How to Deal With Unruly Guests at Your Wedding

Two Methods:Prior to the weddingAt the wedding – response tactics

After months (or years) of planning and making a hefty investment, you want your wedding to go off without a hitch. The cake should be perfect, the flowers elegant and your guests on their best behavior. However, it does pay to be prepared for the off-chance of a guest or more behaving badly, as drunken or disruptive behavior could ruin your perfect day. Sometimes, for reasons only privy to the guest-in-question, not every guest knows where to draw the line between considerate wedding decorum and party fever. And some guests suffer from foot-in-mouth syndrome and manage to say something they really ought not to.

Instead of being taken by surprise at the fact that normally placid Aunt Jean has suddenly developed a penchant for wedding mischief, know how to quickly nobble those misbehaving guests before their antics destroy your wedding. Here a few ways you can avoid the scenario altogether, or at least defuse it before it turns explosive.

Method 1
Prior to the wedding

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    Be clued in as to who gets invited from the start. Invite friends, family members and essential acquaintances whom you can be sure you can trust. In some cases, you mightn't have a clue but try to use what you do know about the guests to help you make sound decisions. If possible, make an initial list of everyone you want to invite. Then, go back through the list and identify any potential problems that could crop up between guests. Possible troublemakers include:
    • Friends and family with a terrible sense of a humor but a conviction that their humor is fantastic. Never, ever give such people speech duties. Keep them in a dark corner somewhere, well plied with groupies to soak up their jokes.
    • Troubled friends/family members. What you define by "troubled" is up to you––it could include someone who has recently divorced, someone who is feeling depressed about being single, or someone who just hates a party, no matter the reason. But whatever is causing their troubles, if a wedding is going to set them off in tears, maudlin recriminations, nostalgically tragic flashbacks to better times, etc., then you'll need to consider whether it's even kind to invite them. If you do invite them, you might like to tee up a sporting friend or family member to give them a good pep talk beforehand, or to hold their hand during the occasion.
    • Tipsy to downright alcohol-guzzling family or friends. If you know that a friend or family member tends to drink too much and becomes just a bit too crazy at social events, you're walking on thin ice. Damned if you invite them, damned if you don't because over-enthusiastic social drinkers rarely see the problem and will likely be offended. While you could consider the possibility of leaving them off the list, it might just be easier to give them a stern talk about staying away from more than the champagne toast and give them a buddy to watch over the sly extras.
    • Exes. Not inviting your or your fiancé’s ex may be the brightest idea if you want to avoid controversy and/or trouble. But if for some reason you feel you need to, then check out How to invite your ex to the wedding for the lowdown on fording off potential issues.
    • Acquaintances or work friends. In some cases, inviting work colleagues or the boss is considered to be the right thing to do. However, ponder or find out what the acquaintance or work friend’s party personality is like in a social context––if they have a track record of getting too wild, speaking out of turn or being a party pooper, you might want to find a polite excuse for not inviting them, such as that you're limiting the party to very close friends and family (that way, no one at work will have their feelings hurt).
