The Best-Worst Wedding Brawls, Ranked

In Depth
The Best-Worst Wedding Brawls, Ranked

Over the weekend, news broke of a wedding reception that headed south, way south, all the way down to a big, ugly brawl. But who doesn’t love hearing about a seriously messy wedding, especially when it involves a very drunk bride?

Just after midnight this past Friday, in the midst of her wedding reception, a bride started to feel “unwell” (probable translation: blackout vomiting) and an ambulance was called in. Upon their arrival at the scene, paramedics called for backup because the crowd was “drunk and rowdy,” and as soon as the cops showed up, punches were thrown. It took six police units — that’s not six individual officers, we’re talking six separate teams of cops — to get the melee under control. The groom and best man were arrested for disorderly conduct and the bride went to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. Well done, everyone.

Oh, did I mention this all went down in Australia? Yes, a bunch of drunk people on the other side of the globe got in a fight. Sky is blue, water is wet, etc. But because this happened at a wedding, the story has gone international. Perhaps that’s because it’s a miracle that violence doesn’t break out at more weddings: you’ve got an open bar, there’s probably at least one person in the room who you don’t like or you’re just a mouthy drunk, and the celebratory adrenaline racing through your veins can take a nasty turn at the drop of a boutonniere. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Nevertheless, we bite our tongues and unclench our fists because we owe the bride and groom a bit of decorum, whether we like it or not. Any frequent attendee has witnessed at least one affair where someone’s pissed off about something and just barely holding it together. That’s why when shit hits the reception hall fan, people are can’t wait to hear the story. (To wit, The Huffington Post has an entire page full of wedding brawl news, which was quite helpful for this project.)

For this in-depth compilation of wedding brawls, rankings are determined by a highly subjective formula involving originality, absurdity, quality of available details, probable motivations, and anything else that made me laugh or cringe. This is by no means a definitive list and if anyone’s got some other recent news stories, please do share in the comments.

11. February 15, 2014: Mmm, Pie

From jolly ol’ England comes the tale of a wedding fight that was quickly brought under control with a few arrests. What makes this one special is the reason behind the brawl:

10. June 9, 2012: One Hundred Angry Men

This Glendale, California brawl was started for reasons unknown, but ended with handcuffs:

The man, Karpis Termendzyan, was arrested Saturday after police responded to a fight that broke out among more than 100 people at a wedding celebration. Police received calls from numerous witnesses at 11:52 p.m. about the brawl at Dream Palace banquet hall in the 500 block of East Broadway in Glendale. Termendzyan, 36, of Van Nuys, was arrested on suspicion of vandalism and battery after he allegedly spit on one officer and attempted to elbow two others, and later kicked in a rear window of a patrol car, said police Sgt. Tom Lorenz. […]
Witnesses also reported seeing several people wielding knives at the party, according to police reports.

9. March 2011: Kicky Bride

Angela Davito’s wedding should’ve been a nice backyard affair. It wasn’t.

The bash, held in a Gilbert, Ariz., backyard, deteriorated in a Saturday night fight that had neighbors calling the cops to report people were “killing each other.”
When police arrived, the brawl was so out of control they starting using pepper spray on the guests – but the fighting continued.
Just when things slowed down, the 28-year-old bride charged one of the revelers. When police intervened, Davito reportedly kicked one officer and was arrested for assault and obstructing governmental operations.

8. September 13, 2014: ‘There Was Blood Everywhere’

At a country club, naturally:

Police say more than 100 people at the wedding in Orchard Park, New York brawled after the reception. The fight was so bad that cops from seven departments were needed to break it up.
“I’m telling you, there was blood everywhere,” a unidentified witness told the Buffalo News. “There was holes punched in the walls. Words couldn’t describe it. Just when you thought it was over, another fight started.”
“I think the alcohol was a big cause of what went on here,” a relative of the groom told WKBW.

You think? No arrests were made, but several guests were bruised and one went to the hospital for stitches due to a head injury. In addition to human damages, cops cited “holes in walls, blood, broken crystal bowls and glasses and damage to property in the main banquet area, hallways and basement.”

7. October 20, 2012: Broken Glass, Broken Dreams

Another one out of Australia:

A man was stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle after a violent brawl broke out outside a wedding, with reports the bride and groom were also involved.
Police were called to Lily’s restaurant bar and function centre, at Seven Hills, western Sydney, at around 11:20pm Saturday night after reports of a dispute in the street.
A fight broke out between four people, believed to be guests at a wedding and five men who were walking through the car park.
It’s believed the fight was sparked by an uninvited guest and both the bride and groom had got involved.

It’s a shame the bride and groom had to step in, but if you want something done right, you do it yourself.

