How to deal with misbehaving guests & abusive relationships at your wedding

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How to deal with misbehaving guests & abusive relationships at your wedding
Villains Poster by Oneskillwonder

My wedding was amazing… but for one guest. We'll call her Cruella. She has a history of unruly behavior, and had even sent me threatening texts before the wedding.

And then Cruella hit me at my wedding… right after the toasts… and somehow she was allowed to stay and eat the cake.

While she didn't ruin my wedding, my reflections on the event are definitely influenced by her behavior, and I ended up spending most of the reception in a bit of shock.

When we got home from our honeymoon, I learned more about the “Cruella Sagas” — I was not the only person she got out of line with at the wedding.

Looking back, I would have trusted my gut and handled the situation differently.

Here's the advice I would have given myself about dealing with a difficult wedding guest, having now been through it…

1. Trust your gut

This is by far the number one thing I wish I had done. I had concerns about Cruella before the wedding, but I let people talk me out of getting a private detail officer, and I dismissed my own concerns because other people made me feel that I was being unreasonable, and that I was catastrophizing.

Listen to yourself, and not the people who don't know your situation and previous experiences.

2. Don't expect good behavior because it's a wedding

I went on the assumption that certain things wouldn't happen: Cruella wouldn't make a scene, and would behave for the sake of making herself look good and give herself something to lord over me later. I was completely wrong. She behaved very badly, and I was not the only person she caused major problems for at the wedding. A lot of us assume people will behave well at a public event for the sake of making themselves look good. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition… or a wedding guest to show up and assault the bride.

3. Be explicitly clear about what warrants asking someone to leave

And don't be afraid of seeming like a jerk. There are some clear lines that the law will have your back on, even if your family doesn't. If someone violates any laws, or even any of your personal boundaries, they are not entitled to stay. That goes for someone mistreating your guests and my family as well.

Let certain people know about the situation and to not just put up with misbehavior to “protect you” from hearing about it.

4. Don't assume that people are used to bad behavior and know how to react to it

Every time someone found out what happened, there was a universal “If I had any idea I would have [insert action taken].” Then it dawned on me: most people have no idea how to react to being bullied or abused, and have even less of an idea of what to do when someone they love is misbehaving. Which leads me to…

5. Designate a point person to deal with badly behaving guests

This is something I did do, and it prevented a lot of escalation from happening pre-ceremony. My best man was the designated person for dealing with badly behaving guests, and I specifically gave him the heads up on what Cruella might do.

If I could have done it again, I would have hired a detail officer and had the best man be the person to get the officer if needed. Even just having a uniformed presence may have helped cut back on any bad behavior, but if it doesn't, there would be zero questions on who to go to when someone starts acting awful.

6. Have a game plan and write it down

While I implemented rule #5, I didn't follow up with rule #6, and I wish I had. If I had written out a game plan and given it to the wedding party and my family, the people I told would have known to go to my best man. He would have known that Cruella had to leave, and would have known how to make it so.

How do you come up with a game plan? Ask the venue what their policy is on making misbehaving guests leave, and write that down, along with rule #3: what you personally decide warrants someone getting kicked out of your wedding. Print it out and give it to family, your wedding party, hired help, and anyone else who might need to know.

Moral of the story: If you think someone may cause problems at your wedding, listen to yourself. Make a plan. Then if something bad happens? It's all taken care of. If not? Now you know how to help make a safety plan for anyone else who might need one during their wedding.

Updated to add

I wrote this so that people who have to endure unfortunate guests for any reason (history of violence or not) can come up with a safety plan — not so that we could discuss who people should or should not invite to their weddings for whatever reason.

I do have two points of consideration:

1. Someone who is disentangling themselves from a chronically abusive situation often relies on other people for a sense of normal.
They are also very sensitive of not wanting to seem dramatic or “victim-y”. Because of that, any invalidation of a person's concerns are taken very critically and personally. Drawing boundaries while you still have a foot in an abusive situation is not easy. I was told by everyone around me that no one would ever [insert abusive behavior] at a wedding. I decided I must be overreacting and that my gut was wrong on telling her she was not welcome. My husband was the only one who really stood by me on how I felt, but having grown up in a non abusive family, he didn't know what to do to help.

