As if you don’t have enough to worry about when planning a wedding, sometimes the guests can become a little unruly — and long before they get to the open bar. Between demanding to bring a guest or being socially awkward, the guest list offers plenty of opportunity to consider eloping.
1.The Debbie Downer: A few years ago at a bridal shower, I was sitting at a table with a few of the bride’s oldest friends. As we oooh and aahed over the assorted flatware and towels the bride unwrapped, I heard sobbing behind me. One of the bride’s oldest friends was crying. At the table. At a bridal shower. They weren’t tears of joy, nor had anyone unexpectedly died. Some guy she’d gone out on a few dates had dumped her, and she was devastated.
Inappropriate, yes, but it was not an isolated incident. During every other event that surrounded the nuptials, Jessica brought high drama. At the bachelorette party in Atlantic City she moped about another guy who wasn’t calling her back. At the wedding she constantly asked if she looked fat in her dress. She never danced. She wondered how many carbs there were in Champagne.
How To Deal: There is always going to be the guest who is going to try to turn your excitement and happiness into a pity party for her. The key here is to deflect and redirect. It’s the same tactic that parents use when children are having a temper tantrum. If she starts in about how she can’t meet anyone nice, mention some of the single men that will be at the wedding – and then change the subject. If she says she needs to lose some weight, make a one time offer to go to spin class with her. At her core, she is lonely and just wants to feel validated.
If spin class doesn’t ramp up her endorphins to get her to a happy place, revert to the other tactic when dealing with tantrums: Ignore her. When the Debbie Downer’s feelings are not validated, eventually she will find someone else to whine to.
2.The Opinionated Mother In Law: Rules of the universe: The people who haven’t put a penny towards the wedding are always the ones with the most opinions. The Mother In Law wants a hand in the seating chart. She has a few friends from work that she would like to come. She doesn’t think that strapless dresses are appropriate in church.
How To Deal: If she seems to want to be involved, give her tasks to do that will make her feel involved but won’t necessarily meddle with anything you’ve already arranged. Let her plan the rehearsal dinner. Let her put together welcome bags. If she’s around for the cake tasting, let her tag along. Obviously don’t let her come dress shopping or to come pick out flowers. Some decisions are sacred to the bride.
Also, learn this phrase: That’s a really interesting idea….and then promptly forget anything she just said. Like the Debbie Downer, the Mother In Law just wants to feel validated.
3.The Bitter Bridesmaid: Years of being everyone’s BFF have landed her in eight weddings in one summer. She feels as if her hair is in a perpetual French Twist, her nails constantly manicured. She will scream if she has to dance one more Horah.
How To Deal: Hear her out. Maybe she’s bitter because being in all these weddings is a financial burden. Maybe she’s tired of constantly traveling. As a bride, perhaps there is an easy way you can help her out. Remember: people only complain about being in weddings because of the cost. Is there someone she can share a hotel room with and split the cost? If her birthday is coming up, maybe you can buy her bridesmaid shoes or accessories, or even a massage at a local spa.
If you’ve asked someone to be in your wedding, you must have a previous relationship with them. The overall goal is to keep those relationships intact long after the reception is over, not alienate them with requets, however small they may seem to you.
4. The Drunk: This guy never met an open bar he didn’t like. 90% of the stories he tells begin with the phrase, This one time I was so drunk…. Nevertheless, you have to invite him, because he and your future husband were in the same pledge class, and he really helped him out that one time in Vegas.
How To Deal: If you have a wedding planner, discuss potential problems in advance. Wedding planners have all sorts of sly ways to keep unruly guests at bay without them even knowing. For instance, the planner may appoint a groomsmen or two to keep an eye on Uncle McDrunkerton.
The easiest way to avoid a drunk is to feed them. Make sure there is enough food served during happy hour so that guests don’t go right off the deep end. If someone has started drinking long before the reception even started, eventually you may have to remove them. The good news is that you will not have to do this personally. Send a groomsman or the wedding planner to get them out of the venue. They should be respectful but firm and should always take away the drunk’s keys. Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings by asking them to leave. Since they’re wasted they probably won’t remember it anyway.
