Real-World Wedding Etiquette Reminders

When was the last time you were invited to a wedding? I just attended a family member’s event this past weekend, and it reminded me just how badly some of us need a wedding etiquette refresher course. Now, I’m all for bucking traditions on the big day, but no matter how laidback the bride and groom may be, every couple deserves a certain level of esteem from the friends and family they valued enough to invite to such an important celebration.

Unfortunately, I have personally had to bear witness to some downright heinous wedding faux pas, which has inspired the following real-world etiquette refresher course.

Do not be underdressed.

No matter how casual you expect the wedding may be, do not be the guy who shows up in a t-shirt. Even Hawaiian shirts and polos have collars; it’s a bare-minimum requirement. While women sometimes struggle more to decipher what is or isn’t too casual, bridal boutiques like Azazie offer a huge variety of can’t-fail, wedding-appropriate options, like custom bridesmaid dresses that can be worn as wedding attire.

While this probably shouldn’t have to be said, but I still had to ask my own father what he was wearing at the wedding last weekend (his excuse was that he was wearing dress pants, and for the record that is no excuse).

In 2016, the average bride spent $1,564 on her wedding gown, according to Pop Sugar, and the rest of the bridal party will likely be dressed to impress regardless of the setting. While no one is arguing that you should wear a ballgown to a seaside wedding, you should at least try to dress a little nicer than you think is expected. The couple may not have expressly stated a dress code on their invitations, but you should be able to read between the lines enough to make an informed decision.

Double check what you’re wearing.

Now that you’re sure the options under consideration are formal enough to suit the event, double check that what you’re wearing doesn’t violate any other spoken or unspoken rules of wedding wear. Even though fashion week runways featured more than 60 colorful bridal gowns, the vast majority of brides still wear white.

This means that anything even remotely resembling white, that could possibly be mistaken for white, or that has the potential to photograph white is off-limits. Creams, ivories, champagnes, blushes, and very light pastels of all shades should all be avoided.

Depending on where the wedding is being held or how traditional the family is, some other colors may be on the “avoid” list, according to She Knows, too. Red, for example, can be interpreted as an attempt to gain attention, and in some cultures is the preferred bridal hue. Black is widely recognized as a color of mourning and can be taken as a direct dig at the couple.

Double and triple check what you’re wearing to what will be a highly photographed and memorable event; under no circumstances do you want to be the one making that kind of impression.

Play along.

If you get invited to a pirate-themed wedding at Walt Disney World, you show up maxed out in your pirate best (even if it means hitting a costume shop). If the bride and groom serve an all-vegan menu at the reception site, you fill your plate with beans and tofu and give it a shot. I have personally experienced both of these at the same wedding, and of course, the event was a blast.

Let the bride and groom take you out of your comfort zone; the entire point of inviting guests to your big day is to share what makes your love special. According to The Knot, couples are increasingly invested in providing their guests with an experience that they won’t forget, and they’re being more particular about who shares in their special day, too.

The average number of wedding guests has decreased to 141, down from 149 in 2009, while the average cost per guest has increased to $245, up from $194 in 2009. Whatever experience the engaged have in store for you, play along and embrace it!

If you can’t say anything nice…

Don’t say anything at all! This old adage is never truer than on someone’s wedding day. There’s no need to snicker that your wedding gifts double as special baby shower gifts or express your concern that the groom won’t finish his online classes for his degree because the wedding has been a distraction. I speak from experience when I say that what you believe is whispered at the wedding has a way of getting back to the wedding party, and it definitely puts a damper on the day.

Non-traditional weddings are on the rise, according to Marketwired, with 33 percent of engaged couples already raising children prior to marriage, more than 20 countries legalizing same-sex marriage, and blended families of all kinds becoming more typical. And no one cares if you think the bridesmaid dresses are inappropriate, the cake was dry, the music stinks, or the bar is cheap, either, so keep your two cents about the state of affairs to yourself.

What real-world wedding etiquette reminders do you wish people could remember? Share your experiences in the comments below.