4 Ways You Can (Politely) Enforce Guidelines for Your Wedding Guests

In a perfect world, every wedding guest would know the proper etiquette and stick to the status quo. We would never have to worry about surprise plus ones or the uncle who wears a t-shirt and jeans to every function. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case so most couples opt to put certain guidelines in place to help their day run as smoothly as possible.

Whether you think rules were meant to be followed or broken, you likely want your guests to adhere to them for your wedding day. Here are a few ways you can ensure that your guidelines are followed to a T by all of your guests.

Communicate Guidelines Ahead of Time

The wedding invitation is your first chance to communicate with all of your guests at once. Thus, it’s a great way to start laying the foundation for the messages you want to get across. For example, if you plan to have black tie dress code, make it clear in your invitation suite. 

“It is not uncommon for couples to request their guests to plan their attire based on the location or style of the wedding,” explains Kristy Rice of Momental Designs. “Couples will also request guests to utilize their unique hashtag when sharing images on social media or, on the flipside, they might request guests unplug and leave the cell phone at home.”

Rice adds: “A lovely added enclosure card in the wedding invitation is a kind way to clearly communicate special requests to guests. If your requests are specific and could be interpreted as a bit over the top or picky, providing them on a well-designed card can soften the proverbial blow a bit!”

Any information or policies that you want your guests to be aware of should be included. This goes for your wedding website, too. 

Stick to the Guest List

If you and your partner choose to have a no-kids event, the last thing you want is to find that there’s a baby crying through the beautiful ceremony — or toddlers running around a luxury five-star ballroom — simply because the parents weren’t clear on the rules. That’s where your invitation comes in.

“The etiquette of the invitation envelope clearly explains who is included in the invitation,” says Shannon Tarrant of WeddingVenueMap.com. “The challenge is that many twenty- and thirty-somethings haven’t been taught to look to the envelope for the included guest count.”

Tarrant encourages: “On the RSVP card, add a line that says ‘We have reserved __ seats in your honor” and fill in exactly how many guests you are including in their invite. This clears up any confusion on whether they can bring a plus one or their children to your special day.”

Promote Timeliness

Punctuality is a virtue, but it’s especially important at a wedding. After all, late stragglers risk interrupting the ceremony and creating a distraction or even missing the ceremony altogether if you have a closed-door policy. A little invitation magic can help to ensure that even the perpetually-late guests are still there on time.

“The only thing we ever really talk to our clients about is putting an earlier start time on their invitation,” shares Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services. “If the ceremony starts at 4 p.m., put down 3:30 p.m. on the invitation. This builds in a nice window for the inevitable late arrivals, but nobody knows and everything will be on time!”

Photo by  Sunshower Photography

Put It into Words

For day-of rules, consider introducing them passively through stationery pieces and signage, which double as décor. But, if you find that you have some unruly guests who just can’t stay in line, don’t be afraid to send in reinforcements.

“If you need to communicate items on the day-of, like no smoking or no cell phones during the ceremony, signage is a great way to let everyone know,” suggests Oleta Collins of Flourishing Art. “Also, if you have a program, you can add in a few notes there as well. If you are still having issues with anyone on the day-of, a wedding planner or coordinator can step in so that it does not present an uncomfortable position for you.” 

Your wedding day belongs to you and your partner, so you two get to dictate the etiquette that is expected on your big day. Just be sure that you are communicating and enforcing them fully and effectively — there’s a big difference between a guest disrespecting your rules and one that simply wasn’t aware. 


Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.