A few weeks ago, I started reaching out to wedding professionals all over the country to see if they had any input on this topic, and the feedback was amazing. We got so many responses, and most of them were different (I wasn't expecting that). Some responses came in so fast, we had a tough time trying to keep up. The bottom line is this: etiquette exists no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing. Please heed the following bits of advice the next time you attend a wedding.
So without further ado, here are the results from 25 wedding professionals in 8 major cities. This is what they want you to know and were too kind to tell you to your face. Keep in mind, some of these are a matter of opinion and are not necessarily based on any traditional wedding values:
"Always serve drinks in a cup or glass and not the original bottle or can or other original container"
"Never say, "Congratulations" to the bride. It is more appropriate to tell her how happy she looks. Saying congrats to the groom is perfectly fine"
"Never applaud musicians during the ceremony. It shows disrespect for the bride and groom"
"Never assume that just because your friend got ordained online that he/she can perform your wedding ceremony legally. Always go online and check the laws of your state to make sure that yours will be a legal union. By the way, this is NOT legal in the state of Tennessee currently"
"Never wear a tuxedo to a daytime wedding unless you are part of the wait staff. Tuxedos are only appropriate to wear after dark"
"Do not request a song and say, untruthfully, that 'the bride wanted me to tell you to play this song'. We have the best seat in the house, and we know that you did not speak to the bride. She knows me very well at this point, and she is not too busy to come over and ask me to play that song"
"Please do not take vases or containers home. They belong to the florist. The bride and groom will have to pay in full for them if you break them or take them home"
"If you're an aspiring photographer, don't decide you'll 'get into the biz' by bringing your camera and standing next to me all day shooting everything I shoot. And, no, standing next to me in the aisle of the church while I shoot the entrance and exit of the wedding party isn't acceptable"
"Never wear white to a wedding if you are a guest unless it is an all-white themed wedding. Only the bride should be wearing a white dress"
"Please don't bring children to the wedding unless their names are on the invitation. If you bring young children, take them home by 9 or have a sitter pick them up"
"Please find somewhere to stand and talk with other guests other than doorways. Other guests would like to use those doorways as well. Also, your beloved wedding vendors need these doorways because they are working and need to get from place to place quickly. Find a low-traffic area to stand and talk"
"Make sure to have several non-alcoholic drink choices for your guests, especially water infused with lemon, lime, cucumber or a combination of these. This shows respect for your guests who do not drink alcohol and for those guests who 'shouldn't' drink alcohol"
"Do not use cell phones to record video or take pictures during the ceremony unless the bride and groom have specifically told you that it is OK. Let the hired professionals take care of that"
(Photographer) "If you didn't hire me, I'm not your personal photographer for the day. I can't run around shooting infinite groups of third cousins, and such—particularly during the cake cutting"
"Please do not try to have a discussion with your DJ while he is setting up. It's great that you are a music lover/aspiring DJ/have great home audio equipment, but I am trying to set up and it has to be perfect for the client that hired me. Also, requesting songs while I am setting up is no guarantee that your request will get played first. If you cannot respect my time and the job that I have to do, I may not play it at all"
"Summer weddings: the groom may want to plan on having two shirts. Yes, it's hot as heck, and YES, we're still doing photos outside."
"Be early for the ceremony - at least 15-20 minutes. For example, if the ceremony starts at 6:00, the prelude music will begin at about 5:30. You may just enjoy it, so get there early"
"If you decide that you will be drinking heavily, always have a ride home on stand-by, whether it be a friend, a taxi or an Uber/Lyft. We, as wedding professionals, see way too many drunk people leaving events. Be safe out there"
"Wedding professionals who have been hired to work a wedding are not child care professionals. Please keep a close eye on your children if they accompany you"
"Please don't stand over my shoulder with your camera when I'm shooting family groups. It distracts the subjects, and it delays the entire process. I've got a schedule to maintain."
