Guests In Need Of An Etiquette Lesson

by admin on September 4, 2012

I have been married for almost nine years this summer, and I am still shocked at the behavior of a few of my guests. I know, let it go… so I hereby release these bad guests to Ehell!

Our wedding was an affair for 200+ guests, carefully planned, complete with save-the-dates, early invites which included accommodation information for all out of town guests, and of course, a formal RSVP request. My mother helped me keep careful track of all the RSVPs so we would be sure to have appropriate seating at the ceremony and reception. I dislike being told who to eat with, so when we had the final head count, we made sure there were enough seats for all and reserved three tables as “head” tables for the wedding party, parents, and companions of the wedding party (I also think it’s mean to allow a bridesmaid, for example, to bring a date and then not allow her to eat with said date!) Our “head” tables were at the front of the room but looked like the other tables (I’m not a fan of people eating in a row on stage) but were marked “reserved.”

Well, a few things disrupted this careful planning… I should have known! First, my dad asked me to please invite his cousin and her husband, as they were close. We do not know their adult children, so these children were not included on the invitation. Funny… when the RSVP card came back, it indicated that Cousin + Cousin’s Husband would be coming, as well as their adult daughter. Well, at least we knew about that ahead of time. Imagine our surprise when Adult Daughter also showed up with Boyfriend in tow, and her two sons from now-over marriage! My mom saw this and quickly arranged for an extra seat for Boyfriend and two extra “children’s meals” from the kitchen (we had a four-course meal, and the “adult” food was not something kids would enjoy, but we wanted the kids in attendance to have something they would like to eat!) I attempted twice during “table rounds” to introduce Adult Daughter to my new husband (I had met her twice before the wedding, the last time being 10 years previous), and hopefully greet her boyfriend as well. Both times when she saw us coming, she hopped up and went somewhere else (bathroom? I don’t know). So this woman who wasn’t invited and brought extra guests on top of that actually took pains to avoid me!

Second, my future MIL (still a pain in the butt to this day) had invited several of her close girlfriends (not a big deal). One friend RSVP’d for herself only, but showed up to the wedding with her 17-year-old son’s GIRLFRIEND in tow. Whaaat? None of us had ever met this girl, the friend brought her because she “didn’t want to drive alone.” My MIL decided at the reception that she wanted to sit next to this friend and basically SNEAKED them over to our table and sat them in the seats intended for MY PARENTS WHO PAID FOR THE ENTIRE WEDDING. I didn’t want to be rude and make a fuss, and my parents were very gracious about it, but this STILL annoys me when I think about it. The friend, upon realizing her placement at a “reserved” table, seemed to think this was super awesome. She spent dinner describing the details of the wedding that she liked, and didn’t like, and asking her son’s girlfriend what she wanted at HER eventual wedding (of course, the son and the girlfriend broke up soon after… this was a teenage romance).

We had our wedding on a Friday night, and since many family members came from out of town, held a family BBQ on Saturday at my family home… I wanted to spend more time with my family, and wanted the opportunity to socialize further with my new husband’s family. I have a rather pushy second cousin who regularly bullies my mom into seeing things her way, and this cousin insisted that my husband and I open gifts at the end of this BBQ. I wasn’t 100% comfortable with this but we did it anyway. Every time we opened a card which contained a check and/or cash, the second cousin crowed, “How much, how much!” After the third response of, “this was a very generous gift,” she got the hint and finally SHUT UP.

In the grand scheme of things, these issues were rather small. I am still quite thankful to the family and friends that pitched in for our big day and have continued to be a source of support and friendship throughout our marriage! 0702-12

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Bint September 4, 2012 at 5:57 am

Good grief. Kick the silly girl out of your parents’ seats and flatly refuse to open your presents.

I do not understand this. How can you let yourself be overruled on something that important by fear of ‘making a fuss’? How can you not put your parents first? Good manners do not mean being walked all over.

I am seriously astonished at you. If I were you, the person I would be most angry at would be myself.


