Wedding Bells & Ball-ups
Tales from an event planner
Some weddings are simple and intimate, while others can rival a Broadway production. Either way, planning a wedding takes hard work, and while not every couple hires a wedding planner, chances are pretty good that by the end, they wish they had.
The reasons for being in the business of wedding planning—and surviving in it—are multifold. They include a passion for serving others, the ability to think creatively, patience, and being a good listener—a degree in psychology doesn’t hurt, either. Personally, I find it rewarding to pull off such a momentous event. Chances are you’ve been to your share of weddings as a guest. But if you’re dying to hear what happens behind the scenes, read on.
In the wedding industry, especially when dealing with destination or luxury weddings, it isn’t unusual to receive challenging requests. These can range from a guest arriving by helicopter, to a bride’s father arranging for a fighter jet to do a fly-over at the end of the ceremony, to a groom deciding to make his ceremony entrance to the James Bond theme music.
A few years ago, I assisted with one nuptial where the cast of Fiddler on the Roof was brought in to do the show’s “Bottle Dance.” Eight dancers came in by bus from NYC for the evening festivities. At the end of the ceremony, they performed the iconic number and then, during the Hora, lifted up the chairs holding the bride and groom. At that particular wedding, the guests also enjoyed an $85,000 Sylvia Weinstock wedding cake. Her name alone raises the price tag of any confection, but for those unfamiliar with her work, she creates amazingly lifelike flowers out of sugar. This cake also included a collection of (sugar) Fabergé eggs.
My duties are wide and varied. I’ve been asked to be a dog handler for the bride’s cherished pet, who would be walking down the aisle in a Chanel outfit, no less—no, not the bride. The dog wore Chanel! And I’ve even been placed in charge of a VIP guest’s special bottle of Tequila that he had flown in especially for himself.
I’m not the only wedding planner with a tale to tell. Some of my peers have experienced circumstances that were totally unexpected—and took some quick thinking by the event team. At one wedding, somewhere between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the reception, the now-married groom was caught making out with one of the bridesmaids. All was forgiven, apparently, as this couple is still together. During another reception, the groom got into a fistfight with the uncle of the bride—who had paid for the entire event.
One wedding guest who drank a few too many wandered off the property of one my favorite local venues, only to be found the next morning—naked—on a neighbor’s front porch. At another wedding, sadly, one wedding guest literally dropped dead on the dance floor. After the deceased was removed, the partying continued until the wee hours of the morning.
Although a little rain on your wedding day is said to bring good luck, a torrential downpour is never a good thing. One such day comes to mind during which a beautiful sailcloth tent split open from the weight of rainwater, and nearly everything underneath was ruined. The event staff acted quickly to move the party to a nearby building, regrouped, and, despite the near-catastrophe, the wedding ended on a high note.
On occasion, wedding-party members decide to bring items that the planner is unaware of. This was recently the case when several bowls of “adult” gummy bears were placed around the reception. By the end of the evening, everyone was quite happy, and the venue reported several incidents of guests “getting to know each other a little better” in some of the darker corners.
One of the clauses in my contract states: “If you choose to hire a vendor with whom I have not worked, I cannot guarantee the quality of their service or product.” Only rarely does this pose a problem. However, you just never know when the drummer from the band your clients bring in from NYC will show up without his drums—he simply forgot them and didn’t realize it until the equipment was unloaded at the reception site. Fortunately, a team member made a few calls and found a local drum set that was delivered before the guests arrived for dinner and dancing—and the wedding party had no idea what happened until they were told the day after.
And then there was the occasion when the groom frequented the open bar a bit too often, got sick on himself, and ended up enjoying the rest of the evening amidst his guests—in his underwear.
At the end of the day, most of the situations that occur at a wedding are just memories in the making and, hopefully, will be looked upon in the years to come with laughter and perhaps a few happy tears. So, be kind to your wedding planner—who is, among other things, making sure your guests get on the right shuttle (we liken this to herding cats) or running interference between the crazy aunt with rolled-down knee-highs and the father of the bride who can’t stand her. Remember, we very well might have a few stories about your wedding.