The great and wise Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better”. So for the sake of informing so many new brides-to-be about how they can avoid wedding-day disasters, I am going to offer up some advice you can take or leave. I hope you take it to heart and listen intently to what I am saying, because I am genuinely saying it to help you avoid a wedding day disaster or dissapointment.
A little background on this post…
I work weddings almost every weekend and I see all kinds of things happen. Most of them are good things, actually amazing and touching moments and celebrations of love. The guests arrive, the couple is married, they dance, eat and celebrate with their family and friends and drive off into their “Happily Ever After”, all without a hitch, right? What the family, the friends, the weddings guests and the couple don’t always see is how the team of vendors they have selected works together, in sync to make sure the day goes off without any glitches. It’s like a well-coordinated dance with a partner and if one of the team members is not interested in having a “team” mentality and instead goes rogue things can fall apart quickly. But when a team works together and communicates well and plays nicely with the other team members, the end result is a group of professionals, a “Dream Team” so-to-speak that creates a unique and special day, with every detail just as the couple imagined.
Most weddings go off without a hitch, but there are always wedding disasters…to determine how big or what qualifies as a disaster, you have to know whether or not the “incident” actually effected the wedding day timeline, the wedding itself, or the bride and groom were even aware. Many times little things happen throughout every wedding day, so flexibility is a big part of getting married. You have to be good to “go with it”, because like I tell my brides, the most important thing is that you are getting married to the love of your life today, and while all the little stuff matters, you can’t let it ruin your whole day. That is easy to do…”let the little stuff go” when a bride and groom have the confidence that the team of vendors they have chosen has got everything under control and will handle, fix and take care of efficiently any unexpected issue that should arise that day. It’s very hard to do if you, the bride are feeling pressure to handle a situation the day of your wedding because you don’t have an advocate like a planner or someone to delegate resolving issues when they arise. I’ve seen my share of brides without planners, weeping in the hair and make-up chair, or yelling at grooms on the cell phone in frustration over having to handle every last detail while trying to enjoy their day. I hate walking in to a room and seeing my bride crying…in fact, I hate seeing my brides or grooms upset with any part of their day not going exactly according to their plans, ever…it shouldn’t ever be like that, in my opinion!
Now you have a little history, so with that being said, every once in a while I work an event that makes me say,
“I’m gonna have to blog about this”…
First, let me start by saying this is not a post to trash or rant about bad wedding planners or vendors…in fact, it is just the opposite! I want to show you how bad things can get when you don’t hire a good planners or professionals to work for you on your wedding day. I think you SHOULD hire a wedding planner to help with any part of the process you don’t feel you can handle on your own, but that is NOT all a wedding planner does or should do. A good planner does SO MUCH MORE and is worth their weight in GOLD! I see ALL KINDS OF THINGS…and I mean NOTHING shocks or horrifies me, after seeing so many wedding day disasters and tragedies from brides who didn’t hire a planner. I’ve also seen so many situations that could have gone terribly wrong, be avoided by having the right person in planer (a planner) there to put out fires and make sure your day goes perfectly, without a hitch, or if there are hitches and disasters, nobody is any worse for the wear, because they are handled so quickly and beautifully they do not even interrupt the wedding day!
I am going to walk you through a recent wedding day that was poorly managed by a “planner” who worked for a chair rental company, and clearly had not done many events. She was very sweet and pleasant but not confident and didn’t have much foresight to handle a situation before it arose. It happened to me at a recent wedding of an amazing young couple and their wonderful family. They planned their wedding rather quickly and I wasn’t even sure they would have a planner the day of, because everything was planned so quickly. I was so pleased when I received a call from their wedding planner before the wedding, because I know how important it is to have a planner assisting the couple and family through the important details of the day. After our phone call, I forwarded my wedding day photography timeline to the planner and received no response…that is never a good sign, but I had communicated with my bride, so I knew hat she knew the plan for the day and we were good. The wedding day arrives and I showed up, ready to begin. I found the planner, who let me know the bride would be late. I jumped right in and grabbed the groom and took advantage of the time to get some detail shots and the groom’s portraits, while we waited for the bride to arrive and capture the “first look”.
The bride was late and very late getting into her gown, because she was running around looking for items she needed, a job a good planner would have assisted with. I ended up working to assist finding items, boutineers, help with getting bride in her dress and trying to keep the ladies on schedule, as much as possible, so we didn’t run behind with their portraits…all things I have no problem doing, but these are things a planner assists with. The planner was all over the place, appearing to be working, but seemed frazzled. The bride was finally dressed and the first look portraits were under way. I now had only 20 minutes instead of a full hour for the couple’s portraits, so I had to really work hard to get everything I wanted to do in that amount of time. I could have taken more time, but that would have made the event start late, and I hate to ever be late for any part of the day, so I rushed to finish up with the couple and get them to the wedding on time.
As I moved on to begin capturing candids of the wedding area and guests arriving I noticed a large crowd of guests not entering the wedding area. The wedding was standing room only, as it was a small outdoor space. The guests did not know if they were allowed to move into the wedding area, so they stayed, cramped into the back of the room, blocking the aisle. I rushed to find the planner to let her know she needed to be directing the guests to get in place. She came in but looked frazzled and nothing happened, so ultimately I ended up making sure everyone was moved and positioned so we had an actual aisle for the bride and family to walk down. The wedding was now 15 minutes behind schedule and no planner in sight.
