Congratulations! Your presence has been requested at yet another summer wedding that you’re half-dreading and half-eager about because you’re guaranteed at least one slice of cake. I got married last summer, and if it taught me anything, it’s that there’s a dizzying set of rules wedding guests seem blindly unaware of. (Here’s a bonus one before we get into it: Do not tell the bride or groom you’re “disappointed” you don’t get more than a plus one, and especially don’t tell them as much when they’re holding a knife to cut the cake.) So, no more excuses! Here, for your educational pleasure, is the definitive rule book for being a good—or at least not wholly terrible—wedding guest.


At my wedding, guests seemed intent on driving me insane by standing up to take photos as my partner and I exchanged vows and rings, as if we hadn’t just asked them not to stick their phones out in front of the professional on whom we’d spent thousands of our hard- earned dollars to perform that very service. Worse, maybe, was when my mother demanded that I take selfies with a series of family members whose names I didn’t know while our photographer continued to try to take photos of me and my new husband—photos that, again, we were paying piles of money for. So, please, avoid bringing your phone anywhere near the couple if they are agitated; they will gladly share professional shots of the festivities with you after the whole mess is over. Unless, of course, you are my mother, in which case your camera roll is the priority.


I’m sure you, too, have some decorative cherry-pit bowls sitting in your linen closet that you want to regift, but cash is king.


Is the chicken kind of dry? Do you find the decor tacky? Does the bride look like she’s being swallowed whole by her wedding lehenga, with yards of crinoline eating up her little chicken legs? Say as little as possible. I once went to a wedding during which the bride and groom did a choreographed dance to K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life” that ended with her sitting on his lap. Both of them had glitter in their hair. When they came over to our table to ask us what we thought, do you know what my entire family did? We lied like the dignified trash we are. Even if the wedding is an affront to your tastes, learn how to mask your feelings so that less discerning people can enjoy themselves. And, to be clear, I don’t mean you have to lie the day of the wedding—I mean you have to lie for the rest of your life.


A reception without a fun drunk lunatic is terrifically dull. Someone at the wedding has to be a disaster, and while I imagine you don’t want it to be you, it might, in some cases, have to be you. If you’re a casual acquaintance, it’s best to keep your drunkenness inconspicuous while also luxuriating in a (hopefully) open bar. But if you are in the bridal party, a non-estranged family member or a best bud, it is practically your duty to drink seven shots and get very weird. A good wedding has a good story, and a good story includes a drunk person wearing a tie in- correctly. At my wedding, my brother gave a toast in which he somehow managed to mention my vagina more than once, and then he and I got into a full-on shoving match on the dance floor. From anyone else, this would be unforgivable; from my brother, however, it’s a delightful story that I can tell for generations to come, and it’s also ammunition that I can store away to use the next time I need to get angry with him, which is probably—wait, let me check the date—quite overdue, actually. Thanks for reminding me.†


This article first appeared in the June 2019 issue of ELLE Canada.