Wedding Etiquette 101

Tips on what to give the happy couple and how to mind your manners as a guest

WeddingEtiquette101_110315CShe said yes! We’re engaged! We’re getting married! While these are some of the happiest phrases newly betrothed couples can utter, it’s their family and friends who begin to see the bigger picture before they do. Of course, everyone is happy, it is a wedding after all. But with it comes a big financial commitment. Etiquette expert Linda Williams shares some financial tips and tricks for wedding guests that won’t break the bank.

How much money should a guest give as a gift?

While toasters and china as wedding gifts are a thing of the past, some guests do still gift the couple something physical, like a picture frame or toasting glasses. But that’s what a bridal shower is for.

“The rule of thumb is to consider the cost of the dinner per person,” said Williams. “Although you may not know how much the couple is paying per plate, you should consider no less than $100 per person. Since the invitations are sent in advance, put something aside each week so it’s not a huge financial burden.”

Wedding gifts can also be dependent on the guests’ relationship to the couple. More than likely, a close aunt is going to be more generous than a college roommate.

What is the rule on bringing a plus one?

WeddingEtiquette101_110315BIt is up to the bride and groom and their families to decide who should be invited. So unless specified on the invitation, it is frowned upon for invited guests to bring along a date.

“Unless you are willing to pay for the extra person you should not consider asking,” said Williams, who added that enough notice should be given so as not to upset table configurations.

On that note, it is also impolite for a bride and groom to choose who gets to bring a guest. So to the engaged couple: all or none for a plus one.

Should you still give a gift if you can’t attend the wedding?

“If you are absolutely unable to attend you should, let the bride know immediately,” said Williams, as there may be someone the bride would like to ask as a replacement. “It would be appropriate to give a small gift. You might find out where the couple is registered and choose a gift that way.” However, if you will not be at the wedding but would like to include what you would have given the couple, by all means send a card with a check. Just remember, when it’s your turn, it is more than fair for them to return the same courtesy and gift to you.

What’s the rule on making speeches and song requests?

While the bride and groom want their guests to have a great time, it is their day. Unless previously discussed, the only people who should be making a speech are the maid of honor and best man. As for song requests, DJs are usually very good about including an eclectic mix of songs that has been previously discussed with the couple. Some couples even reserve a line on the RSVP card for song requests. The bride and groom have planned every detail, so as a guest, it is your job to enjoy it.

What about tipping vendors?

WeddingEtiquette101_110315AWhile it may seem enough of an exorbitant cost for their service, it is customary to tip some of your vendors.

“Your hair stylist and makeup artist will be expecting a tip from every client they work on, so tell your bridesmaids to factor in 15 to 20 percent of a tip, depending on the quality of service,” said Williams.

It is optional to tip photographers and musicians and the same goes for a church officiant or minister who performs the ceremony. He or she may accept a donation to the church, which should be discussed beforehand.

“Reception gratuity is usually built into the bill, but you should tip your wait staff 15 percent,” said Williams, factoring in two of the most important helpers you will have for the night: your bridal attendant and maître d’.

A bridal attendant will assist the bride with her dress and make sure she has everything she needs. Tipping the attendant anywhere from $150 to $200 is acceptable. As for the maître d’, they are responsible for making sure the wedding goes smoothly. Tip the maître d’ anywhere from $200 to $400.

“Everyone who provides their services on your wedding day should be given a gratuity because of the level of professionalism and care they give,” said Williams. “Exceptional service deserves an exceptional tip.”


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Jennifer Fauci
Jennifer Fauci is the former managing editor of Long Island Weekly, Anton Media Group's award-winning special sections and Anton’s local magazines. Her passion for literature, travel and the arts lend to the unique content in her publications. In her time at Anton, she has received first place in the Folio Awards, second place for the NYPA awards and is the recipient of six PCLI awards.

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