A Guide for Wedding Guests: Social Media Dos and Don'ts

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Thankfully, most wedding guest etiquette is pretty straightforward. However, when it comes to social media dos and don’ts for wedding guests, there are plenty of gray areas. A wedding is an intimate event—the couple’s nearest and dearest have been invited to witness the union of two lives. Just because Cousin Sarah got an invite, doesn’t mean all her Snapchat friends are invited to follow along, too.

Sharing wedding highlights on social media can be fun. Many couples these days even have a designated wedding hashtag for compiling all the entertaining shots from the big day. However, even with these social tools, it’s important to know what is appropriate to share and when. We’ve compiled some top social media dos and don’ts to help you avoid any wedding etiquette faux pas in the technological era.


DO Respect the Couple’s Wish

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In this digital age, many couples are opting for unplugged ceremonies. They want to keep things free of smart phones and Snapchat while they’re getting hitched. There are many pros and cons to having and an unplugged ceremony, especially with the plethora of fun social media tools for sharing the event in real-time. Social media might increase FOMO for those who weren’t invited, but it could also be a thoughtful way to include friends and family who couldn’t make it.

Either way, if the bride and groom have made their intentions toward technology clear, be sure to respect their wishes. These announcements may be noted on the wedding website, in the program, on a chalkboard sign—it’s even acceptable wedding etiquette to have the officiant make a short announcement about it before the ceremony starts.


DON’T SPOIL THE ENGAGEMENT ANNOUNCEMENT

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Social media dos and don’ts start as soon as you know a couple is engaged. If the bride- and groom-to-be call or text you to let you know they just got engaged, keep your excitement to yourself! Sometimes the couple will wait a week or more to announce their engagement online while they privately contact their family and friends. This is not an announcement they get to make every day, so don’t spoil the surprise by spilling the beans on Facebook. Wait until the couple have shared their good news with the internet before you pipe in with your congratulations.


DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS

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Speaking of sharing your congratulations online, this is another area where it’s important to keep social media habits in mind leading up to the wedding. For example, don’t assume that either individual getting married plans to change their name. A bride who is keeping her last name might not appreciate your well wishes directed at “The future Mr. and Mrs. Smith!” in response to their engagement news. If you want to share your congratulations online, it’s a good idea to ask the couple about their names or keep it generic (e.g. “To the happy couple!”).

If you’re not sure and plan to wait until the wedding day to share your congratulations anyway, pay attention throughout the day. Often couples who opt to keep their names will make adjustments to the wording used in the ceremony as well—the officiant will announce the couple as “the newly married couple” or something similar, which can be your clue to follow suite in your posts. Sometimes wedding hashtags can be a clue, too—the bride using the hashtag #BecomingMrsBarnes is likely changing her name.


DON’T GIVE AWAY SURPRISES

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This is another piece of wedding guest etiquette that applies months before the actual wedding. If you’re close to the happy couple, you may have had the joy of being on the inside of the wedding plans. However, with great information comes great responsibility. Be careful not to spoil any surprises for the big day!

Say you got to go dress shopping with the bride-to-be—it should go without saying that you never share photos of her in the sample dress. Not only does this spoil the dress reveal on the big day, it also doesn’t show the bride in the best light. Wait till she’s wearing the dress, tailored to her size, with her hair and makeup how she likes them, then snap a pic. But wait until she’s walked down the aisle to post it, of course.

The same goes for other little wedding surprise—keep things under wraps until everyone has had a chance to enjoy the excitement for themselves. Bridesmaids, we’re talking to you! No Instagram stories of the bride getting ready! Save it for the #latergram. The same can apply to other pre-wedding surprises—invitations, bridesmaid gifts, even centerpieces—think about who will see the photo before they see the real thing in person.


DO BE MINDFUL OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER

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The bride and groom have carefully selected their wedding photographer, who has meticulously arranged the lights and prepared to capture the bride’s entrance down the aisle with a high resolution camera. The doors open, the music swells, and she’s all set to shoot—when Aunt Joanna sticks her iPhone out into the aisle to snap a pic. Getting in the photographer’s way is one of the worst wedding guest etiquette faux pas.

As a guest, consider how your social media use during the wedding might affect the photographer’s shot. Unwanted camera flashes notoriously ruin entrances and cast shadows across the subjects. A dramatic photo of the bridal party taken from the back of the church could be ruined by a single glowing phone screen. If you plan to document during the proceedings—whether for Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook—be discreet and keep the flash off.

