A well-curated wedding guest list is essential for preserving your budget, eliminating drama, and staying within the venue’s (and fire marshal’s) maximum capacity. Deciding who makes the cut isn’t an easy task, and it’s one that can cause tension for the couple — particularly when hosting a small wedding.

So, after all the consideration that goes into your guest, it can feel downright disrespectful for uninvited people to show up on your big day. Logistical challenges aside, it can seem like an affront to your celebration and the time you invested in planning it for your invited guests.

However, nothing should spoil your wedding day – even if it’s a surprise guest who arrives unannounced. If you’re concerned about wedding crashers, follow these tips to prevent the situation altogether (or manage it if someone does end up slipping through!). 

Keep the details private

If you don’t want people crashing your wedding, it’s best to keep your wedding plans under wraps. Otherwise, it’s possible for some looky-loos to catch wind and know exactly when and where to show up.

“If you are worried about uninvited guests attending your wedding, ensure your website is private and arm it with a password!” urges Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss. “There is no need to broadcast times, places, and intimate details of the day to those who didn’t receive a formal invitation.”

Likewise, avoid sharing details on social media that reveal your wedding’s location or time of year. If you’re not careful, someone may be able to dig in and connect the dots!

Be specific in the invitations

Believe it or not, most “wedding crashers” aren’t strangers or exes out to make a scene. Instead, “in most cases, it’s a plus one or a child that one of your guests decided to bring,” explains Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events

While there’s no controlling your guests’ actions, you can set clear expectations with intentionally-worded invitations. 

“The best way to navigate uninvited guests is to avoid the situation altogether by clearly stating who is being invited,” confirms Kelley Nudo of Momental Designs. “Paying careful attention to the invitation wording and the envelope address can help ensure your guests know who should plan to attend.”

For instance, addressing the envelope to only the people invited and noting whether it’s an adults-only reception can nip some confusion in the bud. 

But if you want to go the extra mile, Nudo also notes that couples can “consider customizing the RSVP to include the guests’ names, so they know that only the people listed on the card are invited.”

When writing your invitations, don’t leave anything up for assumptions! However, accept that even the most direct wording won’t stop some people from bringing a tag along if they’re inclined to do so.

Prepare in advance

Even the best-laid plans can go awry, so it’s always a smart idea to have a backup plan! Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events Design and Planning recommends couples “have a contingency plan if more uninvited guests appear than you expected.”

In some cases, you may allow uninvited guests to stay, so proactive planning “could mean renting additional chairs or setting up extra tables,” Vizcaino notes.

Or, if you’re firm about sticking to the guest list, “hire security to add an extra layer of protection, so only those allowed in are your nearest and dearest,” Sheils suggests.

Preparing for the unexpected allows you to let go of the worries, and if an unexpected arrival occurs, you’ll feel confident knowing there is already a plan in place.

Avoid day-of overreactions

It’s your big day, and the worst has happened — someone who isn’t on the guest list has shown up. How would you handle it? While your partner’s ex may garner a different reaction than your bestie’s new beau, there’s no need to create a scene. Keep your poise and approach the situation thoughtfully rather than emotionally.

“Before deciding to “bounce” an uninvited guest, consider the ramifications,” encourages Twickenham House’s Jocelyn Hunter. “Is the guest a plus one? An overlooked family member? Someone who truly made a mistake? How far have they traveled? Or is it someone you genuinely do not want on your special day?”

Whether you welcome them to stay or want them kicked out, there is no need to escalate an uncomfortable situation. 

If you expect them to leave, “take a deep breath and collect yourself for a moment,” says Kimberly Sisti of SISTI & CO. “Be kind but clear when speaking to the guest that you can’t accept any uninvited guests. There’s no need to blame them or ask them what they were thinking. Just stay calm and let them know that they need to depart.”

And if you don’t know what to say, Sisti promises that it’s OK to put the onus on venue restrictions. “If you don’t feel comfortable telling them to leave, you can always “blame” the venue or the caterer, even letting the guest know that they have strict rules and cannot allow additional people,” she says.

Better yet, “your venue coordinator, wedding planner, or catering manager can handle it for you,” Chang assures. “And if the situation calls for someone more personal to handle it, have a sibling or parent escort them out.”

Then, let it go and enjoy your wedding! Nothing can take away from your special milestone and the people you’ve chosen to celebrate with you. Wedding crashers or not, you and your partner are newlyweds surrounded by your loved ones — let the love flow and soak in every moment!

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.