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All the Wedding Etiquette Rules Guests Absolutely Must Follow

Photo: Driely S.

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Weddings: You can't live with them, you can live without them — but millions of Americans choose to ignore that fact every year and go ahead and get married! It doesn't help that so many long-held but often obscure traditions are in play. What do I wear? Who can I bring? Who can I make the dowry check out to? Below are the absolute hard-and-fast etiquette rules, so that you, the guest, can quit all this guesswork.


If the invitation is addressed to The [Your Last Name] Family, feel free to bring all members of your family: Aunts, second cousins, great great grandparents, godchildren, protégées and mentors, anyone with whom you share a last name. A free meal is a free meal!

Plus ones are an open invitation. When it's not the loneliest number, one is just a suggested starting point.

If, in this modern age, the wedding invitation arrives via Paperless Post, print said message, write your reply in calligraphy, and mail it to the happy couple. This is classy.

If the wedding is "black tie-suggested," counter with your own suggestions. Purple is a royal and festive choice!

If you are not awarded a plus one, dogs are acceptable dates. (Not cats, sorry.)

Getting Ready

If you wear a hat, you can’t wear pants. If you wear pants, you can’t wear black. If you wear black you can’t wear a dress. If you wear a dress, you can’t wear a hat — wait.

You may not be taller than the bride.

It is preferable to wear the mother-of-the-groom's favorite color, but it is wildly inappropriate to ask her what that is.

Wedding jumpsuits are permissible, but you will be sat at the kids table.

You can only wear white if you're more beautiful than the bride.

For the bride: Something old, something new, something from the share economy, something blue.

Bare arms are unacceptable. Bearing arms is totally cool.

Gloves are never optional.


Wedding registries should not be listed on the invitation. If the couple does list their registry, punish them by giving them a park bench named in their honor in a city they don't live in and have never expressed interest in visiting.

You have up to one year after a wedding to buy a gift, unless you really don't think they're going to make it in which case you have eight years.

For the bride(s) and/or groom(s): Wedding hashtags are old news. To show your guests respect, hire a marketing team to come up with a brand slogan that you will continue to use for your entire marriage. Sell merch at the chapel doors.

The Ceremony

Weddings are to be Instagrammed, not posted to Snapchat; these memories are meant to last forever. No deleting!

Turn off your mobile phone during the ceremony, unless your ringtone is hilaaaaaaaaarious. The bride's dad will love it.

If there are aspects of a religious or cultural ceremony that you don't understand, ask questions during, loudly, and frequently. This is a learning experience!

Posting the first picture of the bride online is the new catching the bouquet.

Contrary to popular belief, raising an objection when being told to "speak now or forever hold your peace" is a fun and exciting way to bring the couple together in defense of their union.

Kidnapping a bride or groom is unacceptable, but the ring-bearer is up for grabs.

The Reception

Bring your own cake! You'll want to have a classic alternative to the inevitable alt-dessert table serving artisanal donuts and/or the vegan ice cream truck and/or craft beer floats and/or DIY popsicle table and/or bubble tea shooters! Dessert is the anti-hipster hill you should die on!

If you discover that you do not like your seating assignment, formally lobby the wedding party for a better table. Bridesmaids and groomsmen may act as your defense team and/or prosecution, if they wish, but ultimately it is up to the maid of honor. Never settle!

Let other guests at your table come to you.

Speeches are usually reserved for the bridal party and families, unless you have a really solid Uncle Mike impression and/or are proficient in magic.

Never look the bride in the eye.

No ring, no dinner.

The number of drinks you're permitted to have is one-to-one to the number of years you've known the half of the new union that you've known for longer. This is to say, mothers and fathers of brides and grooms can get LIT.

As the reception winds down, grab whatever you can. Times are tough.