How to be the Perfect Wedding Guest

Part 1: You’ve Just Been Invited

Having previously been part of the wedding industry, I have seen the havoc certain wedding guests unwittingly create for soon-to-be-wed couples and their families. As wedding season is upon us, I hope addressing some of the common problems might help prevent them from actually occurring.

Although most of us may host only one wedding in our lifetime, we generally will be invited to several. Maybe several in one year! So, what are the wedding guests’ obligations? While the bride, groom, and each set of families have their roles and responsibilities, so do the invitees. Here are some “dos and don’ts” for those who have received the honor of being invited.

Juli Shulem

The Invitation: It will tell you a lot more than just who, what, where, and when. It will give you a deadline to make a decision, tell you what to wear, and even what you will be eating should you attend. Let’s start with the basics. Who is invited? Only the names of the people actually appearing on the outside envelope are being invited to attend. So, for example, if the envelope is addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, only the husband and wife are invited. This does not mean you can bring along your children. Similarly, if it reads Miss Cindy Jones without mentioning the words “and guest” or “and escort,” you do not invite, or bring along, a date.

If you have ever planned a wedding or similar social event (bar/bat mitzvah, anniversary party, etc.) you realize that every person not only equates to a cost for the meal (ranging from $30-$75 typically) but is figured into chair and table rentals, often special seating arrangements, and ballroom accommodations. It is very inappropriate to add people you want to bring and, even worse, to show up with someone uninvited! A wedding is not a party to “crash.”

The Reply Card: Many people don’t really know what they are to do here with these preprinted little cards. Allow me to clarify: The little “M_______________” that is on the reply card is where you write in your name(s) as you were invited: “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.” If you are planning to attend, and if the card reads “will________attend” on the following line you may leave it blank, or write “gladly,” etc. If you are not attending, then write the word “not” in the blank space. If one person will attend when more than one is invited, write in the name of the person attending only. You may write a simple note of explanation or clarification on the back of the card if you wish to explain about those not coming.

Unless your children are invited, do not add them to the reply card. There will not be special food for them, nor will there be childcare, and the atmosphere will be for adults. The families hosting the affair have spent a lot of time and money creating their event; please don’t spoil their plans. The total number often asked for at the bottom of the reply card is not where you get to add your own extra family members.

It is appreciated if you respond as soon as possible and not wait until the deadline given, which is the very last date before the hosts need to total their list and give a guarantee to the caterer. Sometimes the family may have more people they want to invite but have space or budget limitations. So if you cannot attend and respond sooner versus later, they can then invite additional people on their list. A prompt response also helps in arranging rentals, flowers, and other important details.

If you cannot come and you’ve already said you will, do call as soon as you know so adjustments can be made before their day arrives. Last-minute changes on the wedding day are more than a bride can often handle!

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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