I thought some of you were going to lynch me for ending the first part of this story with “To Be Continued”, so here you go—the much anticipated ending. We pick up where we left off with the church lady complaining about
smoking FOOD in the boys’ room, so if you missed it, click here to read part one first!
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll go talk to them right now.” I smiled through gritted teeth.
I called my assistant to update her on the photographer situation and learned that the electrician would not come out on a Saturday. (Wonderful.) However, it was possible that they might be able to use one of the generators to at least get some of the kitchen equipment going. Whew, what a relief! They’ll have food to eat! In the dark. With no air conditioning. And no band. (And for the first time, I was happy that there wouldn’t be pictures.)
I reached the guys’ dressing room and reminded them of the no-food policy. They, of course, complained about how long they’d been awake and how long it would be until dinner. I told them the photographer was getting some location shots and would be ready for them soon, so they needed to put away the food and be ready to go when he got there.
(Oh, I guess I should have explained that in the world of the wedding planner, the truth is . . . f-l-e-x-i-b-l-e. There are just times when you can’t really freak out the entire wedding party and family with everything you know. After all, they hired a wedding planner so they wouldn’t have to stress about any of that, right? Isn’t that fun???)
Back across the street, they were working frantically to rewire and move stuff around. Someone had another generator at home they were driving to get and would hopefully be able to get the air conditioning going with that.
Inside, the building was total darkness. We opened the blinds on the large windows, but anywhere outside of the direct range of sunlight was really dark. The catering staff was struggling to get the room set up without being able to see diagrams (or the floor really). My assistant was pulling her hair out trying to set up place cards and favor cards with no light.
Guests had started to arrive at the church. A few straggled across the street to drop off gifts at the reception site. We met them outside, graciously took the gifts, and then shooed them away as though the place was under quarantine.
I headed back over to the groom’s dressing room and told them the photographer was thinking about maybe just doing the guys' photos after the ceremony and focusing more on the girls’ pictures ahead of time. Being typical guys, they really didn’t care since I was saying they didn’t have to put on their coats and smile for a bunch of pictures right away. They just asked for their food back and promised to hide it well.
I went to the bride’s dressing room and spun more yarn. The photographer was getting some reception location shots, and yes—oh, my, yes!—the reception looked beautiful! Yes, it was exactly as they had planned! Yes, everything was going so well. (I was thankful for the champagne they had drank at that point!)
Now some of you may be asking why I didn’t just tell them everything that was happening. And some of you may be delusional and think that if you were the bride or the mom, you would want to know. But I don’t agree. She was getting married in less than an hour. An event she had planned for at least a year and dreamed of for even longer. Her parents had spent what some people pay for a house for this event. What good would it possibly do for me to tell them Rome was falling and burning around their ears? They were happy. They were filled with hope, expectations, and excitement. Why kill that? I already knew they may not have photos, food, or A/C. Why not let them have these moments of happiness before reality set in? Wasn’t it my job to take the stress so they could enjoy the day?? Besides, I was still praying!
I juggled stories back and forth between the bride’s dressing room and the groom’s with every possible place the photographer could be. If they had called each other on their cell phones, it would have been over, the lies exposed. But they were happy, and they didn’t question. Even when I told them because it was so hot out with the sunlight glaring, the photographer had decided they would get the best photos if they waited until after the ceremony was over and the light had changed. Never mind that I had preached for months about the importance of getting photos done ahead of time to make the reception timing run more smoothly.
He arrived fifteen minutes prior to the ceremony start time. I think he was the only person there more stressed out than me. I quickly brought him up to date on where he had supposedly been, and to his credit, he was so professional and accepted everything I had told them and just went with it. So the families had no idea that anything was wrong or that the photographer had been missing. They were relaxed, excited and happy! (Wasn’t that the goal?)
My assistant and I got ready to line up the wedding party for the processional, but the church lady informed us it was her job to open the doors of the church. She cued the music to start and propped open one door to the sanctuary. I suggested that perhaps it would be best to open both doors since the groomsmen were escorting the bridesmaids down the aisle (another non-traditional idea she was not happy with). She flatly refused.
This meant the gentlemen escorting ladies would need to step through the door and stand aside for the lady to come through the door before taking her arm. Not a huge deal, but presentation is everything, people! No amount of pleading with her would change her mind. As fate or luck or something would have it, she needed to step inside to check on why the music wasn’t playing. We seized the opportunity, but the door was locked and would not open while she was gone.
When she came back, I witnessed something I had never seen in working with my faithful sidekick for years through countless weddings. She lost her temper and barked at the church lady to get the door open and move out of the way. The church lady reluctantly unlocked the door and stood aside casting daggers upon us with her eyes. But our wedding party was able to walk in side by side with no awkwardness!
As soon as the bride’s butt was inside the threshold, I was on the phone and running across the street. I reached the band leader who assured me they were about 30 minutes away. Great! Except that the ceremony would only last about 20 minutes and the plan was for guests to enter the reception area for the cocktail hour. Which would mean the band would need to already be set up and ready to go. Ummm, not happening.
On a good note, the extra generator had arrived, and the tent had lights, air conditioning, and power for kitchen equipment. Without the extra drain of the tent’s power on it, the breakers for the building were able to rebound and the power was on inside as well. This was now a race between the catering/floral staff and the minister to see who would finish their job first. I really needed a long-winded pastor.
We were still putting out place settings and preparing food when the doors of the chapel across the street swung open, and the happy couple burst forth. I almost screamed “Nooooooo!” in a dramatic, slow-motion, movie-sequence kind of way. The ceremony had lasted all of 15 minutes. There was no way we would be ready by the time the guests walked across the street. We watched them coming towards us like people watching zombies approach and knowing they’re going to get inside.
