What to Do if an Uninvited Guest Shows Up to Your Wedding

Here's how to handle this awkward situation with grace.

wedding seating chart
Photo: Manda Weaver Photography

With countless hours spent poring over your guest list, mailing out save-the-dates and invitations, and creating the perfect seating chart, you've crafted the perfect selection of loved ones to surround you on your wedding day. But this balance can easily be disrupted when an uninvited guest makes an appearance. We asked some wedding pros for their advice on preventing uninvited guests, plus what to do if one shows up. Here's what they had to say:

How to Prevent Uninvited Guests from Coming to Your Wedding

"The best way to prevent this from happening is to make your guest list very clear. Make sure that people know your plus one policy. Label your invitations in a way that eliminates any vagueness. For example, if you do not want any children at your wedding, yet you are sending an invitation addressed to a household of two parents and four children, address your envelope solely to “Mr. and Mrs. John E. Doe.” Additionally, add a details card to your invitation that points guests to an easy-to-navigate FAQs page on your wedding website where you have clearly laid out your children and plus one's policy.” —Liney Castle, Twickenham House & Hall

"Have a mechanism for handling crashers as part of your planning. In our case, we have a fence surrounding the property with a check-in against the guest list at the entrance. It may also be a good place to check IDs for alcohol, so they have to legitimately have a name on the list." —Vijay Goel, Bite Catering Couture

What to Do If You Can Accommodate an Uninvited Guest

"Most commonly, an unexpected guest is someone who didn't RSVP or someone who brings a date that wasn't invited and didn't RSVP for a plus one. In that case, alert the catering staff to add another place setting and let it be. Turning away a guest will cause more of a scene and take more time away from your guests that were included." —Nora Sheils, Rock Paper Coin, Bridal Bliss

"Unless the unexpected guest is a danger or truly someone who should not be allowed into the event, we recommend that you do not make a big deal to their face or to other guests about their arrival. The day is supposed to be focused on love and happiness for the couple, and making a drama out of an unexpected guest does not fit with the overall vibe! Smile, thank them for coming, accept the gift (they brought one… right!?), and enjoy the celebration." —Angie Johnston, Sapphire Celebrations

"Lastly, if you are accepting of the possibility of uninvited guests showing up, prepare for it. Arrange for three to four extra table settings and meals in the event that unexpected guests arrive." —Shantel Campbell, Wedding Venue Map

What to Do If You Cannot Accommodate an Uninvited Guest

"This is absolutely something your planner can and should handle on your behalf. If you anticipate that this is going to happen, then having the planner's team members check guests in is helpful. Otherwise, it may sort itself out when guests are seated. The invited parties will not have a name on the escort display, nor will they have a seat at the table. However, if you are not having a seated dinner, then you may have to bring it to the planner's attention. At that time, the planner can find the uninvited guest and let them know that this is a private party with a curated guest list and their name is not on it, and the planner can then escort the guest out." —Juls Sharpley, Juls Sharpley Events

"If there really is no simple solution on how to fit them in for dinner, then designate another guest who may have a good relationship with this not-invited attendee to speak to them and handle the situation. Have them express that unfortunately, there is no additional room for unplanned guests for dinner, and the couple had to be very strategic about who was and was not invited to celebrate with them on their big day due to that reason. Maybe they can come back after the formalities have ended and the open dance floor has commenced as a subtle compromise. They did get dressed up, after all!" —Michelle Vining, LOLA Event Productions

"Another tip is to kindly explain that there are fixed aspects of the wedding. Items like chairs, table settings, and food are based on guest count. Extra guests will force your vendor team to scramble to acquire extra resources that they may not have. Explain that to your uninvited guests in the hopes that they'll understand that their presence cannot be accommodated logistically." —Shantel Campbell

Fortunately, it’s rare for a guest to show up uninvited to your wedding. If the situation does occur, the best thing you can do is to remain calm and have an action plan in place (preferably one that keeps you as far away from the drama as possible). As Joan Wyndrum from Blooms by the Box puts it: "Be calm and composed when handling a situation with a guest who arrives uninvited. Handle it with grace and understanding, no matter how stressed or upset you are." This is the best thing to do to make sure your wedding is fun and enjoyable for all.