Wedding Reception Etiquette for Guests

Wedding Reception Etiquette for Guests

The wedding reception traditionally follows the wedding ceremony.  The reception is where the bride and groom are afforded the opportunity to interact with guests and show appreciation by providing a meal and entertainment.

With the rising cost of hosting a formal post wedding event, many couples are being compelled to streamline their guest list to minimize expenses.  Consider it an honor to be an invited guest at a wedding.

As honored guests, it is important to adhere to reception protocol by keeping the following tips in mind.

First, send your R.S.V.P. in a timely manner. How embarrassing to receive a call from the couple or their families requesting your response to the invitation.  Not only is this an inconvenience for the bride and groom but consider also the wasted postage on the reply card.

Second, be a respectable guest by not rearranging place cards if seating is pre-assigned. It takes a lot of time and consideration to organize a seating chart.  I have worked with many couples and often they complain about the stress in determining seating arrangements.

Third, do not request that additional guests be added to the guest list or bring uninvited people.  This includes adults and children.  If you are single, do not bring a friend to keep you company, but regard the affair as a great opportunity to meet new people.

No Children Allowed

More and more couples are excluding children from the reception festivities.  Cost is a major factor along with the consideration that children often become restless. It is difficult (and rightly so) for a child to sit quietly or behave like an adult throughout a 3-5 hour event.

There has been much debate on how to handle the “adult only reception.”  Etiquette experts and my mentor Peggy Newfield, President of The American School of Protocol in Atlanta, GA, states that if one does not want children attending, do not invite them. Do not, however, include wording such as “no children allowed” or “adult only affair” on the invitation.  Have friends and family members pass the word around or on the reply card include phrases such as “2 seats have been reserved in your name” or “we hope that the two of you will be in attendance.”

If children are invited to the reception, it is highly recommended that they are kept entertained with activities.  Babysitting services can also be provided at a designated children’s table or in a separate area.  Ask the caterer about a kid-friendly menu.  Children usually like hamburgers, chicken fingers, fruit salad and macaroni and cheese.  The cost is typically much lower.

Fourth, as an invited guest, you are obligated to give a gift. Traditionally, all gifts are to be sent to the bride’s home before the day of the wedding.  Within some regions and cultures, it is acceptable to bring the gift to the reception.  The grace period for giving a gift is one year, however it is best to send your gift within three months.

Finally, try to share your well wishes with the newlyweds but do not monopolize their time.  Whether the couple greets their guests by means of a receiving line or at individual tables, keep your sentiments brief, warm and sincere.  Most often the bride and groom have a lot of people to address and their time is limited.

At the end of the day, the newlyweds should be delighted that you were able to share in their special day.  As their honored guest, you help to create blissful memories.

Have any additional questions regarding an upcoming wedding reception you plan to attend?  Please share below in the comments section and I will be sure to answer them.

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Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.