Avoiding the Pitfalls
No bride likes to think of something going drastically wrong on her wedding day. Frankly, we don’t much care for the idea either—we wish our Connecticut brides only the best. But here’s the truth: With an event of this magnitude it’s all too easy for things to go wrong, plans to be derailed and tears to be shed. But with careful planning and organization, you can avoid these problem situations. We asked top wedding planners across the state for their advice on what to do ahead of time to assure a successful and drama-free wedding day. We won’t sugarcoat it: There’s a whole lot of hard work involved (not to mention quite a few reality checks) but it will be worth it in the end. We promise.
1 It’s raining, it’s pouring
Time to face facts: When it comes to outdoor ceremonies, receptions and even photos, you must “always have a ‘Plan B’,” says Michelle Neff of Dreaming Tree Events in Stafford Springs. As painful as it may be to contemplate, “you can’t simply expect Mother Nature to behave,” agrees Christina Morin of Celebrations by Christina in Ellington. So, if it’s an outdoor ceremony that needs an alternative, can you have it on the dance floor inside instead? If you’ve planned a tented reception, can the rental company provide side walls and/or mats to put down in muddy areas if there’s not a full floor? Is there a local museum or historic home where photos can be taken should the skies open up? And can you rent some big umbrellas just in case? Have a portable heater or two on standby?
At the other end of the weather spectrum, Amy Champagne of Milford’s Amy Champagne Events says to remember that people sitting outside in the heat and sun for an extended period can overheat, “which can be extremely dangerous for elderly guests.” Look for a shady spot to have your ceremony, rent some pretty parasols to hand out to guests, or, kick things off just as the sun is setting. (Bonus: awesome light for pictures.)
2 The clock is ticking
“Most brides assume they will make it to the church on time, but some of the bigger crises occur when they don’t and everything falls behind schedule,” says Lois Pearce of Beautiful Occasions in Hamden. The result? Lost dreams, time and money. Talk with your vendors (start with the photographer) and set a realistic timeline for the entire wedding day, suggests Pearce, then share it with everyone involved.
You also need to plan for traffic, points out Neff, especially if you’re having your wedding on a holiday weekend or a Friday night. Your location and the time of year need to be taken into consideration, too. If your wedding venue is in Mystic, for example, in the middle of July, you’re going to need to “plan around festivals, big events and everyday summer traffic,” says Neff. Call the local chamber of commerce for help in finding out about major activities, and, adds Sarah Taggart of A Polished Plan in Bristol, “take the time to plan out an alternate route to share with your guests. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that everyone can just hit the detour button on their GPS!”
3 Help! I need somebody.
Yes, traffic delays happen, orders get lost and best intentions forgotten, and because of this, getting “day-of” contact info for every one of your vendors should be at the top of your to-do list, says Laura Kasowitz of Curry Kay Events in West Hartford. Take your limo company, for example: “Couples book transportation on a weekday during normal business hours without realizing that there may not be anybody at that number at 6 p.m. on a Saturday evening,” says Kasowitz. When something goes wrong or there’s a last-minute change of schedule, “you want to make sure there is somebody you can call and speak to immediately,” she says. So, smile sweetly, and ask for dispatch numbers, cell numbers, heck, even home numbers—just be sure you know who and where to call should the need arise.
4 In the event of an emergency
When a bridesmaid’s dress at a recent wedding coordinated by Christina Morin turned out to have been incorrectly altered, Morin had to “pull a MacGyver move” at the eleventh hour in order to get it to stay up. How did she make this happen? “I always have an emergency kit,” she says—as should you. Top on Morin’s list: double-sided fashion tape, safety pins, bobby pins, a small sewing kit, deodorant, tissues and even some breath mints for groomsmen who’ve been having a little bit too much fun. Then there are Band-Aids, pain reliever, an extra pair of stockings, hair spray, Krazy Glue (broken heels happen), white chalk (to cover stains on the dress), anti-static spray, nail polish in the bride’s shade, an umbrella . . . A long list? Yes. But better safe than sorry.
