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wedding guests, wedding crashers

Wedding Guests: How to Deal With Wedding Crashers

From unexpected plus-ones to strangers looking for a good time, here's how to cope with uninvited guests of all types.

Photo: Getty Images

So you made your guest list and checked it twice, but someone still shows up at your wedding unexpectedly. Here's how to deal with uninvited guests before and during the event.

The Crasher: Children

Whether it's your best friend's new baby, your little cousin or your future sister-in-law's baby (that means it's your niece or nephew now, so be nice!) children have, well, a certain impact on a wedding. A big family wedding can mean as many as 40 kids running around, which can turn a ballroom into Romper Room.

Plan Ahead: Decide if any children will be allowed to come to the wedding and then spread the word to your guests with your save-the-date cards or wedding website. All you need is one line: "The reception will be an adults-only affair." Be sure to address save-the-dates only to the people you know for sure will be invited to the event. Sometimes a save-the-date is addressed to the family, but then the invite only has the names of the parents. By that time, however, expectations have been set and plans have been made. And while you know that the invitation's outer envelope specifies exactly who's invited, most people are simply not aware of the proper etiquette here and will use the save-the-date addressees as the list of people who are invited to the main event.

How to Deal: If children show up at the wedding, do your best to accommodate them without disrupting the event. Before the ceremony, have your wedding coordinator or a diplomatic friend say something to the parents like, "Could you please move to the back of the church if your child begins to fuss?" That will get a much better response than if someone asked them to leave the venue altogether. Then bust out extra high chairs at the reception. Whatever you do, don't make a scene. Not only will you seem like an ungracious bride, it's also a needless stress that you don't want to put upon yourself and your other guests. And if someone asks why so-and-so's kid is there, you can explain that despite your no-children request, she wasn't able to get a sitter in time and brought her child to the wedding without your consent.

The Crasher: Plus-ones

If the words "and guest" don't appear anywhere on the invitation's outer envelope, your cousin's boyfriend of the week shouldn't appear at your wedding. But some guests don't know any better -- or don't care.

Plan Ahead: Many wedding planners tend to discourage their clients from writing "and guest" on the RSVP card in favor of an actual name. Can't remember your uncle's second wife's name? Find out. For singletons who may assume it's okay to bring a date, explain your budget or space constraints. Always double-check RSVPs so you can call if someone adds an uninvited guest; most times, they'll just be embarrassed by having misunderstood. Be fair to everyone by establishing a rule in advance that plus-one privileges are reserved for people who are in your bridal party, living together, engaged or married. Refer to this guideline later if anyone calls it into question.

How to Deal: If someone shows up unexpectedly, make sure he has a seat at a table. While most planners won't scramble to write a place card, it may be possible to work with the venue to put out an extra chair. If seating arrangements are tight, the surprise guest may have to sit far from his date. That's their problem -- not yours.

The Crasher: Strangers

Wedding crashers are more common at open, public venues like hotels and restaurants where anyone can get through the front door. If the wedding is big enough, it might even be more difficult to spot these kinds of crashers than you might think. Also, if you've invited people who you've never actually seen before, like your parents' accountant or your mother-in-law's cousins from Norway, you'll see unfamiliar faces in the crowd. Don't be shy about asking people who they are when you do the rounds. A simple "I don't think we've met before" will definitely do the trick.

Plan Ahead: There isn't much you can do to prevent strangers from wandering in. It's just too easy for people to enter a reception room attached to a public place. But you don't want to station someone at the door with a list. It's a wedding celebration, not a night at Studio 54.

How to Deal: Designate an eagle-eyed friend or relative to watch out for people standing too close to the bar or buffet table. If a couple is more interested in the food or drinks than anyone else, they probably don't belong. They usually stick out because they're dressed wrong or don't seem like part of the environment. And it's more likely at venues with several parties going on at once. But don't immediately go into freak-out mode if you see an unfamiliar face. Only if someone is unrecognizable to you and your new husband should you go ahead and check with your parents, who very well may know who the guest in question is, even if you don't. If neither set of parents has any clue who the person is, ask the planner or venue manager to discreetly approach the unidentifiable guests and then see them to the door.

The Crasher: Vendors

Some of the vendors who you've hired may not act professionally. Believe it or not, we've heard stories where the band thought it was totally fine to show up early to go to the cocktail hour and enjoy the food and drinks while they set up. That could turn out to be a real problem considering that there's usually a limited number of hors d'oeuvres for each guest. A 12-piece band can make a serious dent in the sushi platters.

Plan Ahead: Put everything in writing. Don't assume vendors automatically know what they're entitled to, even if you know they've done tons of weddings. You need to make it clear that you'll provide a hot meal for dinner and nonalcoholic beverages during the night. If you're concerned about particular vendors, add to your contract that they're not allowed to consume alcohol at any point.

How to Deal: Before your photographer reaches for a second glass of wine, your planner or a bridesmaid should whisper that the cocktail hour is for the guests. Your planner will have no problem doing this. As for your bridesmaid, just appoint the one who's the most outspoken. Another option is to split the duties -- have one of your bridesmaids keep an eye on the band and another on the photographer. This might even be an instance where a pushy mother-in-law is just what you need to help out. You just wouldn't have the time to watch and confront the vendor and still enjoy the wedding.

Special thanks to Jenny Orsini of Pampered Bride Weddings, Springfield, NJ, and Heather Dwight of Calluna Events in Boulder, CO

-- Stephanie Emma Pfeffer