After devoting countless hours planning every detail of your wedding festivities, it’s understandable that you expect everything to be flawless with a capital F. The emotional stakes are off the charts since you and your spouse-to-be (not to mention both families) have been looking forward to this day for your entire lives. But the truth is: there is no such thing as a “perfect” wedding—you’ll never be able to control every single aspect of how it will unfold. Even the most organized and well-coordinated events may encounter a few bumps in the road.
“The first thing is to remain composed and speak calmly, just as you should in any negative situation,” says Desiree Dent from Dejanae Events. “Address the problem as soon as possible by seeking out onsite vendors or staff to help you resolve the issue. Don't allow it to ruin your day of celebration and love!”
Professional vendors are equipped to defuse disasters and find a solution before alarming the newlyweds and their wedding guests. For example, Roxy Zapala from Art of Celebrations recalls a wedding at a beautiful old church that went awry thanks to a double booking. When her team went to set up the elaborate ceremony décor that the couple had requested, the priest told them to hold off, as a funeral was about to take place.
“Guests were going to be arriving any minute, and I knew I needed to find something to keep them outside of the church,” Zapala says, and sweet salvation came in the form of an ice cream truck parked a few blocks away. “I explained the situation and the driver happily agreed to serve ice cream to all of the waiting guests (the bill was later dealt with by one of the bride’s relatives). Since it was a beautiful summer day, guests thought this was part of the wedding, and they all seemed to love it.”
We asked pros to share some of the most common mishaps they’ve encountered on the day of a major wedding event in the hopes that it will help other couples avoid any potential snafus.
Disaster #1: You Wake up to Red, Splotchy Skin, or a Giant Zit
“I had a bride get a facial the day before her wedding,” says Sam Salk from Mobile Bridal Salon. “That following morning, her entire forehead was scabbed and looked as if she had been burned. She had a severe reaction to whatever products the esthetician had used. I use this as a cautionary tale for my future brides.”
Damage control: She spent more time covering the bride’s skin with various concealers and foundation using her fingers and a beauty blender to get the most natural-looking coverage. “Her skin ended up looked amazing in her photos,” says Salk. If a massive pimple is your problem, then the quickest fix is to have a dermatologist give you a cortisone injection to minimize inflammation ASAP.
Prevention tips: Don’t try any new products or beauty treatments the month before your wedding (the same rule applies to changing your hair color). If your skin is acting up, make an appointment with a dermatologist at least four months before saying your “I dos” so that she can develop an action plan catered to your needs.
Disaster #2: A Vendor or "Friendor" (A Friend Who’s Performing a Service) Cancels on You at the Last Minute, and You Have to Scramble to Find a Replacement
“I was hired to style a bride’s hair and her bridesmaids,” says Ashley Stone of Beauty Entourage. “The makeup was supposed to be done by a family friend, who was unable to attend at the last minute. Luckily, I had a team nearby that was able to come in the final hour. Although it all worked out, it was a very stressful situation for everyone in the room—I’ll never forget it!” Although this might seem like a rare occurrence, she tells us that she comes across this issue at least once per month during wedding season.
Damage control: Recruit the help of your other vendors to see if they can call in favors in a pinch. If your hair or makeup artist bails on you, specifically, keep in mind that “it’s always easier to find an appointment for one person at the last minute than a group.”
Prevention tips: It’s always best to have a contract in place, and to hire a professional whenever possible. Contracts offer security in knowing they won’t back out before the wedding date. Ask your vendor what the backup plan is in the event of illness or some other unforeseen circumstance.
Disaster #3: The Zipper Breaks or—Even Worse—the Dress Rips
“One bride’s zipper split and was no longer usable, so we had to sew her into the dress by hand,” says Aimee Dominick from A. Dominick Events. “Thankfully, the groom chatted with her to keep her calm, and he held the dress closed enough for me to sew it. At that moment, there was no question that he was going to be a wonderful husband.”
Damage control: Pack a sewing kit as part of your emergency supplies. Not just brides are victims of rips and tears—planners tell us they’ve also had to sew up bridesmaids, mothers of the brides, and even grooms who have split their pants!
Prevention tips: “Choose attire in your actual size, and purchase from reputable designers and stores that are known for quality products,” says Ashley Cash from The Graceful Host. Use a reliable seamstress with good reviews and push for as many fittings as you need to feel comfortable.
Disaster #4: The Weather Is Horrible, and You Don’t Have a Backup Plan
“I planned a wedding a few years ago at a ranch in California wine country,” says Kate Siegel from Kate Siegel Fine Events. “Since it rarely rains there during the summer, the ceremony and reception were to be held outside. The day before the wedding, the weather report showed a 50 percent chance of rain. I found a rental company that was willing to install a tent, but no matter what I said, the bride and groom refused. They were adamant that it would not rain on their big day.” Naturally, it poured, and the reception area was completely covered in mud.
Damage control: Fortunately, the owner of the ranch agreed to let Siegel use the horse barn for the nuptials instead. He put the horses out to pasture, and all the groomsmen were drafted to help her team shovel out the stalls and spread fresh straw on the ground (they should win the bridal party award of the year!).
Prevention tips: The couple mentioned above was lucky that things turned out so well, but others aren’t so fortunate. Always create a backup plan in case of unforeseen weather conditions and set aside an emergency fund for unexpected costs. And, don’t forget—be flexible!
Disaster #5: You Receive the Wrong Type of Flowers and Hate Them
“The florist was late due to heavy traffic because it was a holiday weekend,” says Frances Liu from Charmed Events. “When they arrived (only five minutes before the ceremony start time), the bride hated her bouquet and rest of the flowers.”
