The chilly nights and leaves littering the ground can only mean one thing—wedding season is drawing to a close.   Whew, what a wedding season it’s been!  Between my two daughters and myself we have planned, participated in or attended about a dozen weddings this year.  While I may not have reached Master level yet, I definitely logged enough hours and experience to attain at least Intermediate level.  So why not share some of my own observations and lessons learned?  Yes, there are zillions of books, websites and magazines devoted to the world of weddings – who needs yet another article?  Unfortunately my experience and observations have proven that a lot of people still need schooled on the art of being a wedding guest.  Therefore I dip an intrepid toe into the pool of giving wedding advice.

For a bride, the wedding starts long before the big day actually becomes reality.  If you’ve been a bride, you know what I mean.  If you haven’t been a bride surely you have a friend or relative that’s been through the long, expensive process of planning a wedding.   The daunting job of making a million decisions, performing a thousand tasks and spending tons of money is stressful enough—you can relieve some of that stress by being the thoughtful and considerate wedding guest you know you want to be!

Let’s take this in two parts, the pre-wedding and the wedding itself.  Before the wedding your responsibilities as a guest are oh-so-simple.

We’ll start with the invitation.  Lucky you!  Someone felt that you were important enough, special enough, to share the most important day of their life.  Whether you are a cousin, co-worker or college friend—you made the list.   The bride and groom decided that you were one of the people their precious time and money would be spent to feed, entertain and accommodate for the pleasure of your company.  Yep, now don’t you feel bad for opening the invitation with a bit of dread and roll of the eyes?

Once the bride and groom decide to invite you to their Very Special Important Day, they issued an invitation.  Some invitations are expensive works of art, thoughtfully designed to preview the tone and style of the wedding.  Others are informal, funny or even digital.  Regardless of the quality and delivery, you have been issued an invitation.  And in order to plan the event, the bride and groom need to know if you are going to attend.  Think about it – if you invited 10 friends to dinner you would need to know how many would be showing up for a meal.  If not, you are either going to have a ton of leftovers or a table full of hungry people.   When it comes to social events no feature causes more pulled hair, hurt feelings, frustration or anger than the RSVP.  And yet it’s such an easy thing to do!

The bride has likely followed the tradition of etiquette and provided you a simple, quick way to RSVP.  She may have included a card that you simply take a moment to fill out, slip into the provided pre-addressed envelope with the provided stamp and slip into a mailbox.   (You’ll have to provide your own mailbox, sorry).  It may be even easier than that—you may simply need to visit a website, make a few clicks, type a few words—badda bing badda boom, you’re done.

So why are so many brides and event planners frantically chasing down RSVPs days or weeks before the Big Day?  Is it ignorance about the etiquette of invitations?  Lack of consideration?  Passive aggressive behavior toward the Happy Couple?  All of the above? (gosh, I hope not!)

For the sake of the bride, in the name of all that is decent, please be sure to RSVP in a timely manner, in the method requested.  And in the interest of clarification, let me make a few points:

  • If an RSVP card is included to mail back and an online method is not offered, then the proper response is not a text or Facebook message.
  • If you do not live with your parents, or you have received a separate invitation from your parents, a proper RSVP is not a message casually relayed through mom or dad.  The bride and groom regard you as an adult, that’s why you got your own invite!  So please respond as such.
  • Your invitation will indicate WHO is being invited.  Is it addressed to only you?  You and a guest?  You and a named significant other?  Take a cue from the invitation and answer thusly.  This means if you are the only one being invited, you do not respond with “Yes, I’m coming and bringing my BFF Alex with me”  Please don’t put the bride in the awkward position of having to explain why she can’t add another guest to an already tight budget.
  • Your RSVP will include a date by which to respond.  This does not mean to leave the card on your fridge until a week before the wedding, then offer a lame apology when the bride is being buried in last minute (IE: inconsiderate) responses.
  • Your RSVP is like a little handshake of agreement.  You were invited; you agreed to attend or not to attend.  Please do not break that agreement with a last minute Facebook message “I’m so sorry I won’t be there but have a wonderful day and I can’t wait to see pictures, love you”  Unless there is an emergency of major proportions, please honor your little agreement and be there for the Happy Couple.  No number of texts or emoticons will soften the fact that you bailed on your friend’s wedding.

Finally, another reminder—you have been invited to a wedding because someone values your company and feels you are special enough to be part of the happiest day of their life.  By responding to the RSVP in the proper and timely manner, you will show them that you consider them important and their day to be special.

And just think, you’ve taken the first step to being the Perfect Wedding Guest!

This is the first article in a series of advice for being the Perfect Wedding Guest.