FIASCO: The band is over an hour late for a plantation wedding, leaving the guests without music for cocktails and dinner.
FIX: “I wanted the band to arrive at Boone Hall before the wedding so they could set up without disturbing the ceremony,” remembers Cris Bernstein of Premier Events. “However, their car broke down twice en route, and they still hadn’t arrived when the ceremony concluded.” So Bernstein asked the Julie Diamond Ensemble, who had provided the formal ceremony music, to play some festive tunes during cocktails and dinner. The band arrived just in time to kick off the dancing, performing nonstop the rest of the night.
TIP: Devise a timeline for day-of preparations, and ask all vendors to complete setup before the guests begin arriving to mitigate last minute scrambling.
FIASCO: At a small resort destination wedding, a guest who originally declined the invitation shows up at the last minute, after their hotel room, golf cart, and dinner reservations have been canceled.
FIX: “The guest arrived as a ‘surprise’ for the bridal couple but didn’t realize the complications this would cause for such a small and carefully planned affair,” says Stacey Fraunfelter of Red Letter Events. “Fortunately, we were able to work with the hotel and local resources to find an available room, golf cart, and an extra seat at the reception.”
Tip: For destination weddings, provide your guests in advance with a phone number where the bridal party or wedding planner can be reached, so those behind the scenes can be alerted about changes in plans.
FIASCO: The guitarist for a beach wedding shows up on time, but all the nearby electric outlets are in use by other vendors.
FIX: “The guitarist finally found an outlet, but he wasn’t able to see the ceremony from his position behind the dunes,” remembers Jean Fisk of Stephen Duvall Catering & Events. “I had to stand in view of both the ceremony and the guitarist and give him hand signs as to when to start and stop playing.”
Tip: If you are using an outdoor venue, calculate how many outlets—and how much electricity—you’ll need before the big day. You might be able to find an extra socket, but blowing a circuit can be harder to remedy. Consider renting an extra generator.
FIASCO: At a beach resort wedding, an employee places lit Sterno containers in the sand to illuminate the path to the reception. A bridesmaid accidentally steps on one, burning the bottom of her foot.
FIX: “We immediately moved her to a seated area away from the guests, and then we applied a mustard sauce to her foot to cool the sting of the burn until we could get her proper medical attention,” recalls Stacey Fraunfelter. Her quick thinking paid off. “Several days later, the bridesmaid’s doctor confirmed that our ‘mustard technique’ saved her from suffering third-degree burns and scarring her foot.”
TIP: Keep your cool. Guests will take your lead on how to react during an emergency. If you deal with the problem and then continue with the festivities, the guests will do the same.
FIASCO: During a weeklong destination wedding, several wedding guests learn of family emergencies that require them to return home.
FIX: “The guests had come hundreds of miles to get to the remote destination, traveling on planes, ferries, and water taxis,” says Stacey Fraunfelter. “With the contacts I had established, I found a local pilot with a smaller plane who picked up the guests from the island and transported them to the largest nearby airport for a quick return home.”
TIP: A wedding planner or someone in your wedding party should be designated as the “go-to” contact person, so when the unexpected occurs, they can deal with the situation in a timely manner.
FIASCO: For a reception on the pier at Folly Beach, a hot dog cart and snow cone machine arrive on schedule—but without staff members to operate them.
FIX: “The pier closed to the public at 5 p.m., so our staff and vendors had very little time to set up,” says Jean Fisk. “The delivery person showed up, but she had no experience with working the machines. Luckily, our staffing manager was able to provide some on-the-spot snow cone training, and we cooked the hot dogs for the cart on our catering truck.”
TIP: For events at unusual or remote locations, try to keep a couple of extra people on hand to deal with unexpected tasks, as the venue is likely to present some unforeseen difficulties.
“Book an engagement photo session, as it will help you and your fiancé grow accustomed to being in front of the camera and provide the perfect opportunity to get to know your photographer,” recommends Kristin Newman of Kristin Newman Designs. As a result, you will appear more natural and relaxed in your wedding photographs.
To allow guests time to meet and mingle, consider having a cocktail hour with a variety of passed hors d’oeuvres, followed by a shorter two-course dinner, suggests Kristin. “Cutting the cake a little earlier can serve as the dessert course and kick off the dancing. Your guests will still have plenty of time to socialize but will also be sure to enjoy the food you have so carefully chosen.”
“Wedding planners and couples should keep detailed records of the event,” says Jean Fisk of Stephen Duvall Catering & Events. Guests are often inspired by successful weddings and want the name of a caterer, florist, or designer. While the details may seem fresh at the time, after the honeymoon and several anniversaries have passed by, it will be helpful to have a handy reminder.