{Wedding}: Invitation Etiquette & Appropriate Attire, a Note to Twenty-somethings

I’m perplexed. This past Saturday my baby cousin married his lovely bride. It was lovely. They were lovely. But there was a problem. Two problems actually. Neither of which was their doing. The first:

There seems to be a serious lack of understanding with regards to wedding invitation etiquette in the 26 and under demographic (rather, I HOPE it is a lack of understanding and not one of purposeful dismissal).

If an invite is addressed to You and Guest, then you may bring a guest. ONE guest. This person is typically a date. If, however, the invitation is addressed to you and you alone – meaning only your name is inked with no “and Guest” – then you are not to invite anyone. That RSVP for the reception is not an open invitation for you to bring along your BFF and entourage. And that RSVP by date is not a suggestion. It’s a respectful request for you to comply so they know how many seats and tables to reserve and how much food to order. I feel the need to provide clarity here because this very thing happened to my cousin and his wife. They knew the rules because they were taught by their parents which is how we typically learn social convention. But there is an incredible lack of appropriate behavior with regards to weddings in the younger set. (Yes I am fully aware that there are young twenty-somethings who know and understand the rules. Please instruct your friends.) My family was rightly befuddled by the fact that some friends and acquaintances were RSVP’ing for more people than the invitation was addressed.

A wedding is expensive whether it costs $10,000 or $30,000. It may seem like you are just the cost of a dinner but it is so much more.  It’s the chair on which you sit. Your place at the 60″ table. The linens on the table. The napkin you lay in your lap. The utensils with which you eat. The food on the plate. The plate. The container  in which the food was brought to the venue. The glass. The drink. The decorations on the table. And the truck that delivered it all.  All of these things cost money. They are either purchased or rented. I guarantee the couple spent more money to have you there than you did on their gift. Be respectful of the fact that they wanted you to share in their day because they didn’t have to invite you.

News flash: it isn’t about you.

Never put the bride or groom in the position of having to accommodate your selfishness.  This is their wedding not yours.

And while we’re on the subject of being respectful, please know how to properly dress for a wedding. It is a wedding not a club. Let me emphasize again: wedding…not clubbing. Please don’t confuse the two. Save those strapless mini dresses for the club as they are not appropriate for a wedding. Especially if the wedding is held in a church or chapel. Your dress should hit no shorter than just above the knee – not 8 inches above it. If the wedding is after five, then you need to step up the attire to a more formal style. I know many people don’t own after five attire which is why black is your friend. Black always works regardless of time of day. This is what we did for my mother and it worked beautifully. A black shift or day dress has more mileage than anything else in your closet.

And fellas, khakis or jeans with a polo or tee-shirt is also not appropriate. If you don’t own a suit, at least wear pants and a button down shirt. You don’t have to spend loads of money. If you don’t own a pair of black pants and a button down, then you need to go shopping because that is a basic uniform for many social occasions and you’re going to need it. You’re an adult not a fourteen year old boy.

If you are asked to be in a photo with the bride and groom (and you learn of this before the wedding), think very carefully about what you choose to wear. My cousin and his wife wanted a photo with close family members and I nixed my dress at the last minute when I found out. Why? Because of color. The dress I was going to wear was bright blue which would have made me really stand out from everyone in the photo. Again, it’s not about us the attendees, it’s about the bride and groom. They should be the focal point in their photos which is why I instead chose to wear a black and silver lace skirt and garnet top. Much more subdued so that I would remain in the background as I should be.

And I wouldn’t want to leave out photographers. I’ve been to two weddings this year and thus far we are two for two on inappropriate photographer dress. Let’s keep this simple:

No to jeans and a t-shirt. No to flip flops and tank tops (yes that really happened).

Just because you are working does not mean you get to dress like you’re hitting the pool. It is still a wedding. No one, and I mean no one, should be noticing you. People WILL notice if you’re dressed in the aforementioned attire. Do not distract with your clothing. You are supposed to fade into the background much like stage hands at a theater performance. Professional photographers have a “uniform”. It’s different for each but all black (pants + top) is quite common and looks professional.

Let’s remember that a wedding is foremost about the two people standing up before their family and friends pledging their love and life to one another.  It isn’t about you or me.


Please feel free to share your wedding stories in the comments. This is about educating people not bashing so let’s be respectful and appropriate with our commentary.



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