Katy September 4, 2012 at 12:01 pm

What is with all these doormats allowing their parents places to be usurped at weddings? Speak up, especially if they’re paying! If MIL wanted to sit with her friend, she can do it at a different table.
This is why I used table cards, even though I was against them at first. I wanted those who were most important to us to get their spots at the head tables, and to be able to see everything that was going on as I’m sure seeing everything was much more important to my grandmother than, say, a college friend who is more interested in spending time with more of our college friends catching up.


elizabeth September 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Who are these parents that let their places be usurped at the wedding. Had this happened (and many other similar occasions of parents ending up sitting in corners), my parents would have very nicely, but firmly, instructed whoever it was to sit elsewhere.


DowagerDutchess September 6, 2012 at 8:18 am

Agreed- OP I think you were rude. To your parents for failing to say anything. And I also think leaving guests to seat themselves haphazardly means you aren’t having a carefully orchestrated formal affair. Grown-ups deal with being told who they are seating with. They also stand up for the people they love.


The Elf September 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Sometimes it’s hard to find a polite spine when someone just blindsided you and you don’t want to make a fuss. It’s not right, but it is sometimes easier to accomodate something like extra guests rather than have a confrontation.


Tracy September 4, 2012 at 6:03 am

Sounds like somebody needs to grow a spine and quit letting everyone push her around. Let Dad add guests is the only one I’d let go since the parents were paying for everything. But did she really let a pretty much random teenager sit at the head tables while her parents had to move elsewhere? Thats beyond not making a fuss to just being pathetic. And the next day letting a second cousin dictate the events at the BBQ? Is there no one in this family that has a voice, or did the cousin get it all.

Sounds like the entire family needs help.


Cherry September 4, 2012 at 6:55 am

I understand that it was your wedding day and you had a lot to think about, but WHY did you let your MiL shove your parents aside for two people you didn’t even know?!

Also, I know that you were taking the path of least conflict, but by arranging food for people who weren’t invited you gave the message that what they did was totally ok. The best point to have nipped it in the bud would have been the instant guests added someone else to their invite by ringing them up and saying as politely as possible “This person was not invited. We don’t have room for them.”

However, I think the BBQ was a lovely idea and you handled the irritating second cousin very well. I’d have probably have very bluntly told her it was none of her business.


No Wedding September 4, 2012 at 8:22 am

You know, if I’m paying for an event (like a wedding) and I come over to find someone has taken my seat, I have no problem with saying, “You’re in my seat.” And I dislike confrontation.


Cat September 4, 2012 at 9:09 am

I am not a big fan of a bride or parents who are “gracious” at their child’s wedding by allowing a guest to rule the day. Raising a child in that manner results in the sense of entitlement we see in people today. Uninv ited guests should be seated at the back of the room and those who invited them should be able to sit with their guests there. They should also be billed for the meal for their tagalong since they are the hosts for that person.
Nor would I be opening my wedding gifts at a BBQ. Those that arrive ahead of the wedding can be displayed at the bride’s parent’s home or, if the couple is residing together, at their home. Those that come at the wedding will be opened upon our return from the honeymoom. Second cousins do not get a vote in how I run my wedding or my life. The sentence is, “I /We am/are not going to do that.”
It doesn’t require an explanation, an argument, or rude behavior. It does require someone to simply say, “You and your guest are being seating here.” and “no”.


Bint September 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm

I’m also surprised at people who add on gatecrashers’ meals. Had anyone gatecrashed my wedding, I’d have had to say there was nowhere for them to sit and no food. I don’t see myself running about trying to change that either.


Cheryl November 22, 2012 at 8:46 pm

My thoughts exactly. I totally do not get not putting your foot down when people who were never invited show up to the reception, especially if you don’t know/hardly know them. No invite=no food, and it’s likely going to mean no entrance as well. If that causes inconvenience for the party crashers, not my problem.

