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Wedding Guest Etiquette – 5 Essential Tips
While attending an outdoor wedding in Ohio in June, I was intrigued to see so many professionals gathered in one place. I was also amazed to see some noteworthy fashion faux pas and witness the code of conduct of some of the guests who came to the beautiful celebration.
I got married for the first time just a few years ago, so I know the amount of planning and thought that goes into a guest list and the costs involved in hosting such an unforgettable event. Then some people show up dressed like they’re going to a casual outdoor barbecue. Many people seem to have forgotten basic manners and protocol when attending social events. But as professionals, we should always exude a polished presence that supports our personal brand.
Weddings are a great time to practice your brand messages in both visual impact and behavioral and communication skills. Problems arise, however, when professionals do not understand what I call “dressing and etiquette for every occasion.” Here are 5 wedding etiquette tips to help you avoid blunders and create an unforgettable and polished professional presence.
Tip no. 1 Plan your closet
Always think about what to wear in advance by asking questions like: Where is it being held? What is the location? Does the invitation suggest a dress code? Was the invitation printed on sturdy card stock with a formal font or was it a casual text with a playful font? What time of day is the wedding? All of this helps inform you about what you should wear – even if there isn’t a suggested dress code.
As Tracy Reese said in her recent article in the Wall Street Journal The best dressed guest at the wedding, “Dress to sparkle. It shows your support for the celebration. You should be all festive and gorgeous – not dark.” I agree. Showing up dressed in style is a great sign of respect for the bride and groom.
Tip #2 Wedding venue dress code
Be sure to review the invitation to see if a dress code is suggested. If not, here’s a quick guide to help you dress properly.
Morning or afternoon weddings – For a daytime wedding, a professional can wear a sports coat, pants, shirt and tie. Women can wear a beautiful dress or an elegant skirt and silk blouse with shiny patent or metallic heels and a stylish clutch.
Evening Weddings – It can be black ties, formal or informal. But black tie dress implies that a man is expected to appear in a tuxedo, and women should wear a long or short cocktail dress. If the occasion is listed as “formal or informal”, a man can wear a dark suit in navy, black or dark gray – with a beautiful shirt, jeweled silk tie and a tonal pocket square to complement the tie. . Wear a beautiful French shirt with cuffs and buttons to take it to the level of a more sophisticated and refined image. Women should look at evening wear as cocktail wear. Today that means a short cocktail dress or a tea length dress that is more fashionable than the long cocktail dresses reserved for more formal events. Classy evening shoes, statement jewelry and a stylish evening clutch will complete your ensemble like icing on the cake.
Casual or destination weddings – “Casual or destination wear” does not include casual Friday dress such as denim. You still want your professional brand to appear on the polished side. For men, this might include wrinkle-free canvas pants or khakis, a Tommy Bahama-style silk shirt or a fine-diameter 3-button polo shirt, and driving loafers. Women can consider a sundress or dress from Lilly-Pulitzer, Ann Taylor, or Nordstrom—paired with delicate metallic sandals/platform shoes, jewelry, and a casually elegant purse that matches the destination feel.
Tip #3 Wardrobe Faux Pas
Don’t wear white – Only the bride should wear white to show respect for her special day. If you want to wear a light-toned dress, choose shades like eggshell, nude, or ivory that will flatter your personal skin tone.
Skip Risque – Remember you are dressing for your personal brand, so don’t wear anything too revealing. Skip anything that fits too low, too tight or too short and leave your club wear at home. Be memorable, but not because you’re remembered as a sleazy girl who wore a miniskirt.
Be respected in churches and temples– You want to be careful if the wedding ceremony is inside a church, temple or other religious place of worship. Do not, for example, show bare shoulders or dress in a provocative, risqué manner.
Women avoid black – Black can be an elegant color to wear. But in many cultures it is considered disrespectful for a woman to wear black to weddings as it conveys dark and gloomy messages of mourning and sadness and can even mean bad luck for the bride.
Tip #4 Social Etiquette Skills
Introduce yourself– During the reception, introduce yourself to everyone sitting at your table. Continue conversations with those sitting next to you and ask how they know the bride and groom. This is a great time for professionals to brush up on the soft skills that are so important to networking.
speech protocol – Be attentive and quiet during announcements, prayers or toasts. It is rude and inconsiderate to talk to other guests at that particular time.
Be merciful – Before leaving, thank the host and hostess for inviting you to celebrate their children’s wedding.
Tip no. 5 – Proper wedding dinner etiquette
Basic Dining Etiquette – Dining etiquette can be one of the first impressions people get of your behavior in group settings. When you sit down at the table, unfold the napkin and occasionally wipe your mouth with it while you eat. After finishing the meal, fold it and place it to the left of your plate. Also remember the basics of table setting, such as your bread pan on the left and your drinks on the right.
Buffet Etiquette – A new trend in weddings today is the provision of numerous buffet stations for shorter queues and faster serving of guests. A buffet table does not give anyone the right to overindulge. It’s not a trough or an all-you-can-eat special, it’s an elegant celebratory dinner.
Bar Manners – Even if there is an open bar, that’s no excuse for overdoing it. Nothing ruins a bride and groom’s special day faster than a drunk wedding party they regret inviting.
Follow these tips to convey a polished personal brand image – you never know who you might meet at your next wedding and what that connection might mean, both personally and professionally!
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