6. October 6, 2013: White Russian

A fight broke out at a wedding in Zelenograd, Russia. Here’s a great translation (thanks, Google) of the original Russian coverage:

Start slaughter put two drunken quarrel guests. As told Life News, restaurant workers, men that is not shared, but soon subsided and men quarrel reconciled, and after a while one of the brawlers took out a knife and attacked the enemy from behind, coolly throwing punches in the neck and abdomen.
And got the man hurried to separate bullies: stabbed him in the leg. With stab wounds and penetrate the affected guests were taken to hospital, one of the men is currently in intensive care.

You get the idea. But in case you don’t, there’s always a graphic video. Should you choose to watch, please do note the impressive IDGAF expression on the face of the woman with the cigarette.

5. May 31, 2014: Honeymoon Suite

I’m not entirely sure this counts as a wedding brawl as it occurred after the reception, but it’s got just enough racism to merit inclusion in this list.

The bride and groom are said to have got into a row with concierge staff as they attempted to check into their wedding suite and security guards were called. A fight then broke out between the guards and the couple.
During the scuffle, the groom, dressed in his wedding suit, allegedly attacked one the security guards cutting his face in the process. The bride is claimed to have shouted racist abuse at the guards, who were Asian.

4. July 2013: The Chicken Dance

Poultry is not to be taken lightly, not when it’s coming from a buffet. From the Daily Mail:

Krystel Coleman, 29, was left with a broken nose and two black eyes after Curt Hughes, 53, allegedly punched her at her sister Karyssa’s wedding. The fight erupted when the best man pushed into the buffet queue to get food for his son, which is said to have upset uncle-of-the-bride Hughes. The 53 year old lorry driver is said to have then hit best man, and brother-of-the-groom, Danny Smethurst, 30, and the bride’s father Kevin Coleman, 52.
Ten police vehicles had to be sent to Caldecott Hall hotel in Fritton near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, as angry wedding guests fought in the car park outside the reception. Even the bride’s mother Liza Coleman, 47, was knocked to the ground during the scuffle last Friday.
Bride Karyssa Smethurst, 28, of Gorleston, Norfolk, who is eight months pregnant, then had to drive her sister Krystel to hospital after an ambulance failed to turn up.
The groom, Ben Smethurst, 26, said the brawl started at the buffet table after his brother reached over to get a piece of chicken for his 11-year-old son.

Having a buffet at a wedding can be a smart logistical and/or budget-minded move, but let this incident serve as a warning for guests: when you’re in that line, watch your back.

3. September 1, 2014: The Groping Groom

This is where things got tough; the story here is pretty bad and while violence is never justified, it’s not entirely absurd in this scenario. A wedding reception in Pittsburgh erupted in violence after the groom, one Mark Williams, groped a pregnant bartender and tried to force booze down her throat. According to CBS Pittsburgh:

Police say she called her boyfriend, Tyler Smith, 20, so he could come pick her up.
At that time, Smith allegedly confronted Williams about his actions and a physical altercation began.
Police say Williams’ brother, David Williams, 35, eventually got involved and became aggressive with police.
A fourth man, Brian Taylor, 31, punched his hand through the front passenger window of a car nearby. He was taken to UPMC Mercy Hospital for treatment.
Sources tell KDKA that Brian Taylor is a member of the Stowe Rocks School Board. A police report says when Taylor was taken into custody, he yelled that he was HIV positive, as he tried to resist arrest.
Mark Williams, David Williams and Taylor were arrested and taken to the Allegheny County Jail.
David Williams is a Pennsylvania State Police trooper. He was off-duty at the time of the incident, but police said they’re conducting an internal investigation.

2. October 7, 2012: Caught on Tape

This one ranks high because of the video, which you should see for yourself.

The color commentary — “Did they just deck the bride” — is what really makes it shine.

There’s a lesson here: Hotels and reception halls really shouldn’t book two weddings on the same night.

Police say members of one wedding party were fighting as another wedding party arrived to the hotel. Police say someone was hit and the fighting between the two groups ensued. Many of the guests were intoxicated, according to police.

People were wasted, obviously, but I do love how the police feel the need to state the obvious. The epilogue to this story is particularly unfortunate: after leaving the scene of the fight, the bride’s uncle suffered a heart attack and died.

1. August 5, 2000: The Brawl to End All Brawls

We’ve focused on relatively recent brawls, but this final incident is so worth inclusion that we’ll make an exception. Let us rummage through our satin clutches, reaching deep into the past to August 5, 2000, where two weddings resulted in a deadly brawl in the Chicago suburb of Countryside, Illinois. This one requires a bit more explanation than the rest as it might actually be the most high profile brawl of this century.

