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?