No two families are alike, which means every wedding is bound to have at least one headache-inducing hoop a wedding planner must jump through in order to make their client's big day perfect. But when we asked the pros to share the biggest whoppers they've encountered, along with their stealthy solutions, we couldn't believe our ears. A mother-of-the-bride running off with the wedding dress? A friendship-ending fight between a bride and her bridesmaid? It's tailspin city, folks.
Here's how these planners smoothed over some of the worst big day issues of their careers and how they solved the issue by the time the bride walked down the aisle. They will make your seating chart concerns feel like a piece of delicious wedding cake.
The Issue: Runaway Mom
The Pro: Rachel Abrams, W Retreat & Spa — Vieques Island
"I once had a bride who had a misunderstanding with her mother, who incidentally had possession of her wedding dress and had gone off property. The ceremony was to take place in our spa garden and was perfectly timed so that the bride would walk down the aisle and say her vows as the sun was setting behind her. The time for the ceremony was only about 20 minutes away, and we still did not have the wedding dress for the bride. Needless to say, she was in a state of panic. We made every attempt to reach the mother of the bride, but we were unsuccessful. Not only was the sun starting to set, and the bride risked having to get married in the dark as there was no lighting that was prepared for, but we had no wedding dress — and no mother of the bride!"
The Solution: "We collectively made the decision to move forward with the ceremony and take advantage of the little amount of light we had left. The event manager and I ran to the boutique in our hotel lobby and grabbed every white dress we could find. The bride quickly tried on all of the options, and as she was an extremely petite bride, all of the options were way too big on her. We settled on a simple white cotton dress, with spaghetti straps. We wanted the dress to look beautiful at least from one angle in the wedding photos, we quickly looked around the spa for any other resources we could use. We found a gold sequin spandex sash, and cut it in half and created a belt for the dress to create a more secure fit. We used staples to secure the back of the 'belt' and tucked it in to hide any evidence of the makeshift dress. We then used staples to 'hem' the dress and create a custom length, also tucking all of the edges underneath to hide any evidence of this makeshift wedding dress. The result was actually beautiful, and the bride looked stunning! She was able to walk down the aisle, and get married while the sun was still setting. She ended up with beautiful wedding photos, and unless you looked very closely at the dress, you could never tell that this was not the perfect dress that she had originally planned for!"
The Issue: Tipsy Groomsman
The Pro: Michael Motylinski, Ordained Minister, Blue Sky Ceremony
"I had a bride whose parents were no longer in her life so she wanted to have her brother escort her down the aisle. Problem was, the brother and groomsmen were doing a few final shots at the pool bar before the ceremony. By the time we needed to start lining up the wedding party for the processional, the brother was having a hard-time standing."
The Solution: "What I had the brother do was escort the groom's mother down the aisle instead of the bride. The mother was able to manage/control the wonderfully sloppy brother down without too much incident. The photographer was able to take several pictures where the brother looked relatively sober. The hard part was letting the bride know just before she walked the aisle that her brother wasn't able to do it. I told her that the groom's mother was feeling unwell and that her brother was making sure she was seated and comfortable. It was a difficult dance, but the bride accepted my explanation and walked down solo."
The Issue: Bridal Wars
The Pro: Jamie O'Donnell, Wedding Planner, Jamie O'Donnell Public Relations & Events
"I was working with a bride who was hosting her ceremony and reception at a beautiful but conservative country club. On Friday we held the rehearsal, everything went great and I sent the wedding party off to the rehearsal dinner smiling and ready to celebrate for the evening. Unbeknownst to me the bride and one of her bridesmaids got into a fight at the rehearsal dinner. When I walked in on Saturday, the bride was furious and pulled me aside to tell me that I needed to go find the bridesmaid and tell her she didn't have to stand up in her wedding, which was just a few hours away."
The Solution: "As I tried to make sense of the situation, I tracked the bridesmaid down to talk to her and gingerly let her know that if she was still upset and didn't feel like she could stand up in the wedding, the bride would be ok with her decision. The bridesmaid started screaming at me in a guest area for being in the middle and siding with the bride. At that point, I asked everyone to leave the bridal suite, took a deep breath and mediated the issues between the bride and bridesmaid. Sometimes as wedding planners we just have to take the brunt of the anxiety or anger in a family situation and then calmly refocus them on the importance of the day and the foundation of love they have for each other. Once we solve the problem and pull off a perfect wedding, we go home and drink a glass of wine!"
The Issue: Crowd Control
The Pro: Ivy Lumpkin, Wedding Planner, Voulez Events
"I was hired as a day-of wedding coordinator 10 days before the wedding date, and the to-be-weds were primarily concerned about crowd control in a smaller venue for up to 120 guests, transitional setup from ceremony to reception in the same space, and the art of delegating duties to friends and family (who always want to help) without overloading or undermining each individual's duty on the big day. This constitutes a disaster because, at 10 days away, no single wedding participant had been given a task; there was absolutely no plan for flipping the space nor was there a floor plan, venue staff or bar staff hired; no oversight for catering and no time for the bride and groom to assume these responsibilities. This is not only a disaster for the to-be-weds, but especially the photographer."
The Solution: "I fixed the problem by securing on-call event staff in the kitchen, at the bar and a doorman for security; assigned a few groomsmen to tasks to efficiently flip the space in less than 10 minutes; composing a floor plan & coordinating the rehearsal; cueing the DJ with the best songs to substitute the otherwise silent processional, bouquet toss, cake cutting, etc. The buffet style catering prompts guests to visit the bride and groom before their table is called to self-serve, so I fixed another potentially 'hangry' disaster by making sure the couple got the only alone time they could get (with a plate of every menu item) before their grand entrance. Last, but not least, I conducted a thorough walk-through with the photographer to ensure we'd get the best light in a unique yet challenging venue."
The Issue: Stained Gown
The Pro: Vanessa Valedon, Wedding Planner, W Retreat & Spa — Vieques Island
"I had just left the bride who was getting her hair and makeup done in the spa, and she was doing great. When I arrived at the bridal suite the photographer and the maid of honor showed me to the dress. It was a lovely, strapless basic white Romona Keveza raw silk gown, and it was hanging from our sliding door railing which we keep very well-greased as we are beach front and otherwise the doors would get constantly stuck. A little chunk of grease had fallen right in the middle of the bodice, and they had already attempted to rub it off, unsuccessfully. The photographer looked at me with pain in her eyes, as she asked, 'You can save it, right?'"
The Solution: "I had no clue how I was going to get this stain out. I knew that even if I could get the black stuff off, I still ran the risk of ruining the dress by leaving a big yellow stain on the silk. I googled what to do, I called our housekeeping manager, and I prayed to my great grandmother who always knew how to deal with these things. Finally, I came back to the room with an arsenal of wipes and soaps, still unsure of which to use. When I got there the bride had a clear eye makeup remover soap that I noticed in a moment of enlightenment. I asked the mother of the bride if I could use it instead. I told her, I might use it all up, but I knew that was what I needed. She told me to use anything I needed, and save that dress. At this point I took a small hand towel, moistened it and started to gently dab and lightly rub the huge stain. It took me about 45 minutes, but I managed to get it out completely. Then came the second challenge; drying the dress, so that you couldn't see the watermark. This was a lot easier. First I took a moist towel and lightly moistened the fabric around the spot and tried to sort of diffuse the moisture outward. Then I used a blow dryer to quickly dry the dress out, and an hour before the wedding, the dress was perfect again."