Hell is Other People: How Wedding Guests are the True Zillas

Carrie-Ann Kloda
11 min readJan 21, 2021

In my fifteen+ years in the world of events, I have seen a lot of bad behaviour… but contrary to popular belief, it’s usually not from the people getting married! Honestly, I think the word bridezilla is just another patriarchal trope meant to make women complacent, and keep you worrying you’ll be considered difficult when you’re being decisive, or rude when you question why weddings cost so fucking much.

But there is an element of truth in the lore of awful behaviour at weddings. It’s a day charged with expectation and emotion, and the engaged couple and their parents aren’t the only ones who have invested in the day. The wedding guests also spend time anticipating, spend energy preparing and beautifying, and spend money on their outfits and the gift. Whenever we invest our resources into something, the payoff becomes very important to us.

For this reason, some level of “it’s all about me and my experience” is called for; guests are entitled (ooh, but I shudder to use that word so early on) to an experience, and we should make sure they aren’t left hungry, shivering in the rain, or bored during interminably long speeches. We’ve all been to a bad event.

But that sense of entitlement is, in my experience, grossly inflated. So, while we’re contemplating whether big weddings will ever be a thing again, and whether to elope, consider this list of absolutely true, ripped-from-the-archives behaviours when you’re hesitating over who gets a plus one.

1. They ignore the names on the invitation.

You would think it’s a truth universally understood that you do not call the couple getting married to make requests. The role of the invitation is so important: it sets the tone for the event, giving the guests a glimpse into what they can expect, from the timing (which they’ll ignore, see below), to the dress code (which they’ll ignore, again, see below), to whether they can expect a valet service. But the most important information they’ll receive is on the outside of the envelope: who is actually invited to the wedding.

Yet regardless of what you write, if you don’t include a plus one or their children, they will call you for “clarification.” Didn’t you mean to encourage them to bring someone they just met and could potentially hook up with at $200 a plate (your expense)? Did you really mean for them to have to find a sitter for their three rambunctious children? This early indication of guestzilla-ness will have you immediately regretting that you invited this person and wishing you could uninvite them and their plus one (or two, or three).

Actionable Advice: Repeat after me: “Only people who love us in the room.” Do not let yourself be guilted into stretching your budget to cover people that didn’t make the cut in the first place. Boundaries are important, and there’s no better time to set them than when you’re establishing a family unit.

2. They ignore the dress code

Once again, no matter what you write on the invitation, no matter how clear you attempt to be, someone might show up in jeans or yoga pants to your “cocktail attire” wedding. They may also show up in a ball gown with gloves up to their armpits to your “summer formal” affair. Trust me, they’ll be more uncomfortable than you are.

Actionable Advice: This is much more embarrassing for the guest than for you, so don’t get too upset about it. Yes, someone might wear white to your wedding. Try to have a sense of humour about it. Just like gossiping isn’t worth worrying about, this is something that makes the person who did it look much worse than the person they’re doing it too.

3. They interrupt the procession

You might think this is uncommon, and your planner can usually keep it from happening, but the possibility of this occurring is crazy high. Even though we, your event team, will do everything we can to mitigate this possibility — having the cocktail hour precede the ceremony, inviting guests to be seated a full 20 minutes before we intend to start, writing the time on the damn invitation — people will always be late. Most often, a late guest will have the humility to patiently wait for the procession to end before quietly finding a seat in the back row. But unfortunately, some people are blissfully unaware of how important this moment is to literally everyone else, and they only consider how important the moment is for them to witness. They’re sure they can somehow be discreet walking down the aisle as if: a. they are part of the wedding party or b. wearing a cloak of invisibility.

Or they’re drunk. Hey, having your cocktails first both solves and creates problems.

Actionable Advice: Definitely have a day-of coordinator at a minimum, and if the procession is super important to you, then hire security and make sure everyone on your team (suppliers, wedding party) knows that this is a top priority.

4. They take over for the photographer

I cannot tell you how many gorgeous shots are ruined by guests who photobomb with their iPhone. Wedding photographers rant about this constantly, but most guests don’t even consider what is going on around them. Everyone is so accustomed to being able to capture and immediately share every single moment of our life, and it feels natural — not rude — to reach for your phone.

