The Big Debate – is it OK to leave a wedding early?

Rawr – it’s Bridezilla Sara here again!

Today I’ll be courting controversy again and stating in no uncertain terms that it’s never OK to leave a wedding early.

OK, if you’re seriously ill, pregnant (I do have a couple of expectant mothers coming and I couldn’t be happier for them and totally understand if they need to leave early), with a baby that’s too young to be left with a babysitter, elderly, disabled or have had a bereavement you’re excused (please let me know if you can think of another acceptable reason to leave early – as far as I’m concerned health comes first). But everyone else? Young? Fit? Healthy? Capable of staying up until midnight? Let me lay out the argument.

In the last few weeks we’ve had a lot of people ask if it’s OK if they leave the wedding early. Some as early as before the entertainment’s even started. They have work the next day, another party to get to, they’re washing their hair. It’s cheaper for them to leave early than to grab a hotel room. I mean, they will have stayed for the ceremony, and everything else is just dressing, right?

Well, no. Not really.

You see, the problem isn’t that people are being deliberately rude or hurtful – they just don’t understand that the occasion they’re coming to, while just another occasion to them, is genuinely the most important and anticipated day of our lives so far.

By the way – the same principles apply to turning up late. Don’t turn up late. It’s worse than leaving early. 

Why you should stay until the end of a wedding

Forget about the price tag

Now, I know it was our choice to have a reasonably sized wedding (not a big or extravagant one, we just didn’t go down the budget route for everything) and that money is by no means the be all and end all, nor should it be something that’s used to guilt people or hold them to ransom, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t admit that it’s slightly painful to think of the tens of thousands of pounds we’ve spent on feeding people, making the room look beautiful and entertaining them for the evening, all swirling down a big metaphorical toilet because people have better places to be or don’t want to miss a day of work the next day.

It’s like wiping your bum with Willy Wonka’s golden ticket

Imagine then that, due to the astronomical cost of hosting a wedding, we’ve had to be exceptionally selective with who we invited. If someone was invited to our wedding it’s because we count them among the most precious people in our lives – genuinely. So it stings a little bit that months before the big day some of them are already planning an early escape! We kind of feel that, for one day of their lives, they ought to be able to make that little extra effort – take a half day the next day, stay up later than they’re usually comfortable, appreciate that we’ve put in this hard work not to be applauded but because we want this day to be really special!

I’ve heard the argument many times – people moaning that this is their fifth wedding this year, that they can’t afford another night in a hotel, that they can’t be bothered when they’ll have another wedding to go to the next weekend, that they don’t want to take a whole day off work (our wedding is on a Sunday) the next day. Well, if that’s the case then I think the polite thing to do is decline the invitation. I’ve written about whether a wedding invite is a burden before – if the people inviting you aren’t important enough to you, don’t go!

We only get one wedding day – don’t rain on our parade

I’m pretty sure that most brides and grooms only intend to do this once. We’ve been planning this wedding for a year and a half now, and we only get nine hours of a wedding. That’s it. Nine hours of our whole lives. Please forgive us for wanting to soak in every moment of it – and for wanting people to last out the duration.

Imagine you spend a year and a half planning your wedding, only to have people miss the speeches you’ve spent weeks writing, to notice that by 10pm the dancefloor is half empty when the songs you’ve spent months agonising over, the beautiful closing ceremony you planned, will go unappreciated.

Basically, it’s a little bit heartbreaking when you spent months, maybe years planning metaphorical fireworks for your big day, only for it to fizzle out because people didn’t appreciate how important it was to you. Not a nice feeling.

I realise the world doesn’t revolve around us and that people have lives outside of our wedding – but for one day of their lives it would be lovely if the world could revolve around us. Just for the day.

What to do if you have to leave a wedding early

Check your reasons for leaving early. Most people have known about our wedding date for well over a year now. It’s simply not good enough to say “I used up my days off” or “I made other plans”. Do you really have to leave early or is it more convenient for you? If it’s the latter then ask yourself if you care enough about the couple in question to attend the wedding at all. It may be harsh but it’s kinder to let them invite someone else in your place who would appreciate the invite more.

If you have a legitimate reason to leave early and there’s no earthly way it can be avoided, let the couple know as soon as possible (not as a “by the way” if it comes up) and offer to give your place up to someone else if you have to leave much earlier than the party finishes. If it says an end time on your invitation, find out exactly what you’ll be missing. For example, for those who’ve said they’ll leave after the meal at our wedding, they’ll be missing the first dance, the speeches, the cutting of the cake and all the other important moments we’ll be sad for them to miss. Try and stay at least until all of the key moments are over.

Offer a reason – don’t just say “I can’t stay past a certain time” let the couple know why you’re missing their wedding – otherwise it does sound a bit like an excuse and can be quite upsetting to receive.

Don’t take others with you. If you’re travelling as a family or in a big group, it’s vital to communicate and make sure you’re all on the same page about when you need to go. If one of you needs to go at 9pm and the rest are up for staying until the end, it’s unfair on them and on the bride and groom to make everyone leave early for the sake of one or two people.

What do you think? Is it rude to leave a wedding early? Or should couples take their weddings less seriously and let people leave when they feel comfortable? We’d love to hear from you!

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