6 Unexpected Wedding Reception Problems (and How to Deal)

Blindsided by a last-minute wedding snafu? Here's how to fix (or prevent) the worst of them.
The Knot
Updated Oct 17, 2018

No matter how dutiful you've been planning for every possible wedding day scenario—from red wine hitting a new white tux to having no-show wedding guests—there are some last-minute hiccups simply too unexpected or out of your hands to prep for. Don't worry, we've got your back. (By the way, wedding day "problems" are inconvenient and frustrating for sure, but they're not the end of the world!) Here's a little heads-up about some spur-of-the-moment snafus you may encounter and tips on how to deal.

1. It's Raining on Your Wedding Day

Well, isn't this just classic. First of all, no matter where you're saying "I do," if it's going to be outside, you need to secure a weather backup plan with your venue's site manager—just in case. And it doesn't just stop with renting a tent. Once you're covered, solving one problem may create another (think: guests coming in out of the rain and tracking mud with them). When talking to the tent company or reserving your reception site, confirm they'll have mats for the entryways or around the perimeter so people can wipe their feet.

But even if your wedding ceremony and reception are being held inside, you still have to get to the venue in your day-of outfit. You don't want your pricey dress and bespoke tulle veil getting drenched in a downpour. If you're worried about damp weather (even if it's not in the forecast), pack golf umbrellas. These aren't just any old corner-store umbrellas. They're large enough to cover you completely while you run from the car to the venue and back again so your outfit and hair don't get drenched.

2. The Kids Are Running Wild

Including children in your wedding is wonderful, but there's a chance they'll start misbehaving at some point throughout the day, whether it's during your vows or at the reception after they've each had three pieces of cake. Kids will be kids—but that doesn't mean they should be left unattended to wreak havoc at your reception. The smartest way to combat tantrums of any kind is to make sure they're well attended and entertained. Seat all the kids at their own table so they don't get bored of grownup table talk and start misbehaving. Serve them kid-friendly food options and set them up with drawing supplies and butcher paper for a fun, seated activity. If you're really worried they'll be handful on their own, hire a babysitter to corral them either on- or off-site. Tons of couples do this (and the kids' parents will really appreciate it!).

3. The Flowers You Were So Excited About Start Wilting Too Early

Petals starting to wither away before the main course? You did not spend a chunk of your budget on flowers to be disappointed before dessert. But flowers are living things with a relatively short shelf life, so plan accordingly with your florist to ensure the blooms you love also last through the after-party (at least). When you're shopping around, stick to hardy blooms that don't bruise easily and can go the distance, especially if you're marrying in a particularly hot or humid place. Sunflowers, gerbera daisies, dahlias, lilies and hydrangeas are all reasonably safe bets—their woody stems and durable petals will last longer and hide their age better than other varieties. Avoid supersoft flowers like gardenias, lilies of the valley and tulips, which are more likely to wilt in the spotlight. If you simply must have these blooms, take preventative action. Your florist should take care of properly cutting and feeding the flowers, but you can help prolong their lives by keeping them away from radiators and other sources of heat, including windows with southern exposure. Also, if you're providing the vases or containers for your centerpieces, be sure they've been washed with an antibacterial soap so nothing in your vessels promotes decay.

4. You've Made Tweaks With Your Pros, But Nothing's Written Down

When you chose your wedding vendors, you read all the fine print and got everything all in writing—except for all the little details you ironed out over the phone as you changed your mind and renegotiated later on. This might seem like a savvy move, until it's time to pay the bills and you're scrambling to remember exactly how much they said each different bit would cost. You don't want to spend more than you planned, but how do you deal with everything you didn't get on paper? The solution: No matter how small or nitpicky, get everything in writing. If you don't want to deal with asking a pro to amend the contract every time you make a verbal change, simply follow up your phone conversation with a quick email confirming what was just said. It doesn't have to be elaborate—a simple note saying, for example, "Thanks for taking the time to chat with me earlier about the new menu ideas. I wanted quickly to confirm the price of the beef filet for 150 would be X." Save copies of your messages and replies and compile them (or summarize in one email and ask the vendor to okay it). That way, there'll be no question or argument when the time comes to pay.

5. It Feels Like Half Your Guests Haven't Shown Up to Cocktail Hour

If your ceremony and reception are taking place at two different venues, you can expect your guests to trickle into cocktail hour in slightly scattered clusters. You're going to have to deal with the logistics of getting guests around, but this doesn't have to mean splurging on transportation on everyone—as long as you provide directions. You may have included a beautifully illustrated map with your save-the-dates, but most of your guests won't bring it with them. To cover all your bases, print brief directions to your reception site within your wedding program (or on an extra sheet), and provide directions on your wedding website for easy reference. Take extra precautions and have the same helpers who handed out programs give guests the directions as they exit.

6. The Lighting at Your Venue Is Nothing Like You Expected

Little can beat a wedding reception site with amazing sunset views—unless guests are blinded by them. And what happens when the candlelit reception you envisioned gets overwhelmed by natural light (who knew what all those windows could do?). While these issues aren't the end of the world, the venue you're paying for should look the way you want it to. That's why it's so important to visit your site (before signing on the dotted line) at the time of day your wedding will take place. If you know there will be a lot of light (or just a little), you can plan lighting for your event accordingly. Remember that the season will affect light too. Worried it will be too bright? Rent sheer, colorful drapes or simply hang fabric so the sun can still shine in to tone it down a bit. Will your sunny site be too dark come evening? Turn low lighting into mood lighting with strategically placed candles or delicately strung bistro lights.

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