The threatening text I received were not of physical assault, otherwise she would have been blocked from entering. That said I would not blame anyone for not knowing how to respond to threats of physical assault.

I was expecting some drama from this person and they did follow through on what they texted, but I was prepared so they didn't succeed. Since they didn't succeed, they escalated. It's unreasonable to expect someone to forsee that they will be assaulted.

2. Stating that someone should have just not been invited is getting mighty close to victim-blaming language. It is not my fault that this guest hit me.

If you ever encounter anyone in this situation, I encourage you to be a validator. Validate the person's feelings about the potential offender. Offer solutions, because the person may not know what their options are. Don't assume someone who's been entrenched in maltreatment just knows what to do. We aren't taught those kinds of boundaries and often need to learn them the hard way.

If someone had just said to me: “What the hell is that person thinking?! Ugh, UNINVITE THAT PERSON” things may have turned out differently.

The more I extricate myself from the abusive situation I was born into, the more used to victim-blaming I've become. There is a reason that people in abusive situations don't talk – they're told not to talk, and when they do, people blame them for being mistreated. Unfortunately the only way out is to talk.

Worried someone will cause problems at your event? Or did you worse fears already come true? What did y'all do to combat Cruellas?

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Comments on How to deal with misbehaving guests & abusive relationships at your wedding

  1. The only thing that makes me sadder than this post having to be written, is the number of people writing below that they have been in similar circumstance. My grandmother was violent and abusive to not just myself, but my daughter and my partner too; she will not be invited to our wedding. My partner comes from an abusive family who are also not invited. It’s a little easier for us as we are not in contact with these people day to day, and we have ongoing police investigations in both instances which (we hope) discourages them from turning up guns ablazing. But we did have to decide what to do with their ‘enablers’, people who would either try to get these people invites/reprieves or at the very least pass on info so they could show up (regardless of how well meaning their intentions that is absolutely what we don’t want to happen). So we came to the decision that we will be honest with people. We are explaining, one on one, the situation. And if they don’t agree, or they feel awkward, that’s totally fine – they don’t have to come. We want our wedding to be a celebration. The last thing we want is seeing guests not having a good time because they’re worried about a grilling afterwards. Likewise there’s people in our friendship circles who are not our close friends (and if I’m honest don’t even like us) who we initially we were going to invite so as not to leave anyone out. But knowing that they will only be coming to snoop and be being all judgey/snarky left us stressed. So they have gone off the guest list too. It’s a shame, and it may seem harsh, but this is our wedding day and we only want people who love and support us there. Anyone who could put negativity onto it, unfortunately, hasn’t made the cut.

    I hope things are better now Anonymous. Focus on the happy moments you had, don’t let one person’s actions dampen your wedding day memories <3

    • I want to THIS your comment about a billion times.

      There were several people with a history of violence that were not invited, and we explained the situation to everyone who may be an enabler, including Cruella. There was no getting around her not knowing “abuser x” was not invited, and I felt that transparency was the most important thing: let people know, and let them decide for themselves if they want to come or not.

      Unfortunately, Cruella decided that if I was going to make them (the abuser she was upset I didn’t invite) look bad, she would try to make me look bad. I wasn’t able to put all the pieces together until after the fact. I urge you to be cautious and have a safety plan anyway. Some enablers are slippery as heck.

      Wishing you all the best. I’ve found the wedding to be one of the most rapid, effective social filters I’ve ever experienced, even though it was painful.

      • When people behave that way it convinces me they must be very unhappy people inside. There’s no reason for someone at peace with themselves and with life, to behave that way – especially ‘on behalf’ of others. Still, understanding that it is not specifically about you doesn’t take away the pain of their actions.

        I’m definitely going to take your advice on board and have a plan in place. We have one photo of each person connected to the police investigations, for identification purposes. I’m going to discreetly hand copies to the ushers so they know who is not permitted into the ceremony. It’s the best I can do, I just hope that those who are invited understand the severity of enabling them and urge them to stay away. I’m also going to add a ‘game plan’ into our wedding manuals that the wedding party will get. hopefully that will be the best damage control we can muster.