5 Power to the people
Deliberating over power supply questions was probably not on the list of things you dreamed of getting to do when you became a bride-to-be. Nonetheless, it’s vital that you “carefully consider all your power needs,” says Laura Kasowitz, especially if your wedding is being held at a non-traditional venue. Your caterer will have specific power needs, as will the deejay or band, the lighting company, even the fellas supplying your portable restrooms (as thoroughly unglamorous as that may be). Well in advance of the big day, “check out the location and amperage of all outlets and confirm with your vendors how much power each will draw,” advises Kasowitz. “You don’t want to get there on the day-of to find that the caterer can’t heat up the food, the band can’t turn on its speakers and you can’t run the heaters because there’s a circuit overload.” Better yet: Rent a portable generator as back-up.
6 Momzillas and other scary species
“Whether it’s an overbearing mother of the bride or the groom, ‘the moms’ sometimes have a tendency to throw their weight, status and money around in order to make sure that what they want to see done gets done,” warns Amy Champagne. The key? Communication. Talk to everyone directly involved in your day, whether mom or grandma, reader or ring bearer, and outline just what you expect their role will be. It’s better to address the situation early on, that way if there are any objections there’s time to work them out. “Anything [or anyone] that overshadows or overrules the bride’s specifications requires attention,” says Champagne. Just remember: Bridezillas are not appreciated either, so play nice.
7 The great paper chase
We know, we know—paperwork is not something you feel like dealing with on your wedding day but, well, you have to. “Vendors sometimes disagree on services to be provided,” says Talia Fedorowich of Sixpence For Your Shoe in Branford. If, however, you make sure you have copies of their contracts with you on the day of the event, there’s no room for dispute—or error. While you’re at it, put final-payment checks for vendors ahead of time in labeled envelopes you keep in a central location. Do the same for any tips that need to be provided, and you won’t have to be scrambling for cash at the end of the night.
As for that all-important marriage license: “As a wedding planner, I ask my clients to pass me their license at the rehearsal so we’re not searching for a missing document on the wedding day,” says Stacie Shea of Stacie Shea Events in Greenwich. The same goes for readings. Have one copy ready at the podium for the rehearsal, and an extra copy to give each reader to review, she suggests. The Bible can be pretty tough to ad-lib.
8 Beware the ol’ switcheroo
When you finally decide on the wedding pros you’re going to hire, whether planner or photographer, videographer or venue manager, you need to ask point-blank: “Are you the person I’m going to get on my wedding day?” says Corrine Crocker-Luby of Corrine Weddings in Glastonbury. “Then make sure to put their name in the contract.” Many brides choose a vendor based on personality—and how well it meshes with their own. “There’s a relationship you build in the planning process,” says Crocker-Luby, and if the person you consulted with for months on end is not the one overseeing things on the big day “a lot can get lost in translation.” (Not to mention that their work may not be up to snuff.) “Always confirm,” she says. “Never assume.”
9 Go, team!
The best way to ensure a worry-free wedding day? “Hire a planner so they can worry for you,” says Talia Fedorowich. “We have the experience to help you discover and avoid potential pitfalls before the big day arrives,” adds Laura Kasowitz. Then, “should something go wrong on the day of, we can take care of the issue before it becomes a ‘crisis’—often without you [or your guests] even knowing something is amiss.” Yes, Fedorowich and Kasowitz are themselves wedding planners and would, of course, love your business, but speaking from personal experience, they also happen to be 100 percent correct. You want to be the bride, not the troubleshooter, and enjoy your day of days—you’ve worked too hard not to. If a wedding planner is not an investment you’re willing to make, then it’s time to get your team in place. Which bridesmaid will be in charge of your emergency kit, and which groomsman will handle the paperwork? Who will program all important phone numbers into their cell, and who should venue management come to with any problems they need to discuss? Now, go!
10 The perfection myth
Still hung up on “perfect”? Honey, you’ve got to let it go. “You can plan all you want, but when the day comes, a wedding takes on a life of its own,” says Crocker- Luby. And, just as in life, little things can—and will—go wrong. Sure, strive for perfection, but at the same time don’t be the bride whose wedding is ruined by her own unrealistic expectations.
Recognize that “at the end of the day you’re standing next to the person who holds your heart,” says Stacie Shea, “and the most important thing is that you are joining your lives together.” Besides, what seems like a crisis today will most likely turn into a great story to tell your grandchildren.