A good magician never reveals his or her tricks, and a wedding planner is a lot like a magician. There are some smoke and mirrors, and on the day of the wedding, the disasters that happen are fixed by the planner before the couple even notices. My favorite question to get from my clients when they return from their honeymoon is, “What went wrong that we didn’t know about?” Here are my Top 10 answers.
1. The entire set up was delayed by four hours.
Putting together the “day of” timeline is a very long and tedious process. Every planner works differently, but I personally like to construct the day with the vendors I am working with. This means I speak to the caterer about when food is served, the venue about set up timing, the DJ about dances, the photographer about their schedule and so on and so forth. I like to work this way because the timing has to work for everyone working that day. So, if the make up artist tells me that she needs to start at 6:00 a.m., that’s what time we start.
Of course there are adjustments that can be made the day of the wedding, and the timeline is put together to allow for lateness and mishaps. But one time, the set up was delayed four hours because the venue coordinator didn’t check the calendar to see that another event was in the exact same room earlier that day, despite confirming that we had the room to ourselves. Needless to say, it made everything very difficult and we worked with the florist to set up in a different location. With some major hard work and hustle, the set up was completed on time and done before the couple and any of their guests got to the building. I was extremely thankful that this was a “full planning” couple and that we were working with my florist that only books one event per day and was able to stay on site instead of going to another wedding to set up!
2. None of your guests got on the shuttles that you paid for.
Many of my clients want to book enough shuttles to bring guests from the hotel block to the wedding and back at the end of the night. The more locations, the more my couples want this service so that they don’t have to worry about their guests getting lost or not showing up on time. In order to set up this transportation, the couple has to decide how many people they need it for in advance of the wedding date, and we make sure to ask guests when RSVP’ing to the wedding to check off if they will be using the shuttle.
But the problem is, many people will say they are taking the shuttle and then decide not to, and vice versa. Shuttles aren’t inexpensive though and you end up paying for them even if no one uses the service. At one wedding, the shuttle company called me to let me know that of the 75 people they were waiting for, only three showed up. If they didn’t leave right then, they would be late, so we gave them the green light. Of course, it was nerve wracking to think if the other 72 guests were going to find the venue and show up on time. My assistant waited by the entrance of the venue to guide those guests inside, and we moved the bride’s entrance to a different part of the building so that she didn’t see three people getting off the shuttles instead of the 75 right before she walked down the aisle.
3. Your florist didn’t set up what you think she did.
Whether we are handling the flowers and decor, or we’re working with one of our preferred florists, it’s always crystal clear as to whom is setting up what. But there are plenty of weddings we plan where the clients already have certain vendors locked in, which means they have already had the meetings and signed the contracts. We play some catch up and get as many details as possible, but sometimes we’re not told everything, or we’re given conflicting stories.
In one instance, we were on site for a wedding where you simply rented the space and brought everything else in. While we were handling our set up work, the florist approached me about certain areas where flowers were supposed to be placed, including the cocktail area and directly on the cake. After confirming the details, she handed myself and my staff a bucket of roses and indicated that they should be enough. When I mentioned that my team and I were handling other issues, I was told by the florist that she “wasn’t paid” to handle that set up (Ok, but neither were we). Biggest issue? The flowers weren’t in water (so we had to locate a water supply) and they all needed to be cut. Thankfully, I have flower shears in my emergency kit, and we were able to put the flowers our client had paid for to good use. Otherwise they would’ve been in a bucket on a floor. Needless to say, half of the set up was taken care of by us and the bride was happy with everything she saw.
4. Over a dozen people showed up that didn’t RSVP.
One wedding we designed and planned included a large surprise of more than 12 people walking in that never RSVP’d. These people all needed seats at tables and of course, food. When you’re in a venue with in house catering and there are one or two extra people that show up, that is difficult, but manageable. At this wedding, it was another venue where we brought in everything including tables, chairs, serveware and yes, food.
When over a dozen people show up needing all of these “basic” things, it’s hard not to look at them without shaking your head. I mean, my staff is good, but we can’t just build tables. Plus, while we do rent extra plates and such, full place settings for that many people would increase the bill that our client would have to pay. In this particular case, we called the emergency number of our rental company, and got them to bring the extras that we needed, and the caterer we were working with made adjustments to get everyone fed. During the set up of the extra tables (and linens and chairs, etc.) we brought the non-RSVP’ing guests to a different location so that the couple didn’t see them hovering in the hallway and worry about if they would be taken care of.
5. Your rentals arrived an hour late.
Part of the timing of the day includes when each and every vendor is going to arrive and how long they need to set up. Occasionally, my company is hired for “month of” coordination which means we’re just handling the logistics of the day and executing them. We don’t bring in any vendors, and sometimes that means working with people that we would never have recommended in the first place.
