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Learning How to Speak "Guestiquette"

Welcome to the tricky world of guest etiquette, or as we like to call it, "Guestiquette." Wedding planning is hard enough on its own, with having to get all the vendors lined up, picking a dress, and finding a location. Then, on top of it all, tricky questions regarding guest etiquette arise during the planning process. Tough questions about modern-day guest etiquette threaten to trip up every bride and groom. Who gets to invite guests and who doesn't? What do I pay for and what do my guests pay for? The language of "Guestiquette" is tricky - every couple is different and many etiquette rules can vary by culture. Here we've provided you with the ground rules for proper "Guestiquette" and answered some of your most burning wedding etiquette questions. Think of these as your "Guestiquette" ABC's!

Making Wedding Guests Feel At Home

When planning your wedding, you have so many things to consider. While having the perfect venue and ceremony location are an important part of the final product, there are so many other areas that can also make a wonderful lasting impression on your guests. One of the most meaningful ways you can impact your guests' stay is to make them feel at home throughout your wedding, especially when they have traveled thousands of miles to see you walk down the aisle.

  1. Provide your guests with a range of accommodations (single property or family of hotels) that fit most budgets.

    When booking guest rooms, keep in mind how you would want to be treated if these were your own room accommodations. What types of things would you expect someone to think of to make your stay more memorable? When you provide your guests with options, this allows them to put together a winning travel itinerary. Not all of your guests may be able to fit a certain price point into their budget. But with the wide range of choices within the Hilton Family of hotels, you will be able to find a place that fits everyone's budget and needs. This is key in ensuring your guests will be comfortable with their travel plans.

  2. Greet your guests with a themed welcome basket.

    Once you have finalized your accommodations, you will want to assemble a few gifts to make your guests' stay memorable. Wedding guest welcome baskets allow you to share some of the local culture of the location you are getting married. For example, if you are getting married in NYC, you may want to include items that would remind one of the Big Apple, such as black and white cookies, egg cream soda and maybe a free pass to the MOMA. By including maps, some next day recovery remedies, and a few snacks you're sure to get a smile every time.

  3. Create a Weekend Schedule of Events

    Keep your guests aware of what's in store for them during their stay and the schedule of events so they know where they need to be and when. A special note inside of the welcome basket from you is a nice personal touch. Anytime you give your guests a little something extra, it makes them feel special. They will feel like you are having this affair just for them!

Personalizing Wedding Guest Baskets & Welcome Letters

While it's easy to put together a few bottles of water along with a snack and deliver it to your guests staying at the hotel, there are more personalized ways to make wedding welcome baskets that make guests feel special and comfortable such as a writing a guest welcome letter.

If you have many wedding guests who are traveling from distant locations, you may want to take some time to research some fun items to add to the hotel welcome baskets. For example, adding your personal favorite food to nibble on will give your guests a sense of what you like. Enclosing a map of the city with highlights of historical landmarks or interesting things to see or do would be appealing to your guests.

Must-have items that should be in wedding guest welcome baskets include beverages, a few snacks such as fruit, trail mix and something sweet, Tylenol and Tums for the morning after the wedding, and a map with a schedule about the weekend. Remember, the baskets are a token of appreciation and also a way of saying "Welcome to our wedding". Be creative and remember it's not always about how much is in the basket-- it's the thought that really matters in the end!

Here is an example of a wedding welcome letter template:

Dear Guests,

We would like to take this time to welcome you to Chicago for our wedding weekend. We have lots of great activities planned as well as a list of things for you to do and see while you're here.

We have also listed some of our favorite things to do and places where we love to dine.

We are so excited you are here to join us on one of the most exciting days of our lives.

This experience would not be the same without you!

Much Love,
Samantha and Andrew

Places to see:
Sears Tower
Hancock Building
The Magnificent Mile (Shopping galore!)
Museum of Science and Industry; The Field Museum

Places to Dine
Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse
Hugo's Frog Bar
Penny's Noodle Shop (Cheap Thai food - one of our absolute favorites!)
Lou Malnati's Pizzeria (The BEST pizza ever!)

