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Wedding Etiquette

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Etiquette expert Ellen Reddick shares insights on the do's and don'ts of attending weddings. For more information from her, go here. 

Wedding Etiquette Rules Every Guest Should Follow

Be the best guest with these updated takes on the "proper" things to do.

  1. Is there a rule that says wedding guests can't wear black or white?

Not anymore. Unlike the bridesmaids, you can wear any color you want. If you opt for black, "it should look chic, not funereal." You should also consider the time of day, location, and any religious restrictions (for example, no bare shoulders or risqué necklines).

  1. Speaking of church weddings, do I need to dress really conservatively?

It depends on the venue and time of day — some weddings are formal and others more relaxed. Take cues from the wedding invitation. That will give you a sense of the tone of the event.

  1. I have the perfect present in mind. Do I really have to give something off the registry?

Bridal registries are great and wonderful suggests. They help couples suggest gift ideas, avoid duplicate gifts, and simplify gift giving for their guests. But choosing your own gift is also okay. Often the most memorable gifts are those that guests select themselves.

  1. My friend is getting married but it's her second wedding. I gave her a present the first time. Do I need to give another?

If you gave a gift for the first marriage, you're off the hook for giving again. Of course, some family and friends give anyway to celebrate the couple. Check in with other family members before you do anything.

  1. I've been invited to a wedding I can't attend. Do I still need to send a gift?

In a nutshell, yes. Send it to the couple ahead of time, so they don't have to lug it home from the reception.  If you don't ship it before the wedding, do it soon after.

  1. Is it really tacky to just give cash?

You will not find many couples who would be offended by cash. As far as the amount, what's adequate is whatever you can give. But a thoughtful note on a pretty card goes a long way. The couple will know your gift was from the heart.

  1. So what exactly does that "+1" mean?

This is traditionally for a partner or spouse, but want to bring a friend instead? Do it. You can bring anyone you're close to and who you think would enjoy the event.  Well, except for kids. "A +1 is generally meant as an adult, not a young child, toddler, or baby. If the invitation doesn't mention your child's name or say "children welcome," you should assume it's a no.

  1. If I didn't get a "+1," do I have to come solo?

If you're in a serious relationship or engaged, ask the bride or groom if there was an oversight.  If they tell you they couldn't invite your S.O. because it's a small wedding, be polite about it — they might have a tight budget.

  1. How rude it is to skip the ceremony but attend the reception — or vice versa?

If possible, go to both — especially if it's a good friend or family member's wedding. If you have a major conflict that night, let the couple know well in advance. The protocol for leaving a reception early is to wait until the cake is cut. And always find the bride and groom to thank them and say goodbye before you bow out.

  1. Do you have to tip anyone at a wedding?

If the wedding has an open bar, you should tip what you would normally tip at a bar — anywhere from 50 cents to $1 a drink.  As far as a parking attendant or valet, they're usually built into the cost of a venue, but use your discretion.

11. When and what can I post on online about the wedding? Looks like there are no dinner options that fit my (insert restriction here) diet. Should I let the host know    It's impolite for a guest to enter a special meal request. in most cases, you can make do with something that's being served. But if you're worried you'll starve, eat something before you leave the house. If you have an allergy, discreetly ask the waiter how the food was prepared.  You don't want to post anything on Facebook or any other social media until your friend has made it public and you have her blessing. For example, if she just got engaged, she may have told you but not members of her immediate family. When it comes to posting on social media during the wedding, "the bottom line is, you have to respect the wishes of the bride and groom. Some couples don't mind if you tweet the moment they tie the knot, and even provide a wedding hashtag for guests to use when sharing photos. Others are more private. Usually, you can find out on the couples' website, or just ask. But if you're not that close to the couple, err on the side of caution.