When it comes to wedding ceremony guest behaviour, there are a few rules we believe all guests should follow. As wedding officiants who have married thousands of couples over the last decade, we’ve seen what happens when guests get it right and how bad it can go when guests get it wrong.

So guests, this one is for you! Read on for all of the do’s and don’ts of wedding ceremony guest behaviour so you can ensure an awesome wedding ceremony for everyone!

PS: All of the lovely guests pictured below are on their very best wedding ceremony guest behaviour, of course! 

Don’t arrive late

One of the biggest wedding ceremony sins a guest can commit is showing up late. It’s a wedding myth that ceremonies always start late. They often start on time, meaning that as a guest, you should plan to show up early so you have time to park, find the venue and get a seat.

There’s nothing worse than a group of guests loudly trying to find seats once the ceremony has already begun. As subtle as you think you’re being, you’re not. You’re disturbing other guests and being rude to the couple by interrupting their ceremony.

Or if the couple decides to delay the ceremony to wait for you, you’re actually delaying their entire wedding day schedule. That might mean vendors have to leave or events, like sunset photos, get cancelled. You don’t want to be responsible for that, so get there early!

Do follow the dress code

If the wedding ceremony you’re attending has a dress code, follow it! And if there’s not a specific dress code, make sure you’re still following some basic rules: no white dresses and nothing super casual. Try to find out from the couple or the wedding party how formal the ceremony will be, or do some research by looking up the venue.

You also want to dress for the season and venue. While you can hope that the couple will provide fans, blankets or umbrellas as needed, you still don’t want to show up to an outdoor winter wedding in sandals or a summer beach wedding in long sleeves.

parents of the bride and groom at wedding ceremony
by Aileen Choi Photo

Don’t try to find the couple before the ceremony

There’s always that one guest who thinks it would just be so great to find the couple before the ceremony and wish them well. They just have to get a photo, give a hug or share a few well wishes before things get started. They say, “Oh I’m just going to sneak upstairs and say hello. They won’t mind! I’m their favourite.” But trust us, you don’t want to be this person.

The couple getting married is busy before the ceremony. They’re taking photos, getting dressed, doing their hair and makeup, and taking care of so many last minute details. They don’t need to be interrupted by you, even if you mean well and you swear it’s just going to take a second.

If the couple didn’t invite you to get ready with them or hang out before the ceremony, odds are they don’t really want you there. Just wait to see them at the ceremony and catch up with them at the reception.

Do find your seat

Instead of finding the couple, what you can find is your seat! Another reason to arrive early for a wedding ceremony is to give yourself time to find a seat. Most couples are happy for guests to sit anywhere; seats aren’t often assigned and you usually don’t have to stick to a specific side. The only seats that may be off limits are the first row, usually reserved for immediate family, the wedding party or to honour passed loved ones.

Sometimes before a ceremony begins, guests will be mingling and standing around chatting with one another. As the ceremony is about to start, the wedding officiant or a venue staff member may make an announcement asking people to find their seats. Please, do so! The longer you stand around, the longer it takes for the ceremony to start.

Don’t be drunk at a wedding ceremony

Here’s a wedding ceremony guest behaviour we wish we didn’t have to talk about. You may have heard of guests getting drunk at wedding receptions but wedding ceremonies? Sadly, it happens. With many ceremonies happening later in the day, that’s plenty of time for attendees to start drinking before the festivities. Some couples even serve drinks or have a bar at their venue for guests to enjoy before the ceremony.

So enjoy, but don’t overdo it. The couple getting married have put a lot of effort into their special day and don’t want it ruined by someone getting too rowdy at the ceremony. Pace yourself and your friends (and your liver!) will thank you for it.

wedding ceremony guest behaviour
by Shari & Mike

Don’t have your phone volume on

We know. You haven’t had your phone volume on since 2012. You don’t even know what your ring tone sounds like! But do everyone a favour and just double check, okay? Because you do not want to be the person whose phone rings or whose alarm goes off in the middle of the ceremony.

Unless you need your phone for an emergency, silence it and make sure any alarms are turned off.

Do put your phone/camera away

If your friends are having an unplugged wedding, please respect their wishes and put your phone, camera, tablet, etc. away. Not sure if the wedding is unplugged or not? Do some digging. Most couples will have this information on their wedding website, on a sign at their ceremony, and repeated by their officiant before the ceremony begins.

While 20 minutes without looking at your phone might sound tough, remember that an unplugged ceremony means you can focus on what matters – your awesome friends getting married! It also means your friends get to see your smiling face and not the backs of your device.

Don’t block the photographer or videographer

Whether the couple has opted for an unplugged wedding ceremony or not, make sure you’re not blocking the photographer, videographer or any other wedding vendor during the ceremony. Your friends have paid good money to have these talented individuals capture their day. Don’t make their jobs even harder!

