Entertaining

Made of Honor

How to be a good wedding guest, from TT's in-house experts
Photo: Albert Cheung Photography
Wedding Guest Etiquette

Friends, it’s that magical time of year. That time when your best buds who have found love force you to deplete your bank account to fly to Nowhere, USA, with carefully calculated attire in tow so as to avoid embarrassing repeats.

Yes, wedding season is here, and though this momentous occasion is all about the bride and groom, it’s also about you . . . albeit a somewhat sober but still fun you. A you who doesn’t go overboard at the bar, leading to a wobbly and regrettable rendition of “Rolling in the Deep.” (Thanks for ruining the song.)

So we ask the people at Tasting Table who have seen it all—including one expert who experienced that exciting Adele moment at his own wedding—for their tips on how to prepare yourself for wedding season. Here come the rules:

Fuel up accordingly. Obviously, one of the best things about a wedding is free food, especially when it’s good, so budget your belly space. “Hungry,” Allison McEntee, our Midwest advertising director, advises on how you should arrive. “As if you were going to dinner.” Take into consideration the couple, too. “Vegans? Go full. Italian Americans? Go hungry,” Casey McCarthy, integrated marketing director says. “My wife's family is Italian American, a clichéd one at that. The food at any one of her dozen cousin's weddings was off the chain. So. much. food.”

Take snacks. No ceremony starts on time—that’s not a free pass to arrive late, because DO NOT—so it’s also important to think ahead. “Do slip a snack pack or bar into your clutch in case food isn't served for a long time,” Beck Spencer, senior audience development manager, recommends. But keep it classy, people. “Don't bring to-go containers,” she adds.

Due diet diligence. Let the couple know if you have dietary restrictions before the reception. This isn’t a game-time audible. It’s your responsibility, not the crazed bride’s, to make sure you’ve communicated that you have specific allergies or preferences ahead of time. It’s as simple as checking off a box on the invitation or a quick phone call to the couple. And while we’re on the topic of reading the invitation: Don’t ask to bring a date if you don’t get a plus one. Confused? Tack that question onto your food-chat agenda for the hosts.

Imbibe wisely. You’ll know when it’s OK to start drinking. Take cues from the environment (i.e., a huge OPEN BAR sign’s out, and bartenders are shaking away) and what you know of the couple to figure out when to begin drinking. Sometimes it’s right at cocktail hour, or oftentimes it’s even before the ceremony. “Typically, we start drinking after the wedding, at the cocktail reception,” Allison says. “We have been to weddings where cocktails were served as you walked into the ceremony. Really depends on the wedding and the environment.” However, one important tip before “Pachelbel’s Canon” begins: “No shots,” Jane Frye, managing editor, says.

And pace yourself. Even Jesus himself had to turn water into wine when one particular biblical couple ran out, so it’s perfectly fine to get a little turnt here. “Alcohol, water, alcohol, water, alcohol, water,” Alison Spiegel, senior writer, lists. It goes a bit deeper than that, according to Casey. “KNOW thyself,” he muses. “No one wants to go overboard, but in a lot of ways, what's a wedding without a jackass who drinks too much? As long as you don't punch the bandleader or whatever, I say imbibe and enjoy.” Add “grind on your mother-in-law” as a clear stopping point, too (ahem, my bridesmaid). In terms of hard numbers, Kevin Mendlin, senior video producer says, “Well, three drinks in an hour is considered a binge. I would say one, not that I agree with either side.”

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Here’s a tip. Give gratuity at your own discretion. Should you feel guilty about that half-empty mason jar of George Washingtons? Not at all. “Tipping isn't necessary. It's built into the cost of the event, and, frankly, they shouldn't even be putting out tip jars,” Beck explains. If you’re feeling extra generous, go ahead. “That said, I mean, duh, everyone appreciates a tip. I just don't think it's an expectation at most weddings,” Casey says. “Perhaps give the bartender a hefty tip at the beginning, so they take care of you throughout the night,” Allison adds.

Feed the newlyweds. The very people you’re there to celebrate oftentimes are the most harried and hangry, since every waking moment of the wedding is devoted to taking pictures, greeting family and friends, and generally being shuttled around by the event coordinator. I knew this going into my wedding, so I told our bridal party to bring us snacks whenever they saw us. Guess who wasn’t starving by the end of the night (or hungover the next day)? This couple.

Wait your turn. Don’t even look at the cake UNTIL IT’S TIME. That beautiful stack of cupcakes, doughnuts or nude layer cakes? Five feet away—unless you’ve explicitly been told otherwise. “Don’t hit the dessert table before being given permission, even if there are Voodoo doughnuts," Jane wisely shares from experience at a girlfriend’s wedding. No hovering around the table either; your cue is the happy couple politely or not so politely stuffing cake into each other’s mouths.

Make it rain. Newlyweds love dolla bills. As much time as couples dedicate to picking out what they think they “need” for their new home, sometimes it’s just best to stick with the Benjamins. Especially if you’re a last-minute gift giver and everything good is gone (aka you’re stuck buying a grab bag of candlesticks and tiny Dutch ovens) from the registry. “Cash is always a good present,” Alison says. Plus, it’s easy for all the wedding minions to haul back to the couple’s home afterward.

Keep it to yourself. Maybe there’s a booze shortage (despite sending the groomsmen out three times, which is what happened to me) or a major delay on the doughnuts for dessert (also me), but that doesn’t mean you should alert the blissed-out newlyweds. Instead, find the wedding coordinator or maid of honor/best man, and let them know what’s up. And definitely do not resort to Yelp. We’ll leave you with this gem from Casey: “One of our guests, a family member on my side—super-old curmudgeon—was so mad at how late he received cake that he set up a Yelp account for the sole purpose of complaining about our venue. Like, he gave the venue a bad review . . . but really he was just complaining about how we executed our wedding. He never said anything; we found out, because the owner contacted us upset that she had screwed up or something.”

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