For most couples, finalizing the guest list can feel like navigating a minefield filled with potential emotional explosions. Divorced parents, squabbling siblings, and contentious relationships all make planning a drama-free wedding a huge challenge for brides and grooms. So in today’s edition of “Ask a Real Bride,” we’re sharing tips for how to handle those wedding guests who don’t “play well with others.”
Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, and in an effort to avoid any future drama for our advice-giving brides, I’ve withheld names and changed any identifying details (without altering the spirit of their answers).
Don’t Feel Pressure to Strike a Peace Deal
It’s tempting to want to resolve whatever personal conflict is going on before your big day, but file that goal under “mission impossible.” Chances are, the drama you’re dealing with has been brewing for years, so don’t feel pressured to negotiate a truce in time for the wedding. That kind of deadline only adds to the emotional stress factor. Focus on coping strategies instead, and remember that this is only one day in the grand scheme of things.
“My dad and my uncle haven’t spoken to each other in years. Leading up to my wedding, I desperately wanted them to reconcile. I put so much pressure on myself and other members of our family to fix it. In the end, they didn’t solve their issues but my uncle and his family ended up coming to the wedding and just kind of avoided my dad. It was fine, and when I think back to it, all that stress was over a few hours at my wedding.”
Appoint a Few “Goodwill Ambassadors”
If possible, recruit some help in handling family drama—especially if it involves your future in-laws.
“I faced some drama with my future MIL when she got very emotional and upset that I didn’t want to invite kids to our wedding. I vented to my future SIL, who stepped in and calmed her down for me, and helped her see my perspective.”
“My mom was really helpful in handling my sister’s jealousy and drama during our wedding planning. She was the one who had the tough conversations and called her out on her behavior so that I didn’t have to.”
“My grandmother tends to be a little “take charge” in the moment, and can become easily aggravated if things aren’t done her way. I appointed my aunt as her ‘handler’ on our wedding day to make sure she stayed calm and nipped any temper tantrums in the bud.”
Draft a Strategic Seating Plan
Take all your problematic guests and seat them at one table—just kidding! A strategic seating plan can help avoid potential blow-ups.
“I know it’s a pain, but take the time to plan where your guests will sit. A free-seating situation just creates confusion and conflict. Intentionally downplay drama by seating problematic guests across the room from each other, wild guests away from the bar, etc.”
Limit Alcohol Intake
Speaking of the bar, if you’ve got a rowdy bunch, alcohol only fuels the drama. Consider just serving wine and beer, and maybe a signature cocktail. You can also ask your venue to stop pouring drinks for the last hour of the party.
Withhold Invites from Dramatic Friends
While you might not be able to avoid family members, it’s ok to withhold invites from friends. There will most likely be a long-term consequence, but if they’re that much of a problem, will you really miss the friendship?
“I have a friend that acts the fool at every wedding we’ve been to together since college (about 4 in total), including her own! She always makes herself the center of attention (sometimes in funny ways but usually not). We decided not to invite her, though the tougher part of that decision is that it meant we couldn’t invite her college roommates either, who are my good friends, too (and who invited me to their wedding). I just couldn’t see any way around it and felt like this was the least awkward situation.”
Preserve the Long-Term Relationship
On the other hand, if you’re dealing with parents, siblings, and close family members keep the long-term relationship in mind. It might be necessary to extend or withhold an invite, but always thinking of the future relationship with that family member.
“We had family members that caused a lot of drama. We believed that it is important to honor our family, so we invited them. When conflicts arose during engagement, we handled it with lots of prayer and lots of phone calls with those people. Eventually, one needed to be uninvited because they weren’t supportive of our union. Another one declined to come on her own. Things have a way of working out for the best. It was better for these toxic people not to be there, because they would have dragged the rest of the family down with their bad attitude. And it’s just one day. After the wedding, we talked to our mentors on how to repair the relationships once the big day was over.”
You might come home to some family drama, but running away to get married is one surefire way to avoid conflict ON your big day!
Thanks to our Real Brides (and Grooms!)
I hope that these coping strategies help future brides and grooms avoid their own dramatic wedding days. But no matter what happens on your big day, there’s a lifetime of joy ahead of you!
Have a question for our real brides? Let us know what topic you’d like us to tackle next!
And for more etiquette inquiries, be sure to check out our recent Ask Cheryl posts!
-Written by Christina Peterson, who much prefers watching family drama unfold on This is Us rather than in real life.