People always say that being a wedding coordinator must be so much fun. And it can be. But it’s a strange position to be in. As the coordinator, I didn’t bake the cake; I didn’t play the music; I didn’t make the bouquets. But if anything went wrong, it was my responsibility. And if it all went right . . . well, sometimes that could work against me too. After all, there is no such thing as the perfect wedding.
Although some brides can be less than charming, I did have weddings with great brides and grooms. Sometimes both families were just really nice people. The budget was ample and easy to work with. The vendors chosen were people who did quality work and were dependable, making my job easier. The couple’s ideas and themes were elegant and pretty. They actually cared if their guests enjoyed the event. And they were polite, respectful and genuinely appreciative of the work everyone was putting forth on their behalf. It would be like having everything you needed for planning the perfect wedding.
And it could still all go to hell in a handbasket. Quickly.
I had a wedding group once that was all those things, just downright wonderful to work with. This wedding had been planned out perfectly to the very last detail, all the top vendors had been hired, and no expense had been spared. The weather was beautiful, and the families were happy. The ceremony took place at a small, quaint, picturesque church with the reception right across the street in an equally quaint and picturesque setting. I had my favorite and most capable assistant with me, and it should have been smooth sailing. Hmmmm.
The sanctuary was all wood with beautiful stained glass windows and an incredible backdrop behind the altar. It was perfect for an intimate ceremony with family and close friends, and pretty much guaranteed beautiful pictures. The only problem with this church was the same problem most coordinators have with churches. . . the church lady.
The church lady is the person in charge of planning weddings at her church. She rules those ceremonies with an iron fist. She says what can and cannot be done. She says what can be brought in, and who can stand where. Many church ladies have been doing that job at their church since before Moses was married, and they don’t take too kindly to “outsiders” coming in, bringing in some high-falutin’ wedding coordinator to tell them what they already know how to do.
You see, I completely understand the mindset of the church lady, since I was the Pavilion Queen at Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings for years. I ran wedding ceremonies back to back, sometimes five in a day, at Disney’s Wedding Pavilion. And we didn’t take too kindly to coordinators from the outside coming in trying to tell us how to do things either! (Oh, and then in irony of ironies, I am the church lady at my church now. But let’s move on.)
Due to my understanding of their perspective, and my need as a coordinator to make peace so my event flowed well, I usually went into these events quiet as a mouse and more polite than Miss Manners ever asked of anyone. If you don’t make the church lady feel threatened, and you allow her to do her job and have her power, it goes a long way.
But this particular church lady and I had already had a run-in. One she was not willing to forget. The groom felt strongly that his grandfather should escort his mother in and be seated in the front row with her since both his father and his grandmother were deceased. The church lady felt strongly that the “proper” place for parents is the first row, and grandparents sit in the second row. And ushers escort the mothers. Well, I stood up to her as my groom’s advocate and insisted his grandfather be allowed to walk and sit with his daughter, the groom’s mom. In other words, I drew first blood and the fight was on.
She showed up at the reception site as I was sorting through favors and flowers.
“They have ALCOHOL in the dressing room. The contract clearly states this is not allowed.” She crossed her arms and glared at me as if I had personally poured whiskey and given it to children.
“I’ll take care of it.” I walked back across the street with her to the bride’s dressing room, where they were finishing a champagne toast provided by the maid of honor. I reminded the bridal party of the contract requirements and asked them to close up the champagne. I was in the middle of cleaning up the champagne glasses and bottles from the dressing room when my assistant called to say there was a problem and I was needed back across the street.
The problem with small, quaint venues is that they are small. And another word for quaint is OLD. During planning, the guest count had grown too large for the space. But it was just the setting they wanted with hardwood floors and walls of windows, and it was right across the street from the church. So to compensate for the lack of space, we had arranged for the catering team to set up the buffets and carving stations in a large tent on the property. This would allow the entire interior of the building to be used for seating and dancing.
