This weekend I went to my cousin Naomi’s wedding. Because I’m Southern, I’ve been to roughly a million weddings, but every time I go to a new one I remember how just because you’re a guest doesn’t mean you’re exempt from good manners. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you’re attending a wedding:

  • Dress appropriately. Even though the invitation will give some guidance about black tie, semiformal, or whatever else, there are a couple of other things to consider. If the wedding is in a church, synagogue, or other house of worship, make sure you bring a shawl or cardigan in case you need to cover your shoulders. Also, my cotillion teacher told us never to wear white (bride’s color), black (color of mourning), or red (whore color) to a wedding. She was from the deep south, so if those rules don’t really apply in your neck of the woods I wouldn’t take it too much to heart.
  • You are not too cool for the hora – or the chicken dance, for that matter. So what if you don’t want to do the dorky dance with your Aunt Mildred? Get out there and go. You should never let the fact that you feel like a dork get in the way of making someone’s day special or making the bride and groom feel like their guests are having a good time. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not much of a dancer. But the point of dancing at weddings isn’t the same as dancing at the club. Just go out there and embrace your inner nerd and make some lifetime memories while you’re at it. I dragged my shy 17-year-old cousin out to do the hora, and we ended up having a ball. You may not see the guests again for a long time, so make the best of it.
  • Be nice to the wait staff/caterers and anyone else who is working during the wedding. Just because these nice folks are working on a weekend to bring you food, serve you booze, play awesome tunes, or clean up afterward does not mean that they are having as much fun as you are. They have to deal with everything from your drunk, handsy uncle to cleaning up the juice that the ringbearer spilled all over the dance floor, so make sure they know how much you appreciate them.
  • Being a little drunk is fun. Being a lot drunk is embarrassing. I know it is hard to keep track of how much you’re drinking because every time you turn around some nice waiter is refilling your wine glass yet again, but trust your instincts. You’ll want to make sure that what people remember about you from the wedding is your hilarious style of storytelling or the way you got the bride’s dad to do the hustle with you, not the fact that you faceplanted and puked. This goes double if it’s a relative’s wedding, because your family will have many, many opportunities to remind you about this in the future, and they will use them.
  • Compliment people other than the bride and groom. Of course you should tell the bride she looks beautiful and is glowing! That said, a lot of other people associated with the wedding did a lot of work, and you should make sure they don’t feel left out. Compliment the mother of the bride on her dress, tell the bridesmaids they look great, tell the bride’s friend that you know helped with the flowers that the centerpieces are gorgeous. It’s easy for them to be forgotten since all the attention is on the people getting married, so one nice compliment will go a very long way.