Weddings are joyful and exciting occasions, but bringing together a lifetime's worth of people and personalities means that a certain amount of upheaval and drama might occur. Whether it's a bossy aunt, estranged parents who can't be in the same room without arguing, or college fraternity brothers who try to sing with the band after one too many cocktails, it's not entirely uncommon for difficult guests to pop up during the reception. Luckily, there are ways to handle these attendees without disrupting the rest of the event.
Wedding planner Calder Clark makes it a point to always have security at the events she manages. One or two plainclothes officers or security guards ensures that any trouble that might arise will be taken care of calmly and professionally—and, often, without the rest of the party realizing that something is amiss.
Address Potential Problems Early
If you know there's a potentially difficult guest on your list, let your planning team know early. Clark always has a meeting with her bride and groom and asks if there's anyone who might disrupt the day. Jesse Tombs, managing partner of Alison Events, does the same. "Make sure you have clear expectations on what could or couldn't happen, so that you can plan accordingly and think of an exit strategy or back-up plan if all else fails," she adds.
Develop a Game Plan
Clark likes to begin each rehearsal with a gentle lecture, reminding everyone that the wedding is a joyous occasion and to come to her if there's a problem instead of bringing it up to the bride or groom. If the budget doesn't allow for additional security, consider assigning the potential problem guest a shadow. For many guests, seeing a familiar face might calm the situation quicker than the face of a stranger would.
Developing a plan of action is crucial, whether the difficult guest is expected or a surprise. Escort the guest outside for a breather and some water, letting that person gather their wits in a private, quiet place. Help them get back to the hotel and to bed if they've had too much to drink. In some cases, a simple moment of one-on-one attention is all the guest needs. "I like to figure out the need behind the deed," Clark explains. Perhaps the mother of the groom is feeling overwhelmed because her only son is getting married and life is quickly changing. If that's the case, Clark makes a point to sit down with her, make sure her plate and cup are full, and spends some time talking to her. Oftentimes, the underlying emotional need can be revealed with a little kindness and compassion.
"Weddings can be overwhelming and daunting for someone in crisis, so it is best to make them feel at home and comfortable so they are respectful and easy going," Tombs adds. Another one of her tricks? "I find it easy to distract them with a cocktail or a delicious appetizer." Meeting a physical need might satiate the negative emotions that are causing the guest to act out.