There’s a certain nineties song that talks about “raaa-iii-aayyy-n on your wedding day” (you totally just sang that in your head, didn’t you?). While Alanis Morissette meant it metaphorically, the truth is, it happens. Weddings are vulnerable to all sorts of problems—and rain is sometimes the least of them. The good news? Most problems show up during the planning process, and very often they are 100% preventable. You’ll be even better prepared after reading this: 10 things that are very likely to go wrong while wedding planning, and how to handle it all with grace.
Photography: Jose Villa
1. Committing Too Soon
So, you’re riding that newly-engaged high, and you can’t wait to start planning, book a venue, and announce your date. It’s natural to want to make decisions right away, but this is the very moment you can’t afford to rush. Your aesthetic is revealed over time, as you become familiar with the planning process and discover your creative voice. You could book an industrial venue right away, only to find that you really love the idea of an estate wedding with garden florals and cocktails on the lawn. In order to avoid problems like these, Becca of Rebecca Rose Events urges brides and grooms to hire a capable planning team first:
“We often wish brides and grooms would ask ‘what should we do first, or next?’ The reality is that many people dive in to planning a little too quickly. They make decisions and/or hire vendors even before they’ve hired their planning team and have committed themselves legally and financially to services and/or products that may not really be the best fit for them. It’s imperative that all decisions be in sync with a comprehensive master budget and an overall guiding vision. Sadly, we often have to turn prospective clients away if they’ve already done too much before they approached us about our services, because they have made mistakes that we may not be able to undo.”
Photography: Rebecca Yale | Venue: Greystone Mansion| Floral Design: Unique Floral Designs | Event Design: Encore Event Design
2. Hiring A Vendor Based Solely Off of Their Instagram Presence
Instagram and Pinterest are wonderful places to find vendors and inspiration, but don’t let them be your only resources. As you search for vendors, understand that social media can only reveal a very limited—and curated– glimpse of how a vendor approaches an actual wedding day. Most wedding services are very visual, but a beautiful picture isn’t enough to determine your ideal creative fit. Mallory of Mallory Dawn Photography encourages her clients to look beyond social when choosing a wedding photographer:
“I am always happy to share full galleries with my clients… Instagram and websites only show the best of the best and you really want to see how your photographer approaches and captures an entire wedding day start-to-finish. I always tell my friends that are getting married to ask this when inquiring with photographers.”
Photography: Ana Lui
3. Family Matters
When you announce your plans to marry, you may find yourself navigating some complex and sensitive family dynamics. Maybe your family has been gracious enough to lend financial help, but that gift may come with expectations. Unfortunately, some family members will equate money with power or a say in your wedding decisions. You can feel, little by little, that you are losing your voice, and more and more that it is your job to keep the peace. “Weddings bring out lots of different emotions and everyone handles them differently,” empathizes Mallory of Mallory Dawn Photography. “I see lots of family members making comments that stress out the bride or groom and everyone handles them differently.”
In any event, it’s time to reclaim what is yours—your voice. “It is important to set boundaries with your family and friends… as hard as that can be,” says Mallory. But boundary- setting need not be painful or ungentle. Be thoughtful but clear as you address family members with simple statements like “We have decided together that…” It’s excellent practice for those times when you’ll need to announce your Christmas plans, i.e. “We have decided as a family to spend this Christmas in the mountains, even though we really appreciate your offer to host again this year.”
Photography: Sophie Epton
During the planning process, most brides and grooms will encounter vendors’ services for the first time; it’s only natural that they would be unfamiliar with costs. “It’s common for prospective clients to lack an understanding of how much time and effort is involved in planning, designing, and producing a wedding,” says Becca of Rebecca Rose Events.
“To prevent undue stress,” counsels Betsy of Rebecca Rose Events, “itemize your wish list in chronological order at the very beginning and make your budget expectations crystal clear. Prioritize the things at the top and be prepared to sacrifice or revise some items at the bottom of the list, so as to not spend outside your comfort zone.” No matter the scope and scale of our wedding, few of us can afford to make every service a priority. But we can splurge on the things we love the most—exquisite florals, aspects of guest experience, or a haute couture gown (we see you, Ines di Santo!).
