8 WAYS to be a PERFECT Wedding Guest

Titles I also tried out for this article?
8 WAYS TO BE A WEDDING GUEST | And still get invited to the next one.
8 WAYS TO BE A WEDDING GUEST | Or just a decent human being.
8 WAYS TO BE A WEDDING GUEST | Why am I telling adults these things.
8 WAYS TO BE A WEDDING GUEST | And make it out alive.
8 WAYS TO BE A WEDDING GUEST | And not have every wedding vendor complaining about you.
I do wish there were a nicer way to say things.
Wedding guests are AMAZING because you invite those you love!

The problem is those we love sometimes invite a plus one. *(even when they are not asked to invite one)

Or those we love over do it on the open bar. Or those we love just don’t understand wedding etiquette.



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 I love meeting people and seeing how happy each guest is for the newly weds and hearing how they are all connected.


98% of guests are perfectly enjoyable and give me that extra boost of energy to make it until the exit.

Honestly- those are the people who still might ignore this helpful *(if not a little harsh) advice.


Put this link up on the wedding website you have for the two of you and maybe— just maybe! that one guest you think will be the offender will get the hint before your big day.


So here we go, wedding guest to be!!


1) Leave your iPad at home.
I might repeat this one. I am not asking for forgiveness. I am not sorry. LEAVE YOUR iPAD AT HOME.
Wedding Ceremony Ideas for Guests-9900*(THIS photo is a perfectly acceptable way to take a ceremony photo as a guest. Stay in your seat. Leave your phone at chest height, not extended to giraffe-like levels.)


There are very few things worse than seeing a contraption that should really be attached to a full keyboard being thrusted up into the air, and seeing an open hand extended with it trying to hold it up, down and tilted to focus on the couple exchanging rings. All that for a blurred photo.


No one will tell you what I am about to tell you. 


It’s way more distracting than you think. You look like a crazy person. *(granted, a crazy person who is loved by the ones who invited you- but not as much if you are blocking everyone’s view including the video and photo team who they paid to get a better shot)
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THIS is a perfect reason to have your phone out. Consult with the photographer first!This bride and groom let me know that the wedding would be seen through Skype for guests or family in another country who could not attend. 


If your excuse is you brought it for your grandson to play Jake the Pirate video games later? That is wonderful and thoughtful of you. 


Put it back in your purse.


Your grandson is actually behaving himself.
You, on the other hand, are not. 


2)Leave that dress at the store.
Pick it up, admire it. Leave it.


The one that has a slit that goes up your thigh? Or is so short you cannot move so much as your shoulders or toes without giving a show?


No one will tell you what I am about to tell you.


It’s inappropriate.


Even if you don’t look your age (Older OR younger). Even if you are a Victoria’s Secret model. Wear that on your own time.


Are you thinking that you will walk slowly, keep a handle on things since it doesn’t really even show your leg if you aren’t moving too much? Ok! Then walk slowly to the ceremony, walk slowly back to your car and go straight back home.
*(Look at all these perfectly dressed ladies! All able to reach for the bouquet, dance all night with NO fear of revealing anything. Way to go, girls.) 


If you head towards that reception with that exotic-Miss-Universe-looking-evening wear-slip of a dress, you know you are going to get right up on the dance floor. (After bashfully saying “Who me? Dance?! Oh, I could never!”)  Then the photographer (um, me) will more than likely have to delete most of the photos with you anywhere near them because YES. That dress does move when you dance. And no, we don’t want to see all of that.


Dressing beautiful and even looking glamorous at a wedding is not the problem, ladies and gents. Just keep it classy. Check yourself in front of a mirror. Lift your arms. Dance.


If you have to ask “Is this dress too sexy for a wedding?”


It probably is. 


3)The wedding aisle is not for you.
The aisle is for the following:
Wedding aisle ideas for destination weddings-0156
  • Family that is being escorted and seated
  • Wedding Party
  • Flower Girl and Ring Bearer
  • Bride and her Father
  • Ninja like Photographer
  • Videographer, also stealth
  • Wedding couple once they are pronounced legally wed
  • Not you. Never you.

