Wedding Guest or Critic? Why We Judge Our Friends' Weddings

Nobody wants judgy guests at their wedding.
Nobody wants judgy guests at their wedding. See pictures of bridezillas.
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Everyone can be judgmental. Perhaps you once bashed a random stranger's style, or maybe you've always looked down on your best friend's taste in movies. The point is all of us at one time or another have turned up our nose at something (or someone). Some argue that it's human nature to judge others, and regardless if our bias stems from insecurity, a twinge of jealousy, an overblown superiority complex or maybe even an accurate observation, people tend to be way too judgmental about weddings.

So what's all the fuss about? Many women have been fantasizing about their wedding day since they were very young. Sure, most of us just want to meet a nice partner, get married and live happily ever after, but weddings are about more than true love and "I do." Many consider nuptials to be social status symbols, and regardless if you're getting married in a care-free Vegas wedding -- Elvis impersonators and all -- or plan to be wed in an expensive, elaborate ceremony followed by a formal ballroom reception, some wedding guests will likely be more critical than supportive.


So what makes a respectable adult morph into an opinionated wedding critic the moment he or she hears "Here Comes the Bride?" There are many factors that cause us to judge others' weddings, but the good news is we can stop before the next ceremony. So if you've gossiped about a friend's wedding choices in the past, don't worry; you're not alone. Over the course of this article, we'll not only help you understand why we do it, but how we can stop judging friends' weddings.

Check out the next page to learn how judging a friend's wedding is related to your survival instinct (yes, seriously).


Why Do We Judge?

When people judge, they're often comparing themselves to another person. Some experts believe this tendency is ingrained in us as a survival technique. Every living creature in the wild lives and dies by its ability to discern what is safe and beneficial, be it food or a potential mate. It's only natural, therefore, that we compare ourselves with the competition, and by judging other's weddings, we allow ourselves to feel good about our own important life decisions. For example, if you allow yourself to negatively judge the details of a friend's elaborate ceremony, you can subconsciously justify lingering feelings of guilt or regret about spending a lot of money on your own nuptials. After all, the average couple spends more than $20,000 on their one-day affair, and buyer's remorse is not uncommon for a wedding day that comes and goes so quickly.

It's important to remember, however, that although we may all be running in the rat race, we're no longer competing for our own survival. Since most couples spend a great deal of time, energy and money making their wedding picture-perfect, the personalized details of the event are true reflections of their personal style. Therefore, when we're judging a friend's nuptials, we're judging the friend as well as the wedding.


Of course, thanks to that good-old survival instinct we were just discussing, we can't help but compete with each other. We're competitive by nature, and most of us like to assume that we can do something better than the next person, including throwing the perfect wedding.

According to Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School, when we judge another person, rivalry plays a role. She says, "If you feel that someone is competing with you, you instinctively assume they're a bad person." While judging a friend and their wedding choices might be unintentional and momentarily gratifying, these negative thoughts aren't going to make you feel any better about yourself in the long run. They're also not going to do anything but harm the relationship you share with your friend, even if she never finds out about your silent critiques.


Is It Possible to Stop Judging Others?

Judging is part of our DNA.
Judging is part of our DNA.
Marili Forastieri/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Since competition and a reliance on judgment is part of our human DNA, it's unrealistic to try to stop judging people altogether. However, there are limits. If you catch yourself making the stink eye or mentally mocking your friend's wedding dress as she walks down the aisle, do what you can to curtail these hurtful thoughts. The next time you're a guest at a friend's wedding, for example, switch gears and force yourself to focus on the positives instead of the negatives.

You might feel the urge to judge your friend for playing heavy metal at her reception, for example, but even though loud rock wouldn't have been your decision, try to remember that it's her day. Celebrate and embrace who she is, not who she is not.


We know; it's hard not to judge. Sometimes it's downright impossible to keep nagging, smug thoughts about a friend's cheesy wedding DJ or tacky color scheme from entering your mind. But weddings would be incredibly dull if every bride wore the same gown, every couple played the same music and every wedding cake tasted the same. Different cultures, traditions and tastes keep our nuptials interesting, and regardless if a bride and groom attempt to be unique and stray from the norm or they do everything they can to adhere to established wedding standards, you're not doing them, or yourself, any favors by picking apart their choices. If you were in charge, could you have done it better? Maybe. Does it matter? Not at all.

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  • Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin. "Reviewing Applicants: Research on Bias and Assumption." 2006. (Aug. 18, 2011)
  • Goldstein, Elisha. "Seeing the Person: 4 Steps to End Judgmental Thoughts." Huffington Post. Nov. 6, 2010. (Aug. 17, 2011)
  • Krakovsky, Marina. "Mixed Impressions: How We Judge Others on Multiple Levels." Scientific American. Jan. 27, 2010. (Aug. 17, 2011)
  • Melina, Remy. "Positive Thoughts May Help Treat Depression." Live Science. Aug. 4, 2011. (Aug. 30, 2011)
  • Post, Emily. "Guests." Emily Post. (Aug. 16, 2011)
  • ---. "The Good Guest's Pledge." (Aug. 16, 2011)
  • Red Orbit. "Even Toads Are Picky About Their Mates." Jan. 6, 2010. (Aug. 30, 2011)
  • Ritter, Melissa. "What's Up With All the Wedding Hoopla?" Psychology Today. Apr. 13, 2011. (Aug. 17, 2011)
  • Rufus, Anneli. "Who Are We to Judge?" Psychology Today. May 14, 2009. (Aug. 30, 2011)