Wedding Etiquette Every 20-Something Should Know

As a twenty-something, I’ve personally experienced a lot of changes in my life. From graduating from college to getting my first real job, it’s been a period of transition for me. But what nobody tells you about is how many weddings you’ll have to go to.

When I was growing up and had to go to the occasional wedding for a neighbor or family-friend, the bride and groom seemed so much older than me. Nowadays, it seems like I’ve blinked and everybody getting married seems to be my age (or younger!).

For those twenty-something’s out there who are in the same boat as me and have suddenly found their mailboxes jammed with save the dates, here is a list of etiquette rules for every part of the big day:

Before the Wedding

Should I bring a gift to the engagement party?
Honestly, it depends on the couple. But the common rule of thumb is that if you’re a family member or close friend, you can bring a small sentiment. Examples of common gifts that most couple would appreciate: a card, champagne, or wine glasses.

What are my duties as a bridesmaid/groomsman?
Each couple will have different expectations for their bridesmaids/groomsmen, but generally they will have duties such as attending the bachelor/bachelorette parties, showers and dress fittings. Go to the engaged couple and their maid of honor/best man for their protocol on these festivities.

Does my wedding gift have to be on the registry?
Registries are created as suggestions, not obligations. If you are close with the couple and have an idea for the perfect gift that isn’t on the registry, go for it. Going with your gut on the gift selection will show that it came from the heart.

How much should I spend on a wedding gift?
There’s no “magic number” on how much you should be spending, but you should take into consideration how well you know the couple and how close you are to them. As well as your budget and the registry. Here are more tips on how much you should spend.

During the Wedding

Can I wear white to the ceremony?
People are generally pretty split about this. Obviously white is reserved for the bride, but if you really want to wear white, take the wedding style into consideration. If it’s a more traditional day, it may be more frowned upon. If it’s more modern and laid-back, you may be able to get away with it. Just plan for people giving you side-eye all day.

Can I bring a plus-one?
The invitation will specify if you’re allowed a plus-one or not. If it says no, then don’t. Don’t bring your kids if the invitation says “no kids.” Keep in mind the couple may have a budget that limits how many guests to invite. If you need clarification though, it’s okay to ask. They may have overlooked it or make an exception for you.

What side am I supposed to sit on?
This one can be tricky, especially if you are close with both the bride and groom. Various religions may have specific sides for the bride and groom’s families, so ask a guest or family member beforehand.

Can I take pictures on my phone during the ceremony?
A new wedding trend more couples are doing at their ceremony is asking guests to put their phones away. Being on your phone takes away from the moment, you can get in the photographer’s way (who was hired for a reason). Even if they don’t specify anything about phones – it’s a common courtesy to not be texting or snapping pics during the vows.

During the Reception

It’s open bar. Can I take full advantage?
When it comes to deciding how much to drink, it really depends on the wedding. If it’s more traditional, less drinks may be the way to go. If it’s more modern, you could get away with a couple more. Go off of the couple and their family members for a general protocol. The number one rule for drinking at the reception, however, is to pace yourself.

I don’t know anyone at my table. Can I sit somewhere else?
Seating charts were created for a reason. And chances are, it took the couple forever to get the seating chart perfected. So generally, no. But exceptions could probably be made – just realize that you’re being “that” person.

Nobody’s dancing. Can I be the first one on the dance floor?
When it comes time for all the guests to join the dance floor and nobody’s budging, it may take that one outgoing person to start the party. However, really crazy or advanced moves may intimidate the other guests. Also, don’t overdo it and outshine the happy couple. Besides that, dance on!

Do I have to tip the bartenders?
Generally, you can either not tip at all or tip as you normally would at a regular bar. Look for a tip jar. If there isn’t one present, they may not be collecting tips, as a service charge has already been added to the bill.


How to give your congratulations on social media:
Each wedding is different. Some may decline social media posts, some may encourage oversharing. A general rule of thumb would be to ask the bride and groom for permission before you post. A quick “Do you mind if I post this?” could prevent unnecessary drama in the future. Also, if they have a wedding hashtag, use it.

Photo by John Loo