OPEN THREAD: Biggest wedding disasters (and what to learn from them)

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The Ladies
Photo by Chris Bail

Stormy weather blow your wedding decor away, or cause a blackout at the reception? Vendor that never showed? Partner that never showed?

They say when things go wrong at your wedding, “you'll laugh about this one day…” hopefully you're all ready to laugh now! As this year ends, let's look back on the past years' wedding season and ask:

What was your biggest wedding disaster and what did you learn from it?

Here's one of our favorites:

Sometimes the bad moments make the best stories. So let's hear yours! (Extra points if you have pics and/or video.)

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Comments on OPEN THREAD: Biggest wedding disasters (and what to learn from them)

  1. This didn’t turn out to be a huge disaster, but another couple showed up to get married at our (one-wedding-per-day) venue at the same time as us.

    Our venue was an historical mansion adjacent to a public park. We paid to use the mansion, and reserved the grape arbor in the park for our ceremony. We got to the grape arbor with our photographer to start setting up, and there was another photographer there who said that they were with another couple who just wanted to use the grape arbor for an elopement.

    We had limited time to set up, and, as I mentioned above, we had paid for exclusive use of the site for the day. I told them that, they agreed to do their ceremony at the gazebo elsewhere on the site, and my awesome people made sure they were out of there before my groom and I were ready to do our first look.

    Everything turned out ok, but there was definitely a short period where I was ready to release my inner Bridethulu all over somebody.

    When I addressed it with my contact at the venue, they apologized and explained that people are supposed to call and check with them when they want to use the park, but these people didn’t.

    TL;DR: Pro-tip – if you’re going to do a guerrilla wedding, make sure that somebody else hasn’t already paid to use that location for the day.

    • That was incredibly rude of them! Really not what you needed on your wedding day. I’m not sure I’d have been nearly as nice about it- you pay an awful lot of money for exclusive use after all.

      I had my wedding at a brewery that was open to the public that day, so I had to wait until they closed before I could go in and set up. Whilst we were busy decorating a couple of people opened the door and asked if they could have a drink XD They were perfectly pleasant though and accepted it when one of my bridesmaids told them it was closed for a private function. It did make me glad I’d opted for a small, intimate wedding though or randoms could have easily been coming in and helping themselves to the free food and drink!

  2. My biggest wedding disaster is totally funny now but was awful at the time.
    The morning of the wedding we stopped at the ATM to grab the rest of the payment for the DJ, who had requested it in cash. We got the cash and when I arrived at my parents I asked my father for an envelope to put it in. We then discussed whether he or I should hold onto it.
    When we arrived at the reception I asked Dad for the envelope and he said “You have it” and I said “No, you have it” … panic!! Dad ended up driving back to their house and missing almost all of cocktail hour looking for the damn envelope. He never found it so he grabbed his check book and said the DJ was just going to have to accept that. When he arrived back my MOH and I were outside tearing my car apart and MOH finally found the blasted envelope … in my work bag … where I had put it and promptly forgotten about it.
    I felt AWFUL that Dad missed cocktail hour but he actually pulled me aside and thanked me for losing the money because he’s not a fan of socializing and was apparently dreading having to make small talk anyway! All’s well that ends well and now it’s just a funny story but what I learned is … well, two things. First, don’t wait until the last minute. If I’d withdrawn the cash before the morning of it wouldn’t have gotten misplaced because I wouldn’t have had forty other things on my mind and a bunch of people pulling me in different directions. Second, assign someone to be in charge of paying vendors who isn’t you or your spouse. You will have WAAAY too much on your plate to be able to deal with business in any sort of organized or coherent way.

  3. The biggest disasters at our wedding was the Maid of Honors backing out less than two weeks before the wedding, and the Best Man not showing up to the wedding until after the ceremony. Luckily we had friends to step into those roles at the last minute.

    • My husband’s brother was supposed to be his best man (we each chose one person to stand up with us). The brother never even told my husband he wasn’t going to show up – he told the sister that he was in a fight with, the fight being the reason he wasn’t coming.
      Luckily hubby’s eldest had already turned 18, so both of his girls were his best “man.” Turned out to be an awesome alternative, but I’m still upset that we bought the guy a suit and he never had the balls to call and say he wasn’t coming…

    • Jeez this is common!