On that night, the William Tell Holiday Inn was hosting two wedding receptions. According to the Chicago Tribune, one celebration was for the sheriff’s deputy; the other for an employee of the state attorney’s office. Things took a turn for the worse in the hotel lobby, where witnesses claim that 10-15 guests from Wedding A were lined up against a wall, verbally harassing guests from Wedding B, challenging men to fights and catcalling women. Naturally this led to all hell breaking loose and by the end of it, a man named Michael Chambers — who was the brother of Cook County’s comptroller at the time — was dead.

The details of the fight read like something out of a John Woo movie that never should’ve been made. This play-by-play from court documents is lengthy but conveys the depth of violence:

According to some witnesses, the situation was “unbelievable.” Things in the lobby were smashed, furniture was turned over, and people were crying. One of the wedding guests, Mr. Lange, saw five to eight men on the top of the back of another wedding guest, Mr. Rademacher, who was lying on the ground on his hands and knees. After Mr. Lange realized that Mr. Rademacher was being choked and could not breathe, he attempted to intervene. In response, Mr. Lange was kicked in the face, his glasses split his nose open, and he was tossed toward a windowsill, which cut his head. At that time Mr. Rademacher stood up after being released from the choke hold, and was immediately hit from behind by codefendant Brogan, who slammed him against a wall and held him for approximately 15 seconds. After Mr. Rademacher’s wife slapped codefendant and yelled at him […]
While this was occurring, Michael Chambers returned through the hotel lobby after he had bought some hamburgers at a nearby White Castle. As he was entering the hotel, the men who were lined up against the wall were still harassing some women. According to testimony, Mr. Chambers attempted to get the women away from the men, telling everyone to “go home.” At that point, codefendant Brogan told the victim to “back off motherf——-,” and he and the defendant pushed and punched the victim in the face. After the defendant hit Mr. Chambers, Mr. Chambers attempted to flee into the lobby, but he was grabbed by the men in the hallway, who pulled him into the vestibule by his neck, got on top of him, and kicked and beat him.
At that point, security guards who witnessed codefendant Brogan pushing Mr. Chambers attempted to get people off of Mr. Chambers, who was now at the bottom of a pile. While they were able to get him to stand, codefendant Brogan still had him in a headlock, and both tumbled into the vestibule area. Immediately thereafter, Countryside police arrived, and codefendant [Timothy] Brogan again identified himself as a Cook County sheriff. After displaying his badge, he informed the other police officers that the victim should be arrested because he was “fighting with everybody.” After codefendant Brogan released Mr. Chambers, the defendant, who was also in the vestibule area, jumped into Brogan’s position on top of Mr. Chambers and placed him in a headlock. At that point, defendant was in the vestibule, on top of the victim, choking the victim by his neck as he lay face-down on the ground. Officer Battaglia from the Countryside police said the choker, whom he could not identify, had his arm wrapped around the victim’s neck and had him in a choke-hold known as the “carotid artery choke,” a dangerous and deadly hold if applied improperly, according to Officer Battaglia.
Accepting what codefendant Brogan had told them, the Countryside police then attempted to handcuff the victim and, while doing so, told the choker to release the choke hold. Codefendant Brogan remained in the vestibule during that time. While the defendant still had Mr. Chambers in a choke hold, the Countryside police told Mr. Chambers that he was under arrest and attempted to handcuff him while he resisted. During this time, Officer Battaglia told the choker to release his hold, but the choker did not comply. Officer Battaglia told the choker once again to release the victim, and then felt the victim fall limp onto his own right arm. The choker stated at that point, “he’s out cold.” According to Officer Battaglia, Mr. Chambers still appeared to be breathing at the point they had successfully handcuffed him Tim Fahey, defendant’s friend, then pulled the defendant off of Mr. Chambers as he lay on the ground in the vestibule; injured, unconscious and totally immobile. The security officers who were also present helping the Countryside police secure the scene saw the victim in this condition and became concerned because no one was attending to him. The police officers then pulled Mr. Chambers up, and he appeared to be unconscious. Mr. Chambers expired sometime later.

Given that the deadly incident involved law enforcement officers and so many individuals with Illinois state and county connections, the investigation was a total mess and the media really ran with it. This was a big story and it took over a year to file charges. The choker, Ronald Schickel Jr., was charged with murder but sentenced in 2003; he got 4½ years for involuntary manslaughter but was released for good behavior after 16 months. Brogan, the sheriff’s officer who kept saying everything was under control, was convicted of official misconduct for covering up Schickel’s actions and sentenced to 3½ years.

How do a bride and groom celebrate their wedding anniversary after a night like that?

Illustration by Tara Jacoby.

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