Eight ways to be the perfect wedding ceremony guest

Married couple kissing under wedding arch

Hey soon-to-be-married couples. Do you want your wedding guests to be as good as gold at your wedding day and the rest of your day? To have fun and join your celebrations but not to bug the hell out of you with silly questions and their unintentional faux pas? Well, guess what? I want the same for you too! Hence why I’ve written this super duper list. Just forward it on to them, and relax whilst I say everything you wanted to but couldn’t quite think of how! Easy, peasy, no?

Hello wedding guests to-be. Soon you’re going to be attending the wedding of some of your fave peeps in the world. You’re excited and you can’t wait to see them finally tying the knot. So do you want to know how you can give them the best present of all, without spending any money? Yep, you’ve got it. Be the perfect guest! And here’s how you can, starting right from the outset, at their ceremony!

1. Don’t be late

Yes, it is kind of ridiculous that this is even on this list. But I see it enough for myself. There are always stragglers who think it’s okay to step into a ceremony fifteen, er-hum, twenty minutes late AND that no-one will notice! In this day and age (not that it was acceptable in another day and age) there really is no need to be late.  We are technologicalized (I think I’ve just made that word up) to the max, possessing every gadget under the sun, so time-lapses (every gadget has a clock and alarm), getting lost (most gadgets have a GPS, Tom Tom, Google Maps etc) and the general rubbish excuses that fall into no definable category, just don’t wash anymore. If you are of West Indian origin or any other nationality that struggles with good time-keeping, which I am, you will need to pretend that the ceremony is an hour (in some cases, two) before the stated time, so that way you will arrive on time. Do scratch out the nationality and replace your own as I know it’s not just us West Indians who as a race suffer from stereotypical tardiness.

And if you are late, (I can’t believe I am still advising you!) assess whether a) you will interrupt proceedings with your entrance and b) whether you are important enough to interrupt proceedings with your entrance and if you answers are ‘no’ and ‘yes’, in that order, then enter slowly, quietly and discreetly (meaning not waving and sending air kisses to your old uni friends that you’ve not seen in years) and take your place at the back, like the naughty kids on the school bus. The best thing really, is just to be on time, plain and simple. If the ceremony starts at four, aim to be there at three thirty. You’ll be surprised at how nice it is to arrive fresh, relaxed and ready to enjoy yourself and not a sweaty, hot mess looking forward only to a bathroom visit.

2. Read the order of service

Believe it or not, an order of service is not just pretty seat decoration or a tool to fan yourself with on a hot day, it is a programme of information which can let you know useful/necessary things about the ceremony. Many couples put a lot of thought and effort into their order of service, designed to convey information to you, such as the content and structure of the ceremony and even an outline of the entire day. So whilst waiting for the ceremony to begin, have a read. Learn what’s going on and don’t be the only one to not realise that directly after the ceremony you’ll be having cava and canapes or that you’ll be heading out to have group photos and that the couple want you to save the confetti throwing for those photos. Exactly! Don’t be the odd-useless-one-out. Get informed.

This also applies to any other signage that is decorating the ceremony area. You won’t believe how many times I hear family members asking each other which side they should be sitting on, when right at the entrance there is a huge sign telling people that there are no sides!!! So as you can see, reading an order of service or any other messages and signs goes a long way to being a perfect, well-informed ceremony guest.

3. Don’t take photos (unless the couple specifically ask you to)

The way I see it, there is only one person who needs to take a photos during a wedding ceremony and that’s the photographer that the lovely couple have hired (and paid for!) to document their big day. No-one else needs to take photos. Yes, really!

Ask yourself, why do I need a photo right now? And you’ll probably find that your honest answer is ‘actually, I suppose I don’t really need to take a photo right now!’ If you think you still do, ask yourself why you are taking a photo?

Do you really need/want a photo of the happy couple midway through their ceremony?

What are you going to do with the photos?

Are you going to make a gift of them for the couple? Probably not.

Are you going to print them out and have them in your own album or scrapbook? Probably not.

So then why not sit and enjoy this thirty minutes of love and happiness, rather than worrying about having a photo of it. They’ll be plenty of time for photos later at the reception. That said, many social media-fied couples are currently loving having a wedding hashtag event, so if they give you the green light to go photo mad, then obviously ignore all of what I’ve just said.

