At the Ceremony and Reception
How to Be the Perfect Wedding Guest, Part III
This is the final article in this series, and it is about how guests should behave at the event itself. There are a few dos and don’ts for both the ceremony and reception that you should know about before you show up.
At the Ceremony: Many weddings do not have a “bride’s side” and “groom’s side” for seating anymore. However, some church weddings still do, in which case the bride’s side is on the left as you face the altar, and the groom’s is on the right . In Jewish weddings, it is the reverse. Suffice it to say that there are different traditions for different people, and you will most likely be instructed once you arrive. Otherwise, ushers will often seat you to balance the space best.
Once seated, stay out of the way of the processional. Don’t take flash photographs in a church or temple or other indoor location. It is typically forbidden by the facility and can completely ruin natural light photographs being taken by the hired professional photographer. Also, don’t lean or stand in the aisle (with or without a camera) as you can often block the photographer’s shot from the back and block the wedding party and family from going down the aisle. Your backside should not be the focus of attention!
After the ceremony is over, leave the ceremony site with the other guests as indicated, or move to the outer location so that the bridal party and families can have their photographs taken inside, if this is part of their schedule. This generally is a very rushed time for the couple and their families, and they will want to get these post-ceremonial activities accomplished promptly and go to their reception as quickly as possible. Having guests hang around only hinders the progress.
It is also inappropriate and considered rude to stay and take photographs near or next to a hired photographer who is shooting portraits and altar-return groups. You don’t want to interrupt the flow and plan the photographer has coordinated. Aside from getting in the way, your camera can often interfere with the professional’s equipment. Also, you can ruin the photo by distracting a subject’s eyes from the professional’s camera. If you bring a camera, use it for your own snapshots, away from the hired pro.
At the Reception: Once at the reception, the bandleader or deejay will typically guide events. If there is assigned seating, you are obligated to sit where indicated, as the caterer has the entire room, staff, and meal set up according to the seating arrangement (especially if you had earlier been asked to make a meal selection).
If you wish to take photos during the reception, ask if doing so will interfere with the wedding photographer. Again, you do not want to mess up the photos the couple is paying for. Since most people these days have a flash-less camera option in their phone, using it to take your own shots generally won’t cause a problem. But please be respectful of your hosts, as it would be very disappointing if your desire to be a shutterbug caused them to lose their own mementos.
Finally, the evening or afternoon draws to a close, and you can’t help thinking how beautiful that floral centerpiece would look in your living room … well, don’t give it another thought unless you were clearly told to take it with you. Sometimes there is a special note on a seating card or at a place-setting that says who will get the centerpiece. Other times the hosts may tell the recipient directly — usually someone who assisted with the wedding day, or a relative. Sometimes it will be given away during the reception, as an event announced by the emcee. If none of this applies to you, leave it behind! It may even be going to a charity as a donation. And some of it may be rented and need to be returned in order to avoid an extra fee.
Be a welcomed guest, not a regretted one. The next time you receive an invitation in the mail, keep in mind that you are one of the few honored people whom the hosts carefully selected to share their important day with them. You are as special as the day itself will be. Follow these pointers to make it most enjoyable for yourself and everybody else.