding. People usually think they should leave the soon-to-be newlyweds alone the week before the wedding, but you know what they say about being lonely at the top. Send them notes of encouragement and excitement, and use their wedding hashtag when you take a selfie on the plane ride to their wedding — they’ll love it!
2. No, you definitely should not wear white. The bride won’t actually care, but everyone else at the wedding will. And yes, dresses that are mostly white with a small pattern or flower still count as white. If you have to convince people that it’s a really, really pale blush or a very subtle light gray, then it’s probably white. Save your fancy white dress for a summer cocktail party, girl.
3. If you offer to help, expect to actually help. If you don’t have time to help, don’t offer it. Though it may seem like a nice gesture, it will ultimately be frustrating for you and the couple if you can’t actually do what you said you could. This is not a case where “it’s the thought that counts” comes into play. It’s most definitely the action that helps. If you’re going to offer to help, set realistic expectations. If you’ve volunteered to address the invitations with your mad calligraphy skills, let the engageds know when you can do it and how much time you’ll need to complete the job. If you know you won’t have time to help with anything in advance but are happy to help all wedding weekend, then say that. Clarity is key here.
4. Always carry insect repellent and blister blocker. It pays to be prepared. No one thinks to bring insect repellent to a wedding, and a LOT of weddings are outside in the summertime. Usually they happen right around sunset, which is prime time for mosquitoes. Blister Blocker is a genius invention that makes your feet way less prone to blisters, even once they start. I’ve also used it on my inner arms (TMI?) when wearing sequins that tend to be scratchy.
5. Take (a few) photos during the ceremony. Even though this is a known wedding faux-pas, I can give you the names of about 20 people who have thanked me profusely for doing this. Your wedding is such a dream that sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s real. And if you’ve got a fancy wedding photographer, you probably won’t get to see photos for at least a month. It doesn’t even matter if your photos are high quality or not — the two that just said “ I do” will appreciate them. But be subtle. Get an inner aisle seat, be sure to turn off the flash, use the zoom feature and limit yourself to five photos max. And do NOT reach your arm out into the aisle. Not okay.
6. Use the couple’s wedding hashtag. Don’t be too cool. Don’t create your own “better” hashtag. Better yet, start using it way before the wedding to help act as a hype machine. You know that mega collage at the top of this post? ALL from Instagram. And ALL hashtagged.
7. Pay attention during the couple’s first dance. It might not be the most riveting moment of the wedding, but chances are the couple feels a little weird about slow dancing while everyone watches. Ideally, they get lost in each other’s eyes and arms about 20 seconds after the song starts, but if they see people looking bored or talking, they’ll get totally bummed out.
8. Don’t complain about travel time or windy roads. At least not to anyone in the wedding party, and definitely not to the bride and groom, groom and groom or bride and bride. They’ll immediately feel guilty that they made you travel all this way, which is likely something they were nervous about when they chose an obscure but beautiful location.
9. Do what you’re told. When the officiant asks you to say “We Do,” do it. When you’re handed a kazoo and asked to play it the moment the couple kisses, bust out your kazoo skills. Don’t use your own lighter to light the sparklers — use the wedding-sanctioned lighters to do so. Don’t try to rock the boat. Unless it’s late night and rocking the boat results in a hilarious story where you lose your shoes in a lake and have to walk home barefoot.
10. If you’ve got skills on the mic or the dance floor, please drop it like it’s hot. Surprise performances RULE. They have been some of the most memorable moments I’ve experienced at weddings. Flash mob-style surprise dance routines are a surefire fan favorite. Dropping a toast in the form of a beatboxing breakdown is also amazing. I’ve personally performed “The Humpty Dance” on a mic at five different weddings (it’s kind of my thing) — it’s always a hit, makes people guffaw, gets the dance floor going and helps break up the night.
11. Prepare a short toast in case of an open mic/awkward silence combo. We’ve all been there. Or at least I have, more than once. It’s the night before the wedding. You walk into the rehearsal dinner and see a mic. The soon-to-be-marrieds take the stage and say a few words about how happy they are that everyone traveled all this way to celebrate. And then it happens: OPEN MIC. No schedule, no roster, just straight freestyle. And then there’s a pause. Umm, I didn’t know there’d be an open mic, and I’m a bridesmaid. I didn’t prepare a toast. Crap. To be an extremely awesome guest, prepare a short toast, and save the day. It can be one sentence! People will give you props, the couple will feel loved and everyone wins.
12. Bring a backup late-night dance party playlist on your phone. Time and time again, people forget to have an emergency playlist at the ready. Those people are amateurs, and I am not one of them. Take your latest party playlist and edit it ever so slightly for the vibe of the wedding. If you’re a Spotify user, be sure to save it for offline listening. That way if the band’s set ends earlier than expected or something goes wrong with the DJ equipment, you’ve got backup. Even if it doesn’t come in handy at the actual wedding, it will definitely be clutch at the after-hours hotel party.
