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Leaving the Reception: A Guide for Guests

When's the appropriate time for a guest to say goodbye?

Contributing Writer
wedding guests
Photography by: Tec Petaja

The couple planned their wedding reception with the enjoyment of all their guests in mind: the open bar, the photo booth stocked with awesome props, and the fabulous DJ spinning records that got everyone up on the dance floor. So they were shocked—shocked!—that some guests quietly left before all the festivities were over. They shouldn't have been so surprised though. Many wedding ceremonies and receptions consume a big chunk of a guest's day—the I dos, the five-hour reception, the after-party that goes on until the sun comes up. It's a big time commitment for people, and as much as they may like to continue celebrating with you, it may not be possible.

 

If you're ever in this situation as a guest, here's what you need to know about making your grand exit.

 

Leaving the Reception: What's an Appropriate Time?

                 

Time it right.

Since today's bride and groom are usually the last to leave the reception (and why not? It's their party!), a guest shouldn't be expected to stay to the end. Assuming the reception follows the typical timeline of cocktail hour, dinner, cake cutting, then dancing, it's generally considered appropriate if a guest leaves once the newlyweds have sliced into the cake and taken a bite.

 

You don't always have to say goodbye.

Did you catch up with the bride and groom during cocktail hour and the reception? Then you don't need to seek them out to say goodbye, just be discreet when leaving. As long as you've already congratulated the happy couple, you can make your exit without feeling guilty. And if you haven't? Read on.

 

Be discreet.

Most couples will understand your desire to go back to the hotel after dessert, but that doesn't mean they want everyone heading out early. Try to find the bride or groom—it doesn't have to be both of them—so that you can thank them for having you and share your warmest congratulations. But don't drag one or both of them off the dance floor just to say you're leaving. If they're otherwise occupied, see if you can find the maid of honor, best man, or the couple's parents and ask that they convey your message.

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About the Author

Nancy Mattia

Though Nancy has been writing about weddings for years, she admits that watching a bride walk down the aisle—even on TV—still makes her tear up. The New York-area writer's other favorite wedding moments are when the groom sees the bride for the first time, hearing the toasts, and when she sees a waiter with a tray full of hors d'oeuvres walking towards her. 

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