Photography: Tenth and Grace | Floral Design: Moss Floral | Event Planning & Design: Chic and Pretty Events
5. A Huge Guest List
On that note, if you are looking to keep your budget realistic, then your guest list is the first place you will need to look. “The single most impactful factor in a wedding budget is the number of invited guests,” states Betsy of Rebecca Rose Events. “Each person has a significant cost associated with them – from the invitations, to the china, glassware, flatware, meal, beverages, and the list goes on.” But editing a guest list is problematic in and of itself. How do you leave guests off in a tactful way? Betsy has the following litmus test for guest list inclusion:
“Our advice is carefully consider the list and ask yourself a few questions. Would you invite this person to your home for a backyard barbecue seven years from now? Would you treat this person to an evening out and spend over $1,000 on them?” If the answer to either question is ‘no,’ then gently reconsider. In the end, your event will feel more intimate and meaningful, and your budget will thank you. (And if you still need help deciding who makes the guest list, check out SMP’s advice here, here, and here!).
Photography: Lauren Fair | Floral & Event Design: Oleander | Venue: La Badia di Orvieto
6. Little Arguments
When you go out for a date or get off of work, it’s natural to slip into wedding talk with your fiancé. That last e-mail! The rental company’s chair shortage! That cryptic text from your mother! You may find that all of your conversations start to follow this pattern. Little fights and tearful misunderstandings are almost inevitable.
In order to keep the wedding in its rightful place, set aside designated times for wedding planning. Be focused and clear about your goals for that hour or that evening. Divide and conquer your inbox. Make decisions together, and know that this is excellent premarital practice for difficult tasks you will face later on. And as much as you possibly can, leave your wedding in the capable hands of your planners and vendors. That trust will free up so much time and energy, that you can then spend on enjoying your engagement.
And remember– take your free nights! Dress up, go out, laugh together, and leave thoughts of the wedding completely behind. You’ll nurture your relationship and everything else will benefit from that. Because it’s true, what they say– the more in love you are, the less dire the possibility of melted buttercream will seem.
Photography: Greg Finck
7. Timeline Issues
When creating a wedding day timeline, be mindful of your photographer’s requests. Your photographer approaches your wedding as both artist and planner, balancing your schedule with the demands of light and time. If you want your wedding photos to have that golden hour glow, plan around your photography timeline—and share that timeline in advance with other vendors and family members!
“I really try my best to educate my couples on natural light and how it can be tricky to work with sometimes because in many ways it can be unpredictable,” counsels Mallory of Mallory Dawn Photography. “I usually block out 30-45 minutes on a wedding day for the couple’s romantic portraits right around golden hour. And sometimes this gets shortened if the wedding starts to fall behind. This can be due to family members not being present during family portraits or multiple other reasons. I think my advice would be to trust your photographer when it comes to timeline and dealing with light… couples need to be flexible and really ask questions early on about the best timing for wedding day events when it comes to lighting.”
All of your vendors will have similar timelines, and in order to have a seamless wedding day, it’s imperative to follow them!
Photography: Rebecca Yale
8. Failing to Make a Beautiful Plan B
Remember that whole thing about rain on your wedding day (or were you trying to forget…)? No one wants to consider the possibility of rain– or any other kind of inclement weather– on her wedding day, and many brides, in an effort to remain optimistic, will refuse to entertain the possibility. Sunshine and birdsong it will be! But “planning the day as if that’s the only way it could happen is a huge mistake. It is imperative to have a weather backup plan for any wedding or special events,” states Betsy of Rebecca Rose Events.
Instead, consider weather from every angle, and, with the help of your planners and designers, create a gorgeous plan B. Allow your florist to implement creative ideas for an interior space, perhaps creating a canopy of flowers to hang above the head table, or a stunning mantel installation. Begin to envision and embrace the idea of a room full of crystal, flora, and fireside. Make friends with the Sperry tent. Above all, make the alternate plan inviting, so that you begin to associate it with feelings of artistry and love. When you are as excited over plan B as you are for your primary plan, no act of weather will unmoor you. You’ll just move serenely to a space that you have already addressed—and maybe even wished for. “It’s not enough to develop a logistical weather plan,” admits Betsy of Rebecca Rose Events. “You need to truly prepare your mind and heart for inclement weather too, so that you’re every bit as comfortable with plan B as you are with plan A.”