Walk into the ceremony and find your seat from the side aisles. 

Wedding aisle ideas for destination weddings-0184
*(example of a stunning aisle of rose petals uninterrupted thanks to respectful wedding guests)
No side aisles?
Carefully step around the rose petals, candles and/or aisle runner and find your seat.
Candles can be dangerous and are knocked over at 70% of weddings that they are in the aisle. Romantic as a movie, but please note that candles are indeed: fire.
If I see you in the aisle, I will be sure to get your photo. That way I can at least help by showing you what it looks like to the rest of the guests.

Some people don’t know- others just don’t care.


4)The wedding DJ (and/or live band) is not your Pandora.
I love how we can customize our music playlists thanks to wonderful and convenient music apps. It gives us a power other generations only dreamed of.

But with great power comes great responsibility. 

The guest who demanded the chicken dance be played for their six year old God-son to rock out to should NOT under any circumstances be YOU.

There are very few songs that should never be played, and chances are you just asked for one of them.If you happened to ask for an AMAZING song? Chances are- the AMAZING DJ or band that the couple spent months finding and hiring is going to play it.

When. it. makes. sense.

Austin Wedding DJs-2830
*(Shocking, I know!)

They just had their first dance and want to do an anniversary dance? Might not want to demand they play Baby Got Back.In the middle of a slammed dance floor with everyone really energized and loving it? That might not be the time to insist on hearing “Wind Beneath My Wings” in honor of a loved one who is no longer with us.

Both of those songs are amazing choices (as my friends could verify by my personal Karaoke choices). You just might not have the same read of the room as someone who does this EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND. 

Best Austin wedding reception Bands-1263

You feel me yet? 

If you DO absolutely have to ask for Copperhead Road, you better be POSITIVE that the group of girls you were sure knew the line dance… actually knows the line dance. And that they are not all out on a smoke break when you ask for it. If so, it’s just going to be me and you slamming our boots down to the dance floor.

And also- go ahead and tip the DJ/MC/Band if you are treating them like a cruise ship dueling piano bar. They just might be more open to hear your suggestions!

5)Speeches are quiet time.
How to have a great wedding-1119
I don’t understand how this is ever a problem.
A clearly honored guest or family member is on the mic, after being loudly announced, and there are still adults who continue to talk throughout the entire speech.
New York wedding photographer-1537
Reasons I have heard for this?
(These are actual quotes. Real weddings. Real adults. )
– “I don’t know who that is talking.”
– “I haven’t seen so & so for fifteen years, I am not going to give up our reunion time!”
– “We already know how they met.”
– “Oh that (insert name) can go on for days, I always ignore him, he don’t care.”
 (again. actual quote)
-“The kids were talking too.”
South Florida wedding photographer-5694
I wish I could insert a photo of my face when I hear these responses.
It’s STILL shocked.


6)Get up and dance! 
With all these warnings and rules you would think I walk around with an intense face on just waiting to yell at someone.
QUITE the opposite! 
How to have a great wedding-1349
Yes, my insides are going crazy when I see adults behave with such little etiquette, but I never show it. I KNOW how to have fun at a wedding!
Please don’t be too cool to celebrate. There are so many opportunities to get up and dance even if it’s not your style.
Best Austin wedding reception venues-7551
*(Proof that there is no excuse not to go shake it! One of my favorite dance floor moments.)
Whoever is getting married and invited you has chosen a set list or genre of music for a reason: they love it! Or maybe even because they think you will love it. Show them some love and respect and get up to dance more than once.
If there is a slow song, go dance with your date or politely ask someone to dance.
Not the photographer, by the way. Just get out there and dance! 
Texas wedding photographer wedding reception ideas for dancing-5071
GROUP DANCES ARE NO EXCEPTION. *(examples: Cupid Shuffle. Wobble.) Go have fun even if you hate the song!
It will make for exciting dance photos for their wedding memories. I will help you learn the dance if you don’t know it. 
And saying the song is too cliche doesn’t make you sound cool. 
An empty dance floor means I will probably go around and snap photos of you eating. So help everyone out and shake your toosh.
7)Pace yourself.
Wedding Ideas for a great wedding-0875
*(Perfect example? Pop open the bubbly first instead of liquor! These two even had champagne gummy bears. Now THAT is awesome.)
You are a guest!
Open bar at the reception? Great!
Doesn’t mean you need to turn into liquid.


