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Top 5 Major Mistakes Your Guests Might Make

In the course of wedding planning, you’ll probably come across a guest or two whose inappropriate actions, odd requests or rude behavior seems appalling. Don’t be shocked—while you may know the ins and outs of wedding etiquette, some of your friends and family members may not be aware of what’s acceptable. What can you do? Be proactive. Here’s how:

1. Not Sending RSVPs

What they did: Anyone who’s ever planned a wedding knows the importance of a punctual RSVP—from plotting your seating chart to giving the caterer a final head count—it’s hard to proceed without a firm grasp of who’s coming. Unfortunately, some of your guests may treat the RSVP as a novelty rather than a necessity.

 How to deal: Give it a week. After that, it’s time to give them a call. Recruit your maid of honor to help you with phone duties if you’re really struggling with missing RSVPs. Or, better yet, send out a group email (use a blind CC) saying you need to know by [insert deadline] if they’re planning on attending. Keep the tone nice, but firm. Then, you only have to call those who don’t reply to the email (which really is a double-duty foul).

Stop the cycle: Make the reply-by date as early as possible, say, two weeks from the date you intend to mail the invitations. That way, when your guests see the deadline is quickly approaching, they’ll (hopefully) stick the reply card in the mail right then and there.

2. Calling the Couple

What they did: As soon as they received the invite to your wedding, the phone calls began. Guests are treating you like their personal concierge, with questions about transportation, accommodations and fun things to do while they’re in town.

How to deal: Make sure every guest has all the info they need by creating a wedding website. Include a link to the hotel where you’ve reserved a block of rooms, local museums and restaurants, and driving directions. Put together a welcome basket for out-of-towners with the weekend’s itinerary, so no one feels the need to ask you about the wedding game plan.

Stop the cycle: Some technophobes might still pester you with questions. Go over the guest list with both sets of parents, and decide which key invitees, if any, are not likely to check your website. Print out a copy of the info listed on the site and mail it to them.

3. Buying a Non-Registry Gift

What they did: Some guests feel that buying a present from the registry is impersonal. Instead, they go and purchase a gift with a little more, er, imagination.

How to deal: Shopping off the registry can result in a pleasant surprise, or leave a couple cringing. But you cannot be anything but gracious for any gift you’re given. While they’re typically expected, wedding gifts are technically not required from a guest. If someone has eschewed the registry and bought you a present you know you won’t use (or, even worse, they’ve given you a gift you know you’ll have to hide), check whether they sent it with the receipt. If so, they may have realized their gift might not be your style, and it’s fine to return the present. Otherwise, write a thank-you note for the thoughtful gesture, and keep the gift for as long as you can stand having it around (or as long as you have the space to store it).

Stop the cycle: Register at an off-the-beaten path store, like a local museum shop or a boutique home store, that offers unique gift options. That way, the guest can get you something a bit more personal that you’ll actually love.

4. Showing Up Late

What they did: You know how some people show up late to movies because they know there’ll be 20 minutes of trailers? Some guests may have a similar notion for your ceremony. (We’ve all seen at least one late guest stroll in directly behind the bride walking down the aisle!)

How to deal: For those who are really late, ask an usher or your day-of coordinator to hang out near the rear of the ceremony site so they can make sure your processional goes undisturbed, and to have them help any late guest quickly and quietly find a seat.

Stop the cycle: Give yourself a slight buffer for your friends and family who are never quite on time. If your invites say the ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m., plan on walking down the aisle about 15 minutes after that.

5. Giving Unexpected Toasts

What they did: Weddings can be emotional events, and the toasts are an opportunity for your closest friends and family members to share sentiments with the rest of your guests. Those same emotions (and maybe too much alcohol) can do funny things to an otherwise reliable guest, and some may feel compelled to grab the mic when they weren’t asked to toast. Embarrassing stories, offensive anecdotes and rambling rants have all worked their way into wedding toasts.

How to deal: Unfortunately, you need to just grin and bear it. If the toast seems like it will never end, have the best man signal the band or DJ to carefully cut in. The other guests will appreciate the gesture too.

Stop the cycle: Head off unexpected toasts by making sure the emcee of the evening (your DJ or bandleader) has a list of approved toasters. Tell them not to give the mic to anyone who’s not scheduled to speak, no matter how persistent their plea for the microphone.

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