I’m not looking forward to the nightmare of the guest list when I marry. I’ve helped a few friends plan their weddings, and after hearing everything they dealt with, eloping is an attractive option.


lkb September 4, 2012 at 10:15 am

…anyone else immediately think of Peppermint Patty and Marcie during the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special (specifically when Marcie asks whether Peppermint Patty invited herself over)


jena rogers September 4, 2012 at 11:01 am

I personally can’t place too much fault on the OP. Life just isn’t that cut-and-dried. These things (i.e. the astonishing behavior of rude guests) have a way of catching us off-guard, and for many of us, our default mechanism is not rightful indignation but politeness. I’m so glad I’m reading these posts about growing a polite spine now 6 weeks before my own wedding. Knowing the risks in advance, I feel I have the advantage of foresight through other people’s experience, and the time to prepare for poor behavior and grow my own polite spine.


Katie September 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I agree with this- it’s easy to look back in hindsight and say ‘I should have done xvz’!


GleanerGirl September 5, 2012 at 3:05 am

Take the time, now, to write a scripted response to any foreseeable rudeness, and memorize those lines. Do not deviate from them.

For example, if someone is sitting in your parents’ seats, you say, “Excuse me, but these are my parents’ seats. I’m afraid you’ll have to move.” If they get up and move, smile beatifically at them, assuming it was a misunderstanding. If they do not immediately move, then you repeat the same line, with more firmness. Repeat, with added firmness and coldness, and, if needed, volume, until they buckle. Do NOT change the words, or respond to any questions such as “why?”

Decide now what you will do with uninvited people. Do you want to be the one who says, “The more, the merrier”? If so, then order extra food and chairs, in advance, and also come up with a plan for any left-overs. If you do not want to have any uninvited present at your wedding, then you need a plan for that, as well. Your line may be, “I’m sorry, but we do not have room for you. You’re not on the list,” repeated as many times as necessary. You might also want to hire a bouncer for the occasion.

By all means, though, go through these archives and pick out as many examples as you can find, and plan for them. Hopefully, it will just be an exercise, and not actually needed. However, I have yet to hear about a wedding that goes by flawlessly.

Good luck and congratulations!


Katie September 4, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Some overly harsh responses to the OP here, I think…. while in an ideal world the bride would have move the MIL’s friend and they would have graciously moved and blah blah blah, but in reality, this could have set off an ugly confrontation that might have spoiled the day (and family relations). far more. We don’t know the family dynamics here, so I don’t think it’s fair to judge the OP. Yes, I do understand the rationales of ‘growing a spine’ etc, etc, but perhaps everyone (including the bride’s parents) thought it better to let it go. If it was a major deal, then the parents could just as easily have said ‘Excuse me, but you’ve accidentally (ahem!) sat in our seats’…

I don’t think I’m a pushover by any means, but I may well have done the same as the OP under those circumstances. It could have set off a major scene, and perhaps the bride didn’t want to have a confrontation with her MIL on her wedding day over something that is (IMO) annoying, but not the end of the world.


Cat September 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm

You certainly have the right to do as you wish at your wedding. I think our problem is that, if you choose to allow this behavior, then don’t write in and complain about it later, consigning guests and non-guests to E-Hell.


Katie September 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm

I think she’s OK in putting it up… the fact that the bride chose not to make an issue of it doesn’t make the guests any less rude. It’s not like the poster is sharing any details about the rude people.


Library Diva September 4, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Agree with Katie. And it’s really the behavior that casts a pall over the day. The minute someone installs themselves at the parents’ table, gatecrashes the day, or persistently needles you into opening presents, you’ve already had an incident. Whether you choose to confront, appease, or ignore only determines what kind of unpleasantness follows. Really, shouldn’t people just not act this way?


Shoegal September 4, 2012 at 12:25 pm

How awful! I have to say that the things that happened at my wedding that I would change now are rather numerous and I still think about it. I also have to say that as a bride that you get so many references to bridezilla type behavior that you take pains not to be one of them. So I could see trying to be rather mellow about some of these occasions when a polite spine is needed. I don’t blame this bride for trying at that particular moment not to make a fuss – even though having random people sit in your parent’s seats is abohorrent to me but as you can see – it still bothers her today and by sending them down to etiquette hell now will put her mind somewhat at rest. It doesn’t fix the problems but it might help the OPs state of mind.