And take solace in the fact anything unexpected—even rain—can be a blessing in disguise. Things may not be as we imagined them; they may indeed be better. Mallory of Mallory Dawn Photography can attest to this:
“I have an example from my own wedding day,” offers Mallory. “We were supposed to have our cocktail hour outside in the beautiful California sunshine, however, it started pouring the day of our wedding, so we had to move it indoors. We never thought it would rain in April in California so this never even crossed our minds. It actually ended up being so wonderful and our guests still talk about now nice of an atmosphere it was. The room they brought our guests into had a full bar and a fireplace in the center of the room which was so cozy and intimate. Our guests really got to connect with one another in the smaller space while staying dry from the weather outside. They chatted and mingled by the fireplace and it is something our guests still rave about to this day!”
Photography: Jessica Rose | Floral Design: Studio Mondine | Venue: Old Stone House, St. Giles
9. Destinations Can Be Difficult
“Destination weddings require an exceptionally high aptitude for event logistics,” notes Becca of Rebecca Rose Events. In fact, destination weddings are so complex that they deserve an entire category unto themselves—it’s not one thing that could go wrong but a complex cocktail of destination-specific things. “Our team has spent years honing and improving our destination wedding planning and production process… so much so that it’s hard to even imagine a family tackling such a significant task on their own, without solid professional guidance,” admits Becca, before listing some of the possible complications (or, at best, considerations) when planning a destination affair:
“Every wedding requires careful research and due diligence, but destination projects really up the ante. For example, it’s important to become knowledgeable about local laws and ordinances, customs requirements, taxes, what resources do (or do not!) exist nearby, transportation options, guest accommodations, licenses that may be required for certain services, cultural sensitivities, possible language barriers, etc. Even if the destination is not an international one, there are many important considerations that need to be taken into account.”
So whether you’re planning that gorgeous Vail mountain wedding or Tuscan retreat, hire a dream wedding planning team who is capable of handling the high demands of destination planning. You’d rather have an itinerary full of things like après ski or vineyard walk than rescuing flower shipments from the customs department and delivering event chairs to the accessible-by-foot-only waterfront property.
Photography: Oliver Fly
10. Things Feel Different Than You Thought They Would
Maybe you’ve always dreamed of carrying peonies in your bouquet, but you just miss peony season. Maybe, instead, you’ve had your heart set on a winter wedding, but a family circumstance compels you to move your date up. Or you’ve always pictured your best friend standing by your side as maid of honor, but the two of you have drifted. If, as you wedding plan, you are married to things being a certain way, you are almost bound to experience some heartbreak. And that heartbreak shouldn’t be discounted—it is hard when things just aren’t turning out as we envisioned they would.
“I feel like my creativity as an event designer often flourishes most when I have to work through a problem,” muses Becca of Rebecca Rose Events. And in the end, it’s true. The more that all of us– designers, planners, brides and grooms alike– loosen our grip on things, the more room we make for elements of artistry and surprise. Allow yourself to relax and trust in a process that may lead to unexpected graces.
Photography: Mallory Dawn
11. Parting Words
In all likelihood, your vendors will be extremely professional and devoted, and any problems come up will be the unavoidable sort.
“We over-communicate and organize every little detail, so I find when something goes wrong, it tends to be beyond the control of proper planning and preparation,” reflects Callista of Callista & Company. “My biggest piece of advice is to surround yourself with a quality wedding day team, so if anything goes awry, you have a dedicated, creative, and responsible group of people there to turn things around. Utilize the long-standing relationships your planner has to offer. Great vendors step up beyond their contracted roles, arrive early and stay late, and go above and beyond to ensure your expectations are exceeded, no matter the circumstances.”
In the end, know that any of these problems may just be the setbacks from which you experience your deepest joy. Trust your dream team– and watch as that trust translates into resourcefulness, creativity, and beautiful design.
Photography: Laura Gordon Photography | Floral Design: Sarah Winward | Venue: Dos Pueblos Orchid Farm