Step One: Receive invitation.
Step Two: Have a mini dance party because someone YOU love and care about is getting hitched!
Step Three: Read this :)
Even if you’re a wedding veteran, use this Wedding Survival Guide as a refresher on how to make sure all of your i’s are dotted, your t’s are crossed, and your RSVPs are signed, sealed, and delivered. If you’re just starting what we call the wedding season of your life** then you can use this as a guide to navigate your first couple of weddings. Here at Uncommon, we know everyone could use a refresher on how to make it the best experience for you and how to make sure you’re not causing any nuisance to the couple. Trust us, they have enough to worry about!
**PS: We define the “wedding season of your life” as a window of several years, typically starting between when you first find yourself immediately turning down any event titled “Kegs and Eggs,” and then ending right around that time when you’re not quite sure if sleeping the whole night on an air mattress would leave you partially paralyzed, but you don’t want to take your chances. During this time, it feels like everyone you know is getting hitched. You start counting how any weddings - Oh, hold on. Have to go congratulate my cousin, who just got engaged! BRB.
First things first: Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there!
The easiest way to do that? Bring the physical invitation with you! This will have all of the pertinent information you need to make sure that your kaboose is in the right place at the right time.
Papa Driver always says, “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.” Let’s break that down a little bit in wedding speak:
Hotel and Ceremony - Logistics are on You!
The first place and time to consider is actually before the festivities officially begin - it’s the hotel! If you’re staying at a hotel, you’ll need to see how the check-in time, ceremony, and reception times coincide with one another. Don’t be alarmed! Just be aware. Most likely, you will probably arrive to the ceremony in the early afternoon (keep the luggage in the car), check in to the hotel while the wedding party is taking photos (most check-in times are around 3:00pm), and then head over to the reception around 4:00 or 5:00. But not all weddings are created equal! So! Consider the timing and logistics ahead of time based on the schedule of the day.
Related to that, know the shuttle route and times, if there is shuttle service available and you plan to use it. This is a great convenience for out-of-towners and/or heavier partiers to get where they need to be safely. Check on this early on - like when you book your hotel! The couple may have a shuttle sign-up or may otherwise need to know how many people will be using the service to coordinate seats and trips, so check in with them on that at least a month before the day. Long story short, be sure to get your ducks in a row ahead of time on this one and build it into your schedule!
The first place you FOR SURE need to be is the ceremony - if you are invited, that is. (Check that invitation you brought along to be sure!) BE EARLY TO THE CEREMONY, PEOPLE! There is nothing worse than the bride waiting to walk down the aisle, her stomach filled with butterflies and her arm on her father’s, and having late guests interrupt one of her biggest moments. Have your buns in your seat at least 10 minutes before the ceremony is scheduled to start!
See Gallery: Jesse and Kimmy
Downtime and Cocktail Hour - Flexible … Usually!
You will most likely have some downtime between the ceremony and reception, while the wedding party is taking their photos.
Use this time to check in to your hotel and freshen up as needed.
New to the area? Do some exploring! The couple may have made some suggestions for where to go and what to do with your downtime.
The very best thing to do during this time is grab a bit of food, if time allows. If you are worried about having enough time, pack a quick snack. It’ll save you from getting hangry if the schedule gets delayed before dinner, which, let’s face it, will probably happen.
*Remember to still be cognizant of the schedule, however. And don’t have too much fun during this time. Wedding days are a marathon, not a sprint! And no one can keep up if they’re already three sheets to the wind before dinner even starts.
If there is a cocktail hour, arrive at least 20-30 minutes before the end of the cocktail hour window. This will allow you time to drop off your gift, grab a beverage before you sit down for dinner, catch the couple for a quick hello if you can, and do some mingling without worrying about being late.
The Party Officially Begins!
This is the point during the day where you are pretty much in one place for the rest of the evening. Nice job, guys - you made it!
See Gallery: Ryan and Kally
YOU as a wedding guest are very important on this day, but understand that this is basically an orchestra of people all playing their own parts in different rooms and banking on the fact that they’re all in sync. What can you do? Exactly what they’re all trying to do! Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there, practicing your best patience and compassion.
Uncommon Team Experience
For instance, Sal was maid of honor in a wedding that was meticulously timed down to the minute. The lovable and detail-oriented bride needed to stop for a bathroom break before the reception started. What started out as a simple pit-stop unexpectedly turned into the frenzy that occurs backstage on any episode of America’s Next Top Model. We had to unlace, re-lace, and re-bustle the entire dress, and we ended up with about a 20 minute delay overall. God bless 'em, but we blame the Spanx. And you know what?! At the end of the day, guests were understanding, everyone had an amazing time, and the couple was - you guessed it - still happily married at the end of it all. You just have to go with it!
