How to be a rad wedding guest

From the wedding of Julia & Brian, taken by yours truly and recently featured in Ruffled Blog

-1.png

INTERESTED IN LEAVING A LASTING IMPRESSION?

Some people are professional wedding goers and I'm not talking about those of us actually hired to help the day unfold, I'm talking those guests that have RSVP'd to endless weddings in one year and have seen it all from the seats of the ceremony setting to the reception area. But, then again not all of us attend these beautiful functions regularly and so when you do, it's really quite new and special. Regardless of being a pro-guest or a newbie at this sort of event, I have to say there are some things that people really ought to know because the way you act can truly have a lasting impression. And, let's hope it's always a good one.

I've collected some tips, tricks and valuable pieces of advice from a variety of people who really know weddings.  These people include wedding guests who've been to over a dozen weddings, a few wedding planners, a bridal shop owner, past brides & grooms, a makeup artist and a few photographers. 

Whether you are looking at attending as guest and want an inside scoop, or you are a bride or groom hoping to give someone the hint on how you'd like to act, there is something in here for everyone. And if you take only one thing from this whole post, let it be this incredible piece of advice from one of my past brides.

Weddings are a celebration of love, but not just the love between the couple getting married. It's the love they have for you in including you in their special day and choosing for you to be there. Whether you are a close friend of the couple or just a +1, the best thing you can do is to make sure you actually "show up" to the wedding. By that, I mean - be there in presence and enjoy the event, from the potentially too long ceremony to the awkward table conversation at dinner, to drinking & dancing. Find the fun in whatever happens & commit to enjoy the night! The more present you are, and the more fun you have, the more the couple will appreciate you for being there and making their day that much sweeter! - Amanda Melvin (past bride, photos from her amazing Hora just below)

REMEMBER WHOSe DAY IT IS

When you get an invitation to a wedding, that means that there was a conversation about you. Someone brought up that you were important in a way that was meaningful enough to them to have you there to witness this day. Remember that.

When asking the owner of Lover's Land (a bridal boutique in Toronto) about who should be invited to a wedding, Danielle Gulic said, "People who support your relationship! And that mean something to you!". And so as a guest, be that person.

And, remember, whose wedding it is. It's not yours. It's theirs. It's the wedding of two people who love each other and want to celebrate that love and think you are special enough to them to share it. 

Be honoured you were invited. 

Not everyone can be invited. There is a venue max and this sometimes nixes people we'd like to have there.  Don't cause issues, don't complain about their venue, how far it is for you to travel from, or how hard it was for parking. There were reasons for their choices, endless conversations and hours. It was the choice they ended up making. Respect that. 

Have no expectations except to have a great time. And good times come from good attitudes. Remember that the couple spent months planning their day so don't get hung up on things that seem off to you; they made decisions based on tons of factors that you can't see or aren't considering. - Ashley Readings (H&MUA)

At a recent wedding, a grandmother walked into the venue angry that the venue was difficult to find. She wasn't late but took our her frustrations on the bride. It almost put my bride into tears. We were just at the tale end of photos when it happened, so instead of continuing, I brought them to the bar at the venue, sat them down, ordered them a drink and wouldn't let anyone near them for a while (I was on bodyguard duty ).

They needed time to calm down, re connect and move on past this experience. Weddings are real days with real people. The couple getting married has so much to think about, so don't add anything to what is already going on with them. Add to their experience in a good way. Not a way that darkens their day.

People have an amazing ability to remember these events and on someone's wedding day, sometimes it's these moments of stress that live on stronger than the rest. Don't be that person who puts a cloud over their memories.

Remember this one piece of advise, be nice. 

If you have to go to a place you aren't familiar with, ask someone who is or do your homework. You are a grown up. You've gotten through life so far, this shouldn't be that hard. If you are asked to walk on the wedding day, get into it, there is probably reason behind it. If you are asked a question during a wedding, answer enthusiastically. If you are given confetti to throw during the ceremony, do it! Add some celebration, plus it's a total photo op and there's nothing like something being documented terribly wrong for them to always remember.

wedding_gallery33.jpg

BE NICE TO THOSE PEOPLE MAKING THE DAY HAPPEN

Being respectful and nice to the people helping the day happen is such an important part of the day. These people have been going all day and are going to be going all night. They might not get a chance to take a moment to eat or pee. Truly. Like actually. They are working hard to make sure all the people they need to make happy, are happy.

Be conscientious of what's going on before you try to get the photographers attention to take your photo. Chances are, if the bride is dancing with her dad, it's not a good time to ask them to take a snap of you and your honey.  - Frances Beatty (Photographer)

Manhandling the staff, a planner or photographer is not something you should be doing and happens way to often. People have names too and if you don't know it calling them "Hey" or "Camera girl" maybe might not be the best thing. Giving the photographer cut eye while they are attempting at taking beautiful candid photos that will be something treasured by the couple, isn't really all that nice to the photographer or the couple who has invited you to be there.  I sometimes want to wear a sign that says "these photos are not for my personal collection, they are for the bride and groom." But alas, that's not really gonna go with the cute outfit I wear to blend in and still work my butt off.

