Confessions Of a Wedding Planner: Expect the Unexpected

In 25 years of planning weddings, Wayne Gurnick has just about seen it all. The Confessions of a Wedding Planner series gives you a behind the scenes look at the challenges that come up in orchestrating one of the most memorable events in a person’s life, and the lesson learned at the end of the day.

Often, people ask me – after planning your wedding, what could possibly happen on the day of my wedding that I haven’t considered?  I’ve been in this business for many years and I must admit that even I could not have anticipated the events that unfolded at a recent wedding.

A Sunday morning wedding at a stylish beachside hotel in Santa Monica, California with 100 guests – understated and fun, it was all about celebrating the moment without the big show.  My role was as the “day of” coordinator, which meant that I was not involved in the planning and helped to coordinate all the details on the day of the wedding.

The first challenge occurred when the individual officiating the wedding demanded that all 100 chairs be moved closer.  Oh, and this took place 15 minutes before the ceremony, as all the guests were arriving.  Why?  He was concerned that the guests would not be able to hear him.

While this was a reasonable concern, I had to balance it with other considerations – Do I hold the guests back while we move all the chairs?  This will delay the wedding, possibly incurring additional charges. So, I checked in with the bride and confirmed that she was perfectly happy with the set up and was ready to get married!  Great, except the officiate became quite obstinate and refused to start the wedding until the set up was changed to his liking.

Respectfully but firmly, I reminded him whose wedding it was and he reluctantly conducted the ceremony.  As an expert wedding  planner, you must be able to be firm and stand up for what the clients want.  And know how to get people to do what you need them to do, even if they disagree.  Whose wedding is it anyway?

Next – party time!  Not so fast… the band leader was nowhere to be found.  He was MIA with all his notes and special music for the event and the rest of the band, who had no information about what they were supposed to do and when.  Being prepared in this moment was crucial. I guided the singer through the schedule of events and pointed out all of the couple’s special requests.

Just when I was able to catch my breath because things were under control, an hour and a half into the reception, the band leader showed up.  Unfortunately, he was not in the appropriate condition to do his job, making a scene in front of the guests when asked to play some dance music. He became belligerent, and I had hotel security escort him out.

My client tells me that her family and friends still talk about how I took charge of that bad situation. I am happy that I had the experience and the presence of mind to save the party from a complete meltdown.  Wedding Words of Wisdom™ – be prepared for the unexpected!  And surround yourself with people that can think on their feet.

And the final lesson – get any special requests in writing.  Everyone was having a great time at the reception, and the bride wanted her guests to have shots at the bar.  The catering manager explained that shots were NOT part of the special package.  Because the bride wanted the bar service extended, she had agreed to pay the extra charge for another hour of bar, which she assumed would include the shots. On the day of the wedding, the bride was disappointed and upset to learn about the misunderstanding.

After some negotiation, we reached an agreement that limited number of shots would be served without extra charge. My motto: No surprises on the day of the wedding!  Every important detail should be in writing.

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