Feature photo by Ninoca

Maybe you’re at the age where your first group of friends is getting married or maybe you were just a little whipper-snapper the last time you went to a wedding. Either way, being a guest at a wedding isn’t as easy as showing up to a kegger, so we’ve put together some tips on how to navigate wedding season.

Ok, this isn’t a Facebook event invite, the bride and groom need a yes or no. “Maybe” isn’t going to work here. So when you get that little RSVP card and self-addressed stamped envelope, make every effort to get it mailed and in their mailbox by the date they’ve noted. Catering deposits need to be made, meals need to be planned and tables need to be assigned so don’t add to the bride and groom’s stresses by making them wonder if you’re coming. RSVP cards can vary, but generally they’ll need to know if you’re coming or not, if you’re bringing a guest and what meal you’d like to be served. This should go without saying, but unless they’ve clearly addressed the invite to you and a guest or you and your significant other, don’t assume it’s okay to bring someone with. It may seem kind of petty, but at an average of $50 to $100 per plate, this isn’t really the best venue for you to introduce everyone to your girlfriend of three weeks. Also, it’s okay to note on your RSVP if you have a special dietary need and require a different kind of meal as many catering companies offer vegetarian or gluten-free meals at no extra charge to the hosts. However, there are still some that charge more or don’t offer it at all, so don’t raise a stink if you get served a piece of wedding cake that’s not gluten-free. Grab a bite to eat ahead of time if you’re worried you’ll go all night without a meal to suit your needs.

Oh yeah, and write your name on the RSVP card. It doesn’t do a whole lot of good to know “Anonymous” will be bringing a guest and they’ll both be having the fish.

Deciding how fancy or how casual to dress really depends on the type of wedding you are going to. If you are expected to wear formal wear (meaning tuxes for guys, evening gowns for the ladies) the invitation will note that the reception is black-tie. Likewise, if the ceremony is on the beach or in someone’s backyard, the invitation might note a more casual dress code. Otherwise, men should plan on wearing dress slacks and a button-down shirt and tie (jacket can be optional), and women should plan on a dress or dressy pant suit of some sort. And ladies, this isn’t exactly the place to bust out your tightest, shortest, lowest-cut outfits, so save it for the club. As tempting as it may be to remind the groom of what he can’t have anymore, keep it somewhat modest. People’s grandparents will be there. Some churches prefer womens’ shoulders to be covered, so bring a shawl or a sweater if you plan on wearing spaghetti straps and of course, don’t wear white. A white dress with a pattern of another color is probably okay, but chances are the bride has been looking forward to putting on that big white dress for quite some time, so don’t steal her thunder.

If you’re still unsure of what you should or shouldn’t wear, don’t be afraid to ask the bride or groom but do so further in advance. As the wedding day draws near, they will be so busy finalizing details that the last thing they should have to worry about is dressing you.

While some guests will show up empty-handed, it is common courtesy to bring the newlyweds a gift to congratulate them on their big day. If you know where they are registered, you can check to see if there is anything left available to purchase (it may have all been bought for the bridal or wedding shower), but most of the time, money in a card is the best option. No shopping is required, you won’t need to lug anything there, and more importantly, they won’t need to lug anything home. You should give what you can afford, but an arbitrary guideline to use is to give enough to cover the cost of the meal. So say you go stag, write a check for $50, but if you add a plus one to your RSVP, up the gift amount to $100. Although that is a guideline to use, that’s not to say you should feel obligated to help the bride and groom cover the costs of their reception. A gift is personal decision and in the end, you should give what you see fit, whether that be his and hers bath towels or an excursion on their honeymoon.

Now off you go to catch a bouquet or garter or two. Do the chicken dance, and make us proud!

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