Stay up to date with the latest wedding ceremony trends, script writing inspiration, tips and advice for first-time officiants, and news that matters to couples and wedding ministers.

Bride Or Groom MIA On The Wedding Day? Here’s What To Do!

Published Wednesday, Jan. 27th, 2021

Illustrations by Jessica Levey

Imagine this scenario: You meet with an engaged couple weeks or months ahead of time to plan their wedding and nail down every last ceremony detail. But on the day of the wedding, something completely unexpected happens… One of the partners never shows up to the venue. Or, in a more frequent scenario, they do arrive, but they’re very, very late. What would you do?


We asked 3 AMM Ministers this vexing question: 


What do you do if a bride or groom is very late to the wedding ceremony - or doesn’t show up at all? 


(Answers have been edited for clarity and length)


AMM Minister Mathew Anderson 
Based in Fayette County, West Virginia


“I’ve never had a no-show happen, [but] I’ve had couples, who one party will show up late. Whether they’re hungover, whether they’re, you know, ‘Oh the shirt didn’t fit, so I have to go get a new shirt…’ It’s the littlest things [that make a wedding run late]...


I tell everybody: each wedding is a learning experience, so even though I’m coming up on 300 weddings, I’m still going to experience things I haven’t experienced in weddings before. [My response to a party not showing up at all] would just be, to keep everybody calm. Keep the guests calm, you know, try not to make it weird.”


AMM Minister Liz Rae 
Based in Chicago, Illinois & Los Angeles, California


“I actually have had this happen, and it was in my first year of business when I had a late fee in my contract but wasn't really good at enforcing it. The groom was at the wedding, but the bride was "getting ready" an hour and a half later than the wedding was supposed to start… 


After about an hour of waiting, I mentioned to the couple that I did have another booking that I needed to officiate and would need to leave soon. I don't know if I'd recommend saying that now -- I was a lot cheaper back then so people didn't care too much about multiple bookings in one day. But an officiant could either: 


1. Wait it out and send the couple an invoice later (which they may or may not pay)
2. Wait it out and just enjoy talk[ing] to other people (that day, I actually had really great conversations with a lot of the guests so it wasn't too terrible to wait)
3. Let the couple know that it is x amount of time past the allotted time in the contract and you'll have to leave after x time.


It's worth noting that the officiant should look at what their contract states before saying anything, because if there isn't a late clause in the contract, there really isn't too much one can do without causing an issue... So add a late clause in there!”



image of wedding officiant talking to guests, waiting for a missing bride or groom

Use the extra time to talk and connect with guests.



AMM Minister Bonnie Sanchez
Based in the Gulf Coast area of Florida


“[I once officiated a wedding where a bride's father was running over an hour late getting to the wedding, and] was expected to walk the bride down the aisle. I was quite new as an Officiant, and wasn't sure how to handle it. I felt so bad for the poor bride, she was sobbing, and I didn't have the heart to charge extra. I didn't have another wedding to serve so I waited... The dad showed up 90 minutes late, [and the guests were angry about waiting.] 


I knew I had to do something to lighten things up… I made a comment: ‘Obviously we’re here to celebrate their love, but let's take a moment to appreciate and celebrate one another, too! I asked everyone to hug it out and relax, and say hi to one another to get back into celebration mode. It worked! 


Since that day, I ask every couple if they want [this ‘guest greeting and appreciation’ pause] included, since it went over so well… It relieves any tension in the air, and changes the posture of the guests which helps the couple relax.”  



The takeaway:


Weddings often run behind schedule, and you’ll have plenty of chances to learn what works for you. While someone might occasionally be left at the altar, most often an MIA bride or groom (or other missing participant) will eventually appear. Try to enjoy yourself while you wait, and take the additional time to chat and connect with guests. 


Focus on the partner that’s present and see how you can be helpful and keep them calm. Make sure members of the wedding party have everything they need to get started as soon as the missing person arrives. 


Include a late fee / late clause in your contract so that couples know ahead of time how long you’ll be available to wait, and what your extra time will cost. Let couples know these additional rates early in the planning process so that they don’t come as a surprise. No one likes hidden fees!


For more help managing wedding day mishaps, mistakes, surprises, accidents and disasters, read these articles from our archives: 



Have a question for a professional officiant? Send it to us! 

Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

How To Officiate By State

Will You Marry Us? Gift Package

Who Will Officiate Your Wedding?

Choose Your Officiant with our "Will You Marry Us?" Gift Package.

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Our premiere package contains everyting you need to officiate like a pro.

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

It's finally here! Timeless scripts and heartfelt vow inspiration to bring life to your ceremony.

Professional Wedding Officiant Certification Course

Learn from the Pros to Officiate with Confidence!

Wedding Officiant Training

Wedding Officiant Training

Everything you need to know to officiate.

Read our sample wedding ceremony scripts online

Sample Wedding Ceremony Scripts

Need inspiration? Check out our free ceremony scripts!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!


Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!