13. Use your judgment when it comes to wearing sunnies during the ceremony. This is a tough one, because wedding ceremonies DO tend to take place in sunny, beautiful places. I’ve definitely been to some weddings where it seems totally fine to wear sunglasses, but you can spot those sunglass-wearers a mile away in the ceremony photos, which is less than ideal. This one’s kind of a judgement call, but if you can stand to take them off, do it for the ‘gram.
14. Send in that RSVP card. RSVP cards are not just a dog and pony show in your mailbox. They are extremely useful and show that you care enough to check a box and mail a pre-stamped envelope. And if you’ve got dietary restrictions, please, oh please, make note of them.
15. If you’re running late, wait at the reception area. Accidentally walking down the aisle because you’re late is far worse than missing the ceremony, both for you and the newlyweds-to-be. It doesn’t matter if you have a good reason, crazy circumstances or what — hang back or wait at the reception area so you don’t mess up the flow of the event.
16. Dance your face off. When it comes to the dance floor, you should most definitely BRING IT. This is no place to be shy with your rendition of the Sprinkler, the Jerk, the Dougie, the Whip (is that even what it’s called? Kids these days), the Bernie or the Electric Slide. (Photo via Catherine Farquharson)
17. Take your wedding favor (even if you don’t want it). Whoever spent hours and hours making, sourcing or hand-lettering the favors is going to be bummed to the max when they see that most of them were left behind. It’s usually a pretty small thing, so take yours and keep it forever because you love it, or give it away (or leave it in your hotel room).
18. Even though it seems sweetly old school, don’t bring your gift to the wedding. Guess what? The newlyweds have a lot of post-wedding details to deal with already, and making sure to remember your gift should not be one of them. Exceptions to this are: cards with checks inside (though that is also pretty risky), handmade artwork (but make sure it’s packaged well and let them know that you’re happy to ship it to them if they don’t have space to take it home) and PUPPIES. Omg. Just kidding. Don’t bring any live animals as gifts to the wedding.
19. Unless your invite says “and guest,” you do NOT have a plus one. And don’t ask for one!
20. Tame your side boob. This is not your high school or college reunion, even though it might seem that way. Keep your side boob in check, at the very least during the ceremony and dinner. No one’s grandma wants to see your bosoms popping out in the background of the official family photo, or even worse, in the background of the couple walking back up the aisle. If that means donning a pashmina, do it — at least until the sun’s gone down.
21. Make sure the newlyweds always have a drink (even water). Because everyone wants to talk to the guests of honor, it can be tough for them to get to the bar or even to their table to grab a sip of water. Be an awesome friend and check in with them periodically to make sure they have what they need, and remind them to drink lots of water.
22. Stay hydrated. Speaking of hydration, you should make sure you drink lots of water as well. It’ll do wonders for your hangover and will keep you energized throughout the night.
23. Bring a pair of flats or flip flops. You might think you’re really good at wearing high heels, but then you’ll be one of those people who is barefoot on the dance floor. While that seems romantic and fun, what if a glass breaks? What about all the times you’ll get stepped on? Flip flops or flats won’t make these things go away, but they’ll definitely make them less painful. You also don’t want to be that pain in the butt who complains about having to walk four blocks to the after party.
24. If the bouquet toss is happening, please play along. No matter how hip and non-traditional you are, everyone’s allowed their dose of corniness. Enter the bouquet toss, an age-old tradition that’s had a nice return in popularity thanks to Beyoncé’s classic, “Single Ladies.”
25. Bring surprise party props. Glow sticks, bear costumes, confetti poppers — all of these are perfect party surprises. But I’ll tell you what takes your party to the next level: PARTY RATS. What in the world are party rats? Only the weirdest thing I ever received at a white elephant party and then became instantly obsessed with. They are tiny plastic light-up rats that you can wear as rings, and boy, do they bring the party. Seriously. I’ve brought the same batch of party rats to three weddings in the last year. Are they always a hit? HECK YES. (Photo via Matt Reamer)
26. It’s okay to bring flasks to beer + wine only weddings. It happens. People book a venue and only later realize that it’s beer and wine only. But dudes and dudettes, that’s why flasks were invented. Now, I’m not suggesting you take a flask to your face the moment the wedding begins — but sharing a nip here and there with your compatriots is totally cool. The most important piece of advice? Don’t leave the newlyweds out of it. Sharing is caring.
27. Don’t heckle anyone during their toasts. Toasts are hard enough as it is. The awkward sister, the overly emotional brother, even the naturally charming actor best friend all worked hard to put together a few words about the happy couple. Heckling them is lame, even if you think you’re extremely hilarious. Guess what’s worse? Heckling the brand new marrieds during their thank you toast. (I can personally attest to this one.) On a positive note, hooting and hollering in appreciation of toasts is most definitely encouraged!
28. Don’t be the person who asks them when they’re having kids. Give them a day, people!
29. If there’s a pool, lake or ocean nearby, be prepared to jump in. Every summer wedding I’ve been to that has a body of water nearby has resulted in late-night swimming. So what does this mean for you? Pack a swimsuit or be prepared to jump in wearing your skivvies.
