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. I have to vent this because while I know what I want to do about this situation, I’m not sure it’s the realistic thing. I don’t expect to figure anything out, and I know I havw time to do so, but this post has stirred this concern in me all over again because it’s very real.

    I’m not engaged yet (though we definitely know we’re getting married), but this is probably one of the two biggest stressors when I think about getting married. One of my best friends, one of my two Maids of Honor (they will be my only party members) was in a horribly abusive relationship with my someday-husband’s since-childhood best friend, who has also been a friend of mine since 1998. We’re in our mid-thirties now. I distanced myself from him when the two started having problems, but he’s still a friend (dammit). The two have since divorced and he moved away.

    If it just would have stayed that way, things would be grand and just fine, but nooooo… that’d be far too easy. I would more than happily just not invite him, but I know it will be important to my FH, and also, he (and his wife, who seems to stand up to him and I pray he isn’t repeating history with) just moved BACK to town and my best friend, who is now experiencing anxiety attacks and PTSD over this, has decided to move away to avoid it… and him. I’m angry that I’ll be missing out on spending time with her because he is there.

    My reaction is not to invite him, but he’s very much like a Cruella and would show up ANYWAY, and/or make a big deal out of not being invited. I just hate that things went this way because I love and adore my best friend – she’s like my sister – and I hate seeing her in this panic mode. I wish he’d never come back and would just stay away and make this EASY!

    Sorry – gotta vent and get this out somehow. Y’all Offbeat Brides seem an understanding bunch. <3

  2. I don’t know if this thread is still live, but I have found myself in a similar situation and I honestly don’t know what to do. I’m engaged and we have started to plan our wedding. My older sibling has gone no-contact with my parents to protect themselves and their own family from their abusive behaviour. Both my parents have NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) and are only nice when they get their way, the rest of the time….well, the words psychotic and nuclear fallout come to mind. I have only recently had the wool pulled from my eyes and am still trying to come to terms with who my parents really are and the damage they have done to me (and continue to do).

    My sibling however has been on a long journey with it all, and has probably suffered the worst of it as the older one. My sibling and family will NOT come to my wedding if my parents are there and I dont know what to do. Apart from my partner, they are the most important people in my life.

    My parents were A**holes to me last time I saw them, my dad especially, and the thought of him giving me away and making speeches makes me feel physically sick, especially as my favourite people wont be there and he doesn’t even seem to like me. However, the thought of not inviting my parents, and all the psychological drama and emotional fallout that would ensue, also makes me feel sick. It would probably also mean other family members wont be invited or will refuse to come because of their blind loyalty to my parents. I just don’t know what to do. The whole thing is making me want to elope but that would make my partner really sad as he has a lot of (nice) family he wants to share his big day with. Has anyone had a similar experience and if so, what did you do????

    • Hi my friend. I’m sorry you’re having drama. How about having a tiny elopement with your sibling and their family, and having a low key party sometime later, like a barbeque? I wish you peace as you celebrate your love

  3. I am so sorry that this happens to you at your wedding. It’s incredibly horrible that somebody would be this abusive at a wedding, but frankly it doesn’t surprise me because I also grew up in an abusive household. Not one with a lot of physical violence, but both of my parents were mentally and emotionally abusive to me my entire childhood, and frankly have been emotionally and mentally abusive to me through adulthood as well, until I cut them off a couple of years ago when I turned 40.

    I really appreciate that you wrote this, because it is validating my boyfriend’s instincts to want to hire a security guard when we get married to prevent my father from crashing the wedding. I have been going back and forth about whether I think that’s needed, because I think there’s only maybe a 20% chance that he would try to crash the wedding and make a scene, but there is a chance and it would really ruin the wedding for me to have to see him or think about him on the wedding day. Listening to you say that you really should trust your gut is very helpful.

    Again, I’m so sorry that happened. And no, it was not at all your fault.

  4. And to all brides with abusive exes, it may be a great idea to heed Gladys Ricart’s story as an example of what not to do!! She was murdered on her wedding day and it was because she didn’t hire a detail officer or security to protect her, or take out a restraining order. These actions might have saved her life.

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