Should You Accommodate Difficult Guests?

The concept of the dysfunctional family has become a bit of a joke, with everyone declaring their family is ‘not normal.’ And what is ‘normal’ anyway? But for those with severe problems, it’s no joke!

Whether it’s addiction, mental health, or developmental issues, there are probably people in our lives who have circumstances that may impact a big event. Couples planning a wedding often worry about family members who are struggling with those or other ‘disruptive’ issues. With much-needed attention being given to our nation’s opioid crisis, we are more aware that many people are abusing drugs.

I recently officiated for a couple with three children, one who was autistic. This young child moaned, cried, and ran around during the entire ceremony, which everyone tolerated because they love him, and they understood; but unfortunately, it distracted the couple from enjoying their special time. They had given me a heads up about him, and believed he’s be ok, but the stress of the change of scenery and the change in routine created an environment that escalated his behavior. And although they had his favorite calming thing – a cell phone game – to help, it was still hard for him. There’s an important lesson here: triggers.

For those in recovery, weddings can also be stressful. They may not want to be around alcohol, which seems to be such a big part of many celebrations, and some recovering alcoholics would prefer not to be around people who are drinking. Others feel differently. Alcohol can also be a trigger for drug use.

One question is: do you want to have a ‘sober’ wedding? An open- bar with drinks freely flowing is probably not the best idea for the recently sober – flaunting the temptation. If you want alcohol at your wedding, but are concerned about it, consider having table service instead. It’s more discreet than folks hanging around a bar.

It’s a difficult decision whether to even invite a friend or family member who could become out-of-control.  An honest discussion with the person may be possible, but because so many addicts are in denial, it might not work. Choosing not to invite someone, especially someone close to you like a brother or sister, is a very heart-wrenching decision. You don’t want to regret or second guess yourself after the fact, but either way, you probably will.

Another important question to ask yourself is how willing are you to adjust your event to compensate for someone else’s issues. Would that non-alcohol event be ok with you? Would a smaller, more casual afternoon wedding work better, be less stressful? Would you choose a no-children wedding if there are young ones you don’t want there? Would you be willing to provide services or help for those with special needs?

Are you afraid the person in question will make a ‘scene?’ Assigning someone to keep an eye on the person is a burden that doesn’t seem fair.

It’s not uncommon for one partner to be concerned about someone, while the other partner thinks it’s ‘no big deal.’ Try to understand and acknowledge that there really is no way to know what will happen, and in a way, you are both right.

If it the couple themselves in recovery, one or both partners, there are many ways to celebrate that accomplishment. I have had several couples share those stories with me and we created interesting, sensitive and meaningful ways to touch on that in the ceremony.

And of course, if should go without saying, be sure to support someone dealing with addiction or mental health issues. Congratulation them on the hard work it takes, as when they walk a healthier path.

There is no one answer, and no right answer to these dilemmas, but I hope these questions and considerations will help you think through the challenges, if you have these concerns about your big day.

  THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your gorgeous photos 

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  • Blog Author

    Lois Heckman

    Lois Heckman is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who officiates at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies in the Poconos and beyond. She has performed hundreds of ceremonies and brings a wealth of knowledge to her work. Visit her website: ... Read Full
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