We hope you enjoy your stay as much as we do!

Advice From Real Brides

Couple: Erica & Mark
Married: December, 2007
When my husband and I got married, a significant portion of our guests were from out-of-town. Thus, we found it extremely worthwhile to pay extra attention to making our guests feel right at home throughout our wedding weekend. In order to do this, we arranged for our guests to stay at the local Hilton Garden Inn, making sure it was a location that had plenty to do within close proximity, including ample dining and entertainment options. Also, we placed gift bags in each of our guests' rooms as a special treat upon arrival to the hotel. My husband and I put great care into choosing personalized items for the bags, such as band-aids, aspirin (for guests who indulged a little too much at the reception), snacks, and kid-friendly items for guests who had children. As a final touch, we placed welcome notes in the bags that included the guest itinerary for the weekend, and an invitation to a celebratory brunch taking place the morning after the wedding.

Couple: Catherine & Anthony
Married: Spring, 2007
When planning our wedding, my husband and I were delighted to find out that family and friends from all over the country were planning on traveling to attend our wedding, so we really wanted to make sure our out-of-town guests felt welcome and enjoyed their stay. Thus, when we decided on a hotel for our guests, we made sure it was close to the reception location and provided a shuttle to and from the wedding, as well as had an area to serve brunch the next day. This was much more seamless than trying to coordinate everything in several spread-out locations, especially since we had a large wedding and many of our guests were not fluent in English.

Wedding Etiquette Questions

  1. Of my wedding guests, who gets to invite a guest and who doesn't?

    This is a very common wedding etiquette question with regard to your guest list. Obviously budget will play a role in how many guests you are able to accommodate. The proper way to determine who will be invited is very easy.

    Plain and simple, if you have a couple that has been dating for a significant amount of time or living together, they should both be invited. Where this becomes tricky is if you have a bridesmaid or close friend who is single and they ask to bring a guest. While it may not appear polite, it is ok for you to say you are unable to accommodate this request based on your current situation.

    Make note if you have a friend or family member who has recently broken off an engagement or a long term relationship. If your guest does happen to reunite with his/her significant other during your wedding planning, you should send them an invite or ask your guest directly if he or she will be attending the wedding as a couple.

  2. How should I handle the additions my parents/grandparents/in-laws want to make to my guest list?

    While planning a wedding can be exciting, when it comes down to deciding who your extended family or future in-laws can invite, take a step back and consider the following before you come to a resolution.

    • Consider the total number of guests that your venue can accommodate as this may play a role in determining your guest list.
    • Budget plays an important role in how many guests you can invite. Make sure to have an open conversation with all family members who are a part of the planning process to set the expectation upfront about the total number of guests that you can accommodate.
    • If you have one or more financial contributors to your wedding, it is often hard to tell them that they cannot invite guests. It's a good idea to have a conversation with them before the guest list has even been created. It may be a difficult conversation to have, but once the logistics are put on paper, all members will see there needs to be compromise.
  3. How many different price levels should I offer my out-of-town guests for hotel options?

    It is important to understand that with the economy today, not everyone is going to be able to stay at your hotel of choice. By giving your guests two options, you will eliminate unnecessary monetary stress for your guests and allow them to enjoy their time with you. That's a gift that keeps on giving!

  4. Am I required to invite all my out-of-town guests to my rehearsal dinner?

    There are no rules that state you are required to invite all out of town guests to the rehearsal dinner. While it is a nice gesture, budget and the option of having an intimately sized dinner may be more important when making the decision.

    While the rehearsal dinner is happening, you can always provide a more casual welcome reception for guests who are arriving, but not attending the rehearsal dinner. This is a great way to welcome everyone and thank them for coming. Any nice touch you provide for your guests outside of the wedding day will be considered an extra bonus in their eyes!

