The Nightmare Wedding Guest

Claire Roige Photography

April 18, 2024

Any couple planning their wedding can exercise control over the napkins, the choice of wine, the four different flavour combinations of the cake. But, how can we properly prepare ourselves for one of the scariest monsters a couple can contend with at their wedding… the nightmare guest?

According to the countless weddings I have observed as a wedding singer, the many I have attended as a guest, and the one wedding I have planned myself (my own) … these gargoyle guests come in many sizes, shapes and forms.

We could be talking about a ghoulish grandmother, who gnashes her teeth and shows her claws whenever you express any desire that doesn’t align with hers. It could be a clumsy cousin, who knocks over a Kilner jar tealight, igniting a hay bale and setting your veil on fire. It could even be a fiendish friend, who gets so drunk he tries to kiss one of your bridesmaids (twice!) even though he has a long-term girlfriend back home, and then never speaks to anyone in your group again just so he doesn’t have to face up to it! (Yeah, I know, RIGHT?!)

Perhaps worst of all, your nightmare wedding guest might come in the form of a parent, a sibling, a very closely-related family member, who has done you emotional harm in the past – maybe even during the wedding-planning process – and whose unpredictable behaviours you and/or your partner are still struggling to navigate now.

This sort of situation can be difficult at any time. During a wedding, it can be downright destructive. Any emotion can be heightened while wedding-planning, and especially during the day itself. Guests like this, and their bad behaviours, can conjure up more anger, resentment, embarrassment, and deeply-rooted, unresolved pain than ever… and nobody should be made to feel any of those things on their wedding day.

When we were engaged, a wise, married friend (who has their own difficult close-family-member relationship to deal with) told us that anything that has been brewing within a familial dynamic will come to the boil very quickly once a wedding comes along and turns up the heat. From what I remember from the lead-up to, the fallout from, and our wedding celebration itself, this could not have been truer. My advice, as always, is communication… but, this time, it might not be as simple as that.

When it comes to a nightmare wedding guest, direct communication with the person in question might not be the safest, most effective route for you to take. They may be a narcissist, who will gaslight you in order to regain control of the narrative. They may have a victim complex and make you feel terrible for attacking them with your words. They may do any number of toxic, emotionally-dangerous things to make you feel that voicing your truth was the wrong thing to do.

Weddings often bring with them the pressure of perfection. Or, at least, the perception of perfection. As I have written time and time again in this magazine… PERFECTION DOES NOT EXIST. So, be real with each other. Kindly and compassionately discuss with each other what you both know… that this person (and I’m no longer talking specifically about a close family member here; this could be any guest who might act out at your wedding) may need some, what I’ll call, “bespoke hosting tactics”.

If you know your grandmother is going to spend the whole day tutting and tsking at your jumpsuit because she wanted you to wear her own, yellowed, Havisham wedding dress, ask your sister to keep an eye on her for you. If you know someone tends to forget their limit when it comes to booze, ask your best man to have the non-alcoholic substitutes at the ready. Don’t keep up a dumb, proud pretence of perfection. No one’s family is perfect. Everyone’s cupboard has skeletons. Let your friends in. Be vulnerable. They will help you get through it. Just communicate and delegate. The two of you should not be the ones having to deal with these things on your wedding day.

And, if you and your fiancé(e) know that one of you has a parent, a sibling, a close family member, whose behaviour might cause upset on the day, speak to each other about it beforehand. Be open and honest and practical. Be compassionate. Whosever family member it is, it might be really hard for them to be able to face up to these things. So, be each other’s teammate. Be there for each other. Be kind.

Of course, there is something else to remember in this situation. Something that seems to be absolutely unthinkable for many, but which, frankly, makes complete and utter sense to me. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO INVITE ANYONE TO YOUR WEDDING JUST BECAUSE YOU FEEL YOU SHOULD.

Yes, you might work with them. Sure, you might have known them for twenty years. Fine, they’re related to you by blood. But no freaking way does anyone in your life have an unearned right to be at your wedding if you don’t want them to be. Not your cousin. Not your sibling. Not even your parent. End of.

When it comes to surviving the nightmare wedding guest, no one should go into battle alone. I’m not talking about the silly guests who get a bit too squiffy and say something stupid in a speech anymore. I’m talking about those guests who have caused you real emotional harm in your life, who, for one reason or other, are present at your wedding.

Communicate. Delegate. Arm yourself with people you love and trust. Tell them what’s going on. And let them be there for you when you need them, so that your wedding is not a nightmare, but the beautiful day you’ve always dreamed of.


Rachel is a writer and contemporary singing teacher. Her children’s book, The Doll’s House Mouse, won the Bath Children’s Novel Award 2021. You can find her online at and on Instagram @rachelbdarwin.

This article originally appeared in issue 52 of Rock n Roll Bride magazine. You can purchase the latest copy here, or why not subscribe to never miss an issue?