How to Be a Good Wedding Guest

Well, it’s finally here: the last wedding of the year. I’m headed down to Cute Historic Small Town in a week for a good friend’s wedding, and it’s with mixed emotions that I bid adieu to a year full of them (including my own). In the span of six months, several weddings have taught me a few things about attending someone’s nuptials. Maybe it’s too late for you to be a good guest in 2010, but 2011 is just around the corner.

Lesson 1: Alternate wine and water

I’ve noticed that women who like most kinds of booze tend to stick mostly to wine and champagne at weddings. (Guilty!) Why? Is it because we feel classier carrying a glass of wine while we’re dressed to the nines? Is it that the celebratory atmosphere calls for some bubbly? Or is it just because it’s free? The danger here is that the festive mood can keep you from noticing how quickly the drinks are going down. You don’t want the crescendo of a group dance to be your full champagne glass smashing on the dance floor. Not that this has ever happened to me.*

 Lesson 2: Do some recon on the food

There is a huge discrepancy from wedding to wedding on the amount of food served. I’ve been to cocktail hours with carving stations and pasta bars, only to be kind of grossed out at the thought of having to sit and eat more food during dinner. I’ve also been to cocktail hours with hundreds of people and only a few besieged servers bringing out passed hors d’oeuvres. Try to find out ahead of time if you should be skipping breakfast, or heading to the ceremony on a full stomach. The only thing worse than being overstuffed with food? Being hungry, cranky, and drunk by the dad-daughter dance because you were counting on more grub.

Lesson 3: There will be a fight. Stay out of it.

I think it’s the treacherous combination of food and alcohol mentioned above, as well as generally heightened emotions on such an intense day. But believe me: there will be some kind of disagreement between guests. Maybe a couple you’re friends with will get in an argument about flirting. Maybe two cousins who hate each other will end up exchanging words. Maybe seeing another couple get married will bring up some bad memories for someone and they’ll overreact to something. The point is, when you sense the tension, get out of there. Don’t be a hero! Depending upon the timing and magnitude of this fight, it could end up being a stain on the wedding day. You don’t want to be part of it.

Lesson 4: Compliment the couple on something specific

So, there are many things that you get to enjoy as a wedding guest: the food, the drinks, the dancing, the music, the party favors. And there are components of the wedding (such as décor) that the couple spent a lot of time and money picking out. Showing that you noticed and appreciated something specific about the wedding will really mean a lot to the couple and will stand out on a day where they’ll hear “what a beautiful wedding!” about 150 times.

Lesson 5: A wedding is the reverse of a funeral

What I mean by this is that the couple gets a LOT of attention and offers for help the day before and the day of the wedding. However, in the reverse of a funeral, it’s the week or two prior to the wedding that your help or support will be most useful. This is the time period when, since all the big stuff is taken care of, they have only minutiae to fret over. This is the time when last minute cancellations and changes will take place. This is the time when they are still going to their jobs every day, but spending 75% of their time stressing about wedding stuff. It’s easy at this point to lose sight of all the happiness and excitement, and for some reason this is when guests are the quietest, presumably because they don’t want to “bother” the couple.

This is your chance to remind them that there are 100 (200? 300?) people who can’t wait to celebrate their marriage. This is when they could really use some “You’re getting married in a week!” squealing. If you live nearby, stop by with a bottle of wine the weekend before the big day and help with the seating chart or last-minute DIY project. If you’re far away, you can send a little package through a flower-delivery site or Edible Arrangements scheduled for a week before the wedding. Or, just send a little card telling them how excited you are for them to tie the knot. Believe me, it will be much appreciated.

*Yes it has.

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