Behind almost every good wedding and reception is an equally good backup plan.
Ask any professional event planner. Even with the strictest itineraries and obsessive, detailed planning, unexpected problems can arise. The key, they say, is not to panic. And having a list of possible solutions at the ready isn’t a bad idea, either.
Here are a few situations that might arise, along with some quick fixes. They come with the hope that these are actions you will never have to implement.
The problem: The officiant is AWOL. Even members of the clergy and justices of the peace get sick and have to cancel. Usually they have associates who can serve as a backup, but that’s not always an option, say, at a destination wedding.
The solution: First, see if there’s someone among the guests who is licensed or ordained, said Anthony Navarro, the creative director and owner of Liven It Up Events in Chicago (who has dealt with this situation more than once). If you can’t find someone, your next best option to fake it: Find a volunteer to perform the ceremony just for the sake of having one, he said.
The legal ceremony would have to happen on a different day, he said. But at least you wouldn’t waste all the money you spent on the event. (It’s up to you whether to inform the guests of the situation. And you’ll have to decide which of the two dates you celebrate as your anniversary.)
The problem: The dress or tux doesn’t fit. Or there’s another sort of clothing issue, such as a zipper splits or a button pops.
The solution: Make sure you have a sewing kit with you, and then, literally, sew the person into their clothing.
“Sewing is an almost-standard wedding thing for us,” said Alyse Erickson, lead event planner at Every Little Detail in Lansing, Mich. “We’ve had bridesmaid dresses that didn’t fit, split, and had to sew those back together.”
The problem: The ring bearer won’t participate. Intimidated by the crowd of staring adults, the child scheduled to walk down the aisle with the rings refuses. Screaming, crying and hysteria may ensue.
The solution: “If they don’t want to go, but they’re not having a freakout, have one of their parents pick them up and walk them down the aisle,” said Navarro. “It’s still cute.”
And if they’re having a meltdown, say, at the back of the aisle, “swoop them out of the way,” he said. Don’t worry about the episode ruining the day. In his experience, when that happens, the guests usually find it amusing.
The problem: A slurred and shameful speech. A bridesmaid or groomsman gives an inappropriate speech about the bride or groom, with microphone in hand.
The solution: Cut the volume on the mic. The DJs usually won’t do this on their own, so a member of the bridal party or a parent of one of the newlyweds will need to give the order. Then, a typical response is for the DJ to lower the sound on the mic so that people have a hard time hearing what’s being said. Sometimes they’ll also start playing low music. But if all else fails, you might have to pull the plug entirely.
Erickson admitted that it might seem rude to cut someone off, but the alternative can be worse. “You’ve got to just do it,” she said.
The problem: Transportation complications. The bus or limos have mechanical problems, leaving the bride, groom, wedding party or guests stranded.
The solution: Call for a ride — well, several rides. In 2017, Navarro got a frantic call from his clients announcing that a 65-person motor coach en route to pick up attendees for their wedding had broken down and waiting for a replacement bus would push everything on the schedule back too far to work.
“We had to order Lyft or Uber, and we had to send everybody in cars,” said Navarro. “Obviously, it was not cost-effective, but in the moment, that’s all you can do.”
The problem: The weather suddenly turns bad at an outdoor wedding.
The solution: The most obvious remedy is to have an indoor facility as a fallback, but that’s not always possible. At the very least, have a stash of umbrellas and towels (for drying off seats) at the venue. And then consider cutting the ceremony short.
And if the weather is really bad, make it really short. Melissa Hagen, the owner of Melissa Fancy, a wedding and event planning business based in Park City, Utah, had one of her garden weddings hit by a surprise white-out snowstorm. “We had to go from a 25-minute ceremony down to a five-minute ceremony,” she said.
The problem: Illness. The bride or groom becomes sick.
The solution: Seek medical attention before the event, not after. In 2013, Hagen had to rush a severely dehydrated bride to the emergency room. She received intravenous fluids and was able to make it back for the ceremony, but doctors told her that the situation could have worked out differently. “If she hadn’t gone, things could have gone dramatically downhill,” Hagen said.
The problem: A blizzard, flood, tornado or other natural disaster.
The solution: Use common sense. Neither the guests nor the wedding party should have to risk their safety, said Kristin Barse, owner of Bel Momento Weddings & Special Events in Philadelphia. Sometimes you have to reschedule.
Or, at least, you should reschedule. In 2011, she worked at a wedding that was held during Hurricane Irene because the bride’s family was adamant that things proceed. The handful of people who did show up left early — including the DJ. Barse’s car was almost hit by a falling tree.
It’s not something she’ll ever do again. “They shouldn’t have hosted the wedding during the hurricane,” she said.