      My brother-in-law backed out 2 days before our wedding as my husband’s best man. He didn’t even have the balls to call/message my husband. My BIL messaged ME through facebook. Saying he and his son couldn’t come, etc. Even more sadly, no one was surprised at all. The small grace was he let us know a little ahead of time so people weren’t waiting at the airport.

      My wonderful father-in-law stepped in to be best man.

      I don’t know how you can plan for this or learn from it. All I do know is that it has been 2+ years since our wedding, I have yet to even MEET my BIL….and both of us have had a hard time forgiving him. I doubt my husband ever will.

  4. My disaster was really more of an almost-disaster, thanks to the lightning reflexes of one of my bridesmen, but it could have been an epic disaster.

    My husband is allergic to shellfish. He found out the hard way – by going to town on the seafood bar at his cousin’s wedding in 2005 – and is always kinda bummed when we go to a restaurant (or a party) and he has to watch everyone else eat shrimp cocktail or whatever, so we decided to consciously NOT serve any shellfish at the wedding. At each meeting with the caterers at our venue I reminded them that my husband was allergic and that we had decided not to serve anything that he couldn’t eat; I verified the shellfish-less menu on the Tuesday before the wedding when I made our final payment.

    We arranged for a separate room for the bridal party to gather in during cocktail hour after photos were done. I had to banish the groomsmen because they tried to get between me and my first opportunity to eat anything of substance that day, and I sort of hid in a corner stuffing my face with deviled eggs and trying not to bite people. All of a sudden, there was a commotion as one of my bridesmen slapped something out of my husband’s hand before he could eat it.

    Apparently, the caterers had slipped some coconut shrimp (or something) onto the plate of appetizers – and since I couldn’t identify all of the offerings but had assured my husband that everything was safe, he took the morsel (which I had thought was breaded chicken) from the platter. My bridesman went to speak to the head caterer (or maybe my mom, it’s still not clear) while my other attendants calmed us down. Then it was time for the Grand Entrance, and the entrées were safe, so there was fortunately no further opportunity to eat something deadly.

    This disaster could have been avoided altogether if 1, we had been able to eat before we were RAVENOUS and 2, we had known what various foods were – we didn’t have a tasting, and the server who was attending our bridal party room was off fetching drinks or other foods (I had to specifically request the deviled eggs I was eating when all this happened), so there was no one to identify the selections for us.

    • OMG, my fiancé has a deadly soy allergy and if this happened to us, I would Freak. Out. (Possibly more than he would). I mean, how hard is it to not serve shrimp when you’re told repeatedly not to serve shellfish (and the reason is so damn compelling)? Luckily, we’re choosing to have our wedding dinner at a soy-less restaurant that we know and have eaten at many times, so a similar disaster is unlikely to happen to us. I’m glad it worked out alright for you guys, and kudos to the vigilant bridesman.

    • This prospect scares me so much! While not deathly allergic to any food, I’m a life-long vegetarian, my father is a vegetarian, and my sister (MOH) and best friend (bridesmaid) are both vegans. We’re having a 100% vegetarian, mostly vegan wedding, and so many people still don’t understand what that entails. Chicken stock is not okay. Onions fried in lard are not okay. A lifetime of eating accidents and misunderstandings colors my judgement and makes me afraid to even start talking to vendors.

    • My fiancé is highly allergic to tree nuts (as in will need an epi-pen and/or ER visit if he has them) and an allergic reaction is really the only thing I’m worried about happening. We’ve told both the restaurant we’re having the reception in and the people doing the cake that he is allergic to nuts and we’ve had tastings. Hopefully everyone was listening, takes us seriously and we have no mishaps (wedding in 9 day!)

    • I am allergic to sesame and unfortunately I was served hummus at my wedding. The misunderstanding was that “tahini” was listed in the ingredients as an alternative way of saying “sesame”

      I ended up with a splitting migraine and nausea following that small bite of hummus.

      Folks, all I can say is that if you have allergies, try to prepare your plates yourselves, ahead of time. Don’t trust a friend and don’t wait for an empty stomach!

