Can the Catastrophes

Can the Catastrophes | Local wedding industry pros share their secrets for thwarting Big Day bridal disasters

Solving this garter glitch was a snap for event coordinator Sara Cavallon of Something to Celebrate since she tucks extras into the emergency kit she takes everywhere the day of the wedding.

FIASCO: Pre-toss, your garter gets locked in your mom’s car...and she can’t find the keys. Solving this garter glitch was a snap for event coordinator Sara Cavallon of Something to Celebrate since she tucks extras into the emergency kit she takes everywhere the day of the wedding. “I have one and my assistant has one,” she says. Intended as a tackle box of sorts, Sara’s kit holds enough quick fixes to impress ’80s TV hero MacGyver. There’s the expected—matches, mints, and masking tape—and the unexpected—white chalk (for wedding dress stains) and fishing weights (to keep floating flowers in place). When one bride forgot to shave under her arms, Sara pulled out a razor. And whenever a bustle breaks, she is ready with a stash of white diaper pins, which are more substantial than safety pins.

FIASCO: You found a fantastic photographer who specializes in documentary-style weddings, but your mom is mad that you don’t want shots of the whole family. While photojournalism has become popular with couples who prefer candid, real-life moments over posed ones, with good planning there should be time for formal portraits, too. “Family group photos are really important,” says Charleston wedding photographer Karyn Iserman. “They can be done quickly and creatively, and it all comes down to communication.” Go over a timeline with your photographer and set aside at least 20 to 30 minutes for predetermined group shots. Tell your plans to members of your family and the wedding party and appoint someone who knows all the players so they can round them up.

FIASCO: An unexpected storm with golf-ball-sized hail strikes as guests drive up to the ceremony location—a family farm and stables. Day-of coordinator Marlene Hager of Marlene Hager Events has dealt with plenty of bad weather, but a stormy April wedding by the Wando River presented several problems, including spooked horses, a power outage, and an overflowing septic tank. To save the day, she rerouted the 250 guests to the main house, where they were met with umbrellas and treated to valet parking. Once the storm subsided, Marlene directed guests to an outdoor tent with generator-powered lights and a seven-piece band and ordered an emergency portable toilet. Stable staff corralled the horses, then cleaned themselves up and assisted the caterer, who cooked on a gas grill. Thanks to Marlene, the rest of the evening went off without a hitch. “You just have to roll with it,” Marlene says. “Everybody had a blast.” If you chance an outdoor wedding, she advises, have an easygoing attitude and enlist professionals. If you don’t opt for a wedding planner, consider hiring a day-of coordinator.

FIASCO: You plan a fabulous reception menu only to encounter last-minute issues over guest allergies and dietary restrictions. L­­abel all foods whether you invite guests with specific problems or not, recommends Cindy Zingerella of Engaging Events. Rather than listing the ingredients for each entrée, she suggests placing at least one menu card at every table during a seated dinner, or marking buffet items with placards. In each case, include descriptions so guests can determine if the item is a safe choice for them. Some noteworthy callouts: dairy products (for those who are lactose intolerant); nuts and shellfish (for those with adverse reactions); and sugar-free selections (for diabetics). Thanks to your good taste, guests who require substitutes can sidestep problems and enjoy the meal with everyone else.

FIASCO: You have to cross 50 wide-open yards to the pond where your ceremony will take place, dashing your dreams of a dramatic entrance. The savvy planners at A Charleston Bride often use a creative cover-up strategy at outdoor ceremonies in which the bride has a hike to the altar: two people walk with the bride and her father, shielding them from the guests’ (and groom’s) view with a pair of white golf umbrellas. When the group approaches, the assistants pull back the umbrellas to reveal the bride. “It’s more of a true unveiling,” says Carrie Glasscock, who adds that the large umbrellas provide shade and protect against showers, too. She suggests having as many as 20 on hand at any outdoor wedding.

Illustration by Nathan Dufree