The wedding began and seemed to go well. I notice little things that a good planner would have made sure didn’t happen, like the ring exchange from best man and maid of honor to bride and groom. As the best man and maid of honor went forward to hand the rings to the couple they didn’t know if they should stay on stage or go back to their seats, so they awkwardly stood and started towards their chairs, but then ended up staying by the bride and groom. Nobody else probably noticed, but it was clear that the planner had not given instructions on how to handle that. After the wedding I was ready for family portraits in front of the wedding ceremony area and nobody was to be found. A large group of guests were blocking the corridor areas and no planner in sight. When I finally found her, she told me the entire family had been moved to a location in front of the venue and she wanted me to move the entire family across the street to another location for family portraits. That was not the original plan, but for the sake of crowd control I moved everyone across the street. I generally don’t ask to move large family groups, to keep the elderly grandparents and small children from having to walk far distances. In this case, the planner clearly had not considered that. As we came back to the area where the cocktail hour was finishing up the bride asked the planner, “Where are the cocktails?” The planner looked perplexed…the bride then looked around again and realized there was no bar service for her guests during the cocktail hour because they had set up in the reception area. The planner shrugged and acted like she didn’t know why it didn’t happen…my mouth fell open and I found that to be unacceptable!
Family portraits were completed on time and I was ready to head over to the reception area to photograph it for about five minutes before the reception began, and before anyone was seated in the area. I finished up rather quickly and was ready to get everything going, so the schedule didn’t fall any farther behind. I notified the planner that I was ready and guests could begin getting seated at the reception but she was running around with a hand-written sheet of paper with names, looking for specific family members to personally seat them before the other guests were allowed to enter the area, all because there was no seating chart. She didn’t want anyone sitting in the family area, so her plan was to find each person and individually seat them, before allowing the other 80 guests to come in and find tables. You can imagine how that went over…crowds of people standing around and people “checking in” with her at the entrance of the reception as she asked, “Are you family or friends”…”family of the bride or groom” then she checked her list to see where they should be sitting…it was a night mare. It took almost 30 minutes to find the family and seat them at the correct tables, even with me assisting and finding people for her. That kind of stuff should NEVER happen on your wedding day. A professional would never have that happen.
Once the family was seated it was a free-for-all for the guests, and when everyone was inside there were at least 10 guests who had no table or chairs to sit at. Another disaster…I had to jump in again and suggest we take the only remaining table with the guest book and set it up for them to at least have a table to be seated at. I moved all the guest book and gifts to the cake table and got them seated so we could begin the reception, and now we were 30-40 minutes behind schedule. I was already aware that since he bride only booked me for a few hours, I would be leaving early before the reception was over, so starting late meant the bride would miss a lot of important shots during the reception. I took the initiative to go and speak to the bride and work out a new “timeline” to maximize the remaining time I would be there to capture her reception. We brought the DJ in and he was flexible and understanding of how the day was going and was very helpful in making the effort to get everything done the way the bride needed it to happen. We decided on dances then toasts, then dismiss guests for the buffet.
The DJ did his part in making the transition to the timeline smooth and worked with me so well to ensure the bride got what she needed. After the dances we were to go right to the toasts. The planner was busy hand pouring champagne glasses for all 80 guests that she never made it to the bride and groom’s table. I had to go find a bottle of champagne and make sure their glasses were filled…again, that is a job I was more than happy to do, but it is something the planner should have noticed or delegated. After toasts the planner was fixing the couple’s plates but had no plan to dismiss tables for guests with the DJ. The DJ met her at the back table and said he would just go and figure it out on his own and he did.
As the night ended I was exhausted and went to say goodnight to my bride, who thanked me, telling me, “You should totally be a wedding planner…without you tonight things would have been so crazy”! I felt like I was the planner for that event, but at the end of the day will do and did anything I could to make sure my bride and groom have a perfect day. I am always happy to play nice, work with a team and jump right in to fix hair, seat guests, pour champagne, get you into your gown and do whatever needs to be done, but remember, you pay me to capture the day and every second I spend doing other tasks is a second of your special day I can’t capture for you.
Here is where the advice part comes in…when you hire a planner, please make sure they are a kind of planner that can get the job done, with confidence. How do you do that? Interview them…interview several, ask questions, ask how they work with other vendors, ask for specific situations they can share where they handled something that went wrong and helped avoid a day-of disaster. Make sure that they are not just a nice person that works for a company that handles wedding rentals, etc. They should be a professional planner and that is all they do! Planning should be their specialty, and they should have lots of experience and testimonials from happy brides. Any good vendor can provide you with those referrals.
*Interview ALL vendors
*Have a timeline with your planner and one for your photographer and make sure both sync up
*Make sure your vendors aren’t just “yes” people…make sure they are confident and can handle dealing with people and situations the day of your wedding
*If you hire a planner, they should make it easy to organize your entire day…ask them for things they do to help with that/suggestions, forms, etc.
*Cheap isn’t always better…you get what you pay for
*Experience is gold with professionals…hire people who have worked events at the venue you have selected and know the layout and the flow of that venue
*Ask your vendors for recommendations before you hire…they KNOW! They work beside professionals every weekend and know who is top-knotch and who is not
“When you know better, you do better”…and now you know.