No matter if any vendor was late, what bustle broke, what hair is falling and what vendor might not have lived up to your expectation… Alcohol ALWAYS does it’s job.
Texas wedding photographer wedding reception ideas-5161
*(Pictured above? Classiest group ever! They toasted the bride and groom- AND partied WITHOUT crossing into the drunken depths of what should only be saved for college frat parties.)
Don’t get me wrong. This is a huge life event. It is expected for everyone to celebrate. Have a couple drinks and let loose!
But a couple drinks doesn’t mean ten simply because it’s an open bar.
Wedding Ideas for a fun wedding reception-2665
Look at these adorable sized drinks. When the bar says they don’t make shots: they don’t make shots. Just grab what they have! There is zero need to yell at the bar tender about a policy that is held by the wedding venue.  


There is zero need to treat ANY wedding vendor poorly. This includes grabbing the videographers elbow to tell them what to capture, it includes making a pass at anyone who is trying to work the wedding, and of course includes using anything other than G-rated, sweet language with please and thank you to wedding vendors.
I would love to blame alcohol for this side note, but even sober guests need to hear this: The cake/cupcake/pie is not yours to eat before they have actually cut said dessert. 
Best Austin Wedding Venue Barr Mansion-5295
The over use of alcohol issue could really help with so many of the battles we face as vendors. If guests of every age could keep taking in water with the same fervor that they are consuming tequila, we would be able to eliminate the next problem all together!


Here we go with the home stretch:




This might not seem worthy for my grand finale of advice.
Best New Orleans Wedding Venue Il Mercato-7249
Wedding Sparkler Photos-0558
But it is.


If you think because you have your cigarette lighter in your pocket you should go ahead and light your own?

Then others start lighting their sparkler with yours.


Where are the newly weds? You are now yelling that you were ready for them?
Best wedding reception exits-17
The wedding couple was not ready to leave. That’s why we didn’t light your sparkler. They now only have smoke by the time they run through their tunnel.


This happens every weekend. 


Other rules I shouldn’t tell adults?
Don’t burn other people or yourself. 
Don’t think it’s a great idea to help light the couple by hanging your sparkler in front of their faces as they do their perfect dip and kiss.
Think I am kidding??
How to do a Wedding Sparkler Exit-6288
Anyone who has been through a sparkler exit knows that I am not kidding.
How to do a Wedding Sparkler Exit-6297
*(Thank goodness neither bride or groom was burned in the making of this photo. And these are GOOD wedding guests!)


Wondering why your venue won’t let you have a sparkler exit? It’s because of that 2%.
But what do we expect. Wedding guests have been consuming alcohol all night and then we hand them fire. 
There have been people set on fire, venue lawns set on fire and wedding decor has gone up in flames and people are shocked at how this can happen.


I give these FUN sparkler photos to show that things CAN go right, but don’t be shocked at the end of the night when vendors are physically going hoarse trying to keep everyone’s arms raised high and their two lines separated.


The reason I love my job so much after all of this happening at EVERY wedding?? 
It’s only 2%! 
My excitement is from showing up and giving my 110% for that entire wedding and never being able to know exactly what’s going to happen.
The difference with hiring vendors who have experience? They know how to predict AND handle all of the above without you even knowing that there was a problem!
You didn’t think I would leave the wedding couples hanging in terror, did you?
You are already mentally scanning your ever growing guest list for possible offenders, right?
That off-the-wall-aunt-in-law-to-be?
That groomsman that asked for his new girlfriend to be his plus one?
 Are you sweating at the mere thought of how to share this link on your Facebook now that I have actually called them out?
FACT:  One or more of the above mentioned behavior happens at 99% of weddings. So that’s about 1-3 “offenses” per wedding.
*(I do hard math for these statistics, people.) 