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    If you're on the fence about whether your own family members will behave during the wedding, it's a little touchy to assume the worst and fairly inflammatory to make direct comments about your worries about how they might behave at your wedding. You do need to be tactful and yet, you don't want them throwing a tantrum mid-vows or getting soused and falling on the reception marquee and bringing it down on everyone's heads. Think laterally and stay compassionate; the diplomatic approach might be to resort to sideways tactics, such as making things easier for this person, like personalized transportation, an early-home taxi, or a special seat at an "important persons" table to give them a sense of responsibility. Or, you could try buttering up someone you trust implicitly whom you know can control the potentially difficult person or who at least can get them out of the way should anything untoward arise. (See below for forming a force of "wedding guardians".)
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    Discuss the possibility of the unruly guest with your wedding planner or event coordinator. If you're anticipating the possibility that someone could become disruptive, discuss this notion while you are planning your wedding. Wedding coordinators and event planners have plenty of experience handling the occasional unruly guest so if they're aware that this is a possibility, they can plan accordingly by adding extra staff or even incognito bodyguards if necessary. It may be worth the additional cost to keep things running without a very personal hiccup.
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    Consider a cash bar and/or a limited alcohol service. One way to avoid letting people get too nutty is to cut back or reduce the amount of alcohol being served, at least at your expense. While some folks will feel a little down about not having an “all you can drink” open bar, limiting guest’s alcohol intake will lend itself to keeping people in line and not letting their inhibitions or guard down.
    • Be aware that if you decide to have a no-alcohol wedding (whether this is due to religious beliefs, your budget, or suspected rampant alcoholism, is totally your business), you will hear some complaints. However, stick to your decision––whose wedding is it, after all? The detractors won't die from a lack of alcohol in the short time that is your wedding and they can always drop into the pub or a bar on the way back home if they're so parched. You could even be magnanimous and let them know where the local pubs and bars are located, should they wish to toast to your good health post-wedding.
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    Be smart about seating arrangements. This is one area over which you have complete control. And it never does to sit exes with exes or friends who have had a falling out together. Use your knowledge of your guests to make the best choices for seating people together (you can even do a bit of match-making) and keep apart any guests likely to start a heated argument between each other. If you're not sure, ask other friends or family members for their knowledge about who gets along with whom and who doesn't.
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    Allot a very trusted friend or group of friends to act as wedding and reception guardians. In the movies, this is always a solid group of friends of either the bride or groom who picks up the sobbing or drunk number of the group and ferries him or her away unnoticed in a flurry of compassion for both the wedding party and the troublemaker. However, don't leave things to chance. While your friends may know to respond quickly, they may also not know what to do. Talk to your trusted few about how you would appreciate them handling anything that gets out of hand to ensure that it is dealt with tactfully, carefully and swiftly, before it blows into something that everyone notices.
    • Think twice about asking family members to be on the look out for other less well-behaved family members. If this would calm the offender, then by all means, do so. But if you're concerned that family intervention could actually escalate the problem behavior, rely on more neutral friends or carers to help out instead.
    • One good thing to suggest to your wedding guardians is to identify exactly what the guest(s) is doing to be disruptive and be specific about what action you’d like taken given a range of possible situations. In most cases, removing the guest may be the best solution, however if guests are simply being a little too loud or boisterous, simply asking them to “tone it down” may be sufficient.