"Let the bride and groom have their moment. As a caterer, I typically take a meal or plate of hors d'oeuvres to the bride and groom in a private area so that they can enjoy a moment alone and so that they get a chance to eat. They will be busy talking to guests taking photos, and dancing the night away later and often don't get another chance to get a bite. This is not an invitation to come and 'just say hi' to the couple since you 'are like family', nor does this mean that because they are eating it is time for you to eat if they have chosen to not open the food at this point. 1) You will get a chance to talk to them sometime during the reception and 2) You are not going to starve in the next 15 minutes. You can wait until they bride and groom have chosen to begin serving food"
"Photo booth props are not free giveaway items. Please use them and return them to the photo booth when you are finished with them"
"Please allow your band or DJ time to build a set list before requesting a bunch of songs. Believe it or not, your entertainers DO know what they are doing"
"Do not bring gifts to the wedding reception. Make sure to purchase them via the bride and groom's wedding registry or mail them to them. This may be common in movies, but it is not appropriate in real life. Plus, gifts have been (and will be if this continues) stolen"
"If you want to provide drinks for your guests before the ceremony, please provide them with water or soda. A cooler full of beer sitting outside the ceremony area is just tacky. Champagne, however, is cute"
"Really gets under my skin when a random person i.e., uncle or cousin comes up to the DJ and says, 'I need the mic. I wanna' submit a toast to the bride & groom', especially when that person has been drinking. It's even worse when the bride and groom told us during our meeting weeks before the wedding, that they did NOT want anyone to toast them"
"From a photo standpoint (and believe it or not, this isn't as obvious as it seems) when the bride is putting her dress on, if mom (or whoever) is wanting to be in those memorable photos helping with the dress, they need to be dressed, ready, hair/makeup ALL done before the bride puts on her dress"
"Stop coming in to say hello to the bride before the ceremony and leaving the door wide open for guests to see her as they walk by" - and along these same lines, another comment: "Don't come in at all. You are a guest to the ceremony and reception, not the bridal suite"
"Don't put your drinks on the DJ's table/gear. Also, don't come around your DJ's gear and touch it without permission. We don't come inside your home, pick up your xbox controller and say 'what games ya got?'"
"Don't seat Grandma and Grandpa next to the DJ's speakers. We know you want them to have good seats, but think about it....."
"Please consider the venue and space if you want to have a 'room reveal'. Keeping 200 guests standing in a hallway for an hour so you can be the first one in the room and see the decor before it is occupied is not being a great host, in my opinion. Grandma would appreciate being able to find her seat"
"Don't come up to the makeup artist staying around for touch ups asking for 'a little touch up'. I'm here for the bride. Not for you."
"Please don't bum rush the bride and groom the second they exit the ceremony. Let them have a few minutes to either finish taking photos or to just stop and have a moment together. You knew there was going to be a reception, you will get to say hi"
"Don't light the sparklers until a sober professional tells you it's time. Once lit, do not do any of the following 1) put lit ones in a container with unlit ones 2) sword fight with them 3) throw them in the air 4) put lit ones in trash bins"
"Do not take a selfie with the bride and groom during their first dance (yes this DOES happen)"
"For the love of all things holy, let the bride and groom do their first looks alone. I know you have known her longer than him and you think she wants you there. She wants her husband and her photographer only! Other pictures will be taken. Just leave them alone and let them have their moment"
"The photographer is there to capture pics of the whole event, but chiefly to document the day of the wedding couple. It's not necessary to grab my shoulder and say, 'YOU'RE MISSING THAT!' when somebody's baby decides to bounce around on the dance floor, or when grandma dances with every single grandchild. Trust me, I saw it (and shot it) long before you did"
"Please tell your guests this is a wedding. Please dress accordingly. If it's not in a barn..... NO JEANS! Dress up. It's fun"
And last but not least......
"PLEASE have fun when you come to celebrate with your friends and families. We are all here to make sure you have the best time of your lives. Let loose, unwind and relax. We are all here to enjoy this moment with you"
Thanks to all of the wedding pros that have participated in this discussion. We look forward to seeing you all out there!