What to Do If You're Running Late to Your Friend's Wedding

Wedding guests running to tent

Photo by Karen Hill Photography

Etiquette states that a wedding ceremony shouldn't start more than 15 minutes after the time stated on the invitation, so guests should arrive well before the listed time to be in their seats when the music starts. But what do you do if you're running late and won't be in your seat when the wedding party starts walking down the aisle?

Research the route ahead of time to avoid any delays.

Running late is the worst, especially when you have somewhere really important to be but sometime it's just unavoidable. If you are running late to the wedding of someone you really love, it can be even more stressful. But running a bit behind schedule isn't the end of the world. We reached out to etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau to guide us through the dos and don'ts of arriving late to a friend's special day.

Meet the Expert

Julie Blais Comeau is the Chief Etiquette Officer at etiquettejulie.com and author of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility.

Don't Text the Couple

It's their wedding day—the last thing any couple needs is to worry about one of their guests. Plus, chances are they'll be too distracted staring at their soon-to-be spouse as they walk down the aisle to notice you're not seated in a pew. Keep them calm by saving the story of how you high-tailed it to the church for another time, and day.

Do Make a Judgment Call

If you're just one of many guests at the wedding, there's likely no need to alert anyone that you'll be late. But if you are playing a role in the ceremony, you may need to let someone know you're running behind schedule. Assess the situation, but if you do need to tell someone, there's still no need to stress the couple out with the unfortunate news. Find another contact that can handle the situation and coordinate your arrival, and you'll keep everyone at ease. Chances are the hosts already designated someone to field texts and calls on the big day so be sure to save their contact information ahead of time.

Don't Just Barge In

Before you burst through the venue doors, check around to see if there's someone to assist you. There may be a wedding planner or usher waiting in the wings to tell you the best way to enter so you can fly under the radar. The last thing you need is to cause a major, Hollywood-style disruption right when the officiant asks if anyone has objections to the marriage. "Apologize to the attendant without making any excuses," advises Blais Comeau. "Listen before entering and choose strategically your entrance; you may have to forego being a witness to some of the ceremony." If that means waiting outside until after the vows have been exchanged, so be it.

Do Enter Quietly

If the ceremony has already begun, enter as quietly as you can. "Be discreet and don't bring undue attention to yourself," says Blais Comeau. Take a seat in the back row and be careful not to disturb any other guests or get in the way of the photographer or videographer. Being late is enough of a wedding faux pas, but getting the whole thing caught on camera could be hard to live down.

Make sure your phone, or other tech, is silenced to avoid any additional interruptions.

Don't Make a Scene

Refrain from eating up all the attention at the reception with epic recounts of your harrowing journey. This day is about celebrating the newlyweds, after all. Once you find your BFF, whether you saw the first kiss or quietly snuck in during cocktail hour, don't make a big deal over what you missed. In fact, don't even mention it! If the newlyweds had a videographer, ask them after the wedding if you can watch the ceremony footage and you'll be caught up on the festivities before you know it.

Do Make the Most of Your Time

"Participate fully!" advises Blais Comeau. Whether you missed 10 minutes or an hour of the wedding, make the most of the time that's left. Forget all the trials and tribulations that led you to this point and get completely immersed in the celebration that was your end game all along. Toast the happy couple, get down on the dance floor, and smile for pictures—you made it, after all!

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