Actionable Advice: Once your guests are seated for the ceremony, have your officiant announce that this is a phone-free ceremony, and ask everyone to turn off their sound and put their phones away. They can even let guests know that the couple requests they not take pictures with their phones. “The couple has asked…” is a magical phrase, and it works on all but the most belligerent of guests.

5. They stand by the kitchen trying to get first dibs on the hors d’oeuvres

Shrug emoji — this is not your problem. But as a former cater-waitress, I need to complain about this briefly. Look, a good caterer has an abundance of food and a strategy for getting that food to every corner of the room. But it’s super annoying to have people hovering at the high traffic path between the front and back-of-house, and it’s really uncomfortable when people you don’t know grab your arm or your waist. Just thinking about it now makes me shudder. I have to admit, I was a very vindictive waitress, and when someone crossed a line with me… I was Seinfeldian in my retribution. No more delicious lamb chops for you!

Actionable Advice: Never skimp on service — it’s worth it to hire the extra staff — and if you have a huge room with only one entrance, have stations around the room to make sure there is ample opportunity for everyone to access the appetizers. An increasingly popular option to supplement passed hors d’oeuvres (that works on any budget) is a massive grazing station full of cheeses, charcuteries, breads, veggies, and dips.

6. They harass the couple when they’re trying to take photos/eat

In the Jewish faith, there is an awesome tradition of whisking the couple away to enjoy a few minutes alone just after the ceremony. At this point, I always either stand sentry, or appoint someone tougher than me to do it, because it is inevitable that someone will try to get to them. Whether it’s the officiant who wants to say goodbye because they would really like to leave, or the bridesmaid who left her lipstick in the couple’s suite, or a waiter who was told to bring champagne, everyone thinks their own timeline is more important than the one agreed upon by the planner and the newlyweds.

And this is a theme that will continue throughout the event, as guests always want a memento in the form of a picture or a special moment with the couple. On your wedding day, you’re basically celebrities, so this is pretty understandable.

Actionable Advice: From the moment you arrive at the venue, don’t allow anyone in the couple’s suite except for the couple. There is no need for anyone to store their shit there or be in that space. It’s a place for just you to get ready, leave your change of shoes and clothes, and to stash gifts. Be precious about this space — you really won’t have anywhere else to get a quiet moment with your partner.

Bonus Tip: Don’t have a head table that includes your wedding party and families. There are myriad reasons for this, but the most important is this: you get precious little opportunities on your wedding day to actually look one another in the eye and make your own memories. Enjoy the meal together, just the two of you, and seat the wedding party and the families at adjacent tables.

7. Seating arrangements, schmeating schmarrangements

As a wedding coach, I work really closely with my clients to make sure they have as little stress as possible on the journey to their wedding day, but there are two things that are out of my control: their budget, which is what it is and doesn’t always line up with their vision… and making the fucking seating chart. You will go back and forth with your parents and in-laws trying to decide how not to offend the easily offended, trying to make sure everyone has a “good seat”, and doing your best to mediate family scandals. Regardless of your incredible efforts and sleepless nights, some guests will treat your carefully designed floorplan like Cher Horowitz does her report card — a jumping off point to start negotiations. If you’re lucky, they’ll follow the cardinal rule and not complain to the couple, and this will only drive your planner and the catering staff nuts as we attempt to negotiate with your know-it-all great aunt or squeeze an eleventh chair and table setting into a table meant for ten.

Actionable Advice: Elope? I’m half-kidding… If you’re having a small-ish wedding (under 150 guests), you could do a buffet and have free seating. But if you want a sit-down dinner, it’s pretty impossible to get away from the seating chart. Just let your team of professionals handle it, and don’t worry about shit you can’t control.

8. They treat the service staff like their personal staff

My favourite guests are the parents who didn’t plan for their hangry children, and now want me, the wedding planner, to go ask the kitchen to make their child some food. When I had the gall the explain to one mother that the kitchen was very busy getting the first course ready, and that there weren’t rolls on the table I could grab to compensate for her lack of preparation, her partner came over to me and said, “I know you just told my wife no, but I’m going to insist you get my child some food, right now.”

