Planning: How to Avoid Wedding-Day Mishaps

Your wedding plans are humming along, but every now and then you wake up at night in a cold sweat, dreams of "what if..." dancing in your head: What if I fall as I walk down the aisle? What if the caterer serves cold entrees? No one wants to deal with wedding-day bad news, especially when there are ways to lessen your odds against it. To problem-proof your celebration, we've collected some not-so-uncommon stories of wedding goofs, with suggestions for avoiding them. Keep in mind that although mishaps may happen, almost nothing can ruin a wedding. Keep in mind that although mishaps may happen, almost nothing can ruin a wedding.

The Great Cake Collapse
The tale to tell: Every wedding consultant seems to have a splattered wedding-cake story. Consultant Joyce Scardina Becker of Events of Distinction worked at a wedding with an outdoor dance floor, constructed over a sub-floor. When two hundred people began to boogie, the floor shuddered, the cake table began to shiver, and the top tier of the four-tier confection began to lean...and lean further. Since Scardina-Becker already had an experience in which a cake actually fell, this time she took no chances: As the cake sloped more precariously, she took the top tier off and packed it away, along with the decorations. It was served by the bride's family at brunch the next day.
The trick to avoid: Be sure to find a secure spot for your confection, away from the dance floor and the general hubbub of your wedding reception.

The Gown That Wouldn't Give
The tales to tell: Consultant Carolyn Hefner was helping a bride dress for her wedding in Michigan, when, to Hefner's horror, the bride mentioned that her seamstress in New York had just recently "taken a final detail to the zipper to make it lay flat." Sure enough, the zipper would not budge five inches from the top of the gown. The bridesmaids, the photographer, the makeup artist, and Carolyn all took turns trying to inch the zipper up, all to no avail. As the frantic bride began to sweat, Carolyn called the front desk at the hotel. Minutes later, a seamstress appeared and eased the zipper to the top. JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions recalls a day spent sewing and re-sewing a bridal party into dresses that were cut "like Morticia Addams" and that kept ripping right up the back. Jean Bodwin of After The Proposal Wedding Consultants had a very close call with a broken zipper on a bridesmaid dress that had never been tried on after alterations: In this case, a family friend actually sped off to a nearby boutique and replaced the dress before the wedding began.
The trick to avoid: Always be sure to have a "dress rehearsal." Scheduling a photo session of the bride in her ensemble to get some of the formal shots done -- a week or so before the wedding day -- often heads off problems with the gown, the veil, or the hairstyle. Bridesmaids should be asked to try on their own ensembles after alterations and well before the big event.

The Dinner Deemed Damning
The tale to tell: True story: The groom's family is Jewish and keeps a kosher home, the bride is Christian. For their wedding, they agree to serve a kosher-style menu, observing the basic rules of keeping kosher: no mixing meat and dairy, no shellfish. On the day of the wedding, one of the entrees seemed different from what the couple had ordered, and when they returned from their honeymoon, the bride called to inquire about the change. The caterer replied, that "actually, the menu had been 'upgraded' for free" -- the fish had been stuffed with crabmeat!
The trick to avoid: If you have specific food issues -- allergies or religious requirements -- that simply cannot be violated, it is most important that the caterer be very aware of them. Be specific, be insistent, and, most importantly, put it in the contract.

The Wedding in the Tempest
The tale to tell: Ask consultant Abby Gordon of Hopple Popple about her most "disastrous wedding ever" and her answer will make your palms sweat: "The entire cocktail tent was torn from its anchors and blew over a sea wall... the chairs and linens were blown out to sea... lightning struck the church [before guests arrived], so the ceremony was held with no lights at all... lightning struck the main tent, jolting two electricians..." Even the most controlling bride must admit that the weather is simply beyond anyone's control. Storms like the one described above are rare, but rain can put a true damper on a tent wedding.
The trick to avoid: Consultant Melissa Paul has seen her share of wet, grumpy wedding guests and offers a wealth of advice for weather-proofing a party: Always reserve an alternate space if you are planning an outdoor/tent wedding. Arrange tents for the ceremony, cocktails, and reception so that guests don't need to run through a downpour at any time. Spend the extra bucks and get the tent with sidewalls all around and eaves over the walkways. Hire an attendant to start the heaters, drop the walls, and otherwise look after things. Hire a valet service so that guests won't have to walk through the rain. And finally, always have lots and lots of big golf umbrellas on hand.

The Day the Music Stopped
The tale to tell: No one knows who was more shocked at Alanna and Paul's wedding when the band chose to play "Sexual Healing" as the couple's parents took to the dance floor for their moment in the spotlight -- the newlyweds or Mom and Dad. "It was, I must say, the most awkward moment there," says Alanna. "We laughed it off, of course, but it was just ridiculous."
The trick to avoid: Every couple knows to tell the band or DJ which songs to play for the important wedding dances and what their favorite "get everyone dancing tunes" are. But if you have strong opinions about music, it may make sense to take things one step further and make a list of songs that you despise and which must not be played at the wedding. And for some, even that is not enough. One bride, enraged at hearing her DJ play the forbidden "Macarena" recommends driving the point home clearly by having the bandleader or DJ sign the list of no-play tunes.

The Tuxedo Tragedy
The tale to tell: Nick, like most grooms, was in charge of the formalwear for the guys in his wedding party. The day before the wedding, he swung by the tuxedo shop and picked up all the suits; then he doled them out to his pals as they arrived at his house before the rehearsal dinner. The next day, on the morning of the wedding, the best man arrived in a tuxedo and a pair of black loafers. His tux had arrived with two left shoes, and it was way too late to exchange them for proper dress shoes.
The trick to avoid: No woman would try on a dress for the first time only minutes before she was about to leave for a big event. But to some guys, a tux is a tux -- and a groomsman will wait until five minutes before he has to leave for the ceremony to don his duds. Most times, things are just fine. On the other hand, he may find a little surprise -- like enormous slacks or a teeny tiny tuxedo shirt. But it's too late, and the poor guy will be stuck wearing a very tightly belted pair of pants or a dress shirt under his jacket. The answer is simple: Sweetly insist that every guy try on the whole James Bond ensemble the day it comes home from the tuxedo shop. Even better, have every guy pick up his own formalwear (including the shoes!) and try everything on at the tuxedo shop.


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