Monday, May 2, 2011

Things Will Go Wrong

Everyone tells you that things will go wrong at your wedding. In my logical brain, I knew they were right and that no matter how meticulously I planned and how on-the-ball I was (and really, I was all over that darn ball) something would go to pieces. I watched things fall apart in the days before the wedding, and yet I still didn't really believe it. I lived through a Thursday-Saturday in which the gods took one look at our schedule, laughed at us, and sent chaos to wreak havoc instead. But we recovered. We shifted priorities, called in favors, and worked ourselves into exhaustion to get back on track.  I thought the wedding would be more of the same, in a worse case scenario.

But the wedding day is different. When the gods laugh, you can’t fight back. There’s no more time to right the wrongs. You can either take a deep breath and accept it or let the challenges spoil the day.

We were pretty darn lucky, overall. Yeah, we should have had a double-sized buffet so 150 people didn’t have to wait so long in line (I swear I’d meant to arrange that.) I was horrified to discover that our green plastic cups were being used for sangria instead of the rentals (the green cups were supposed to be “just in case” glasses. Oh well. I got over it when I remembered they were holding delicious sangria that got entirely consumed, despite the plastic cups.) Yeah, we forgot to take two portraits we’d really hoped to have. And yeah, we forgot to bring our lunch/getting ready snacks for us and our hardworking wedding party (we left them at the venue, where our hardworking wedding party hopefully nibbled during the morning setup).

That was the easy stuff to shrug off. But there was big stuff too. Our shuttles - which we required most guests to use because there was limited parking at the venue - completely failed us. The three buses managed to pick people up at the hotel without incident... and then proceed to leave everyone at a private residence a few blocks away from our venue. The buses ignored our meticulous directions (“don’t rely on GPS - the location is hard. Use these directions instead!”) and ended up endangering our guests by heading up a twisty teeny canyon road where a bus had no business going. As the bus tried to back away from the residence and towards the main road, our guests were so terrified that they voluntarily got out and walked to the wedding.

Picturing elderly guests, women in heels, and even able-bodied, sensible-heeled friends walking along the twisty canyon road still makes me fume. Not only was it an embarrassment to our planning, it’s the sort of inconvenience/discomfort that can subtly poison someone’s first impression of an event.  Or their second impression of the event, when the shuttles also failed to provide transportation between the ceremony site (at the bottom of a long hill) and the reception hall (at the top). Emilia Jane and friends with cars pitched in instead.  And then, despite some angry phone calls, the shuttle drivers decided they couldn’t drive up to the reception hall at the end of the night and told our guests to walk the quarter mile down a dark, unlit canyon road to meet them. Some people did it, before Emilia and a few (sober) wedding guests yet again used their personal cars to again shuttle people down the hill to the buses.

And yet somehow, in the end, everything was okay. People maintained their good moods (lovey happy weddings can do that) and just treated it like an adventure. I saw friends walking up the hill in their finery and took a cue from their laughter that everything was okay. I decided not to become a paranoid hostess because, really, what could I do besides hope the laughter continued and ask Emilia for help?  It’s not that she could take care of it as well as I could have, it’s that she could take care of it better.  She had a car. She didn’t have 150 people making oh-so-happy demands on her time and attention. So I had to smile, thank everyone for being such good sports, point them towards the bar, and let it go.

The best you can do is smile, be grateful for the things that are going magnificently well, and trust that your guests will take their cue from the positive joyful energy. The moment they see your smile, 99% of them will follow suit and smile back. Happy begets happy. Joy begets joy. And that’s the magic of weddings.


  1. Whoa! Yep. There was nothing you could do at that point except laugh about it. Except maybe now demand some money back from the shuttle people?

  2. I agree with Dee — I would follow up with the shuttle people and demand at least a partial refund.

    I can only imagine it was probably pretty hard to let those things go, but I'm glad you did and that the joy was contagious. I hope I'm able to do the same.

  3. So ... the bus thing. Yes, you absolutely should get at a partial refund, but you should know that no one was scared (or scarred) by the experience. People who were driving to the venue stopped and picked up older guests and women in heels, which was very nice. And it was an adventure! A great bonding experience! Yes, the shuttle people were terrible, but it did not in any way reflect on you or your wedding.

    Everyone gladly climbed those hills to be there, and I would have no doubt that they would do it again in a heartbeat.

  4. @All - yeah, we're trying to get a refund but it's tough going. We withheld the tip (of course) which was 15% and therefore huge, but we're working through the refund now. It may or may not happen but, at least, bad reviews will. We'll publish reviews after finalizing everything with the refund. Until then, if you're looking for LA shuttle recommendations, email me on who NOT to use.

    @Sarah -thank you for the reassurance. My heart nearly stopped when I saw people walking up the hill. I directed people straight to the bar and was relieved that the good mood of the adventurers was so infectious.

  5. Wow that is outrageous. I'm glad you were able to move past it on the day.

  6. The shuttle thing would have made my heart stop, were I you. Sounds like you managed to keep a smile on your face, which is really all you can do in that situation. As a guest, I'm sure it would have been a minor inconvenience that is quickly forgotten as the night wears on.

    I think all the mental prep in the world doesn't necessarily save you when things actually start going wrong. I'm okay mentally with a whole host of things going wrong, but I know that if something big happens, (food, alcohol or comfort related) I'll have a harder time getting past it than I'd like to think.

  7. I think after seeing firsthand how something WILL go wrong, no matter how carefully you plan, I've become more tolerant of other weddings/events where something goes wrong or is an inconvenience. I used to maybe privately grouch about it; now the couple has my full sympathy (and I also still think those moments make the best stories, later - like, much later, once the frustration has evaporated).

  8. Thanks for posting this. It helps with my internal pep talk that my job is not to make my wedding perfect. Also, re: your request for refunds, I highly recommend you filing a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the California AG's office. I work for my own state's AG's office in Consumer Protection, and you would be surprised at how quickly a company that is vehemently refusing a refund for shoddy service they provided suddenly changes their tune when they receive a letter from an AG employee, with an official seal on the letterhead....Filing a complaint with the BBB is also worth doing.

  9. I'm happy you kept good spirits... This is a good case of why you should hire a coordinator!

  10. If it makes you feel any better, my shuttle did make it to my wedding venue with minor hitches only to find the main gate shut with a pile of dirt in front of it. Somehow the garden hadn't thought to tell me the day before that they were doing major re-planting and that all guests would have to enter and leave via a back entrance.
    And then for good measure our getaway car driver got lost. Sigh. This is why I don't trust shuttles or car services, at all, ever, period. Every event I have ever planned has had some issue with the transport, it just happens.


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