  5. Should I invite all the women on my guest list to my bridal shower?

    In general, showers are considered intimate gatherings for family and friends of the bride and groom. Therefore, while you are likely to invite most of the women on your guest list to your shower, you don't have to invite everyone. For example, distant relatives or guests of friends or family who you don't know very well, do not necessarily need to be invited. In terms of out of town guests, it's often nice to extend them an invitation to your shower out of courtesy, even though they will likely not be able to make the trip.

  6. Do I have to invite all of my shower guests to the wedding?

    This is another common wedding invitation question. Miss Manners would tell you this is mandatory. Due to the nature of how showers are planned, most of your guests will already be a part of the wedding day. However, if your friend or colleague decides to throw you a shower and invites people who you are not close to or are distant relatives or acquaintances, you are not required to invite them to the wedding. This may be something which is out of your control and therefore excuses you from inviting them to the wedding.

  7. How do I properly communicate what the attire is for my wedding/wedding-related events (shower, rehearsal dinner, etc.)?

    There are many ways to properly announce the attire for your wedding or wedding related event. You can announce it in your invitation, on your website or directly to your guests if it's a small wedding-related function. Here are the different types of attire and what they mean.

    • Formal or "Black Tie": tuxedo for him; evening gown for her
    • Semi-Formal: dark suit and tie for him; cocktail dress for her
    • Formal Daytime: (worn for any wedding that is before 6pm) black or dark gray suit for him; cocktail or semi formal dress for her Informal Day or Evening: lighter material suit for him; lighter material dress for her

    If you are not going down the traditional route or are opting for a theme wedding, make sure to communicate that clearly to your guests.

  8. Should I provide ground transportation from hotels to the wedding ceremony/reception?

    While ground transportation is not mandatory by etiquette standards, providing it for guests is a nice gesture since many will have already spent a lot of money to get to your wedding and this is a simple way you can make things easier for them.

    You may find that certain hotels provide free shuttle transportation service to and from venues that are close by. This is considered a big bonus. Put this subject on your list of questions to ask your hotel.

    If your hotel does not provide free shuttle service, ask them for a local shuttle service recommendation. Even if you cannot pay for the shuttle, you can provide your guests with the option of booking this for them before they arrive. It will show you care about them and have already done the legwork before they've arrived.

    If ground transportation is not in your budget, it may be a good idea to find guests who have rented cars or are from the area to assist with transporting out of town guests.

  9. If I am having a destination wedding do I have to pay for guest accommodations?

    While having the budget to pay for an entire destination wedding as well as accommodations for your guests would be a sweet treat, it is not always feasible.

    Customarily, it is the guests' responsibility to pay for their own transportation and accommodations. Nonetheless, you may want to assist your guests in determining what package would be the most affordable for them. Having a few options is always a good idea so they don't have to do all the homework of planning a trip by themselves. Ask your hotel what promotional packages they might have or do some research on trip planning sites. Lastly, if you are planning on having a destination wedding, make sure to communicate to your guests well in advance. Giving your guests ample time to make their travel plans will make it easier on everyone.

  10. There are family members who will be at my wedding that don't necessarily get along. How do I help make them feel as comfortable as possible in this situation?

    It's all about setting expectations ahead of time. If you have a close relationship with the family members in question, you may want to offer to take them to lunch before the wedding and break the news to them in person that the family member in question will be at your wedding. Explain how the family member in question is important to you. Ask them what you can do to make them feel more comfortable, like seating them at separate tables, but also tell them that certain situations are out of your hands.

    Explaining your thoughts in a civil manner about why you are planning on inviting the family member will help to make them appreciate where you are coming from. They may not agree with your decision, but at least you will have addressed your thoughts and will have some grounding. The family member should be able to put their feelings aside so that you can enjoy your happy day.

    Remember, avoidance with some of these touchy subjects is only setting yourself up for an ugly brawl. Now that you have "Guestiquette by your side, you will have guidance to address the situation in a calm, collected manor.

I'm Engaged, Now What?

