We’ve all been to weddings where the best man forgot the rings, a baby yowled during the ceremony, or the maid of honor’s idea of a great speech was listing all the bride’s ex-boyfriends. Some mishaps of course, are more serious than others. I’ve witnessed a great aunt’s shawl catch on fire from a candle flame mid ceremony (she was ok, thank god) but such dramas are rare and most wedding mishaps are mere blips on the radar. I’m no wedding expert, but I’ve been to 75 weddings and I’ve seen way too many brides put pressure on themselves to create the “perfect day.” My advice? Expect something to go wrong. It’s all in how you react to that problem that makes or breaks the big day. Have a sense of humor. Remember it's not a magazine photo shoot, but your declaration of love for each other. At the time it won’t feel like it, but some mishaps can even add character and make your event more memorable.
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“Perfection is not always perfect,” asserts Barbi Walters, owner of the event planning firm The Lynden Lane Co. in Southern California along with her daughters Layne Povey and Lyndsey Schwartz. “There is very little that a good laugh or good glass of champagne can’t cure,” she adds. “But being prepared and flexible are crucial elements to not letting a mistake turn into a drama.”
I had a chat with this dynamic trio to get their tips for preventing and dealing with ten potential wedding day snafus. Here are the top 10.
1. UNIVITED PLUS ONES
“We’ve had guests write in additional guests who weren't invited when they rsvp and guests show up who never rsvp’d at all,” says Walters. “This is so common that you almost have to expect it.” If the person RSVP's an additional guest, you can of course, nicely let them know that you are unable to accomodate, or you can stay silent and allow the plus one—up to you. But for those who show up unannounced, you need to be flexible.
“Have extra place settings on hand that can be added to an existing table or even an additional table that can be added or removed easily,” says Schwartz. “We also do place cards for everyone on the guest list even If they haven’t rsvp’d—you just never know and it doesn’t take much more time or money."
2. MISSING CLOTHING OR ACCESSORIES
“Forgetting an accessory or article of clothing is common,” says Povey. “We’ve had two weddings where the bride and her mother showed up with empty shoe boxes.” Povery suggests providing an attire and grooming checklist for the wedding party and they can check off as they pack. And remind them to look inside boxes and bags! “Designate someone outside of the wedding party ahead of time who would be willing to deal with a missing item,” adds Povey. “Make sure you have that person on speed dial along with a list of the nearest department stores.”
But what if the wedding is in a remote location or the discovery happens too late?
“Then they can wear a different pair of shoes they brought with them or try borrow shoes from someone else,” says Walters. Last resort? Just have the bride go barefoot or the groom go sans tie. Nobody is really looking at the bride’s feet anyway. And remember, it makes for a good story later!
3. WARDROBE MALFUNCTIONS
A stuck zipper! A ripped dress! A grass stain on the groom’s shirt! “If the wedding is at a hotel, find out if there is a seamstress on staff and if so, make sure she’ll be available on the wedding day and get her contact information,” advises Povey. “Also make sure your wedding planner has a sewing kit with tape, safety pins, etc.” “We once had to fix a Bride’s broken zipper using duct tape.” Adds Walters. “It worked!”
You can also designate a family member who can sew as the crisis “seamstress.” If the problem is more serious—like a huge stain on a gown—there are pretty much two options. “Give the bride a shot of tequila and have her slip into her next best available dress or something borrowed from a bridesmaid,” suggests Walters. OR? just wear it anyway, and as they say in the film Frozen, “Let It Go!”
If you wear the stained gown, simply explain to your guests what happened. Something like, “I wanted to be in all white today, but my three year old niece Emma had other plans when she ran to greet me holding her strawberry popsicle! Emma, you have made your own special mark on this wonderful day!” Guests will laugh and appreciate that sentiment much more than they would a complaining or bitter bride. Don’t underestimate the power of comic relief.
4. THE ANNOYING DJ
Sometimes the DJ simply doesn’t play what they said they were going to and goes off on their own tangent. Other times they are rude to guests who request songs, or they don’t stop talking and act like game show hosts. Schwartz recommends getting to know your dj before the big day as they often end up being the “voice” of your event.
“The ones who think they are at a bar mitzvah and not a wedding are the worst,” she says. “If you don’t want that, let your wedding planner know ahead of time that if your DJ is a chatterbox to tell them nicely, 'more music less talk'. Also bring a back up playlist and if you must, use that instead.”
5. DRUNK GUESTS
Speaking of champagne, let’s face it—most wedding guests like to enjoy a glass of bubbly (or something alcoholic) or two, or three. Perhaps it’s to help them let loose on the dance floor, or maybe it makes conversation with their conservative Aunt Betty not quite so painful. But there are inevitably one or two guests who go overboard. “This can be ok if they behave themselves, don’t get too sloppy and don’t drive,” says Walters. She cautions that these guests need to have an eye kept on them to make sure they don’t inadvertently hurt themselves or others.