There are a few options for you to help prevent a few infractions. Or at least help the general crowd be more aware!
1)Unplugged with Hashtags.
Wooden Wedding Sign Ideas for hashtags-3121
 This may seem an oxymoron, yet asking for the ceremony to be unplugged while having signs with a specific wedding hashtag can eliminate that itchy iPad photographer.


It gives them a glimmer of hope that they can “cover” the cocktail hour and reception with their wonderful photos, while leaving your sacred vows unobstructed from their outstretched arms.
How to have a wedding ceremony-0154
The sign needs to be visible and DIRECTLY in front of the ceremony seating area.
Ideas for wording:
“Please refrain from photography of any kind during our ceremony”
“We invite you to be fully present during our ceremony. Please turn off all cell phones and cameras. We promise to share our beautiful pictures taken today!”
Mirror Wedding Signs for hashtags-2421
2)Dress Code 
There are many options for your invitations. There can end up being an entire story on your invite alone which can look overwhelming.
 A great option to include additional information? A thin paper insert.
Wedding Program Ideas with photo-2127
(This is a gorgeous example of a wedding program, just because I love it!)
With a thin insert or two you can cut cost while including important information such as: parking directions, a “things to do” map of your wedding city, registration, wedding website, aaaaand (wait for it..) DRESS CODE. 


There are plenty of options for phrasing. “Dressy casual, formal wear, black tie optional, classy formal, boots & bowties” are just examples of things I have seen that help guests know what to reach for in their closet.
There are ways to imply“please dress up!” without screaming it, or offending your guests who are usually found in camouflage shorts and baseball caps.
3)Exit Plans.
Having that sparkler exit and now you’re stressed about a guest going up in flames? There are cute signs to help! *(Way to go, Pinterest!)


What I wish you could fit on one sign: 
NO you can’t have 5 sparklers.
YES there is a bucket to put them out and it’s not called the grass.
NO you still can’t use the grass even if you have boots on that can stomp them out.
YES you can make a heart for a long exposure photo after the wedding couple exits.
NO you can’t spell out vulgar things for that photo and think I am not going to notice.


Instead of all that, consider these cuter options:
“Form two lines and let love shine! Sparkler Exit at 10:45”
“When it’s time to say goodbye, grab a sparkler and hold it high!”
“Raise your arm high and let the sparks fly!”
“Just take one and raise it high as the happy couple passes by!”
If your wedding venue is over sparklers thanks to all of the fire hazards… don’t stress!
Houston Wedding Photographer-wedding-exit-ideas-3432
Consider other beautiful exit options:
Rose Petals

How to have a fun wedding reception exit-8165

All right.


Everyone still here?
Hopefully we have now enlightened at least ONE guest from repeating their offenses.
Now go to the couple’s online registry and BUY their gift before everything “good” runs out.
Money is always an acceptable gift… but that’s another blog.

9 thoughts on “8 WAYS to be a PERFECT Wedding Guest

  1. Oh Elizabeth. The pure gold that this blog post is – I’m in love. These are the things EVERY wedding photographer knows, and I’m so glad you shared it on your blog for brides and grooms to see. It’s always so scary when a guest gets in the way and ruins what would have been an amazing wedding photograph, but it’s not something wedding photographers can control 100% and it can really impact the couple’s wedding photography.


  2. This is a great article about guest etiquette! You’re saying all the things we wish we could say to those 2%. Preach girl preach!


  3. Right on point, as always! Elizabeth Birdsong, this is all great advice for wedding guests. It should be required reading.


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  6. Pingback: Michelle & Saul | Canyonwood Ridge Romance | Not your average wedding blog.

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