Wedding Planning Advice for Brides to Be

Congratulations! There is nothing more exciting than hearing the four words "Will You Marry Me?" It will make any bride want to take off to the nearest bridal shop and run right down the aisle. Before you jump into that horse drawn carriage, there's much planning to be done, so let's get started.

Planning can be cumbersome without guidelines that show you what needs to be done and when. With the right mindset, a plan of attack and some good advice, you can have the wedding of your dreams with little stress. You really can!

You have now embarked on a wonderful journey with a website that can walk you through the ins and outs of planning your special day with just a click of your mouse. Brides meet your new best friend, providing you with invaluable wedding planning advice, Guestiquette!

Guestiquette will give you useful planning tools such as a wedding planning timeline and budget tracker, advice on working with a hotel, tips on how to make guests feel welcome including a wedding guest welcome letter template, and of course answers to those tricky wedding etiquette questions that pop up as you get closer to your big day.

So now that you're finally engaged, don't fear! Help is just a click away with Guestiquette, giving you advice and ideas every step of the way.

Happy Planning!

Top 10 Tips for Working with a Hotel to Plan Your Wedding

From Samantha Goldberg
  1. Search for a hotel that offers you an easy to use tool to book and manage your hotel guest room block. The Hilton Family's online group booking tool allows you to reserve a block of rooms for your guests, use a guest list manager tool to track reservations that have been made and create a personalized webpage to send out to your guests so they can easily book online. The best part, you can do it all online, 24/7, in your pajamas. And you don't have to worry about calling your hotel because once you make your reservation online, your hotel representative will reach out to you!
  2. When you're scouting out hotels to host your wedding ceremony and reception, make sure to put together a list of questions that are important for you to get answers to. For examples, questions may include:
    • Is there more than one wedding happening here at a time? (In other words, are my guests going to encounter guests from another wedding)
    • What's the policy for extending the open bar if my party is still rocking late night?
    • What's the policy on bringing in outside vendors/caterers?
    • Will I save money if I host my reception on a Sunday or weekday?
  3. If you're having a destination wedding, look for a hotel that can offer activities for your guests while they enjoy their stay. Work with the hotel concierge or your booking coordinator to come up with a list of unique local experiences guests can enjoy and put together a "Top 10" list for your guests. This allows you to sit back and relax throughout your wedding experience while letting your guests enjoy their vacation as well. A concierge can also be a great source of advice for local vendors if you're planning your wedding from afar.
  4. Talk to your hotel representative about any unique needs you have for your wedding. They will often go out of their way to make sure your experience is a special one. For example, if you have certain cultural considerations for your ceremony, need their help handing out welcome baskets or planning a shuttle service or arranging the brunch the day after. Many of these perks may be included in your wedding package, you just have to ask.
  5. Sign up for the hotel's loyalty program, such as Hilton HHonors, and earn points for your stay as well as your guests' stay during your wedding. Then, use the points you've earned towards complimentary nights for your honeymoon or a future vacation. Also, sign up for the Hilton HHonors gift registry program. This program allows family members and friends to donate HHonors points to you for your honeymoon. Visit www.HiltonHHonors.com/transfer.
From Sarah Atilano, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Embassy Suites San Francisco Burlingame.
  1. Once you choose a hotel to host your wedding, the first thing you should do is find out if the hotel provides a wedding coordinator or event manager to assist with the details. If the hotel does have a wedding coordinator or event manager available, they can list out the different responsibilities of that role, so you can decide if you want to work directly with the hotel and your vendors or hire an outside wedding planner.
  2. If you do forgo hiring a wedding planner in favor of a more do-it-yourself approach and choose to have your wedding at a hotel, ask the hotel for their preferred vendor list including a florist, photographer, DJ, band, etc. You can save yourself time and effort by tapping these preferred vendors who are familiar with the hotel, including hotel policies and staff.
  3. Once you have reserved your wedding block through the Hilton Family's easy online group booking tool, a representative from your hotel will give you a call. When you speak to your hotel, it's a good idea to let them know the schedule of events for your wedding (rehearsal dinners, wedding times, and any other events) so that they can offer rooms, transportation or extra help, such as handing out welcome baskets, to make the experience enjoyable for your guests.
  4. On your actual wedding day, if you're planning on getting dressed and ready at the hotel, make sure to let them know ahead of time which rooms need to be reserved and at what time so that there are no surprises on your big day. Your hotel will be able to provide you with information on all of your options.
  5. Speak to your hotel to get a basic timeline of their specific requirements. This way, you are aware well in advance of all that is needed in working with your hotel, including upcoming details such as required deposits and meetings with the hotel. You may want to take the key milestones your hotel provides you and add them to your master timeline so you have everything in one place.