Be respectful of the couple's wishes, be respectful of the staff and all vendors - they're working really hard.  - Jennifer Van Son (photographer)

UNPLUGGED MEANS UNPLUGGED

A lot of people don't seem to understand why a couple is asking for their wedding to be an unplugged wedding. And, some guests are completely defiant and just ignore all requests that they put their phones or cameras down. Bringing a camera too big to fit in your purse maybe should be the sign that you should leave it at home.

A bridesmaid once told me she didn't understand why they couldn't take photos during the ceremony (often that is the only time this request is being made) and so myself & my bride explained it. Explaining the reason behind the ask is often so valuable.

For my own wedding, all the cellphones & cameras were collected into a basket as they entered our ceremony area. All of our 27 guests witnessed our wedding from their own eyes, with no distractions. And, each time I looked towards this intimate group of people, I made eye contact with each and everyone of them. It meant so much to me. I wanted everyone to be present during our ceremony. I wanted our guest hands to go to where they would go naturally without being distracted with phones and cameras. My mom and dad held each other which is such a tender thing to me because they are the symbol of partnership. My good friend Jen held her hand on her heart with the other holding my bouquet. My photographer Nessa K has photographs (just here below) of our loved ones being completely present during our ceremony, no phones in hand, no distractions at all (well except our dog Lucy being held by my brother). You could feel it all and we cherished this part of our day so dearly.

Weddings are intimate regardless of the size because it's an intimate event taking place. It's about the connection of the people there. It's not about technology. And it's not even so much about the photos being "ruined" with a flurry of cellphones and people jetting out in front of the bride to get the shot with their ipad (although I mean this isnt really the photo you paid a few thousand dollars for your photographer to capture), but it's also the experience you want everyone to have. You want everyone to be present!

"Put your phones and cameras away. Unless for some reason there isn't a hired photographer on site, chances are they've got it covered. Couples spend a lot of time researching and a lot of money on their photographers and/or videographers, partially so their guests can focus on enjoying themselves. You aren't really present when you have a device in front of your face and you're there because you're important to them and they're important to you. Besides potentially ruining a photo the professional is about to take, you're always stealing away the couple's chance of seeing your beautiful face in the photos or when they look out towards you. Don't steal that from them." - Frances Beatty (Photographer)

One of the best cases in point to show how disruptive it can be when someone other than the hired photographer or videographer decides to take on being the photographer/videographer comes from an intimate wedding this past year.

In the photography world we often have endearing nicknames for these people and we try to find them before anything happens to explain how disruptive it can be if they are out of their seats during these key moments, especially if the couple has asked for them to be in seats and cameras put away.  Sadly I wasn't on to this guy who stayed under the radar until he made his very memorable appearance while my couple walked down the aisle and then had them walk around him because he stood almost in the middle.

At first he was called "Zebra Man", but then the father of the bride named his good friend of 40 years +  "the Shooter". The nickname came from him yelling at me during bridal party entrances, "I'm a shooter, I'm a pro shooter", when I asked him to move out of the way of the couples, and myself so that I could do my job. Despite all the moments he was front and center, his shining moment came after being told to stay in his seat for the rest of the reception and he decided that he would just bring his seat onto the dance floor for the Father/Daughter dance. At the very end, he shoved his Go-Pro right into the bride and fathers face. What a way to let them have an intimate moment right?! 

Remember that you are important to the bride & groom, otherwise you wouldn't be there!  Put down the phone, the camera, the iPad, be present and feel all the warm fuzzy feelings at least during the ceremony.  - Jennifer Van Son (photographer)

The above photo to the left was from Raf & Matt's intimate Toronto ceremony before their Italy wedding. Because of this photo, and seeing how everyone had their phone out, Raf & Matt decided to put a STRICT no phone policy on their Italy wedding so this wouldn't happen twice. And, if you need more reason to have an unplugged ceremony and photos aren't cutting it, check out this amazing video!

Plus, if your hands are busy how ever will you clap for them at the kiss and throw the confetti??

lyndsay&fred0523.JPG

GIFTS

FROM THE PARENTS.

If you are a parent gifting the wedding to your children, think about this for a second. Who’s wedding is it? It's theirs. This is the kindest thing in the world to pay for your children to have a dream wedding. But, that’s just it then, let THEM have THEIR weddings.

I get the insider scoop and this year along almost every single one of my weddings where the parents have paid for it, the couples has shared with me how they end up not losing the care for their wedding. All they want is for it to be over with so they can be done and gone on their honeymoon. The weddings become the wedding of the person paying for it, with all decisions approved through them and the couple gets lost in the shuffle, stuck in the middle of the drama or the family politics of who’s invited and so on. 

