The Social Connection

Wedding Guests Etiquette

At the Ceremony:

Some people find it uncomfortable to attend the wedding ceremony if they are unfamiliar with either the culture, the religion or for any personal reason. In such cases, it is best to tell the Bride or Groom about this, and advise them whether you are attending the ceremony or skipping it.

Here are a few suggestions should you decide to attend the ceremony:
1. Be at the ceremony venue ahead of time. This will give you time to get settled, and look for a friend who will be familiar with the ceremony and guide you along the way.

2. Show Respect. If there is a ritual or practice that you do not want to participate in, be very discreet about your non-participation. You might want to choose a seat where it will not be very obvious that you decided not to participate. Avoid conversations while the ceremony is going on, just because you don't understand what is happening. Respect the sanctity of the place, if it is a religious one.

3. Follow the flow. Often times, the program or a ceremony host will tell the guests what to do, therefore you can just go along with what the others do. The exception would be spiritual practices which are meant only for the members, such as the communion of Catholics. If you don't participate in the standing, sitting, bowing, kneeling, just remain quietly seated.

4. Show genuine concern with what is happening. You may QUIETLY ask your friend who knows what's going on for an explanation if you are sincerely interested in the ceremony for your added knowledge. However, avoid making comments or judgments. Do not look disgusted or suggest disapproval. . It is neither the time nor place to criticize.

At the Reception:

So many tips might have been given about how the guests should behave during a party, particularly at wedding receptions. But here are some things oftentimes overlooked by the guests when they receive an invitation to a wedding.

1. Dietary requirements - be very sure to tell the couple in advance about any dietary restrictions you have. By doing so, they can carefully choose a meal for you that is comparable in price and taste to the rest. They can order in advance, thus saving time and the embarrassment of ordering on the spot.

2. Do not give a long impromptu speech. It is true that couple will just be too happy to hear you wish them well. But make them short and sweet. They usually have a specific set of program for the evening, and any impromptu speech may throw the program off-balance.
When making a speech, don't forget that there are guests of different ages, backgrounds, and possibly of varying cultures present. Therefore, keep your speech tasteful and watch your behavior and manners.

3. When ordering drinks, ask if it is going to be hosted by the couple or not. If the drink is hosted, be very considerate in ordering. Ordering more than necessary is impolite and inconsiderate, considering that the cost of drinks in reception venues is very high.
If the drinks are not hosted, then do not insist on ordering and not pay for them yourself.

4. Gifts Etiquette:
a. In our country, it is normal to bring your gift to the wedding, and the practice is to hand it over at the reception table for proper registering. Do not bring your gift to the ceremony venue where no one can take care of it, as everyone is focused on the ceremony. It is also proper to send your gift to the bride's house. It shows consideration to the couple because this minimizes their concern in transporting many gifts from the reception venue to their home. Moreover, the risk of losing it from the reception to the house is avoided.

b. The gift registry is intended to make it easier for the guests to choose a gift that is really needed by the Couple. Though it is a good reference, you are not limited to give from the list. You are at liberty to give a gift of your personal choice, or surprise the couple with a "unique" gift.

c. In most cases, a monetary gift is not only acceptable, but also very much appreciated by the couple. This is especially true if the couple has requested this in their invitation because they shall be residing abroad or far from their former residence.

This article came out in "About Weddiings" section of The Manila Bulletin, Dec. 2, 2006, under "Planning Matters", a PAWP column.
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