Preparing for the Big Day

How to Be the Perfect Wedding Guest, Part II

Last week’s article discussed how to respond to a wedding invitation and how to generally be respectful of the families that are planning this special event. So, now that you are attending, here are some tips on planning ahead for attending this wedding day.

Planning What to Wear? : The invitation will often indicate dress formality. It will often say black-tie, black-tie optional, or formal attire – or nothing at all will be written about dress. Sometimes the location will give you a clue about what should be worn. Some country clubs or hotels have reputations for being particularly formal. Black-tie and formal attire means you wear a tuxedo. Black-tie optional means a tuxedo or a suit and tie will be acceptable. Beyond that, a suit and tie for men, and a dress or pantsuit for women is appropriate. Unless you have been told otherwise, never wear jeans and T shirts, or the like, to a wedding. If you are not certain, you can contact the reception location and ask if they have a dress code, or if they know the formality of the affair you are being invited to. Guests should also not try to dress in the bridal party colors (often used in the invitation). This is so the bridal party stands out and appears different among the guests.

Juli Shulem
Click to enlarge photo

Juli Shulem

Gift Etiquette: The next item on your agenda is a gift. You may contact the bride’s family to ask if the couple is registered somewhere for gifts if the invitation didn’t mention this on a card enclosed somewhere. Most stores have on-line lists available; you can let your fingers do the shopping and have the item shipped directly to the couple. This really makes it painless; you know your gift will be wanted. Also, the store is generally easier on returns for the couples registered with them. Should you buy a requested gift somewhere other than where they are registered, it is nice to call the store with the registry and tell them the gift has been purchased. This will keep duplicates from occurring. It is also appropriate and proper to send the gift ahead of the wedding day. It should be delivered to either the bride’s parents or the bride herself. Send the gift to the return address on the back flap of the wedding invitation if nothing else is provided.

Let’s say the couple is having their second marriage or they just seem to have everything and you don’t know what to do. Consider gift certificates to their favorite nice restaurant with a special bottle of wine from you. Also, theater tickets and other “experiences” make lovely gifts too.

If you do bring the gift to the wedding, bring it into the reception, not the ceremony. Generally there will be a receiving table or person taking care of incoming gifts. A thank-you note should be received from the couple within two months after the event. If you do not receive one, contact the bride and groom or mother of the bride to be sure your gift was received and not lost in shipping or transporting. You may not have received a thank-you card because they may not have received your gift! This was the case with my own wedding gift registry as the store forgot to ship the gift a friend had ordered and paid for. When the friend hadn’t received an acknowledgment for the gift, they called to make sure I had received it and, sure enough, I hadn’t.

Watch for Part 3 of How to Be the Perfect Wedding Guest, coming next week: “All Dressed up with Somewhere to Go!”

Ask a question for the column and I will address it at the appropriate time. Email questions to Coach Juli, PCC, at and put “question for column” in the subject line and they will be answered right here – your name is not used.

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