When running "fashionably late" doesn't work out so well.

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The last thing you want to do is upset a bride or groom on their wedding day by suggesting their ceremony isn't important enough for an on-time arrival. Whether you ended up having to work late, took too long getting ready, got lost, or stuck at one too many red lights, arriving after the ceremony doors have closed can be uncomfortable. Luckily, there are ways to be discrete about your late arrival.

Plan Ahead

Expect the ceremony to start at the exact time the invitation states and give yourself ample time to get ready and out the door. Some ceremonies will start 10 to 15 minutes late, but other times there's a strict schedule to adhere to. It's best to assume the ceremony will start on time; sometimes the officiant has weddings booked back-to-back or the couple needs to squeeze in a portrait session before cocktail hour, so timing is crucial.

Get Guidance

Before you barge through those ceremony doors, look for an usher or the wedding planner. They'll be able to tell you the best time to enter and direct you towards an area in the back where you can sit without disturbing the ceremony. "Typically, someone from the wedding planning team will be in the back of the aisle looking for late comers," says Heather Dwight, owner of Calluna Events out of Boulder, Colorado.

Try to Enter Unnoticed

"If the processional is still in progress, the late guests should be discreet and stay out of the way of the wedding party," Dwight suggests. Allow the rest of the wedding party to make their way down the aisle before you slip in unnoticed. Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas, says, "Sit towards the back, make as little commotion as possible and try not to do anything that draws attention away from the ceremony."

Act Like It Didn't Happen

Gottsman also reminds us not to text the bride or groom to explain why you're late. They're in the midst of one of the biggest (and happiest) days of their lives, so they really won't want to hear complaints about the commute!


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