Don’t Be

By Judy Garrison  |  Photography courtesy of Seeing Southern Photography

The good, the bad, and the ugly… wedding photographers who have seen it all offer advice for being a considerate guest.

 Come Monday, the conversation should not revolve around you.

The festivities at last weekend’s wedding caused even Cinderella to blush with envy. The bride was heart-stopping in a lovely vintage gown, and the handsome groom was obviously so much in love, “but (and this is where it all goes wrong) could you believe those embarrassing moves the best man did on the dance floor?”

Don’t be that guy that outshines — or eclipses — the bride and groom.

According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in 2019 was $33,000. Every cent has been carefully allocated between the venue, caterer, photographer, florist, and multiple others to ensure that this moment in time is as close to perfection as humanly possible. And to enjoy it all, invitations are sent to the couple’s closest family and friends, an honor no guest should take lightly.

As wedding photographers, my husband and I have seen our share of the good, the bad, and the ugly at weddings. We have filed every single one of these moments in our brains to share with our clients and all who celebrate at weddings. From the moment you receive an invitation to the last second of the reception, be the best wedding guest by observing correct etiquette and following some simple advice.

Yes, I’ll be there.
The invitation in the mail signals the beginning of the social affair of the year. Return your acceptance card through the postal service immediately. The couple depends on your nod to secure numbers needed by the caterer and venue long before the wedding day. Don’t text or send a message via Facebook; it might be easier, but it’s tacky. And, while you’re at it, go ahead and make plans to mail the wedding gift (or order via their registry) so that you won’t have to lug it to the wedding. Gifts should be sent whether you attend the wedding or not.

Let’s go shopping!
Whether it’s casual, semi-formal, or formal, dress according to the bridal couple’s request. The most popular, semi-formal; however, casual weddings sporting bedazzled Keds and flipflops are on the rise. In regards to color, never wear white and avoid wearing the color of the bridal party.

I love a party! Can I come?

You have children, a significant other, or close friend, and you wonder if you can bring them. Refer to the invitation. If it doesn’t say “plus one” or guest or children, that’s a “No!” “Wedding Crashers” was a great movie, but that’s where the idea should end.

She (and he) is off limits!
No matter if you are family or friend, don’t push your way into the bridal suite to see the bride (or groom) before the ceremony. The hours before the ceremony have been planned down to the minute. Stylists are busy preparing the bride and the entire wedding party, gifts are being exchanged, photographs are being taken, and frankly, this is the time when the bride needs time to exhale. Months of planning have come down to this very moment; she deserves a little reflection.

In fact, don’t text the bride or groom on the wedding day for any reason. If there’s a problem, talk to the wedding planner or anyone besides the couple. Even good intentions cause stress, and that’s the last thing to add to the couple’s shoulders.

Don’t be late.
The ceremony is the most important part of the day. Ideally, arrive 30 minutes before the ceremony time on the invitation; if it’s a large wedding, play it safe by arriving even earlier so you’ll have a good seat. Be on time for the vows; avoid an awkward entrance. Fashionably late doesn’t apply to weddings.

And, don’t skip the ceremony. It’s the main event, and as much as you might like to ditch the ceremony and show up at the party, it’s looked upon as rude.

Respect traditions.
Some wedding traditions are as old as time itself. Familiar ones like exchanging rings, wearing a veil, tossing the garter, or wearing something blue are always popular.

But what about religious traditions? The Jewish ceremony takes place underneath a chuppah, and the reading of the Ketubah lays out the marriage contract. In Latin weddings, the groom gives the bride 13 gold coins, symbolizing Christ and his apostles. Some Christian weddings include the braiding of three strands of rope, representing the bride, groom, and God, and when braided, become one. A Celtic tradition of cords or colorful fabric is wrapped around the couple’s joined hands, signifying the literal tying of the knot.

No matter if the expressions be religious, cultural, or secular, appreciate the experience by honoring the couple’s traditions regardless of your faith or belief.

Put your phone (& camera) away.
Be present at the ceremony. Focus your attention on the bride and groom, not on getting that iPhone shot to share on social media. The professional photographer should not have to compete with iPhones, cameras, video cameras, or flashes. Having your devices show up in the professional photos is not how the couple wants to remember their day. And, silence your phone.

Once the reception begins, snap away.

Let the photographer do the job.
Photography is an investment for the couple, a hefty investment. And, for the professionals to do their job, guests need to get out of the way. Do not hover over the photographer or stand behind them with cell phones and cameras shooting over their shoulders. It’s important that all eyes are on the photographer, not on Uncle Bob or Aunt Susie.

Stop sticking phones and iPads out in the aisles during the ceremony; the photographer only has one chance to get that first kiss. Don’t shout poses to the bride and groom, and for heaven’s sake, stop messing with the bride’s dress. Most photographers have a person in charge of fluffing and straightening. Forget the after-ceremony photo shoot of the bridal party; go enjoy the reception. You’ll have the opportunity to relive every moment in about six weeks when the images are delivered.

Get out on that floor!
In other words, have a great time. You are an important part of this experience, and the bride and groom have gone to great lengths to make sure you enjoy yourself. A live band or charismatic DJ? Hit the dance floor. Request tunes. Mingle with other guests. Enjoy the open bar, but know your limits; don’t embarrass yourself or the couple, and never, ever grab a bottle from behind the bar.

Time to leave.
It’s good to stay for the entire reception; of course, 80-year-old Grandma Liz can leave early if she wants. Keep dancing until the very end. However, before calling it a night, it’s important to speak to the couple (or a family member). Acknowledge the beauty of the wedding and thank them for including you. Your happiness means they made it as wonderful as they imagined.

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