Etiquette: Guest Guidelines

February 15, 2017
Words by Jennifer Stein
Photos courtesy of Annamarie Akins Photography

Attending a wedding today comes with a new set of etiquette rules. From social media and technology emerging as part of any special event (selfies and GoPro’s oh, my!), to ditching old traditions like how long you have to send a gift, guests have their own list of social graces to obey. Here is a list of our top five questions and how to navigate the world of destination weddings, gifting and all the responsibilities you have as a guest.

Q: I’ve always heard it’s a faux pas to wear white to a wedding. Does this apply to a destination wedding and is it even still an issue in this day and age?

A: Traditionally white has always been the color for the bride to wear. A guest would never want to dress in anything that might compete with anyone in the bridal party. With all the colors available, discarding one (white) shouldn’t be an issue – especially if it risks upsetting the bride.

Q: My husband and I were recently invited to a destination wedding and the invitation said “adults only.” Does this mean just the wedding or do we have to leave our children home altogether? Is there a polite way to bring this up to the couple if it is not possible to leave our children at home?

A: If it is your desire to turn the destination wedding into a family vacation, I would check with the venue to see if they have any resources for childcare during the activities that are “adults only.” You could also check with the hosts to see what is being planned for the bridal weekend. If the whole event is “adults only,” you should respect the wishes of the hosts and either not attend or arrange for childcare during the times you wish to be included in the pre-planned wedding activities.

Q: I recently attended a wedding where the couple asked guests not to use their cell phones during the ceremony and reception, but I also attended a wedding where the couple created their own social media hashtag. How do I know if the couple is okay with my taking pictures and sharing them via social media?

A: Before using your cell phone to photograph and share on social media, I would ask the host or wedding coordinator what the couple’s wishes are.

Q: I just got my first invitation to a destination wedding. The couple’s registry information was included, but do I take the gift with me to the destination? If not, how long do I have to send a gift?

A: It is always advisable to send gifts to the address listed on the registry. This avoids transporting the gift for you and the couple. Technically you have up to a year to send a gift, but it is best to send it as soon as possible and preferably within a month of the wedding.

Q: I’m attending a destination wedding where I wasn’t initially granted a ‘plus one’ because I was single. However, I’m now dating someone who I would like to bring with me to the wedding. Is it okay to ask the couple if I can bring a date?

A: It is always a delicate situation to approach hosts to inquire about extra guests. If the couple is close to you, they may be aware that your situation has changed. If you do inquire, you never want to put the couple in an awkward situation of feeling obligated to add a plus one.

For more destination wedding etiquette advice on everything from finances to faux pas, visit

This article first appeared in Destination I Do’s Spring/Summer 2016 issue. You can order a copy here.

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