A Beginner’s Guide to Attending Your Very First Wedding

Seeing your first-ever wedding invitation in your mailbox probably filled you with delight — until you started thinking about all the things you’d need to do to prepare. If you’ve never been to a wedding before, there’s kind of a lot to learn!

So, before sending back that RSVP card, take a look at our handy guide to attending your very first wedding:

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1. Know whether you can bring a date.
The biggest wedding guest faux pas is bringing an uninvited guest. Oops! So, before you toss that envelope in the trash, take a good look at who it’s addressed to. If it says your name and your partner’s name or your name “and Guest,” feel free to bring your plus one. But if you only see your own name on there, you’ll need to skip the date.

Oh, and RSVP on time — the couple will appreciate it.

2. Know the dress code.
The invitation may or may not say something about the dress code, like “Black Tie Optional” or “Cocktail Casual.” Don’t see it on the invitation? Check the couple’s wedding website (the URL is probably listed somewhere on the invite). While knowing the dress code is certainly helpful, don’t overthink your outfit. Guests will be wearing all sorts of things, and it’s unlikely that anyone will give your attire a second thought. When in doubt, wear a cocktail dress or a suit.

3. Give a gift the right way.
A wedding gift is a kind and customary gesture. If you’re giving a check — don’t give cash, which could be stolen or lost — put it in an envelope with a nice card. Bring it to the wedding where there will likely be a box where you can drop the card.

If you’re opting to give the couple something from their wedding registry, ship the gift to their address before the big day. That way, you don’t have to lug it around! It’s still nice to bring a card on the day of the wedding (nobody likes to show up empty handed!).

4. Get there on time.
A wedding ceremony isn’t like a casual party — “fashionably late” isn’t actually fashionable. In fact, you should arrive at the ceremony at least 15 minutes before it’s scheduled to start, if not more.

5. Sit on the right side.
At some wedding ceremonies, it’s customary for guests of the bride to sit on the left side of the aisle and guests of the groom to sit on the right. This tradition is starting to fade away, but when in doubt, sit on the side for whomever you’re closer with. If you’re close with both people, don’t overthink it — just sit anywhere.

Also, stand and sit when those around you do. Follow the experts’ lead!

6. Silence your phone.
For the whole day. You don’t want to be that person whose phone rings during the vows or a toast.

7. Respect the seating arrangement.
At the reception, you might have an assigned seat for dinner. As you enter the reception space, there will be a table with escort cards. Yours will have your name and a table number. That’s where you should sit! Don’t try to rearrange so you can sit with friends. The couple probably put some serious thought into the seating chart — just let it be.

The table might also have place cards, telling you which chair to sit in. No place cards? Sit anywhere at that table.

8. Enjoy the food and drink, but don’t overdo it.
Part of what makes a wedding fun is the open bar. Take advantage, relax, and enjoy yourself! Just don’t go too crazy — you don’t want to end up embarrassing yourself or the newlyweds.

9. Say hello to the newlyweds.
Here’s the truth about weddings: It’s not exactly a great time to hang out with your friends who are getting married. They have a LOT of people to talk to! Make sure to say hello and chat for a few minutes, but don’t plan to hold a long conversation.

10. Plan how you’re going to get home.
Want to drive yourself home? Plan for it, and don’t go crazy at the bar. Otherwise, figure out if you’ll be able to call a cab or Uber, or if there’s a shuttle to the hotel accommodations.

–By Kristin Doherty

Get more advice for guests on Loverly:

6 Totally Okay Reasons to Skip Someone’s Wedding

8 Things NOT to Say to a Friend Who Just Got Engaged

How to Decode the Dress Code for Every Wedding

Planning a wedding? Get the step-by-step wedding planning guide.