This means being aware of your surroundings. If you notice a camera behind you, try not to move around too much in your chair. If you’re standing and you see the videographer trying to walk by, step to the side. And please, do not jump into the middle of the aisle at any point!

guests blowing bubbles as newlyweds kiss, wedding ceremony guest behaviour
by Emily Nicole Photos

Do try to limit noise from your children or step outside

We get it – kids make noise. No one is saying you have to ensure your children are silent for the entire wedding ceremony. If the couple invited kids to their wedding, they know a meltdown or crying fit could happen. But you can do your best to avoid it!

Let your kids run around before the ceremony to get their wiggles out. Depending on how old your children are and their experience with weddings, you may want to talk them through what’s going to happen so they know what to expect. You may also want to bring some quiet toys to keep them busy, such as colouring books, or a quiet snack for them to eat. Heck, you could even bribe them with screen time if they stay quiet!

If your child does start to cry or fuss, don’t be afraid to take them out of the ceremony space. It’ll be better for everyone – the couple, the other guests, you and your child – if they can take a break until they’re feeling better. This is why we often recommend parents of young children sit towards the back and on the far end of a row so they can make a quick exit if needed.

Don’t interrupt the wedding ceremony

As best you can, try not to interrupt the wedding ceremony. Obviously, things do happen. In the case of an emergency or another important issue that needs immediate attention, please do interrupt. But if it can wait until after the ceremony, please don’t.

This means no whispered conversation with your bestie throughout the vows, no getting up to leave if you can help it, and no shouting out in the middle of the ceremony. Even if you just thought of a hilarious one-liner that you’re sure will have all the guests laughing, save it for the after party!

Do participate when asked

While interruptions are unwanted wedding ceremony guest behaviour, you should participate when asked. If the wedding officiant invites you to take part in a community vow, say I do. If a ring warming is taking place, warm the rings. And if the couple has asked you to join them in song, put those vocal cords to use!

More and more, couples getting married are trying to involve their guests in their ceremony. They want you to feel engaged, enjoy yourself and be a real part of their celebration. So even if you are not a big “participator,” suck it up and participate for your friends.

young hip and married vancouver wedding ceremony, queer couple
by Kate Paterson Photography

Don’t fall asleep!

We’re hoping this is a wedding ceremony guest behaviour you don’t need to be reminded about. But please, don’t fall asleep! No matter how tired you are, no matter how long the ceremony is and no matter how bored you feel, don’t let those eyelids close. Remember that your friends have put a lot of time, effort and money into this ceremony and they’d like you to stay awake for it.

Another thing you shouldn’t do if you’re bored at a wedding ceremony? Be on your phone. In addition to not sleeping, you also shouldn’t be texting, scrolling, swiping or otherwise staring at a tiny screen in your hands. Not only is this distracting to other guests, but it looks awful in photos and is just rude to the couple getting married.

PS: Couples, worried your guests are going to fall asleep or get bored during your ceremony? Not with a Creative & Custom Ceremony that is personalized to you two!

Do know where you’re going after the ceremony

The ceremony finishes, you clap and cheer as your friends recess back up the aisle…and then what? What are you doing and where are you going after the ceremony?

Depending on the wedding, you may move straight into a cocktail hour, you may be instructed to join the couple for group or family photos, or you may be on your own for a few hours until the reception starts at a different venue. Pay attention to any announcements the wedding officiant makes about post-ceremony plans and double check the wedding website so you know the schedule for the day.

Don’t bring your card/gift to the wedding ceremony

Generally speaking, you don’t need to bring your gift or card for the newlyweds to the wedding ceremony. Assuming you are attending the reception later that day, that is when you can bring your gift. The reception will usually have a designated spot, like a gift table or box for cards, where you drop off your present. Even better, most registries have the option to ship gifts directly to the newlyweds, meaning all you have to bring to the wedding is a card.

The ceremony, on the other hand, usually doesn’t have a designated spot for gifts. So there will be nowhere to put that giant KitchenAid Mixer you wrapped up. You’ll have to lug it around with you and you won’t be able to hand it to the couple, as they’ll be busy getting married or taking photos.

If you aren’t attending the reception, you can look into options to ship a registry gift or give a virtual gift, such as an e-gift card. You could also leave your gift or card with another guest who can bring it to the reception for you.

wedding guests celebrating as newlyweds kiss
above & feature image by Erica Miller Photography

Do have a great time celebrating your friends getting married!

Above all, the most important wedding ceremony guest behaviour rule is to have an incredible time celebrating your friends who are getting married. Do this by focusing on their love and the beautiful day they’ve planned. Enjoy yourself, cry those happy tears, and help your loved ones have a wedding ceremony they’ll look back on fondly!