You had your wedding (and if your own Mother or Mother in Law planned it all for you, think back about how you felt?!) and you even have the option of a vow renewal too. If you are being kind enough to pay, be kind all the way through, let them make their choices. Now I’ve if they are opting for gold everything coated with diamonds then yeah, put your foot down, but otherwise, think about the big picture and remember what lasting impression do you want to leave on them on this big chapter of their lives.

Set a budget, and walk away from the expectations on how that money is going to be used. We don't give gifts only to ask the person receiving the gift how they will use it or spend it.  If you are helping pay for the wedding, tell them the amount you are comfortable with and what it's for, OR give an amount and don't have expectations. Then no fuss and everyone's happy.

GUEST GIFTING.

Weddings are not cheap and the couple has most likely spent a fair amount on this celebration they have invited you to share in. But not everyone is coming from the same place. Asking on whether gifts should be something people do, Danielle Gulic from Lover's Land shared her feelings that gift giving should be up to the guest, "Whatever the guest prefers! There are no obligations! Gifts should not be expected!!".  And, I agree with that, but think that it's important to make sure you are representing your friendship or relationship with what you are giving, if giving or not. And if nothing is being given, maybe some token of love should be extended, like a hand written card?!  While nothing should be expected, leaving nothing while attending someone's wedding can often have them questioning how you feel about them and their new relationship.

I believe that Jennifer Van Son (photographer) said it well when she said, "Umm... Personally I wouldn't recommend showing up empty handed.  I just feel like that could get super awkward down the road lol!".  I think both are wise and as a guest you should do what feels most comfortable to you. Gift giving can be hard, let me tell you, as a bride receiving gifts or being asked what we wanted, I didn't even know where to start with this, and would have been completely happy with just a card (and we saved each and every beautiful card we received).

One company that I've discovered that really takes the questions out of buying a gift is Zola. I so wish I knew about them when I was engaged and planning our festivities.

"Zola is reinventing the wedding planning and registry experience. Wherever love leads you—from engagement to wedding, and decorating your first home, we’re there, combining compassionate customer service with modern tools and technology that include your wedding website, registry, checklist, guest list and more."

Here are some handy tips from them about the registry, their services, how much to give, when to give and the inside scoop on giving cash.

Quicky tips

Be on time.

Arrive to the Ceremony On Time. If the time on the invitation says 5.30p, plan to be in your seats by 5.15p at the latest. Allowing extra time for parking and walking so you're not squeezing into the back row or stressing the bride out moments before she's going down the aisle.  - Laura Olsen (Wedding Coordinator)

Dress to impress.

See my previous post about guest attire here or hop over to Lover's Land where they have ready to wear pieces for ladies going as guests, as well as amazing Bridal Dresses and other pieces. The Two Birds Bridal pieces are great pieces to wear as a bridesmaid then as a guest later on too!

Think about the Newly Married Couple.

Be there for your loved ones. It is so common for the couple to not find enough time to get a drink or something to eat, if you're able to grab them a drink when you're getting yourself one, or grab them a plate of cake. It was one of the greatest gifts my friend gave to me on my wedding day. I would not have eaten a single bite from our buffet had it not been for him making me a plate.  - Frances Beatty (Photographer)

Get Home SAFELY.

Pre-arrange your designated driver or a ride home. There is no excuse for drinking and driving, and your future self will thank you for taking care of it before you start enjoying yourself. - Frances Beatty (Photographer)

PAY ATTENTION.

Pay attention during the speeches. I know I know, it's not always your favourite part of the night, you're there to dance, but it's not easy getting up in front of a group of people to pour your heart out, it's even worse if you can tell that you're not holding people's interest. You'll probably learn a thing or two about the couple you love so much by listening to them. - Frances Beatty (Photographer)
Cry, laugh, and then party hard but without acting like a jerk.”  - Jennifer Van Son (photographer)

RSVP.

RSVP On Time. When the reply date is September 1st, this means you should be getting your reply card in the mail well in advance of this deadline so it is received by the requested date. The reply by date isn't arbitrary, but rather it gives the couple sufficient time to prepare required final guest counts for their vendors to prepare the final details. So by replying late, it often creates a snowball effect as nothing can be confirmed without the final number of people replying. -  Laura Olsen (Wedding Coordinator)

Dietary Restrictions

If you have dietary restrictions, eat beforehand. I have sat through so many terrible banquet meals and while it can be a bummer to be an after though, most chefs don't eat with my restrictions so don't get it. I eat before I go anywhere and hit the sweet table hard after dinner. - Ashley Readings (MUAH)

BE INVESTED

I think the key to being an awesome guest is being invested in the wedding. Be present, be excited for the couple, celebrate their love and marriage and most importantly be there to create memories that last a lifetime. - Ashley Lindzon (Wedding Coordinator)
-2.png