        Wishing you all the best too. Huge hugs x

  2. My BIL’s wife did not come to our wedding (my BIL came only for the ceremony) because of a family feud which she was the centre of. We invited her and we wanted her to come (and we even made it clear that we wanted her to come). We were pretty nervous about her coming though (she has treated my husband pretty terribly in the past).

    If she had shown up she would have sat with my in-laws since she is better behaved around them then around other people. If she did show up we had a point person (if I was a bit more level headed at the time I would have picked a different person because the person I picked out have probably escalated things and not de-escalated things). Also a number of people knew about her past behaviours so they were on the lookout (my aunt actually approached our MC to ask if my SIL was at our reception).

    I am glad my SIL didn’t show up since she admitted that she would have drawn attention and caused drama (even if it wasn’t intentional – even if she was on her best behaviour her presence would have resulted in drama because of the things she has done in the past). It would have been way more stressful for me and my husband. There were things that people didn’t tell me throughout the day to remove me from the situation of dealing with her which I was thankful for. The biggest one was that my SIL had to go to work that day. On one hand at least I would have known she wasn’t showing up but on the other hand it would upset me since it meant that she had no intention of coming to our wedding and she made us jump through hoops in the hope she would come knowing that.

    Since our wedding we have worked on our relationship with my BIL and his wife and things are much improved. She even recognizes how her behaviour affected my husband.

  3. So freaking awful that someone hit you on your wedding day…I can’t even imagine how that must have been and how you must have felt. But I’ve very glad to hear that she didn’t manage to ruin your day for you and your loved ones. Thank you for sharing; hopefully some good can come of this by way of others learning from your unfortunate (that’s the understatement of the century!!!) situation and applying it to potential trouble makers at their wedding. Cruella will get what she deserves!!! You can hit her back at her wedding (just kidding!!!). 🙂

  4. Bookmarking this for a family wedding later in the year… Not mine, or my relative, but I can see this coming in handy. Hopefully it won’t have to be used, but thank you for writing it.

  5. I don’t anticipate there being any problems at my wedding, but I think having a plan like you suggest is a good idea anyway. I think I might circulate pictures through my bridal party of people who are not invited and should not be there under any circumstances, just in case. It’s really sad that there’s no day off from persistent toxic relationships. Lots of hugs your way.

  6. mother in law acted up terribly the week before our wedding, and really ramped it up the day before. She didn’t do anything over the top at the wedding (besides wearing white/not looking at me when I walked down the isle and not talking to anyone at the wedding (which might have been a good thing)). He behavior hangs like a shadow over the day even though everything else was great. We don’t talk to her anymore…she still looms in the background:(

    • How awful. I’m glad you’ve done what you need to do to keep your life nontoxic. Now you know how not to act if you have a son one day. I continue to be amazed at how many women act like infantile fools when some woman dares take their little baby boy away. Frankly, they act like jilted lovers, and it’s creepy.

  7. This ! Thank you for sharing, I have been trying to come up with ideas to be prepared in a worst case/similar scenario. Your list made it dawn on me that I have people I can rely on in such situations.

    All the best to you Anonymous !

  8. Loved one or not, the moment she acted up and hit you. She was done! I would not have allowed her there after the way she acted before the wedding. It’s not hard for me to remove toxic people from my life. I don’t allow myself to be bullied, but I won’t partake in childish drama either.

    • I think it’s really awesome that you’re able to take good care of yourself with boundaries. If someone around you seems disempowered in that area please teach them.

      Most people who end up in situations like this have been gaslit for most of their lives. They may be fighting their way out of a situation or not know there are alternatives. For example, it simply did not occur to me to yell at Cruella or hit her back, because past experience taught me that doing so would label me “histrionic” and that walking away quietly and cutting her off would be mentally and physically safest for me. There would be no way for anyone to twist the scenario to say that I caused the scene even though she did hit me.

      To put a point on it: I have actually been complimented for “taking the high road”. I don’t know how I feel about that.

      What are some things you’ve found effective in dealing with people who have to be cut off? What has worked for you?