LovleAnjel September 4, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Wow, taking your parents’ seats?

The adult daughter who pointedly avoided talking to the OP might have been running from embarrassment. I imagine her mother said that she and her children were invited to the wedding. Imagine, thinking you are invited, then showing up and seeing the surprised looks, the rearranged seating, and the rush to get more meals. Feeling so embarrassed that your mother lied to you and brought you to an event to which you were not invited. What if you all drove together, and home is hours away? Your hosts say, it’s all right, we’ll make room? You stay but feel terribly embarrassed and try to hide in shame when the bride comes around.


AS September 4, 2012 at 8:08 pm

My thoughts exactly – that the adult daughter was crazy embarrassed.


PM September 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm

POD to the people who question why the bride, much less the bride’s parents, put up with the MIL’s or second cousin’s behavior.


Miss Raven September 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm

While none of us can say for certain how we would have reacted in the bride’s place, I certainly hope for all of us to have the sort of polite spine required to not get absolutely trampled at our own event.

I can’t imagine adding on extra meals for uninvited guests. Or scrambling to get them seated. This is where a wedding planner (or a brazen bridesmaid) would come in handy. It frees the bride and MOH from having to be the “bad guy” while still gets the message across: You were not invited, and there is no space for you.

At least Cousin and her children and her children are family. I absolutely cannot fathom what MIL’s friend did. That would have been a no, no, no all around, once I had picked my jaw up off the floor.


TylerBelle September 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I know this is beside the point, but I cringe at the thought of having to maneuver around a room full of people with not much of an idea of where to go. That’s what I think about with open seating at wedding receptions.

Otherwise I’d hoped I would have stopped my parents getting bullied from their seats, though as mentioned, one doesn’t know what they would do until in a similar situation. So about all I can say I wished it hadn’t happened as such. And I agree with LovleAnjel, the avoiding guests were probably embarrassed and scurried away to prevent any potential unpleasantries.


gellchom September 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Well, I’ll stick up for the OP — really, her parents, I guess, as they were the hosts — for accommodating the extra guests. It was absolutely wrong on the guests’ part to bring extra, uninvited people. But we can’t say for sure whether the uninvited people knew that the hosts weren’t expecting them — they may have thought and even been told that the people who brought them had been told it was fine, or even invited “and family” or “plus one.” That’s certainly what I would assume if someone asked me to accompany them to a wedding to which I hadn’t been directly invited. So I think that the jury has to be out on them.

In any case, as galling as it would be, I think that the thing to do is to suck it up and make a place for the extras. Caterers always have a few extra meals anyway, and you’ve already paid for them, you know. It’s not just a matter of being gracious, either — it’s smart. You want your party to succeed. An embarrassing scene is going to distract at the very least – NO MATTER WHO IS RIGHT. Of course the hosts are. But it’s their party, and their daughter’s wedding, that will be affected. Even if everyone blames the crashers or the people who brought them, not you, and even if there is no scene, you don’t want this to be a topic of conversation at or after the wedding or spend time second-guessing yoruself. So feed ’em and forget ’em.

As to the usurping of the parents’ seats — well, I, too, think that this could have been easily solved with an “I’m so sorry, I’m afraid these are our seats; let me help you find somewhere nice to sit.”

But I have to say, and I’m sorry to criticize you, OP, having a reception for 200+ people with open seating, even with lots of seats, is just asking for problems. Hosts often say things like, “We don’t want to be all stuffy” or “We just want everyone to sit where they like,” but read what guests on this and other forums say. It’s like a throwback to the high school cafeteria — “Are there three seats here? No? Here? Can we bring a chair over? Well, sorry, Judy, there’s only room for the two of us here.” But this time you’re doing it wearing fancy clothes and high heels, holding a full plate and a glass, wandering around while your food gets cold. Then you end up sitting with strangers and probably not even interacting with them, like strangers sharing picnic tables at the park.