In general, always be mindful of the photographer! If a wedding photographer asks you do something, be sure to listen. Well-meaning guests and family members can easily get in the way of a good shot. While it’s tempting to pop out your cell phone while the bridal party poses for professional portraits, this can cause several unexpected problems. If you are too close to the lighting set-up, you may create shadows on subjects who were otherwise well-lit. You might create a distraction for members of the wedding party, particularly young children like flower girls and ringbearers, who may end up looking into your lens instead of the photographer’s. In most cases it’s fine if you want to snap a few pictures throughout the wedding day, but always be mindful of the official photographers—it’s their job to document the wedding, and they’re the professionals! Keep in mind, too, how the crowd will look in the background of the photos if everyone is on their phone instead of in the moment.


DO CAPTURE SPECIAL MOMENTS

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Once you know when it’s appropriate to use your phone or digital camera, do take advantage of the opportunity to document special moments. There is one huge advantage of having nearly as many amateur photographers as guests—perspectives. Even with professional photographers taking thousands of images during the course of the day, there will be things they miss. Whether you capture a sweet moment between guests or a funny picture with the ringbearer, your pictures will document special moments of the event that the bride and groom will surely treasure.


DON’T POST UNFLATTERING PICTURES

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This one should go without saying, but it still happens enough that it must be said: it’s a huge wedding guest etiquette faux pas to post unflattering pictures of the bride and groom online. With dozens (or hundreds) of smartphones snapping pics left and right, there are bound to be photos where even an exquisite bride looks, well, awkward.

Most of us are amateur photographers after all. Even though it should be common sense, many are guilty of posting an unflattering picture of the bride or groom because “It’s the only one I have with them!” or “But I look really good in it!” Not every photo needs to be shared online, and certainly not those ones. Save it for the camera roll or your personal scrapbook.


DO USE THE COUPLE'S WEDDING HASHTAG

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Once you’ve captured these priceless pics from the event, share them in a way that the newlyweds (and other guests!) can see them. Wedding hashtags are becoming an increasingly popular way to aggregate photos on social media. By tagging your pictures with the wedding hashtag, the couple (along with their other family and friends) can easily find and browse the snapshots shared online. With nearly every guest on hand to capture special moments, the big day can be documented from every angle. It used to be common to provide guests with disposable cameras at the reception so the happy couple could see the event through the eyes of their guests. Now, however, these moments can be captured on a smartphone and shared instantly online. Smart phones, digital cameras, and social media have made it is easier than ever before to share photos from the event.


DON’T BE THE FIRST TO POST

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Unless you’ve got the OK from the couple to post whenever you want, don’t assume it’s okay to be the first to post your pictures from the wedding. Some couples want the first photos of their wedding that hit the internet to be the glamorous, professionally-edited portraits from their photographer—not the blurry, sweaty photo you snapped with them at the reception. If this is the case, the couple will likely make their wishes known. If it hasn’t been specified one way or the other, don’t be afraid to ask, or just follow the lead of someone close to the bride and groom. If the mother-of-the-bride or the maid-of-honor shares a pic, then it’s probably okay for you to do so too. At least wait until the reception is underway, though, or even the next day—it doesn’t hurt to be in the moment instead of scrolling through Instagram!


DON’T SHARE ANY DRAMA FROM THE DAY

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Maybe there was an issue with the caterer. Maybe one of the uncles got sloppy drunk. Maybe two bridesmaids got into an argument. Whatever drama went down on the day of the wedding—and with the amount of emotions flying around there likely was some—keep it offline. Gossip to Aunt Carol over the phone later if you need to, but don’t spoil the sweetness of the nuptials by airing the dirty laundry online.

Negative memories about the big day are the last thing the couple wants to see when they log back into Facebook after the honeymoon, so keep it positive (and don’t overshare). Social media can be a wonderful tool for connecting us, especially during significant life events like weddings. It doesn’t come without its own set of recommendations for wedding guest etiquette, though. As mentioned before, it can be a great way for the happy couple to see the event through numerous perspectives and to share the proceedings with friends and family from afar. However, it’s important to know the proper wedding etiquette for social media so that you can capture the special day without being inappropriate. Whenever a couple states their wishes, be sure to respect them. If none are specified, stick to these general guidelines for social media dos and don’ts, and enjoy the day.


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Wedding etiquette goes beyond social media dos and don’ts—for more tips, check out The Wedding Shoppe's guide to modern wedding etiquette.

Credit: Emily Polson for Wedding Shoppe, Inc.

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