Speeches and Dancing: Stick around for and be respectful of the speeches, the couple’s dances together, and the dances with their parents. These are very special moments for them that they’d love to share with you (and if they’re cool with it, maybe get some videos, too!)
Uncommon Team Experience
Janie and Jordan got married last year, and my goodness, were those speeches and dances absolutely amazing! Katie, as maid of honor, pulled together an INCREDIBLE speech that encompassed all that make Janie and Jordan so special, how they met, and how much they mean to those around them. AND she did it all to the tune of a favorite country song accompanied by a live guitar, played by a close family friend! (Heart eye emoji!) And THEN Janie took the dance floor with Papa Driver and tore the house down with their playful choreographed dance to some of their favorite songs. See what we mean?! You never know what's going to happen, so stick around for this part of the reception!
Leaving at the end of the night: Plan to be out of the venue on time, unless you are helping to clean up!
Again, use the shuttle service, if provided, and get on that bus safely, as quickly as possible.
Be Prepared! AKA - Have what you need when you need it.
Alright, so you’re prepared enough to know what to expect at each stage of the day. So what the heck should you bring with you?! Admittedly, this is mostly for you, ladies. Come prepared!
What to Wear
If at all possible, know what the bridesmaid dress color is and maybe what the groomsmen’s suits look like. Ladies or gents, try to avoid showing up in a confusingly similar dress or suit.
Pack sandals in the car
Ladies, we may love the look of those kitten heels - or even sensible wedges! But after a while, most shoes are going to be a pain to even walk in, let alone Cha-Cha Slide in. If you’re able, wear a pair of sandals or have one with you, even just as a back-up.
Have a purse that you can keep on you if needed
You just don’t know which dinner tables are going to need to be cleared when, so your best bet is to have a purse that you can easily keep on your person while you’re mingling, dancing, shaking hands, and kissing babies. A compact, comfortable, and stylish cross-body or other over-the-shoulder bag will be perfect.
What should you have in it? Have cash, a credit card, your ID, keys (car keys if you’re driving and hotel key if you’ve got it), any makeup touch-ups and chapstick you like to have with you, mints or gum, etc. Many brides have started putting an “emergency kit” in bathrooms with these types of things, which is great! They’ll often add floss, feminine products, body spray, etc. Don’t bank on this being available to you, but treat it as a pleasant surprise if they’ve got it.
Don’t assume that alcohol will be free! The couple has dished out quite a bit just to put a roof (or tent!) over your head and food in your belly. That cash you’ve brought will come in very handy if you’ll be footing your bill for drinks. If there is an open bar, use that cash to tip your bartenders! They’ll appreciate it, and so will the couple.
See Gallery: Matthew and Tove
Fun Facts to Make You Look Like a Wedding Expert
There are a lot of terms thrown out on the day of the wedding. Want to look like an expert? Here are a few things to know:
What is the difference between a place card and an escort card? A place card is already at the table, with your name and your assigned seat. If they are using place cards, the couple will often provide a map and/or list of the tables when you enter, and you’ll be able to find your name and table location. An escort card, on the other hand, is placed on a table when you enter the reception hall, often in alphabetical order. You may be assigned a table number but you can select your seat at that table, or you can select your own seat at any table, if a table is not assigned.
See Gallery: Jacob and Kassie
Boutonniere and corsage - The same as they were when you went to prom! The corsage is the flowery wristband the ladies traditionally wear, and the boutonniere is the flower men traditionally have pinned to their jacket. We like to remember it like the boutonniere gets attached, like a button.
See Gallery: Josh and Hannah
Sweetheart cake - The sweetheart cake is something that couples will sometimes choose if they want to have a small cake to cut, but they have a different (and still yummy!) larger cake for guests, or a different dessert altogether to serve, like doughnuts or cupcakes.
See Gallery: Matthew and Tove
When it comes to attending weddings, the name of the game is to be ready and, most importantly, to have fun! Outside of all of these things to remember, it’s most important that this day feels like a celebration that you share with the people closest to the couple. So dust off those dancing shoes (or pack those sandals!), get ready to laugh, and have a blast celebrating those you love!
The Uncommon Team