man doing silly dance at wedding

Wedding Crashers the movie? Hilarious. Real-life wedding crashers on your big day? Not funny at all. Beyond being downright disrespectful, uninvited guests can put a strain on your catering staff, upset your food counts, and throw your carefully crafted seating chart into chaos. Or maybe even get your guest count past what your venue can handle, in worst case scenario! It doesn’t make you crazy that you want to avoid wedding crashers, it just makes you drama-averse.

Read on for the most typical types of real-life wedding crashers, and exactly how to avoid them.

Children of Guests

Some families just assume they’re a packaged deal—and you can’t blame ‘em, not many people know the rules of wedding attendance until they’ve planned their own! If you’re trying to host a child-free wedding, and you invite guests that have children, it’s important to make it clear in more ways than one what their children (while you love them) are not automatically invited as well. First of all, you owe nobody an explanation for why you want a child-free wedding, and secondly, it doesn’t mean you’re cruel if you want a child-free wedding, so don’t even go down that road. All that’s required of you is two things: 1) address your invitations clearly and 2) make a note of your no-kids policy on the invitation itself. For the addresses, it’s customary to write the names of the adults only on the envelopes if you’re inviting the adults only, and “The [Lastname] Family” if you’re inviting the entire gang, kids included. If you’re still worried some of your guests might break the rules, you can casually raise the issue and nip it in the bud before the big day by asking them, “So, who’s watching the kids during my wedding?”

Complete Strangers as Plus-Ones

If your venue and budget allow it, you may feel it’s easier to give all single invitees a plus one, all across the board, rather than only those with partners you know. This is a fine approach, unless you have concerns about looking into the crowd at your wedding and seeing a few unfamiliar faces, as some single guests may wish to grab dates you’ve never met or hardly know just to fill their plus-one (and avoid going to the wedding alone). This isn’t necessarily crashing, since these dates are technically invited, but it’s not necessarily what you had in mind when you gave your friend the option to bring a date, either—you probably weren’t thinking she’d hop on Tinder and swipe someone into the most important day of your life! Still, if you hand out a plus one, you’ve got to be prepared for this outcome—you can’t necessarily approve each and every invitee’s date! Sidestep this uncomfortable form of real-life wedding crashing entirely by simply not giving single guests plus ones—and if you get flak about it, simply blame it on your venue’s max guest count, or say your mother-in-law invited way too many girls from bridge club (wink!). On the other hand, ask yourself whether one unfamiliar guest would really negatively impact your big day that much… if you think you can deal, do let it go. No one likes going to a wedding alone!

Gawking Passersby

If your ceremony, reception or even photos take place somewhere public like a park or hotel, there’s a good chance you’ll attract quite a bit of attention from people walking by—no one can resist taking a peak at a real-life bride! (And who can blame ‘em?) While it may feel flattering at first, it can get distracting, annoying and moment-ruining real quick to have real-life wedding crashers gawking at your big day like you’re actors filming a TV shoot. You can’t banish the public altogether (unless maybe you’re the mayor…) but you can plan ahead with a few defenses to keep crowds from crashing your wedding from afar. First, have your army of pros (e.g. florists, lighting designers, and event designers who are whizzes with pipe and drape) set some privacy elements around the areas of your wedding you wish to keep most intimate, like where you’ll be exchanging vows at your ceremony. Then, see if your planner can bring some extra muscle (no actual muscles required) to plant around the perimeter of your event where they can politely help keep nosy folks moving—sort of like bouncers, but nicer. Finally, work with your stationer to create signs that state exactly what’s going on—Wedding in progress! Please respect our privacy—and place them on easels at key points where foot traffic is heaviest (with permission from the owners, of course).

Someone You Purposely Didn’t Invite, Latching onto a Plus-One

Some people use plus-ones on random dates, others see it as a free pass to invite anyone at all to your wedding, even a friend or other person you specifically did not invite. It likely comes from a place of practicality rather than ill-will—maybe they think you left the person in question off your list because you ran out of space, and they’re happy to use their plus-one-space on them—but it’s still an annoying manipulation of your carefully crafted guest list. The best way to prevent guests from using their plus one as a get-into-wedding-free ticket for anyone? Make it very clear that plus-ones are for dates only–you can write it right on the invitation, after the guest’s name: “Guest Name and Date.” Even better, you can do what I suggested in #2 and only give plus ones to guests you know have partners, or, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you can make it a point to have a quick conversation with every guest you give a plus-one to, who you know doesn’t have a partner, and see who they’re thinking of brining. That way, there will be no surprises. If anyone’s thinking of having a “forgotten” pal tag along, nip it in the bud early!

Final thought: Yes, the idea of an uninvited acquaintance, or worse, complete stranger, crashing the day you’ve worked so hard to plan sounds very distressing. But no matter how annoying it seems in theory, there’s good chance if it actually happens, you’ll barely notice. Even in worst-case scenario (like, there’s no space to put them!), your wedding pros will have your back and it won’t be your problem to solve, so try not to stress too much about real-life wedding crashers. There will be so many more wonderful things to focus on on your big day!