Wedding Reception Etiquette That Every Guest Should Know


Just got an invitation in the mail and ready to attend your friend or family member's wedding? You probably should know a thing or two before you show up! We gathered some etiquette expert-approved advice that will help you be the best wedding guest.

When is it appropriate for guests to begin dancing?
At a very large reception, the father of the bride may see to it that dancing is under way before the couple appear on the scene for their traditional first dance with each other and with their parents. At most weddings, however, the dancing kicks off once the bride's father, a member of the wedding party, or the bandleader introduces the newlywed couple for their first dance, and the cocktail buffet are over and the couple has entered the room where the dinner will take place.

How will guests know when to take their seats in the reception room?
Usually, the banquet manager or waiters will approach guests and ask them to make their way into the reception room. At a seated luncheon or dinner (buffet or waiter service), guests should proceed to the table indicated on their escort card. At that table, place cards may indicate where they are to be seated. If the celebration is a buffet service with unspecified seats, guests may proceed to the buffet line, then choose a seat at one of the unreserved tables. At a tea or cocktail reception, guests may serve themselves and continue to circulate.

When is it acceptable for a guest to leave the reception?
Wedding receptions have no specified length, although four hours is about average. Traditionally, guests remain until the bride and groom leave the reception. Today, however, most brides and grooms are choosing to stay until the party ends. If the couple doesn't seem to be in a rush to leave, it is acceptable for guests to depart any time after the cutting of the cake. (It's considered bad luck if a guest doesn't have at least a taste of the wedding cake!) Before leaving, guests should find a member of the bride's immediate family and thank him or her. If a guest is not able to personally thank the wedding hosts, he or she should write or call the next day to say that he or she had a wonderful time. Eventually, the wedding hosts will signal the end of the reception by ending the music, closing the bar, and preparing to leave themselves.

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