4. Take noisy children outside

I have dedicated a WHOLE post to this if you’re interested, but for those of you requiring a more succinct summary; ‘take noisy children outside!’ I don’t know what it is about children. They can be as good as gold within the confines of your house but the minute they get in public, they go crazy! I know, I have one of them. And I also know that sometimes that craziness is not going to die down, not within a quick enough time frame that their disruption is minimal, anyway.

It is annoying when our little angels play up, but it’s far more annoying to everyone around us, when we don’t act quickly and remove the annoyance. Some parents think a) the noise is not that annoying. It is. And b) getting up and leaving is more of an annoyance. It isn’t. So do the right thing. If your little cherub won’t hush, then take them outside or away from the ceremony area where they can make as much noise as they like! Yay, everyone’s happy!

5. Switch off phones or put them on silent

So we’re now living in times where at any one wedding ceremony, there are possibly as many mobile phones as there are guests. Yup, sad but true and a reflection of where we are at in this world of ours. And imagine, what would happen if just one person didn’t switch their phone off! Yep, Sod’s Law will dictate that that one person’s phone will ring. It will be their mum wanting to know if they are coming home for Christmas, even though it’s the summer. Okay, so that’s a bit unfair, especially to organised mums, but I bet you the call will be something as lame as that.

If switching off (even for half an hour), is tantamount to having your breathing supply reduced, then putting your phone on silent is the next best thing. If there is an emergency, then you’ll still be aware of it. So for the duration of the ceremony, it really won’t hurt to be unavailable for thirty minutes. And if you can’t not look at you phone for thirty minutes, then I really can’t help you!

6. If you have a ceremonial role, do it with gusto

If, and when you are asked to do something during a ceremony, do it like you really mean it. If you have been chosen to deliver a reading, don’t stand up like you have a gun to your head and read it like you’ve been asked to read the Satanic Verses out aloud. If you really have objections to public speaking then there are nice ways that you can decline your role, without offending your friends/family. The newlyweds-to-be would rather know you have a phobia of publicly speaking than watch you looking uncomfortable during their ceremony.

And if you don’t mind being a reader then give it all you’ve got. Obviously, I don’t mean take on the task like it’s your first Broadway production but do be as confident as you can and deliver it like you mean it.

This also goes for any other interactions during the ceremony. It is also quite common during ceremonies to be asked to give your blessing/support of the couple in question en masse, by responding to a simple question asked by the officiant.  I can’t tell you how deflating it is when the response is as limp as a digestive biscuit dipped into a mug of tea. If the celebrant tries to engage you, please be engaged.

Also, If your fave peeps have also chosen to have a communal song during their ceremony, sing it like you are on X Factor. Why ever not? Okay, so gyrating might be too much, but there’s no harm in putting your heart and soul into it and really singing your lungs and heart out. It’s for a good cause after all. Seriously though. Make your contribution count, it will really be the perfect gift for whoever’s wedding it is. Whatever you’re asked to do during a ceremony, be proud, honoured and enthusiastic.

7. Be engaged

Even if you don’t have an active role in the ceremony, it really pays to be engaged with what is going on. There’s nothing worse than only being half-tuned in to someone’s ceremony, especially seeing as it is one of the most important parts of the day and the reason for the celebrations after all. I have sometimes clocked the marrying couple, clocking their friends or relatives chatting during their ceremony,  which is not nice really or respectful to them.

Speaking from experience, as a potentially non-engaged guest at a Catholic wedding ceremony, I was initially rolling my eyes at the thought (being the atheist that I am) however, although the priest did say a lot of stuff that was absolute nonsense, (ie that anyone who hasn’t had a Catholic ceremony has not really been married in the right way, yes he honestly did say that! My husband was more outraged than me. I just laughed!) he did say some lovely words about love and marriage that made me hold my husband’s hand and remember why and how much I love him. So even if the ceremony perhaps isn’t in line with your own beliefs or faith, do stay tuned, you may be pleasantly surprised.

8. Enjoy!

Well I think with these top tips I have quite possibly bossed everyone into a perfect guest’s state of mind. So now there’s nothing left but to look forward to and enjoy the big day! It is a beautiful, happy occasion, after all.

What do people do that bugs you at wedding ceremonies? As always, nosy me would love to know!

This post was originally posted in 2014.

About the author

Natasha Johnson

Natasha Johnson is an experienced Wedding Celebrant, blogger and writer on all things related to weddings, in particular wedding ceremonies. Her mission is life is to encourage couples to see the importance of their wedding ceremony and to get married in just the way they want to. Make sure you catch her on the Engaged and Ready Wedding Podcast, here or on iTunes and Stitcher.

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