One wedding we worked on had an extensive list of rentals attached to it, and that included linens. We set up a timeline to make sure that the florist knew what time the linens were going down, because that’s when they could place the centerpieces. For this wedding which included several hundred guests (which translated to over 30 tables), the linens showed up an hour late, resulting in the florist getting delayed and they were designing directly on site. When the linens arrived, we grabbed them all and helped the rental company get them all down to save some time. One of our team members was constantly checking on or with the bride to make sure that not only was she enjoying getting ready, but that she didn’t come out to see the florist in a panic. When the bride and groom were escorted to see the full set up, everything was completed instead of only halfway done.
6. Your groomsmen started a fire.
We can’t control wedding guests or wedding parties, and sometimes things get a little crazy. On one wedding day, the groomsmen had a little too much to drink and got behind the wheel of a golf cart. This golf cart went directly into the tiki torches that were set up, and then those torches went down and caused a fire. Thankfully, we stay on site until the last wedding guest leaves, so we were able to get the fire out without anyone ever finding out. Including the bride and groom. Bonus? We got the fire out quickly enough so that there was no damage and the venue didn’t have to charge the bride and groom for anything.
7. The shuttle company got into a car accident. With your guests aboard.
Another couple that we worked with that wanted to transport their guests everywhere didn’t want to hire one of the companies that we recommended. As I mentioned before, using shuttles for all of your guests can come with a hefty pricetag, but it’s one of those things that you don’t “cheap out” on. Take this one couple we worked with that wanted to shuttle all of their guests because the wedding was located so far from where everyone lived that it was practically a destination wedding. When they found out what it would cost to hire a company we endorsed, they went out on their own and brought in someone else.
The day of the wedding, we were called by one of the drivers and were told that he was in a car accident with all of the guests on board. While no one was hurt, this is obviously not a good situation. The timeline we created allowed for some wiggle room and none of the guests were going to be late. However, we instructed the driver to make an announcement to the guests that under no circumstances were they to call the couple or the wedding party to let them know what happened. We also went straight to the best man and maid of honor to give them a head’s up and ask them to please make sure everyone stayed away from their cell phones, just in case a text came through about the accident. The couple did eventually find out, but not until well into the reception… which is when they came up to us to ask if we had heard about it.
8. Your flowers caught on fire.
Candles and flowers are on almost every single table where the guests sit at weddings. Many times, couples will put the most amount of people that they can at each table, which results in cramped spaces as well as a tight tablescape. While 14 people might fit just fine around a table, pile on 14 place settings, a centerpiece, candles, and then whatever the guests put on the table during the evening, and it can get tricky.
During one wedding, we had tall centerpieces that included a lot of white flowers, and that centerpiece was surrounded by tall candles. The candles were pushed very close to the centerpieces because there were the maximum amount of people at each table. As the candles were lit, I could smell smoke and raced around to figure out where it was coming from. There were five tables with flowers on fire, which meant reconfiguring the centerpieces, and removing some flowers that were now a crispy black. Thankfully, nothing was noticeable and we cleared the smoke smell before guests entered the room.
9. The catering company didn’t clean up anything.
One of the benefits of hosting a wedding at a banquet facility is that there is typically an on-site caterer that handles not only the food, but set up and breakdown… and clean up. When we work at creative spaces, we like to bring on our recommended caterers that also can handle these responsibilities. It’s a disaster when no one is quite sure what everyone else is responsible for, and it’s never good to hear “that’s not my job.”
At a wedding we were hired for “Month Of” Coordination, the bride and groom had selected a caterer that owned their favorite restaurant. When we first touched base with this caterer we found out that this would be their first wedding ever, and they asked us for some guidance throughout the process. What they didn’t mention to us is that they were just hired to cook and serve, and that they wouldn’t be clearing any of the plates, or cleaning up for that matter. Needless to say, we spent a good amount of time cleaning up the cocktail hour area, as well as running to the store at 11:00 p.m. for garbage bags (because the caterer didn’t have any extra) to clean up the dirty plates so that our couple didn’t get hit with a multi-thousand dollar fine from the venue the next day.
10. Your DIY stuff didn’t work/fell apart.
Ahh, the DIY Pinterest inspired decor. This stuff always makes me nervous because there are so many things that can go wrong, and the bigger the project, the better chance it has to fall apart. We don’t typically work with couples that want to DIY their entire wedding, centerpieces and all. The reason for this is simply that we can’t fix everything and don’t want an arts and craft project on our hands the day of the wedding. However, many of our couples do add some personal touches that we can and will set up.
Thankfully, in my emergency kit is a whole lot of super glue, safety pins, double sided tape and frankly, the contents of an art supply store. For more than one wedding we have glued “bling” back onto frames, safety pinned table numbers to the linens because they were too thin to stand on their own, and taped, stuck and hammered things back together that fell apart as we were setting them up. Usually when this happens the venue coordinator or another vendor will ask us “what would happen to these things if you weren’t here?” Our reply?
We have no idea.
There is my Top 10 favorite “crisis averted” moments, and trust me, there are hundreds more. This is not to say that a wedding will fall apart without a planner, but really, why even take the chance? Hire a Houdini, sit back, relax, and just get married.