Workers had scurried like ants all morning to set up the tent, run the electrical, and set up buffet tables, plants, and kitchen equipment. The beautiful blue skies that day were also very hot. The air conditioning unit in the tent was working overtime to keep it cool with everyone coming and going. It finally reached its limit and blew the breakers. Like all the breakers. Like the entire building shut down inside and out. No power anywhere. I arrived back across the street to a dark building, a dark tent, an irate catering staff, a panicked assistant and a shrugging building manager, who simply explained that the electrical system in the building was very old (quaint!!) and sometimes it overloaded.
As I was trying to figure out how to create electricity, my phone rang. It was the band–the band that the bride’s father had paid to come all the way from Atlanta because they were the best dance band in the South—and evidently they were better at music than at directions. They had completely missed their exit, didn’t realize it, and they were almost to Tampa. (In other words, about two hours away.) Okay. The reception was supposed to start in two hours. So plenty of time, right? No worries??
As I was hanging up with them, the church lady appeared again. Did she not realize that her jurisdiction was just the church, and therefore she should not have been able to be across the street at the reception site??? It seemed that this time the ladies had food in the dressing room.
As I walked back across the street with the church lady, it dawned on me that I had not yet pinned on the boutonnieres for the groomsmen. Luckily, I had one of the best wedding photographers in the business that day. Not only was he extremely talented in capturing the moments of the day in a truly artistic way, but he was also incredibly easy to work with. I dialed him quickly to let him know I was dealing with a situation but would be right there to pin on bouts if he wanted to go ahead and start without me.He laughed. “Good one,” he said. “Yeah right,” he said. “I’m on a boat in the middle of a lake right now.”
“Very funny,” I replied. “I’ve got a lot going on, and I’ll be there in am minute.” I hung up and went into the bride’s dressing room to find crackers on a table that had been given to the flower girl since she had not eaten breakfast. I was about to explain the no food policy when my phone rang. The photographer.
“You were joking, right? You sounded serious, and you haven’t called back to say you were joking,” he said.
“No, I’m not joking. I’ll be there in a few minutes. Can you just take some shots of them without the flowers for now?” I replied, perhaps a bit more snippy than intended.
“Ummm, the wedding is tomorrow, right?” he asked.
I stopped dead in my tracks, hands full of cracker crumbs. Then I quickly stepped outside where no one could hear me.
“NO, THE WEDDING IS NOT TOMORROW. YOU AND I WENT OVER EVERYTHING YESTERDAY AND CONFIRMED IT. THE WEDDING IS TODAY. YOU GOT THE ITINERARY! WE WENT OVER IT!” (no accidental caps here . . .I was shouting!)
“Yeah, I got it. But I just assumed the wedding was tomorrow. Who gets married on a Friday? I didn’t look at the day on the calendar. I figured it was Saturday.”
I had worked with this guy for over 10 years. He was never even one minute late, always returned calls, always produced great shots, always finished on time. And now I had no photographer and pictures were supposed to start. . . ten minutes ago.
“Where are you?” I asked, silently praying he was joking, but knowing he wasn’t.
“I told you. I’m on a boat in the middle of the lake.”
“How fast can you be here?” Still praying.
“I don’t know. Maybe an hour. I’d have to get someone to meet me with my equipment, and I don’t have clothes for a wedding with me. I’m in shorts and flip flops.”
“Get moving, and I’ll stall.” My mind raced. How the heck am I supposed to tell people that one of the most expensive components of their event, the photographer I recommended, after giving them a speech about how important the pictures are and that you should put your money in photos since it’s the one thing you take away at the end. . . yeah, he’s not going to be here. You’re not going to have any wedding photos. Never mind the picturesque sanctuary and its stained glass windows and oak trees on the lawn. Not happening.
Suddenly, the church lady appeared. “Those boys are eating chips, and they have soda in the dressing room. It is not allowed. You need to get this under control.”
You know what? This story is so long that I am sure you have other things you need to be doing……so let’s roll a “To Be Continued” across the bottom of the screen with some dramatic music and tune in for the next post to see what happened with this “perfect” wedding!!
(Click above to go to part 2)