Wedding 101: How to Handle Guest Conflict
Your client’s wedding day is likely one of the most important days of her life thus far, and she probably wants it to go as smoothly as possible! Even the most amicable of family members can sometimes break under the pressure of a big (and sometimes expensive) day. As an event and wedding planner, it’s your job to ensure your client is happy. Once in a while, this may involve knowing how to handle guest conflict during the wedding.
Whenever possible, it’s ideal that families sort out their differences, or at least agree to place them on hold, before the wedding festivities. However, sometimes you’ll have an out of town Uncle who’s been harboring hard feelings for some time and decides to bring up his issues after one too many glasses of wine at the reception. Knowing how to handle a situation like this will help set you apart from your competition and show that you’re ultra professional and can keep a cool head under any amount of pressure. Plus, it’s going to help your bride concentrate on enjoying her day, resulting in a very happy client.
Option A: Pass It Off
Passing the conflict handling off to someone else is an ideal situation when it’s an argument between youths, or the person in question regularly causes the same issue and at least one other family member knows how to handle it. Let’s say Uncle Andy is trying to start an argument with someone who has borrowed money from him in the past and he still hasn’t been paid back. Of course, you can sympathize that the man just wants to resolve the problem by getting his money back, but it’s really not the time nor place for that sort of discussion. Politely asking his brother, wife, or someone else close to him in the family to escort him away from the possible conflict area will work most of the time and will cause the least amount of embarrassment for everyone involved.
Option B: The Polite Ask
Sometimes, all it takes for someone to realize they’re acting inappropriate is to be taken out of the conflict environment and politely asked to stop. Let’s say a bridesmaid is upset because she wasn’t chosen for the Maid of Honor role and is making a fuss at the head table or audibly complaining to guests. Take her aside and let her know that you sympathize, but that complaining about it now won’t change anything and it would make everyone’s evening more enjoyable to just have fun and deal with her feelings at another time, one-on-one with the bride. If they are close friends, she may realize that handling it at a later date and in private is the best solution, as causing any more disruption to the evening could result in even more damage to the friendship.
Option C: Distraction Method
The distraction method is a great one for children who have simply had enough, are tired, and are starting to get upset. Maybe you can ask the DJ to put on one of their favorite songs and get them up and moving. Maybe you can set them up with a game. If you notice an adult who is being disruptive (maybe she’s a second cousin who is trying to go around and tell everyone about her own upcoming wedding or is belting out the lyrics to every song the DJ plays causing a lot of annoyed faces), try to assign a task. Sometimes, all the person wants to feel is included, so try to make that possible. Whether it’s ensuring there are enough favors for each table or having them check in on the children, try to give the individual a productive distraction so the event can continue as planned.
Option D: Removal
Sometimes, it does come down to someone having to be removed from the event. If someone becomes overly intoxicated, starts a physical altercation, or is causing damage to the property, it’s time for them to leave. In some cases, you may be able to have a family member or friend take them home from the event. In the situation of a physical altercation or property damage, however, you might have to rely on security to have them removed. Whatever you do, try to act as quickly and efficiently as possible. You want to shut the bad behavior down as soon as possible and remove them from the area. If two people are verbally arguing, they can continue it – just not inside the event. Send them outside, home, or suggest they finish their conversation anywhere else. When it comes to any sort of behavior that could result in bodily harm or property damage, the individual needs to go home. It’s very rare an ambulance or police car needs to be called to a wedding, but it’s not like it never happens. Have the appropriate phone numbers on hand just in case you should need them.
Are there any other conflict resolution methods you have used at an event or wedding?