Damage control: Liu got creative and created a new bouquet using garden roses, and foliage picked from the venue (she obtained their permission before doing so, of course). “The bride ended up loving the new arrangement way more than the original one that was delivered by the florist,” says Liu.
Prevention tips: Be very precise in communicating with your design-related vendors exactly what type of décor you want for your wedding day, so they can deliver with arrangements that are in line with your vision. If you’re ordering blooms through a wholesaler, then Liza Roeser Atwood, the founder and CEO of FiftyFlowers, recommends opening the flower boxes upon arrival and inspecting them right away. Count how many bunches you received. Are they all the same color or flower variety? If not, how many are incorrect? Take a group photo of the flowers in an area with lots of natural light (no flash) to document their exact color. If you still feel that you didn’t receive what you ordered, contact a customer service representative who can work with you to get the right flowers.
Disaster #6: The Car Breaks Down
“While waiting for a classic Rolls Royce to pick up the bride, we got a call that it had broken down on the highway,” says Danielle Aspromatis from d'Luxe Events. “They offered to send another car to come and get her, but when I plotted out the timeline of how long it would take to get to us and how far away the church was, I realized that it would cause the ceremony to start way too late.”
Damage control: The next best thing was for Aspromatis to drive the bride herself in her own personal car to ensure she would arrive in time. “She was so happy to be getting married that she didn’t let this snag get her down,” she says. “We were even joking that at least my car was white!”
Prevention tips: Create a contingency plan for transportation, especially if your wedding ceremony will take place in a different location than your reception. Anything can happen on the road at any time, and your big day is no exception.
Disaster #7: The Baker Drops the Cake When Loading It up for Delivery or It Becomes a Melting Mess
“This literally happened to me during the first booking I ever had,” says Alliey Kline-Weichelt from sash&bow. “The baker was almost two hours late. When the cake finally arrived, it was mysteriously missing two layers and was bulging over. I went to the church, and the mother of the bride must have read my face like a book. She asked what happened, and when I told her, she laughed hysterically and said not to tell the bride. I didn’t. We had a beautiful ceremony.”
Damage control: They still displayed the cake; however, Kline-Weichelt turned the spotlights off and put a lot of extra flowers around it. If you encounter a similar situation, ask if the baker has backup baked goods to provide. In this case, the venue pulled through with extra bite-size desserts they had on hand.
Prevention tips: Skip the four-tier buttercream wedding cake if you’re getting married outdoors in the heat of summer. “If not supported properly, that tiered wedding cake you’ve always dreamed of will surely but slowly turn into the Leaning Tower of Pisa,” says Colleen Kaufman from CAKE Event Company. “Your vendor team will be stuck in the kitchen trying to revive a mess of a melted cake with toothpicks and makeshift buttercream or whipping cream.” Regardless of what season you’re tying the knot in, check-in with your pastry chef to ensure that the base layer will be nice and wide. They should use cake dowels on each layer and an additional dowel through all the layers to secure the tiers together.
Disaster #8: Awkward Family Drama
"A mother of the groom threatened to leave the reception because her table was too close to the father of the groom’s table. She also did not want her ex-husband’s new wife to be seated on the front row with herself and other family members,” says Geomyra Lewis from Geomyra Lewis Weddings & Events.
Damage control: Every single family has issues (you’re not alone). It’s important to be upfront with your wedding planner or venue coordinator about any tricky family dynamics so they can help minimize any potential awkward encounters.
Prevention tips: Have separate conversations with both sets of parents, siblings, etc. in advance, letting them know where they will be seated for the wedding festivities. That way, when the rehearsal takes place, everyone is fully aware of where they need to be and can be comfortable with the decision that has been made. For family photos, make a strategic list for your photographer that gives everyone the chance to be in a snapshot without exes (or even current boyfriends/girlfriends who haven’t been around long).
Disaster #9: Inappropriate or Lengthy Toasts
“Wedding toasts can be dicey!” says Jaime Kostechko from Wild Heart Events. “We once had a father of the groom who recounted every anecdote from the childhood years, making for a 45-minute speech. Guests were getting up and hitting the bar, the bride was rolling her eyes, and everyone but the toaster was un-entertained. To top it off, the dancing portion of the evening was cut short by almost an hour.” Other typical buzzkills include a best man who roasts the groom in front of his in-laws (even Pippa Middleton fell victim to this) or the overly excited relative who makes an impromptu slurred toast to the newlyweds.
Damage control: Worst-case scenario, make sure the person toasting is close enough to the DJ or bandleader so they can grab the mic, if necessary.
Prevention tips: On the wedding day, it’s typical to have the hosts give a welcome toast, along with the best man and maid/matron of honor. “Give them a time limit—definitely less than five minutes. It’s better to plan ahead with this situation!” says Sara Fried from Fête Nashville. Discuss your expectations regarding the subject matter. Also, let whoever is emceeing know your expectations about spur-of-the-moment toasts. If others inquire about speaking, politely let them know you are honored, but you don’t want the evening to turn into a free-for-all, and want guests to enjoy some time mingling with each other.
Disaster #10: Drinking and Driving
Free-flowing libations and a packed dance floor might be the hallmarks of a fun time, but safety comes first. If you’re serving alcohol at your wedding, whether it’s an open or cash bar, then it’s imperative to provide safe ways for guests to depart.
Damage control: “If your venue has potential issues (a lot of our barn venues in Tennessee are on smaller, dimly lit roads with long, winding driveways), then be sure to encourage your guests to take an Uber or taxi,” Fried says.
Prevention tips: Many couples will offer transportation in the form of buses or trolleys. Another great option is to shuttle everyone out to the venue and offer Uber vouchers so guests can leave whenever they want.