You could probably get away with it for a BBQ or picnic, where everyone isn’t eating at once, or a very small — 40 or under — group. But in my opinion, hosts are failing their guests when they don’t arrange seating for guests at a large reception.

Arranging congenial tables is a duty of hosts (and in my experience, one of the most fun parts of the planning). It is like making introductions at a dinner party, on a large scale. Directing people where to sit avoids confusion and discomfort of wandering around looking for a place. If you don’t like where you’ve been seated, it’s not as if you’re nailed to your chair, you know. You can mingle and talk and dance except when you’re eating.


Angel September 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I don’t care for open seating arrangements. Personally I think they are a recipe for disaster. I think having a specific tends to discourage people from bringing extra guests. I think having open seating is just laziness on the bride and groom’s part. Especially for a 200 person wedding! What was the OP thinking? I have gone to only one wedding with open seating. Man what an uncomfortable experience. There was also a buffet and when we got up to get our food, someone took my and my DH’s seats. And our stuff was on our chairs! So we had to wander around looking for other seats. What a pain in the rear.

There is no excuse for letting that random chick and your MIL sit in your parent’s seats! You can say something to them without causing a scene, just let them know that this table is reserved for wedding party and BRIDE’S PARENTS and most people will take the hint!

It’s odd that those guests were avoiding the OP, but maybe they will think twice before showing up at someone’s wedding without a written invite.

And the gifts? Really? I would have told the cousin to go take a flying leap! And not even have thought twice about it!!


MeganAmy September 11, 2012 at 12:48 am

I think having open seating is *thoughtful* on the bride and groom’s part because then guests can *choose* who they want to spend the evening talking to instead of being forced to sit next to someone they might dislike but the bride and groom didn’t know that and seated them together thinking they had something in common.


gellchom September 11, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I’m guessing you haven’t been to many open seating events. Take it from us who have been to dozens. You’re a lot more likely to end up with someone you don’t want to sit with in an open seating arrangement, actually.

Besides, hosts generally assign tables, usually of 8 or 10, but not specific seats. So if you’re at the same table with someone you dislike, simply don’t sit next to them. And if you got there last and have no choice, or you are seated with someone you are just meeting and find you don’t care for, be a grown up and politely get through the meal with them. You can always move around after the meal, usually even before dessert.

After all, we presumably aren’t talking about your mortal enemy here — your hosts aren’t going to seat you with them. If it’s just that you’d rather sit with the cute college friend than with boring Aunt Martha — well, SOMEONE has to sit with Aunt Martha. Should it be some random stranger from out of town? Socializing pleasantly with all kinds of people, not just your first choice, is an important life skill, and the duty of a good guest. DowagerDuchess put it well above: “Grown-ups deal with being told who they are seating with.”


MeganAmy September 12, 2012 at 2:36 am

I’ve been to about half open seating and half where the seats were reserved. Trust me, I can make chatty conversation with just about anyone. I’m just saying that I prefer the ones where I can choose myself. I don’t find fault with the bride and groom and call them “lazy” if they don’t make a seating chart. There’s no need for you to insinuate that I’m not a grown-up.


Pam September 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Almost ten years later and you are still able to recall all of these slights in such great detail? With so many exclamation points?

I agree with Bint. Acting like a doormat does not give one license to be indignant about another parties poor behavior, no matter the situation. Hopefully, in the years that have passed, you have grown up enough to know and act on this fact.


Katie September 7, 2012 at 8:22 am

If this was me, I could not help but feel indignant (and I think that the OP has quite a tongue-in-cheek tone rather than being totally furious, tbh…)! I disagree that *her* response doesn’t give her the right to feel annoyed, though. However she responded, that does not ‘cancel out’ the initial rudeness of the ‘seat-grabbers’. Even if she had asked them to move, I can imagine I’d still feel incredulous about it all. FWIW, I don’t exactly think that she acted like a doormat, but just chose not to create a scene (and I can imagine that it might have been a scene, seeing as it was her MIL who brought this on) on her wedding day.


