If your life is anything like mine, you’ve been invited to at least six weddings all happening within a four-month span, and you’re still trying to plan your own.
And with each couple and their nuptials being unique, questions of what to wear or what to buy or whom to bring as a plus-one can run the gamut.
Esther Lee, senior editor at The Knot, says some of the most common questions she receives from wedding-goers are around gifting and dress code.
Below, Lee shares her expertise on some of the most boggling wedding questions, and offers some savvy ways to stay cool during that midafternoon outdoor ceremony, as well as other quick tips on how to survive this wedding season.
The conversation has been edited for space and clarity.
Q: What’s the appropriate amount to spend on a gift for a couple? Does it vary depending on if you’re a single/dating couple/married?
A: Lately, we’re seeing a range on how much guests are spending, but it’s contingent on each guest and the relationship with the couple. If you’re going to a co-worker’s wedding, your spend might be less than if it is a family member or best friend. We see couples spend between $100 to $400. Overall, it does depend on the number of wedding events you’re attending. So if you attend the bridal shower and bachelorette, then your overall wedding gift spend would be less.
Q: What are ways to save on a gift — without completely forgoing getting a gift — if you’re on a budget?
A: So much of that is about putting a lot of thought (into it). Get a more thoughtful gift, even though it’s not as expensive. Do gifting early, and pick the lesser and smaller items. If you know other people going to the wedding, go in as a group on a big gift, and you could save money that way.
Q: What are some things people should keep in mind to be a good guest during the ceremony and reception?
A: Follow the rules. The couple makes a website for a reason. Abide by the dress code. Be on time. Just be a good guest. Those are basics. Couples put a lot of time into planning their wedding day. We highly encourage guests to be present and be there for all of the wedding and reception. There is a lot of work that went in to celebrate the couple’s love for the day. It’s their journey, and they chose you to be there. Be present.
Q: Let’s talk about those dress code rules. What does “formal/semiformal” really mean? Do you really have to abide by the given dress code?
A: Guest should always abide by the dress code because it really does lend to the space or the aesthetics of the wedding. Formal suggests less fancy than black tie, which is an after-5 p.m. ceremony, usually held in a nice event space with dresses longer in length. Formal is more scaled back: You can wear a glitzy dress, but it doesn’t have to be a gown. For women, statement heels and a fancy clutch are really good for a formal occasion. Men should consider accessories like cuff links or a nice shoeshine. Semiformal means a tuxedo isn’t required. In general, it’s better to be overdressed than to show up underdressed because you can always remove something. Show up looking really good in support of a couple.
Q: Any dress code tips for those attending an outdoor summer wedding?
A: Wear breathable, light fabrics like silk or cotton. For men, consider linen suits. It’s actually acceptable for men to forgo socks and wear boat shoes or loafers. There are portable fans that attach to your phone and operate on batteries.
It’s a nice touch if the couple provides it for the guests.
Stay hydrated. Guests should drink plenty of water the day before, and couples should provide a hydration station.
Q: Are there any benefits of coming to a wedding without a plus-one, especially if you’re single?
A: A lot of singles who meet at weddings end up marrying each other. About 16% of singles connect on the dance floor somehow before they start dating, according to our data, so you might meet your future significant other.
Q: Anything else you think people should know?
A: Overall, the biggest thing, as a guest, is gift off the registry. Follow the rules.
If the couple is asking you to be there, be present, be supportive. The last thing a couple needs is a snarky wedding guest. They need the love and support of gracious friends and family members.