On your lifetime, you'll likely attend many wedding ceremonies and receptions to celebrate the beginning of a couple's new life together. When you're invited to a wedding, remember. Weddings are a great place to socialize, network and meet women.
Many men are unsure of how to be a classy guest so, whether or not you are actually the best man, follow these tips and prove that you are the "best guest" by practicing wedding etiquette.
Before the wedding
Return the reply card right away to indicate whether or not you will attend. Those organizing the wedding need to know the total head count to order the food and plan the seating arrangements. If you're invited to the ceremony and the reception, attend both. It's a sign of respect. If you have a serious conflict in your schedule that will keep you from one, explain that on your reply card.
Guests must not bring (uninvited) guests
The general rule is if you are married or living with someone, your date's name will be written on the invitation or it will have "Mr. [your name] and Guest." If it shows your name only, don't bring along a date. Do not RSVP for your children unless their names are on the invitation.
Cancel only for urgent reasons
Getting a more interesting offer doesn't count, but if your plans change -- for good and valid reasons -- and you're no longer able to attend the wedding, advise the couple in writing at least two weeks in advance. Otherwise, unless there's a death in your family, you should show up.
Never invite yourself
Don't assume you're invited, particularly with colleagues. Don't ask for an invitation or comment that yours must have been lost in the mail. Weddings can be expensive and the wedding couple and their families may not be able to include everyone, so don't take it personally.
Don't give a gift that you want yourself or that only your buddy would like. Give something that will be appreciated by both the bride and the groom. Consider teaming up with a couple of friends to buy a bigger gift than each of you would give individually.
Determining the value of your gift can be a challenge. The rule of thumb is to give the equivalent of the cost of your meal, so if you're attending as a couple, double the amount. Cash or a check is a standard gift among many cultures, as is something from the gift registry.
Send a gift
Ask in advance if it's customary to bring your gift to the reception or send it to the bride before the wedding. The latter is usually preferable, as it reduces the possibility of gifts disappearing during the festivities. Be sure to include a card with your full name. They might know two men called Bob or Harold.
Give, no matter what
If you returned your reply card saying you're unable to attend, you must still send a gift to honor the occasion. If you're only invited for the dance or open bar (if there is one) after the dinner, you should still give a gift.
How should you dress for the wedding?
The venue will give you an idea of the formality of the occasion. For a wedding on a beach with a poolside reception, khakis and a shirt and tie might be acceptable. Lighter suits are usually suitable for morning and early afternoon, with darker colors for later afternoon and evening ceremonies.
There may also be religious customs that dictate the dress code of the wedding. As with most occasions, it's better to be overdressed than underdressed. If in doubt, ask.
During the wedding
At the ceremony
Arrive on time
Be sure you know how to find the place and allow time for traffic and finding a parking spot. Don't be late, but if you are (despite your valiant efforts), sneak in quietly and sit at the back so that you don't interrupt the service.
Take your seat
Don't hang around outside visiting with people once the bride's limo arrives. You should be seated 10 to 15 minutes before the ceremony is scheduled to begin. Pass in front of the people who are already seated in a pew. They arrived early to get a seat on the aisle.
Know the customs
Each religion and culture has different marriage rituals, so inquire about the one you're attending. At a religious ceremony, follow the lead of the other guests and the instructions of the officiant. Stand, sit and kneel when everyone else does.
A marriage ceremony is a dignified solemn occasion. "Woo hoo!" is not an appropriate comment when the bride appears, no matter how good she looks. It's not amusing to snicker, cough or talk during the marriage vows. You're there as a witness, not a participant. At the reception
Keep your seat
If seating has been assigned at the reception, don't move the place cards or trade places. There's a reason the bride chose that particular table for you. You can move around later.
Make a point of saying hello to the families of the wedded couple and especially to older relatives. You will be long remembered as "the young man with such nice manners." A wedding guest list usually has a cross-section of ages and you never know who you'll meet. Use your networking skills to make a good impression. Carry a few business cards in case someone asks for one.
Be polite during speeches
Don't talk during the speeches and at least pretend to listen. Don't make a toast unless you've been specifically asked to in advance. If you're the best man, prepare a few words beforehand. Avoid attempts at humor, particularly about the groom's old girlfriends. No one needs to know about the time when you and the groom partied all weekend in Jamaica. And be sure to say several nice things about the bride, remembering that her family still considers her their little girl.
Be sincere on the wedding video
When the videographer asks you to say a few words to the bride and groom, give them your best wishes. Don't make jokes: "I know a great divorce lawyer" may sound hilarious to you, but it's not appropriate. This is not an audition; it's a keepsake for the couple and will be viewed by many people for many years.
In some cultures, it is customary to have a money tree or money dance, so bring some small bills for this. There might also be a "no host" or cash bar, or you may need a taxi to get home.
Say thank you
Before you leave, be sure to thank the bride and groom, as well as all their parents for including you in this special occasion.
Here are some things you should absolutely not do at weddings...
Don't ruin your image by committing a wedding etiquette error. Here are some important things to avoid at a wedding:
Don't keep "clinking" your glass
It can become disruptive and tiresome when guests repeatedly clink their glasses with their forks to get the bride and groom to kiss.
Don't get hammered
No matter how much champagne is flowing in the fountain or how good the shooters taste, never over-imbibe at a wedding. You'll risk having your friendship with the groom quickly terminated by his new wife.
Keep your clothes on. If you feel hot or uncomfortable, take off your jacket and loosen up your tie at the reception, but only after several other men have done so. No matter how jiggy you get on the dance floor, keep your shirt tucked in. Avoid looking like a mess with your sleeves fully rolled up and your shirt unbuttoned.
Don't go crazy at the buffet
Your hosts will want all their guests to enjoy the food but, if there's a buffet, avoid being the first one at the dinner or dessert table. Be discreet and don't walk around with a pile of food on your plate, or worse, two plates. And need I remind you not to take food home?
Don't crowd the newlyweds
There may be a "receiving line" where everyone greets the bride and groom, or they may make their way to each table throughout the evening. If not, offer your congratulations when they look unoccupied.
Don't make song requests
The couple usually gives the DJ or band a set playlist, so don't beg the DJ to play "Stairway to Heaven."
Don't create a spectacle
If your wife or girlfriend gets inebriated and/or mad at you and walks out, follow her out quietly. If the romance of the occasion overcomes you both, go home -- not to a secluded spot behind the potted plants. And someone else's wedding is not the time to propose to your girlfriend. In short, never do anything that will remove the focus from the bride and groom.
After the wedding
Call the bride and groom
Allow some time after they return from their honeymoon and then call to tell them how much you enjoyed being included in their special day.
Writing a note to the bride's family is always in good taste, and is a point of etiquette that is often forgotten. If you met the CEO of a company you'd love to work for, call him or drop him a note the week after the wedding and tell him how much you enjoyed meeting him. And call that bridesmaid or single woman you met, and ask her out.
Enjoy the wedding
As with anything, a little forethought, a few questions and a lot of common sense will get you through a wedding. It's a very special day for your friend and his bride so do your best to make it memorable in all the right ways. Be thoughtful, considerate and respectful and you'll be remembered as the "best guest."