People like this will demand service, and always at the most inappropriate time:

  • They’ll insist the bar shake them up a martini during speeches
  • They’ll swipe treats off the sweet table when we’re mid-set up
  • And they’ll ask multiple staff (waiters, lighting techs, musicians…) for the same thing. WE GET IT. You want a diet coke. Trust that the first person you asked is bringing you one.

Guests who think suppliers take requests are the worst.

Now I’m speaking directly to that person, because you know who you are. And FYI, you’re not the client. So, no, you can’t demand the DJ give you the mic so you can make an impromptu speech or initiate karaoke; you cannot ask the waitstaff go hunt down your missing date; and the caterer is not going to pack up food for you.

You also don’t have the right, no matter how drunk you are, to raise your voice to someone who is at work. Let me be suuuuper clear: we don’t work for you. And I pity the person who does. Regardless, when you feel rage start to bubble up inside you when you’re a guest at someone’s event, it’s time to call an Uber.

Actionable Advice: It’s unlikely you’ll witness this at your event, you’ll just hear about it afterward. I recommend a good public shaming, but if you can mitigate the situation by not inviting problem people in the first place… do that!

9. They sneak drinks to underage kids

This is actually a really awful one, and something I’ve unfortunately witnessed many times, especially at parties where there are lots of young people.

Actionable Advice: Have your suppliers’ back. The venue could lose its liquor license, the bar staff becomes responsible, and the kids get sick. It’s not a good look. It is definitely on the hosts to be sure they don’t encourage this kind of behaviour.

10. They “forget” to bring a gift

Ooof, can you even?! Yup, some people straight up don’t bring a gift. Here’s what you’re not going to do — you’re not going to accuse any of the staff. In all my time in the events circuit, I have never once found an accusation of a staff stealing the weddings gifts to be true. Never.

Actionable Advice: Make sure there is somewhere secure to store gifts when you’re scouting venues, and have a limited number of people responsible for accepting those gifts. After the event, it’s up to you: it’s absolutely fine to call up your guests and tell them you didn’t receive a gift from them, and you’re wondering if it was an oversight — give them a chance to correct the mistake. It’s also okay to write them a thank you card that thanks them for their presence — tacitly acknowledging the lack of a gift. And finally, it’s okay to say nothing. You’re probably not all that surprised by who it was, anyway.

11. They take as many favours as they can carry

Favours are both unnecessary and yet really fun — they can be a great way to send off your guests, like a hot chocolate for the road in the winter, or a hangover kit for the morning after. Other times, they can allude to a cause you believe in, like this coffee that benefits rescue dogs, or a callback to the event theme.

You would think that at this point in the evening, your guests have had a blast, are feeling tipsy, and they’re not going to cause any more drama, right? Wrong. When the favours are in limited supply, and they’re really good (i.e. edible), I’ve seen people try to load up their purses or send their kids to swipe more, or pretend they aren’t in a couple. I once even had to stop drunk guests from destroying the favours. (Luckily, the drunker they are, the less polite I feel I need to be, since they likely won’t remember that I told them to knock it off.)

Actionable Advice: Plan to have a staff at the exit managing the favours. They will do their best to ensure that every guest gets the favour, and that if it’s one per couple, it’s one per couple. It’s also wise to a few extras just in case that poor staff gets caught up in negotiations with someone… special.

When you were adding your third cousin/obnoxious colleague/ex-boyfriend to your guest list, you knew they’d be a headache. I know you feel guilty, or required to invite them, or someone told you it’s “just good etiquette” (don’t even get me started, Emily Post!). But every invitation comes at a cost — and sometimes it’s more than just money. One of the first things I do with all my clients is figure out their values, and how those translate into boundaries and a plan for their wedding. I call it “coming up with your wedding mantra,” and here’s a freebie, straight from a past client: Who is this wedding even for? When you’re making your guest list, when you’re choosing your officiant, and when you’re deciding whether you can mix metals on your tabletops, remember: you’re the guests of honour. This is for you. And it’s only happening once. So be picky.



Carrie-Ann Kloda

The wedding etiquette fairy — here to solve your problems with my salty pixie dust. Find me on IG @kithkinweddings