5. The Wedding Crasher: They RSVP’d for one and then showed up a guest. Or they didn’t RSVP at all and now have their whole family in tow. Either way, they are at your wedding. You need to have a seat for them.
How To Deal: There are ways you can try to pre-empt this, such as calling people who have not RSVP’d shortly before the wedding. Tell them to pardon your persistence, but you need to finalize the list for the caterer. If they are still ambivalent, make a note to follow up, or at least save a place for them.
You may also have to deal with miniature Wedding Crashers – kids. Even if you made it abundantly clear that you were having an Adults Only reception, someone is going to show up with their kids. There is no logic behind this behavior.
Unfortunately, some people don’t seem to understand the concept of a No Kids reception, or they completely forget that every head is costing the bride and groom money. If someone gives you a hard time before the wedding about the no kids policy, explain that there isn’t enough seating for everyone to bring their children.
The caterer will always plan for unexpected – both no shows and extra guests. In the end it will all even out.
6. The Plus 1 Offender: She’s not dating anyone, and hasn’t seriously for years, but she would like to a bring a guest to the wedding – simply because everyone else is.
How To Deal: Unless she’s in your bridal party, this is the point in the program where you have to hold your ground and tell her no. Explain that while you want her at your wedding, you can’t afford to give everyone a plus-one. Your guest may foot stomp and scowl a bit, but in the end she’ll be there.
7. The Goth: Everyone has that relative who has a very strong relationship with the avant garde. While different strokes for different folks is a great philosophy for life, it can make seating arrangements awkward. Put them at the wrong table and they might be bored, or they might make other people uncomfortable by their silence and/or facial tattoos.
How To Deal: The knee jerk reaction might be to put the guest with other members of the family and be done with it. If the relative is close to your age, they might like being at the table with some of your other friends. Call them up and find out. Perhaps beneath all that body art is someone who has a sense of humor just like someone else you know, or is also really into art, like one of your bridemaids.
8. 21 Questions: Despite the instructions inside the invitation and group e-mails, this guest needs hand holding for everything from booking a hotel to what to wear. They genuinely want to be part of your big day, they just can’t figure out how to rent a car from the airport…
How To Deal: Above all else, avoid long e-mail trails with this guest. Their questions and concerns will be most quickly vetted via a conversation. And it may only take just one. In a list of three suggested hotels, maybe they would like to know which is the nicest? Some people are just really bad when it comes to logistics. A quick phone call may help quell some of the guest’s anxiety.
9. The Pariah: This is the relative everyone tries to avoid. Maybe they’re confrontational. Maybe they killed a man. Maybe they push Amway products on everyone they meet. You had to invite them and they’ve decided to come.
How To Deal: Do a little sleuthing and find out who has the least amount of beef with this guest. If you seat The Pariah as far away from people who’ve truly been wronged by them, that’s a good start. You can’t control every guest, but realistically The Pariah isn’t going to be a troublemaker, like The Drunk. They know they’re not liked and don’t want to add fuel to the fire.
Like The Goth, it might be a good idea to introduce The Pariah to a neutral party, such as a friend or a family member of the groom’s side that they might have something in common with. As the bride, you can also be the diplomat and make a point to greet them and thank them for coming. That alone should alleviate any of their anxiety.
10.Your Ex: Everyone on the planet is going to tell you that you should not invite ex boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, etc. to your wedding. No good can come of it.
How To Deal: If you insist on doing this, have a very solid reason. Maybe they’re an old childhood flame and there are no hard feelings at all. Make sure to invite them with a guest, so that they have at least one person to hang out with. If there is even a small chance they may cause problems, take them off the list. Very few people expect to be invited to an old flame’s wedding.
[Photo credit: Tallevi Studios]