Huffington Post contributor Kathleen Trenske is Co-Founder of Robert & Kathleen Photography, a New York-based wedding photography company.
Being invited to a wedding is an honor. After all, there are few days more significant, more personal. The happy couple wants you to be there to revel in their joy.
You're a big part of their day after all. You are the smiling face they see when they're walking down the aisle, the person they run to hug during cocktail hour, the friend that encourages them to break out their signature move on the dance floor. You are their friends, their family, and their co-workers. The people that made it onto that limited list of "must have" guests.
But there are those rare times when a guest just might do something, unintentionally, that might detract from the couple's wedding day—in big ways or small. And it's understandable. As a guest at a wedding you're excited. Excited to be a part of such a big celebration, excited to talk to the bride and groom, to take their pictures and soak in the happiness of the day. But in the midst of all that excitement, sometimes a guest might not realize that something they are doing is taking away from the day in some way—taking away time from the bride and groom, hampering the joy of the day or adding a distraction that is unnecessary.
After attending and working over 200 weddings and getting married myself, I have seen how guests can enhance the day and how they can take away from it. The "Dos and Don'ts" I list below have been an accumulation of my observations over the years. Follow these and I assure you, you will be exactly the kind of wedding guest the happy couple will be delighted to have share in their day.
DO: Be in the Moment
Picture this: You're in the church, and the Maid of Honor has just finished walking down the aisle. The music changes, heads turn to the back of the church, the door slowly opens. The bride appears and walks forward, holding on to her father's arm.
And you? You smile. You tear up. You hold the hand of the person next to you. And you leave your camera in your purse or on the pew. You don't walk out into the aisle to take a picture with your camera or your phone. Then you do the same when you watch them say their vows, do their first dance, cut their cake. Instead of experiencing the moment from behind the camera, you watch them directly with your own two eyes.
Of course you can take pictures throughout the night—snap shots, pictures of you and your date. But imagine how freeing it can be to just be a guest. Leave the majority of the picture taking to the professionals the couple hired. An added bonus? Imagine how much more beautiful their professional images would be if you could actually see all the faces of the guests in the background, instead of just seeing a sea of people holding cameras.
DO: Be On Time to the Church
The time listed on the invitation is the time the ceremony will (or should) begin, so be sure to get to the church/ceremony location at least 10 minutes earlier.
And hey—stuff happens, if you run late or hit traffic, it's not the end of the world. There is one catch to that, though. If you're late, you should make every effort to make sure you don't bump into the bride before she walks down the aisle. If you are outside the church and not sure if she has gone down the aisle yet, wait. Wait outside the doors until you hear the music and you're reasonably sure that she's already been escorted down.
'Cause here's the thing. She'll have absolutely no idea that you were late, but she'll definitely remember if she had to duck into a room to avoid having you see her if she's still at the back of the church when you enter. If you time it wrong and end up walking past the bride anyway -- stay to one side and walk quickly. Do not stop and talk to the bride or her father. You can tell her she looks beautiful after the ceremony.
DO: Keep it to Yourself (if the day/date/time of the wedding is inconvenient for you)
Can't get off work for a Friday wedding? That's fine. Believe me, the bride and groom completely understand, that's why they'll have the ceremony and/or reception later in the day. If they don't or you still have to take the day off anyway, that's your choice. A choice the bride and groom will be completely grateful you made, but your choice nonetheless. It's an invitation, not a mandate -- you're free to say no. So please don't make the couple feel bad. Or, worse, don't ask them if they had their wedding that day because it was "cheaper."
DO: Act As Though This is The Only Wedding... Ever
Don't tell the bride or groom about things you have seen at other weddings. Don't ask them why they didn't do a candy station or chocolate fountain. Don't say that so-and-so's DJ/band was better. For one day, let that bride be the only bride in the world and that wedding be the only one you can even think about.
DON'T: Hide in Pictures
If the bride and groom ask you to be in a picture with them, please make sure that the photographer can see you. Don't try to hide behind someone tall, or duck a little in the back. The couple wants to be able to see you. If you hide, the photographer will make you move so you can be seen anyway, so you're just taking up time. A good rule of thumb—if you can't see the photographer, he/she can't see you. So stand tall and smile, please!
DON'T: Tell the Bride
You got a flat tire on the way to the wedding? Your heels are sinking into the grass during the ceremony? The drummer for the band is running late? Unless it's something crucial for the bride to know, don't tell her. She probably can't do anything about it, so let her bask in the joy of the day and the blissful ignorance of anything going awry.
DO: Keep an Eye on Your Kids
If your children have been invited to share in the day's festivities, be sure to keep a close eye on them. Kids can be a great addition to the party and the bride and groom have asked you to bring them because they are special to them as well. But remember that weddings aren't exactly kid-friendly. There are waiters with trays of hot food that are difficult enough to carry around a crowded room without having to look out for a five-year-old that is sliding around the dance floor in his socks. Kids understandably get bored at adult-friendly events like these, so bring along activities for them to do at the table (coloring books, small toys are a good way to go, things that don't make noise) so they aren't tempted to run around or distract you from the wedding activities. As a parent, I understand that you're probably very excited to have a night out amongst fellow adults.
If you would rather relax and not worry about your child shouting during the Best Man's speech or accidentally tripping the grandmother of the bride, maybe it'd be best to have someone pick up your child before the reception. If there will be a lot of children in attendance, ask the bride or groom (well before the wedding day) if they will have a separate kids' area or room—some couples even have babysitters so the kids can be entertained. (*Also, if your children aren't invited to the wedding, please don't bring them. If it's an out of town wedding, ask the bride and groom for babysitter recommendations.)
DON'T: Monopolize Their Time
I know you're super excited to talk to the bride and groom. You may not have seen them in months or years and you're thrilled to get the chance to catch up with them. Unfortunately, the wedding day is not really the time to do that. Of course you should talk to them, but understand that they have a room full of 100+ people that are eager to talk to them as well. So, talk to them for a few minutes but please, please don't monopolize their time.
DO: Have Fun & Dance
Hit the dance floor, enjoy the food, have some drinks and at the end of the night tell the bride and groom that this was the best wedding you have ever been to. Give them a hug, wish them well and thank them for inviting you.