  9. My daughter is getting married in December. My sister in law has always thrived on drama and being the center of “bad” attention. She has not spoken to us in 6 months because she didn’t like something I said (she would have found ANYTHING to be mad about at the moment – I just happened to be the scapegoat that time). It has caused division in my hubby’s family because his mom (my MIL) chooses to stay away from us so she doesn’t upset her spoiled brat daughter. We are seriously considering whether to invite the sis-in-law to this wedding. She doesn’t deserve to come, that’s for sure. But more importantly, we are concerned that she will cause a scene because it isn’t all about her. My husband is torn between protecting his daughter’s special day and causing more issues in his family. My daughter feels the same way. Any suggestions?

    • I wouldn’t invite her. If it seems like there will be drama regardless, it’s better to have it before the wedding than on your daughter’s wedding day. Good luck!

    • You, your husband, and your daughter are concerned she’ll start a scene? Listen to yourselves! Don’t invite her.

      You are not responsible for any issues she may cause your husband’s family. Not inviting her is an appropriate reaction to her behavior.

      You know how I know this? Because not just one, but THREE of you feel icky about it. If one is enough, then three is a big red warning sign with sirens and flashing lights.

      Trust yourselves. If you do end up inviting her, have a safety plan.

      Good luck.

  10. Awesome information shared!! My wedding was this past May and my situation was very close to a lot of the responses. I have an older “sister from hell”. Up until my early 30’s, she had found ways to try physically abuse me. I moved to another State. She turned her abuse toward other people including stalking them, throwing hot oil on someone at a football game, being banned from entering the high school without a police escort…. (she never served jail time, just probation each time, go figure! she knows the system well). The close relatives dealt with her with a long spoon but still invited her to family events and holidays. She turned on her children TWO times and kicked them out leaving my mother to take care of them. The final time of her fall out with her son a year ago, he moved in with my mother and she declared war on my mother by not talking to her. I only talked to my sister if I saw her when I was home visiting for maybe 2 minutes if that.

    My soon to be mother-in-law was also an issue! She insists on being the center of attention at any cost! She would cause a scene if necessary and try to pull the “I’m the mother and that’s my son” entitlement card. Or claim that she is sick and needs to leave right at that second. Interestingly enough, she does not like or believe in daughter-in-laws and thinks that she should be addressed as Mrs… instead of mom; unless she birthed you….

    Well, true to form of all abusive/controlling people, on Christmas my sister suddenly texted everyone (aunts, uncles, cousins) except my mother and I and told them that she had decided that she was not talking to anyone in my immediate family anymore, no reason given, but a typical move. They tried Easter and Mother’s day to invite her but got the same nasty text response.

    Now, during this time I was back and forth deciding if I should invite her or my husbands mother to the wedding because I got a lot of inquires and everyone in my family was going to come. It was the question of the century that was constantly asked to me….along with comments like they wanted to be sat with their backs against the wall so that they could see my sister’s every move! Personally, I was thinking she could sit outside in the courtyard the entire time if she showed up….

    For a lot of family related reasons we did invite them to the wedding. As a lot of people posted, it is a complicated decision to make; especially if it is a family member and you were raised to be family oriented. Regardless of their behavior. It’s not an easy decision and it comes with emotional ups and downs.

    My mother-in-law was claiming that flying would take a toll on her for days. We took that opportunity to not mention the wedding again to her and happily embrace that she was not coming. At first my sister told me that she had other plans on that date… I thought there truly is a God, I got rid of both of them!!! but then directly after her Mother’s day rant with my family, true to nut case fashion in stirring things up, she sent in her RSVP to my family that she is not talking to, saying that she will in fact attend my wedding….Did I mention that God does have a sense of humor? This is when I told her in the most harsh, clear and serious way that it is MY wedding and it is a FAMILY celebration as well as MY MOMS special day and if she is gonna be nasty or start anything she will come up missing….quickly!!! Now this is a hit or miss option to give my sister because she loves to physically fight but my additional comment about law enforcement guest and family members being at the wedding might have persuaded her decision. She came. My awesome husband and son made sure that they took time and danced with her and she made sure that she didn’t give any dirty looks/comments and mingled with other guest that haven’t seen her in years.

    My outcome was great because I had plenty of people in place to remove her swiftly if necessary! Big Kudos to the author of this original article. She knew her limits and personal beliefs and had to deal with it as it came. It’s not an easy subject to deal with but I do know me and If someone….anyone ….had hit me….at anytime or place….this personally would have been a post about how I ended up in jail on my wedding day!

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