Wedding Planning Disaster Stories (And How to Avoid Them)

Even if you've checked, double-checked, and super-secret pinkie sweared with your vendors that the day will go smoothly, sometimes life gets in the way.
by The Knot

Nobody's perfect, and, unfortunately, that pertains to vendors, weather, and attendees too. With a grand-scale event like a wedding, there are bound to be hiccups. We asked a bevy of recent brides to share their day-of disasters -- not to make you panic, but to remind you that even when the most unthinkable accidents occur, there's always a way around them (as these folks discovered). So read on, feel relief that even your worst moments probably won't be this bad, and understand that even these brides say that overall, their weddings were fabulous experiences.

Fire Drill Decor

What happened: "The Hindu ceremony requires an open flame, and the church was fine with that," says Nicole M., 22. "But our flames got a bit out of hand!"
What they did: The bride's sister-in-law pulled her back from the fire, guests opened windows so the sprinklers wouldn't go off, and people went home with black soot in their hair.
Tip: If you're dealing with an open flame or this kind of ritual, check the rules of the room and other fire safety measures before you incorporate it into your wedding. And always have fire precautions handy, like extinguishers or damp towels.

Roadblock to Happiness

What happened: "Our wedding was on the last weekend of spring break, so there was almost no parking available," says Diemmai N., 35. "My groom left the vows in the limo, which then took off and was hard to track down, and even our judge got stuck in traffic and arrived 45 minutes late."
What they did: Started the ceremony late. Though not ideal, they couldn't get married without an officiant.
Tip: There are two disaster-worthy issues here. First, the traffic. Before you settle on a wedding date, research any big conferences or events (like spring break!) that are happening at your destination. Second, the missing vows. What's really great about being a bride or groom? You have two people who are looking out for you the whole day through -- that's right, your maid of honor and best man. Nervousness can make any to-be-weds forgetful, so take yourselves out of the equation. Pass off anything crucial -- your vows, the rings, or even your lip gloss -- to your attendants.

Calling in Sick

What happened: "My photographer called the night before the wedding to tell me he was sick and not going to make it the next day," explains Celeste O., 33.
What they did: Booked a substitute through the photographer's studio. Though the new shooter had a different photo style from the one they'd hired, Celeste and her groom didn't stress: "We'd rather have a photographer of equal quality than one that shared the exact vision."
Tip: Vendor no-shows certainly put a damper on the day. Your best precaution is an airtight contract. Before you sign anything, read the language about emergencies that may prevent the vendor from following through with his services: backup plans or strict penalties should be included.

Frozen Assets

What happened: "The ice mold for our buffet table broke before the reception started," says Kaye N., 31.
What they did: Their wedding coordinator replaced it with one of the ceremony centerpieces. Kaye adds, "We were actually happier with the flowers there because they were unexpected and just popped!"
Tip: Ask your florist to leave extra blooms at the reception in case you need to decorate, or cover, certain calamities.

Make It Up To Myself

What happened: "I got lipstick on the front of my dress before I even left the suite," says Carla L., 27.
What they did: When the stain wouldn't come out, she found a way to pin the fabric and hide the spot.
Tip: Have stainfighters (club soda and Shout Wipes) on hand, and be careful of doing anything in your gown! Drink beverages from a straw, and leave your lipstick to the last minute. If you can't fix it, calmly deal with it. Tell yourself that marrying your man is the most important part of the day and a tiny stain can never spoil (or soil) that.

Ambience Annoyance

What happened: "Just before our ceremony began, the groundskeeper started running a Weed Eater," says Gina M., 33. "It easily drowned out our soft-spoken minister. Once that finally stopped, his sermon was interrupted by the wail of an ambulance siren. And once the ambulance had passed, someone trotted by on a horse."
What they did: Continued on with their service, regardless of the sound effects.
Tip: Whether indoor or out, always test the acoustics of your ceremony site. But realize that there's only so much you can control, especially if you're having an outdoor ceremony in a public place. Check the grounds crew's schedule and plan your ceremony at a time that heavy machinery is not in use, or when they're on break. If that's not possible, consider using microphones.

Wait, Whose Wedding Are We At?

What happened: "My fiance and I designed, printed, and assembled the programs, so I was a nervous wreck that I was going to make a mistake," says Janet H., 31. "I did -- a pretty bad typo. I misspelled my own maiden name."
What they did: Spent a late night at the copy place correcting the goof.
Tip: Check, double-check, and triple-check all your paper products before sending them to the printer. Show the proof to someone who hasn't been involved with the design -- like your mom or a bridesmaid -- so she can review the words with a fresh eye. If it's already hit the printer, stop the presses. If there's time, ask if you can do an emergency reprint.

Getting Tipsy

What happened: "Right before I walked down the aisle with my dad, the huppah blew over," says Corey H., 33.
What they did: Several groomsmen ended up holding it steady during the ceremony. "I had no idea why they were holding it and thought it was simply a nice touch," Corey adds. Good save!
Tip: Prepare your groomsmen to think on their feet. You cannot predict the weather (or, perhaps, the behavior of clumsy guests), so you need to assemble a team who can take care of uh-oh mishaps like this. Make it seem intentional, and your guests won't notice a thing.

Safe At Home…or Too Safe

What happened: "Our rings were locked in
a malfunctioning safe in my parents' suite, so the ceremony started 40 minutes late!" says Laura S., 25.
What they did: It took one wedding planner, a hotel manager, 10 staff members, and several anxious witnesses to get it open.
Tip: Don't delay the ceremony, just get married with alternate rings! Ask your parents, best friends, or any close friend or family member for their wedding bands to use for the ceremony. It's just a symbolic gesture.

Vendor Bender

What happened: "Our limo bus backed into a car while we were getting our pictures taken in front of a downtown plaza!" says TeCe H., 27.
What they did: Instead of waiting around for the driver to fill out the police report, they just walked a few blocks to a nearby museum to take a few pictures.
Tip: (Car) accidents happen. If another photo location is within walking distance, go for it. Spontaneous shots make some of the best wedding pictures anyway. Otherwise, always ensure that someone who you're traveling with has a cell phone. It seems obvious, but most wedding party people decked in formalwear leave them at home.

My Heart Goes Boom

What happened: "My maid of honor bought sparklers for our grand exit," says Ayesha F., 25. "Well, when she handed them over to one of the vendors, our dear chef pointed out that they were bottle rockets -- full-out fireworks."
What they did: Used rose petals instead.
Tip: Be flexible. Though you may have your heart set on some small detail, realize that the alternative can be just as beautiful. Maybe your church doors didn't have the hardware to hang your wreaths? Have the florist use them at the reception. It's all about improvisation.

-- Kathleen Murray

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