Woe-No! | Avoid wedding day disasters with these sage tips from Lowcountry event professionals

FIASCO: One tent plus one sunny day equals one cake-melting hothouse.
“I made a cake for a December wedding,” recalls Jim Smeal of Wedding Cakes by Jim Smeal, “and while the weather outside wasn’t hot, it was sunny, and the clear-roofed tent turned into a greenhouse.” When the cake couldn’t take the heat and showed signs of a potential meltdown, Jim ran it back to his shop for a few emergency repairs before returning it to the wedding right before the guests arrived.

To avoid a similar fate, Katie Bell of Timeless Designs advises planners to think ahead and coordinate with cake designers. She recommends having cakes delivered one to two hours before the reception starts, noting to never leave confections in direct sun or in a similarly hot spot. “If you want to serve the cake outside,” she says, “ask the catering staff to keep it in an air-conditioned room or in the kitchen during cocktail hour and dinner, then have them bring the cake out for the cutting. Not only will that keep it fresh, but it also creates a dramatic entrance.”

FIASCO: The Indian summer weather you counted on for your outdoor fall wedding suddenly turns frigid.
Calder Clark of Calder Clark Designs encountered this trial one November when a storm swept through and left frosty temperatures in its wake. Luckily, she had towering mushroom heaters and boxy space heaters on reserve for the chilly plantation affair. “Partner up with a rental company,” she says,“to make sure you have options.”

Carrie Glasscock of A Charleston Bride suggests stylish solutions when caught in a similar situation.“Get pashminas and throw blankets from discount stores,” she says.“Then drape the wraps over guests’ seats before everyone arrives, and place the throws on the lounge furniture.” And, she adds,“you can buy pocket heater packets for the gents to tuck in their pockets for a little added warmth.”

FIASCO: Your wedding party gets worn out and cranky before the reception even begins thanks to long hours of celebrating...and duties.
“Don’t forget to make your wedding party comfortable,” says Calder Clark. “After all, fall days in Charleston can still get up to 90 degrees, so be sure to provide cool drinks and light refreshments for them.” Calder also reminds brides to make sure caterers and bartenders pay attention to the wedding party while they are photographed. “Often,” she says, “they miss out on cocktail hour because of wedding photos, so bring cocktail hour to them! Pinpoint a bartender to shadow the group to ensure they get drinks just like the rest of the guests.”

FIASCO: Bright lights deter people from cutting a rug on the dance floor.
Ellen Robinson of Weddings Elegantly Designed says reception lighting can be tricky—it’s often either too dark or too bright. As a workaround, “We always install dimmers so you can create the atmosphere you want,” she says. Usually, dim light is optimal for dancing, and bright light makes sense for cake cutting. Thus, Ellen suggests brides speak with location facility managers about existing lighting options. Dimmers can be easily installed, even if you’re using a tent.

FIASCO: The live oaks that are giving so much Southern charm and character to your outdoor wedding are also giving off gobs of pollen.
“Spring means everything gets a yellow film on it,” says Tally Angle of Distinctive Events, “and it’s very hard to keep furniture clean. About midway through a wedding day we spray pollen off with window cleaner. And we don’t put tablecloths out until the last minute in order to keep them clean.” Tally also brings allergy medicine and tissue packets for people who well up from overloads of pollen…or emotions.

Illustration by Steve Haske