Wedding Reception Etiquette

Wedding reception etiquette matters, whether you're a guest or the main attraction.

victorian proper couple
Weddings have come a long way. Virtually any style of wedding reception goes nowadays. However, a few wedding reception etiquette rules have stood the test of time. Be sure to brush up on your wedding reception etiquette to ensure a happy party for all.

For the Bride and Groom
The day may seem to have been made for the two of you, but as the hosts of the largest party you'll ever have, your first duty is to your guests. Make sure to keep your guests' comfort and happiness in mind when making decisions as to food, music, seating, and other reception details.

You'll both be very busy during the reception, so enlist in a little help ahead of time. Drill the DJ on names of special people to call to the floor for certain dances, inform servers of any dietary restrictions, and ask your ushers and bridesmaids to watch over things for you.

Good wedding reception etiquette has always dictated that the bride and groom greet attendees as they walk through the reception hall doors. With so much else going on, this may be the only way for you and your spouse-to-be to thank each guest personally for coming. Usually, this involves a reception line.

Wait until you're certain all your guests have arrived before entering the party. The master of ceremonies or other appointed person (check this out in advance) should announce you and your wedding party, in this order:
  • Bride's parents
  • Groom's parents
  • Bridesmen and ushers, in couples
  • Maid of honor and best man
  • Flower girl and ring bearer (if you have them)
  • Bride and groom
Now the fun begins. Speeches will almost certainly be made during your wedding reception; if more than one or two speeches are planned, have just the best man make the first speech, then wait for breaks between dancing for further words.

For the dancing, have the DJ or other person call you and your spouse to the floor. (See Wedding Reception Dance for more information.) As you eat, dance, and listen to fond words from loved ones, try to circle all tables at least once for a quick greeting. This allows your guests to know how special they are to you. Be generous about allowing guests to snap pictures; they want to share in your happiness.

By the end of the evening, you'll probably be tired, but very happy, and ready for that wonderful honeymoon you've both been dreaming about!

If You're in the Wedding Party
The bride and groom have chosen you to provide the graces of your good company, and a little support. If you have been chosen as an usher, a bridesmaid, the maid of honor or the best man, feel honored. The bride and groom think highly of you, and in turn, you will be expected to perform a few basic functions that will be a world of help to the newlyweds.

It's good wedding reception etiquette for you to see to the bride's needs (if you are the maid of honor or a bridesmaid) or to the groom's comfort (if you are the best man or an usher). The maid of honor and bridesmaids should be on hand to help the bride with her dress when she's ready to dance, and to offer to fetch some food or drink if she's wilting but is busy with her guests.

The best man can help with parking before the reception, with showing guests into the hall and with making sure the groom doesn't go hungry or thirsty. Believe it or not, newlyweds are often too busy to so much as sample their own cake during the reception. It's your job to see to it that the new couple is enjoying the wedding reception as much as the guests are.

A Special Word to Attendees
As a guest, you have the easiest job of all: Show the bride and groom how much you care about them, and have fun! As excited as you are for the new couple, don't monopolize the newlyweds' time. As they stop at your table, offer a few quick words expressing your happiness and good wishes for a happy union. During dances, give a wave to let them know they're the main attraction. Then let them move on. Unless it is a very small wedding, the bride and groom will have quite a few people to acknowledge and thank, so try to follow their lead and keep things brief.

If the bride previously had a shower, you have probably already given a gift. If not, there should be a table set up for gifts. Don't give your gift directly to the bride and groom. Instead, put the gift on the table or, if none is in sight, politely ask the bride's parents where presents should go.

If you have dietary restrictions, you should have advised the bride of this when answering her invitation. If you haven't done so, don't make a fuss about it. Quietly forgo any foods you feel you shouldn't eat.

You may not get a chance to say good-night to the bride and groom before they leave for their honeymoon. Don't worry too much about this. They know how much you care, and are thrilled that you came. Remember?the day wouldn't be the same without you. Be a good guest, observe good wedding reception etiquette and most of all, have fun!

Written by: Melanie Henson