Biggest wedding guest mistakes (and how to save face)
Being invited to a wedding is fun, but it can also be a minefield of unfamiliar etiquette. How do registries work? What’s okay to ask the bride? It’s all too easy to make a mistake — and in real life, there’s no “undo” button you can push to fix everything. You can, however, take some simple steps to make amends and keep your relationship with the bride and groom pleasant.
The Mistake: It’s a week before the wedding, and you haven’t RSVP’d.
Damage Control: Pop that card in the mail, but remember, it’s called “snail mail” for a reason. Call or email the bride and groom as soon as possible to let them know you’re sorry you forgot to RSVP and confirm whether or not you’ll be coming. While they’ve probably been counting you in, it will be a relief to know for certain.
Future Fix: When you receive a wedding invitation, send in your RSVP ASAP. Even if the response deadline is weeks (or even months) away, it’s better to be on the list early than to be a source of last-minute drama.
The Mistake: You sent an RSVP saying you’ll be coming, but now you won’t be able to make it.
Damage Control: Call or email the bride and groom right away to let them know. It’s absolutely okay to back out of a wedding — you just need to tell the couple so they know exactly how many guests to expect. Let them know you are sorry for the change of plans, and be sure to still send a gift.
Future Fix: It’s hard to plan for events that aren’t your choice (like coming down with the flu), so this isn’t a problem you can always avoid. If you think you will be able to attend a wedding, it’s better to RSVP yes. Etiquette-wise, it’s okay to go from a “yes” to a “no,” but you shouldn’t switch from a “no” to a “yes.”
The Mistake: You forgot to get a gift until the week of the wedding, and now there’s nothing left on the registry.
Damage Control: First, double-check — is there really nothing left? It’s not uncommon to find gifts guests avoid but that the bride and groom really want (for example, the old superstition that it’s unlucky to give knives). Another option is to choose a gift that will coordinate with items on their registry (for example, table linens that match a color in their china pattern). Even easier: Give them a gift card to one of their registry stores.
Future Fix: Hit the stores (or the web) early so you can give the gift you want. If you don’t want to store a present in your home for months, remember it’s not against wedding etiquette to have the gift shipped to the bride and groom before the big day.
The Mistake: You’re late to the ceremony.
Damage Control: When you arrive at the ceremony site, keep it quiet. There may be an usher or someone from the site there to guide you in. If not, head in discreetly through a back door. Don’t make a fuss about where to sit; if you’re a guest of the groom but there are only spaces on the bride’s side, just take one of those. Either way, find a seat promptly and quietly so you don’t disturb the ceremony.
Future Fix: Even if you swear you’ve never been to a wedding that started on time, it’s rude to assume you can roll up late. While the reception can be the high point of the wedding for guests, you’ve really been invited there to witness the ceremony. Give yourself ample time for tangling with traffic and parking when you’re planning your wedding day timeline.
The Mistake: You got them a gift for the shower, so you didn’t bother with a wedding present.
Damage Control: In theory, you have up to a year after the wedding to send a gift, but go ahead and send something as soon as you can. It doesn’t have to be huge, especially if you blew your gift budget for the shower. It’s a lot of gifts, but etiquette says you should give a gift for each party invitation you receive.
Future Fix: Plan your gift budget around this rule. For example, if you have $100 to spend total, budget $25 for the shower gift and $75 for the wedding present. That way, you aren’t overspending, keeping your bottom line — as well as the bride and groom — happy.
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– Kate Wood