Abstract The vibration modelling of waveguide structures is considered. These structures comprise waveguides connected via joints. Traditionally, analytical models of the wave behaviour of such structures can be developed if they are simple (beams or rods connected at point joints, etc.). However, if the waveguides are of complicated constructions (truss-like, layered media, etc.) or the joints are complicated (e.g. of significant physical dimensions), obtaining the wave characteristics might be a formidable task. In this paper, such structures are modelled using a hybrid finite element/wave and finite element (FE/WFE) approach. The waveguides are modelled using the WFE method and thus their wave characteristics are obtained regardless of the complexity of their cross-section. The joints are modelled using standard FE, and the WFE and FE models are coupled to yield the scattering properties of the joints. The propagation and scattering models are assembled to describe the behaviour of the structure using relatively small models, while also providing information for other applications such as structure-borne sound, statistical energy analysis, etc. Numerical examples are presented to illustrate the approach.