30. Prepare to be more emo at weddings *after* you’ve gotten married. This was a huge surprise for me. Before I got married, I would get reasonably emotional at certain people’s weddings, but no actual tears, nothing too crazy. Now I’m a mess! I look at the couple getting hitched, remember my amazing wedding day (self-centered, but true) and I think about how these two are going to have the best day ever, and are having the most surreal moment right this very minute. It’s a tear-fest, and I accept it.
31. Hit the photo booth (and monopolize it if no one’s using it). We love us a good photo booth here at Brit HQ, so it should be no surprise that my advice to you is to hit it. That being said, it’s easy to forget about photo booths while you’re dancing and drinking and reminiscing with old friends. So make sure to participate — especially if it’s an official photo booth with prints and the whole shebang.
32. Don’t switch your place card with someone else’s. Dude, that’s just rude. First off, the recently wedded couple probably spent hours upon hours poring over the seating chart. Second, it will definitely make the person you were originally seated next to feel bad. There’s no need for this, especially for a part of the evening that usually only lasts an hour.
33. If you see something, say something. That’s right. I’m borrowing this one from the MTA. If something looks off to you, tell the wedding planner or closest equivalent. If a branch looks like it’s about to break off over someone’s table, say something. If the bride’s lipstick is smudged, tag is out or bra is showing, say something. If someone’s toast is going too long and getting inappropriate, say something.
34. It’s okay to take selfies with the newlyweds. Just don’t be obnoxious about it. They’re your friends who got married, not celebrities who you don’t want to bother. In fact, they probably want to be bothered by you instead of their new spouse’s great aunt once-removed who they’ve literally never met before.
35. Don’t compare their day to yours (or anyone else’s). You can say things about it being THE GREATEST DAY EVER and how you love being married and isn’t it the besttttt, but other than that, leave your wedding out of it.
36. There are times when you *should* fly more than six hours for a four-hour event. Rough one, right? There are cases when this is worth it. If you truly can’t take a half day off work to fly to your sister, brother or best friend’s wedding, then redeye that ‘ish and caffeinate your way through the ceremony and reception. If you’re invited to a 300-person wedding and you’re not even sure why you got invited or you honestly haven’t spoken to the person in two years, it’s okay not to go. In fact, a really awesome gift will likely be more appreciated (and will probably be less pricey!).
37. If you don’t stay at one of the official hotels, be prepared to drive. While it’s pretty rad to rent a baller vacation home, try to stay within walking distance of the official wedding hotels so you can catch shuttles and cabs that have been organized. If the wedding is somewhere with Uber and Lyft, you’re good to stay anywhere. And if you don’t mind driving, the lodging world is your oyster.
38. Tell the newlyweds’ parents how awesome their kids are. Parents LOVE their kids. Duh. Congratulate them and tell them how much you love their kid, and maybe even throw in a heartwarming anecdote. Brownie points for life.
39. Sign the guest book. It’s okay if you don’t have something mind-blowing to write. Just tell the couple you love them, congrats and maybe one funny anecdote or song lyric. Or if you’re feeling creative, a little doodle goes a long way.
40. Save the lemon drops for the after party. The crew I roll with isn’t exactly shy at the bar, especially if it’s an open one. But it’s not the greatest idea to start taking shots when people haven’t eaten dinner yet. Save it for after all the official wedding moments (the first dance, the toasts, the dinner), and don’t forget to hydrate in between cocktails.
41. If you’re beyond tipsy and drinking red wine, stay away from the bride. I repeat: STAY AWAY FROM THE BRIDE.
42. Accept that someone might spill a drink on you. On the topic of potential drink spillage — hopefully it doesn’t happen, but be mentally prepared so you don’t end up being a vibe killer.
43. If you love the decor/band/food, tell the happy couple. What they don’t tell you about getting engaged is that between the time of your engagement and your marriage, you are going to have to develop very strong, definitive opinions about things you’ve never considered. Bruschetta or caprese skewers? IDK. Ranunculus or peonies? Wait, what? Reclaimed barn wood or driftwood tables? Whoa. So, appreciate all those itty bitty decisions they made.
44. It’s okay to leave early, just don’t try to convince other people to get on your (probably lame) early train. Oh, you want to get up and go for a run? So you’re going to leave at 9pm? What the HECK. Unless you’re running in a half marathon the next day, don’t do that. Just stop drinking but keep hanging out. That being said, if you DO have to leave early (it happens, especially if you’re rolling with older folks or kiddos), don’t try to get other people to share a cab with you or ride in your car. Leave the party people in peace.
ABOVE ALL ELSE. Don’t forget to hang with the just-marrieds! I’ve touched on this a few times already, but I can’t stress it enough. People constantly forget to hang out with the people that just got married because they assume they’re too busy to hang. They’re not. They invited you to this major event in their lives because they love you and you love them.
Now, go forth and be a good guest!
(All photos via Anjelika Temple unless otherwise credited)
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