GleanerGirl September 5, 2012 at 3:14 am

I don’t know your family dynamics, or what fall-out there might be if you make a scene (and what, pray tell, is so horrible about making a well-deserved scene?). However, here is a suggestion for possible future use:

If you have invited X, and X invites Y, Z, 1, 2, and 3, along to your party, you grin hugely, and say, “Oh, how WONDERFUL! You’ve brought EXTRA PEOPLE! The MORE, the MERRIER!” in as loud and fakely cheerful voice as you can. Then make a big show of setting up extra seats for them, and of managing some extra food (if you know your guests, and suspect this might happen, then go ahead and plan for it, so getting out the extra won’t be too much trouble for you), all while smiling hugely and gushing about how HAPPY you are to see these EXTRA people, and how it will be so much MORE fun with them there. The other guests will be drawn to the show, and know exactly what happened, and the talk will start, and most people will be talking about how you were put on the spot, and had to go to extra trouble for uninvited people. And the more you take great pains to include them in the festivities, the more you (and they) willl hear murmurs of “crashers” and “how rude!”

No one can accuse you of being ungracious, by turning them away or being “impolite” (read – not bowing to their whims), but you have also achieved the goal of embarrassing them so that they will not pull that on you, again.

Just a suggestion. There are multiple ways to show a polite spine. Some are more fun than others.


Gellchom September 5, 2012 at 11:18 am

I respectfully disagree. This sounds transparently passive-aggressive. If I were another guest witnessing hosts doing something like that, I wouldn’t think the hosts were being gracious; I’d see immediately that they were deliberately trying to humiliate these people. It wouldn’t help much that they arguably deserved it (and remember, the uninvited people may have been told that the hosts had okayed it). I’d still find it childish and mean. And I would be uncomfortable, too, and even more so if I knew the “crashers.” Ironically, it would even defeat the purpose of making sure I knew how rude the crashers were, because any reaction I might have had about the crashers’ rudeness would be overshadowed by the hosts’ childishness in trying to trash them.

It’s certainly very understandable to want others to know how someone misbehaved toward you! I definitely get it, and I know how hard it is to resist the temptation. But even excellent justification doesn’t change how ugly it looks to see a lovely bride or elegant hosts deliberately trying to humiliate people at their wedding.

“[W]hat, pray tell, is so horrible about making a well-deserved scene?”

Well, nothing, so long as you don’t mind …

– having that scene become the focus of your wedding reception
– having the incident and the way you handled it being the most enduring memory people will have of your wedding (including members of your new family)
– deliberately humiliating people — including some for whom you don’t know the whole story
– possibly causing problems in the family that will affect innocent others
– embarrassing your other guests who witness the scene, “well-deserved” or not

I’d rather have people saying, “Wasn’t it all lovely?” than “Can you believe that Cousin Lulu brought extra guests and Petunia had to find meals for them?” — let alone, “Lulu was way out of line, of course, but what was Petunia thinking to make all that fuss?”

Having — arguably – the “right” to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do.


Gellchom September 5, 2012 at 11:38 am

I just want to add that I am NOT saying that hosts MUST accommodate crashers, even innocent ones.

Either, “Oh, please, by all means stay — we’ll get someone to set up a place for you” or “I’m so sorry, I wish we could ask you to stay, but unfortunately we simply can’t” (better still if there is a coordinator or caterer to say that) is perfectly fine. Neither asking them to stay while deliberately embarrassing them before as many people as possible nor kicking them out rudely is – no matter who was wrong.

My point is just that whatever you choose to do, do it as graciously, kindly, and politely as possible. You will be glad.


Enna September 22, 2012 at 7:09 am

I like your comment, I think if there were a couple of no shows then it would be different to accomadate gracious/innocent gate crashers. However if it was my wedding I would go for the latter option. People who aren’t invited aren’t invited.


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