I went to the frazzled catering captain and asked if there was any way we could assemble the cocktail reception food on trays and greet the guests on the patio instead of letting them inside. This would buy us crucial time to finish setting up inside the building.
I stepped outside and closed the doors securely behind me to greet the zombies, er, um, guests and assure them the bar would be open soon. That’s when I came face-to-face with the church lady AGAIN.
“The ladies have clothing all over the dressing room, and the contract clearly states they must have that room clear prior to the ceremony starting.”
I tried to smile over her head at the quickly gathering crowd of guests and block the doors at the same time. “I’ll let them know,” I squeaked out with a strained smile.
“No, you need to come and pack up the room. The contract clearly states that they must be out, and someone has to pack up that room.”
I was struggling to be nice, people. (We’ve already established that isn’t my first instinct!) I assured her I would take care of it right away, and then I politely pointed out that the contract also stated she would oversee photographs after the ceremony, which she obviously wasn’t doing from this side of the street. I don’t think I’ll be on her Christmas card list.
The catering staff emerged with trays of hors d’oeuvres, and as if by magic, the party began while I sprinted across the street to the dressing room. It looked as though a tornado had hit a Victoria’s Secret store. There were clothes, make-up and perfume everywhere!!
Now I know some of you may be thinking at this point that if this event had been planned better, they would not have had food and drink in the dressing rooms, the girls would have cleaned up their clothes, the power would have been sufficient, the photographer would have started on time, and there would be world peace and Lennon would still be alive. And I would say to you that you have never been a wedding planner.
See, the nasty little trick of coordinating weddings comes in how I started this off. The wedding planner doesn’t bake the cake, play the music or make the bouquets. The wedding planner helps plan all that, puts it in place, confirms it, double-confirms it, and stays on top of the entire scene to make sure it all happens correctly, putting plan B in place wherever needed and coming up with plan C quite often.
But the coordinator cannot control all the elements involved. Especially when the “elements” are human beings. No matter how many times you tell the bridesmaids to pick up their stuff and not bring champagne, people do what they want to do. No matter how many times you confirm an itinerary, people miss a detail or forget. And no matter how detailed your directions are, people miss their exit.
As I was returning to the reception building laden with panties and bras and make-up, I saw the father of the bride crossing the street ahead of me. I nearly broke an ankle trying to catch up with him. “Hey! Hey!! Congratulations!! Hey!! How was the ceremony?”
He finally heard me and turned with a smile. “It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Couldn’t have been better. I just wanted to touch base with the band to make sure they have everything. Maybe we should rehearse the father-daughter dance.”
Yeah. . . the band. Not there yet.
I tried to delay him. “Oh, I don’t think so. I think it’s best for something like that to be spontaneous, you know? You want that emotion to be genuine. I’d wait.” I sure hope I didn’t sound as panicked as I felt.
“Okay. That makes sense. I’ll just check with those guys and see if they need anything.” (Remember Dad booked the band? This was his one responsibility other than signing the checks. He wanted to make sure it was done well!)
I smiled a huge forced smile. “But that’s what you hired a wedding planner for! You just go ahead and enjoy your guests and mingle and have a good time. Let me do the work!” I dropped a pair of bridesmaid panties (not my own this time!) and prayed that my entire face didn’t break out into a sweat. Luckily, guests surrounded him with congratulations and well-wishes.
As I came around the back of the building, the band was pulling into the parking lot. I rushed them inside as though their van was on fire, refusing to allow them time to do any warm-ups beyond basic instrument checks. They asked to have food delivered to the dressing room. I laughed and escorted them to a storage room where they could change clothes.
Across the street, I found the bride and groom beaming underneath the oak trees that surrounded the church as the photographer made up for lost time and captured their smiles. I congratulated them both and confirmed that we were running on time for finishing photos before heading back to the reception.
Miraculously, the dinner room was pretty much set. Candles were lit, and the band was almost dressed and ready to go. The tent looked incredible with the landscaping and pink-hued lighting, and the staff was at attention waiting to welcome guests upon my cue. I cannot praise the catering staff enough for what they pulled off that day, and I can’t thank my assistant enough for her invaluable presence. (I think we may have both mentioned career changes by that point.) It had all come together in the last minutes possible, and the bride and groom had no idea there was ever a problem.
The rest of the evening flowed beautifully. They were a gorgeous, happy couple, and the love in the room was almost tangible. The guests oohed and aahed over the food, the flowers, the lighting. The band rocked, and the dance floor never lacked dancers. The photographer documented the whole event as the parents thanked their guests, toasted their children, and enjoyed their celebration. It was, for all appearances, a perfect wedding.
At the end of the evening when the guests were leaving, the band was winding down, and my feet had gone beyond pain to complete numbness, the mother of the bride came up and gave me a huge, tearful hug.
“Thank you so much,” she gushed. “All my friends told me I was ridiculous for hiring a wedding planner, and I guess they were right. We really didn’t need you because everything went just fine! But it made me feel better knowing you were here just in case. I hope you weren’t bored just sitting around all night.”
Bored??? Naaah. How could I be bored? After all, it’s so much fun being a wedding planner.
P.S. Did I ever tell them all that happened? Nope. As far as they know, they had the perfect wedding. And that’s fine with me.
P.s.s. So none of these photos are from this wedding. Kind of ruins the anonymity of my vendors if I publish photos, you know? I took these in Tennessee and Paris, France. Enjoy!