Method 2
At the wedding – response tactics

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    Realize this––as bride and groom, you will be too busy to be wrapped up in dealing with missing guests, angry guests, crazy guests, or guests with attitude problems. You absolutely must let go personally and let other kind people take the flak and fix the problems for you. Hence, this is why it is important to have some of your trusted party alerted to taking on this role. Some of this role should also be devolved to bridesmaids and groomsmen. Things not to do as bride and groom:
    • Avoid running around wondering where cousins Fred and Sierra have managed to get lost on the way to the wedding. That's entirely your cousins' problem, not yours.
    • Making comments about lateness or rude behavior as part of your speech is a complete no-no. This is a day for happiness, enjoyment of the moment and glazing over at any mishap.
    • Personal mercy dashes to anyone who loses it because they wished they'd married you/hate weddings/wish you'd never sat them next to an ex or a particular relative, and so on and so forth. At the time of the wedding, they are no longer your problem; let someone else deal with it.
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    Forget no-shows on the day. Whether or not you could term this type of guest as "unruly" is debatable but if their absence leaves a gaping hole and causes others to whisper loudly, then it's possibly disruptive and if it causes you personal distress, then it is disruptive. It's probable that someone besides you is worried, annoyed or bothered about this absence. Let that person do the worrying and chasing up for you. In terms of your own response, save that for after the wedding, when the missing guests had better hope their excuse is a good one.
    • After the wedding or honeymoon, and before losing your temper with a no-show, be aware that their absence may have been as the result of an accident, a family death or a natural disaster. All other reasons probably smack of shirking responsibility, especially if they forgot or couldn't handle the thought of meeting an ex, and you're justified in being just a bit peeved.
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    Don’t panic if someone gets too crazy at your wedding or your reception. You've done your best to vet possible issues, you've shored up some trusted people to handle anything haywire and yet, someone still slips through the net and declares that the wedding can't go ahead because they're still deeply in love with you or they're claiming the groom's a clone from outer space. Breathe deeply, stay calm and keep smiling. In other words, carry on.
    • Alert venue staff and attendants that there is a "big problem" that they need to deal with immediately. Briefly explain what is happening, who the person is and ask them to kindly deal with it, as fast as they can.
    • Wink or whatever else it is you've agreed upon, at your trusted group. Set them in action to "fix things".
    • Avoid letting family members who already have issues with the unruly guest get involved. This will only cause to escalate the situation and turn a small disturbance into a possible farce. Either go back to the trusted friends or to staff; the more neutral the people dealing with the unruly guest, the better. If you have someone from outside the party handling the manner, the unruly guest may be more likely to either calm down or simply leave.
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    Take into account the hour when the guest(s) have become unruly. If the party is almost over, everything is winding down and you're about to skip off to Patagonia for the honeymoon, then the harm is probably well and truly passed. If the behavior is more celebratory, you may want to try to ignore it and let them have their fun; it might even be an amusing or (nicely) memorable end to the evening. On the other hand, if the behavior means that the party is getting too revved up and there's a risk of harm to the venue or other people, get help fast to put a stop to it.


  • Try not to take misbehavior personally––someone acting out on your day has nothing to do with you. It's about their lack of integrity and courtesy and other people won't let them forget it.
  • Not quite unruly, but definitely on the rude side, is the guest who claims that they cannot make the wedding but they'll manage the reception. It's like saying: "Can't be bothered sitting through your dull vows but boy, will I be there for the food, drink and dance." That's warning enough already as the their priorities. Ask them to reconsider or let them know that there is only space for those who have attended the wedding.
  • If you know someone could cause a ruckus, don't invite that person to the wedding in the first place. Forewarned is forearmed.
  • Consider a time-out room for regathering common sense. Sometimes a guest may simply be overwhelmed with emotion from the wedding, perhaps because they've just recently broken up with the love of their life or you've just married their preferred man/woman. Who knows what might set a person off emotionally, and weddings are definitely an occasion for it, but a time-out space allows them the grace to recover away from prying eyes and to rejoin the other guests when they're rediscovered their senses.
  • What should you do with guests who still haven't RSVP'd a week before the wedding? This is where those kindhearted and resourceful people you've elected to be maid of honor, bridesmaids or groomsmen come in handy. Have them chase up guests who have still not replied, explaining that you're finalizing the caterer's list and need to know for certain if they'll be there... or not. Avoid being sarcastic or rude; what if their reply got lost in the post, for real? Assume the best and ask the caterer to be prepared with spares, just in case.
  • Think long and hard before inviting many young children to your wedding. If you find their behavior cute and think that they will make your wedding more memorable, then by all means encourage their parents to bring them, but if your wedding is very formal and you would be particularly annoyed by their presence, don't be afraid to leave them out.


  • Never let your relationships with such people break completely just because of minor misbehaviors.
  • If a family member or guest becomes rude, physically violent, threatens to hurt anyone, or smashes anything, tell them to leave. If they refuse, call the Emergency Services!
  • If you have a family member or guest who suffers from a behavior disorder that causes inappropriate behavior, talk to them about what behavior is and is NOT acceptable at weddings.
  • Watch out for children who might be tempted to open gifts, taste the cake before it has been cut. and hide under tables and giggle. Let children know those behaviors are inappropriate.

Things You'll Need

  • A well planned guest list and an emergency response in place.

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