Sometimes a member of the wedding party gets inebriated before the ceremony even begins. “We’ve had to help key family members down the aisle,” Walters says. “Make sure the wedding planner gives them lots of water and assigns a strong usher to escort them. It’s also smart to seat them next to someone who can take care of them.”
Another good idea? Serve coffee along with donuts, bagels or some other carbohydrates for late departing guests—I was once at an event where warm pizzas showed up at 2:00 a.m. and the guests devoured them.
6. INAPPROPRAITELY DRESSED GUESTS
Your brother’s girlfriend in a low-cut, micro-mini at the church ceremony, your loud uncle with an even louder Hawaiian print shirt at the black tie affair—we’ve all seen them, guests who either have no clue or don’t care if they are inappropriate.
This one is tricky. There's not much you can do about it and it's bad etiquette to make a guest feel uncomfortable. You might have someone offer the “bare” girlfriend a sweater while inside the church or lend a dark jacket to the uncle (many hotels and clubs have extra jackets on hand), but Walters and her daughters say you’re probably better off trying to prevent this than fixing it.
“Indicating on both your invitation and your website what attire you are looking for is the best way to let people know the dress code, “ says Schwartz. “But if you suspect there’s someone who might transgress from your vision, ask a friend or relative to gently remind them prior to the event. And be aware that even if you do all of this, there will still likely be a few guests who go rogue,” advises Walters. “All you can do is live with it and maybe have another glass of champagne.”
7. CAKE CRISES
Wedding cakes are often displayed prominently and proudly as they await that symbolic photo moment when the bride and groom cut it and feed it to each other. So when something goes awry with the cake, wedding planners go into full rescue mode. “I was a guest once at a wedding where the cake completely melted in the heat” says Walters. “The caterers somehow propped it back up and covered any imperfections with more frosting. I’ve also seen flowers used to cover imperfections and cakes turned around so the problem area faces a wall.”
If a cake is completely beyond repair, say a dog eats it, there are still options especially since they are usually in the spotlight towards the end of the reception. Send someone to a grocery store or bakery to grab as many white cupcakes as they can. Decorate them with silver or white sprinkles and arrange them on white or silver cake trays or platters. When the “cutting” moment comes, simply have the bride and groom feed each other a cupcake. Crisis solved. Most guests probably won’t even know the difference.
8. INAPPROPRIATE WEDDING SPEECHES
"This is not Stu’s first Marriage. There was a whore in Las Vegas a couple of years ago…” these are the words uttered by Alan (Zach Galifianakis) in The Hangover 2, before he gets cut off by the other groomsmen at a wedding dinner. Most speeches don’t go that far. But we’ve all seen the best man who tells a long “bro” story that has nothing to do with the couple, or the drunk uncle who slurs while talking about how sexy the bride is.
There’s actually not that much that anyone can do to prevent this, but if you are concerned that a particular speaker might go in that direction, ask someone close to them to gently remind them that a wedding speech is not roast, or offer to help them with their speech ahead of time. Humor is welcome but nobody wants to hear about the bride or groom’s former sexcapades.
“We’ve actually had to ask DJ’s to cut off certain speeches when they got too out of hand,” admits Walters. “The bride said she would give me a signal if it got too crazy. Sure enough, when I looked over at her, she nodded, so we told the DJ to start playing music—like they do at the Oscars when a speech goes on too long! It worked!”
9. MISSING RINGS
It doesn’t only happen in movies. Real life best men also forget the rings or ring bearers missplace them. “If this happens, try to borrow rings from someone in the audience who is close to them,” says Walters. “Most people wont briefly mind giving up their hardware for the cause."
This way you’ll have something to put on during the vows and after the ceremony you can simply return them. I’ve also heard of people using pop tops from aluminum cans or ribbons until they could replace their faux rings with the real deal. Remember, the ring is merely a “symbol” of eternal love. It doesn’t have to be an expensive gold band in order to serve that purpose.
10. UH-OH, SOMEONE FORGOT GOT TO...
“DYI weddings can be great,” says Povey, "But relying on your guests, even very close relatives, to be your work force can backfire so be careful when assigning duties and look to your event planner for guidance.” Her team always has a back up plan in place when a bride says her cousin will tie ribbons to the flower vases or the groom claims his nephew is going to put out all the chairs or serve as the bartender. “These plans are well intentioned but I’ve often seen them go awry,” adds Walters.
She explains that people often underestimate how much time certain tasks take, how many people are needed or how busy that person is going to be with other things. “I’m not saying that friends can never be put to work,” she adds. “ I just like to warn couples to be extra careful about assigning guests wedding day duties and I make sure there are workers on hand who can take care of these tasks if need be.
Are these the only things that can go wrong? Of course not. But they are among the most common. And again, for any problem that may arise, think about how you’ll feel about it a year from now, five years, or ten. You’ll find that it suddenly feels less crucial. Take a deep breath and keep remembering that this day is about your expression of love, not a competition for “The Most Perfect Wedding Sweepstakes.”