How to Get the Most out of your Wedding Hotel Block

  1. Reserve your wedding hotel block four to six months prior to your wedding date so that you can communicate the information to your guests. Remember that many hotels, such as the Hilton Family, allow you to reserve your room block through an easy online group booking tool that you can access 24/7, eliminating the need to call the hotel during working hours. This will be one of the easiest tasks you have!
  2. Most importantly, find a few hotels to match everyone's budget. You will find that your guests really appreciate having options that fit their unique situation. The Hilton Family offers a wide variety of hotels to fit all your needs, including great hotels such as Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton, Hampton Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Conrad, and Waldorf Astoria Collection.
  3. Design your own personalized group web page through Hilton Family's online group booking tool. You can personalize the webpage with your own background and wedding information and include a direct link to allow your guests to book their room in your wedding hotel block, making it a priceless tool for both you and your guests.
  4. Make sure to clearly communicate information about your wedding hotel room block to your guests such as how much the rate is and when they need to book their room by. Give your guests the option of calling the hotel or booking online, but make sure they know to mention your name and that they don't have to spend the time negotiating rates as this has already been done by you.
  5. Make sure to use all of the online tools that hotels provide to you such as the Hilton Family Guest List Manager which allows you to keep track of who has booked their room. This will allow you to know which guests need a gentle reminder, how many welcome baskets are needed, and your final count for ground transportation.

Wedding Budget Worksheet

Planning your wedding and sticking to a budget can seem like the most daunting task of all - but it doesn't have to be so overwhelming. Check out our printable, easy-to-use, free wedding budget worksheet to start on the path to budget bliss! Use this worksheet as a discussion guide to agree on a budget that makes sense for you and your partner and then record your expenses to stay on track as you plan.

Excel download of Budget Planner

Wedding Planning Timeline and Checklist

It seems like planning a wedding is comprised of a million different details and to-do's, which is why having them all in one, convenient timeline is incredibly useful in helping you stay on top of your wedding planning (and maintain your sanity!) This comprehensive wedding planning timeline leads you through every step of the way, starting from a year before your wedding right through your big day.

PDF download of Timeline

Advice From Real Brides

Couple: Erica & Mark
Married: December, 2007
As a bride, I had so many things on my mind leading up to my big day. Thus, I found the Hilton Family's online capabilities extremely helpful in keeping track of all my hotel details. We were able to check daily to see which guests booked a room and how many total rooms were booked. This up-to-date information ensured that we made the right number of welcome bags and adequate transportation arrangements, and also allowed us to easily double check our RSVP list against those who had booked a room.

Couple: Catherine & Anthony
Married: Spring, 2007
We thought it would be a nice gesture to provide our guests with welcome baskets that our hotel attendant handed out to each guest as they arrived. Each basket reflected our wedding theme of "The Perfect Pair," while containing items to ensure the utmost comfort of our guests! We included unique items such as a pear-shaped welcome note, fresh pears, personalized water bottles, our favorite chocolate chip cookies, a mini first aid kit, luggage tags, and a local travel guide with directions to key places they might want to visit. Our hotel also assisted us in hosting a full breakfast for our guests the morning after the wedding. Since we were unable to personally thank each guest for attending our wedding during the reception, this extra quality time with our guests at the hotel brunch was really valuable to my husband and me.

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