  5. Disaster I’ve only just moved into the ‘good grief’ stage of after 2 years of raging fury! Our marriage officiant in South Africa was terrible, and ruined the ceremony so much we edited him out of the video after. He prepared religious stories despite being told no spiritual stuff, made vaguely racist jokes during the service, didn’t listen when we said we would do our vows then exchange rings which was important to us (and then made a joke to make it look like I was being an arse to our guests). In short, totally unsuitable! We found him searching online and had a video chat with him as we were overseas, and Ii should have listened to my gut feeling and we ought to have spoken to him more given that feeling to ask what he’d speak about.

    So if you’re in a country where you choose your officiant, speak to them a couple of times and ask them for clear examples of what they speak about rather than ‘oh I’ll talk about about couples and life’!

    And edit the videos. I can’t bear to look at him so he’s out of the photos and video!

  6. It’s not my personal story since I haven’t had my wedding yet, but my sister-in-law’s wedding coordinator was 30 minutes late to the rehearsal dinner with no explanation and poorly printed programs, and was so behind and indecisive on the day of the wedding that all of the decorations and things were still being set up when guests began to arrive, about 30 minutes before the start of the ceremony. One of the groomsmen and the guy who was supposed to sing and play guitar for their first dance started getting drunk at 11 that morning, walked up the left side of the aisle instead of the middle, changed into jeans less than halfway through the wedding, had all of his guitar equipment in different places and took 20 minutes to round it all up, and then sang so terribly that they edited him out and played music over him in their wedding video. Guests were cringing and shaking their heads as he was singing. Plus, the “mixed drinks” they asked to have served were about 90% vodka and whiskey, and the bride’s grandma accidentally got drunk and talked shit about her ex-husband’s new wife’s “ugly dress” all night. And the DJ announced that the Vols won their game that night and played Rocky Top for everyone, and the Bride is an Alabama alum and I thought she was going to blow a gasket, she was so angry. Funny memories we all laughed about at Christmas, but not so funny at the time.

  7. The punchline of our rehearsal night isn’t when my father in law -the man who was to marry us- had the cops called on him, or the fact that I had to beg and plead to get my wedding cake out of the freezer because the voc tech I ordered it from was closed due to snow, my sister’s car breaking down 3 states away after being told not to turn off the motor until the mechanic friend I found was there or having to wake another friend up in that city to take her dog unexpectedly, the car with my wedding gown having a blowout, my mother in law loosing the flowers at the church, my husband falling asleep after a week on 10 hours of sleep and nearly missing the rehearsal, or having to move the reception site last minute due to the same snow….

    It was when I walked into the house we rented for out of town guests to find one of my friends in a low sugar crisis and having to wait for my soon to be brother in law to untrap the doctor I had pinned in the car in a snowbank.

    And the saving grace was realizing how great our friends were. (Even if after 4 years, I still having seen the majority of the pics from the wedding!)

  8. We had gotten a new suit for my husband and it was fitted to him and looked amazing. And then they went and sold him a shirt that was too small. He didn’t find out until he was putting it on, already late for the ceremony. I had not idea until he mentioned it later- he was amazing about it and went through the whole ceremony like a champ.

  9. Our wedding was 10/17, and it wasn’t really a disaster, although it could have been. We were supposed to have an outside ceremony – one of the reasons we picked the venue was because it was beautiful. We had our first look and formal pictures outside and went inside to wait for the ceremony. So 5 minutes before we were supposed to walk our venue coordinator comes in and says that it’s raining… and hailing!! Who knew it was going to hail in October in New Hampshire… We had to take the ceremony inside. I’m actually glad all of us, including guests, weren’t outside when it started hailing!

  10. Both of mine were related to uninvited guests. First, I didn’t really want kids at our wedding, but I could have tolerated them with notice, so we talked to the 2 people invited who have kids to see what their plans were. Both said they planned to leave the tots with relatives. A week before the wedding, one of them said their relative fell through and wanted to bring his 3 under 5-year-old children. Husband said yes without consulting me. I had a meltdown (1 week before the wedding?!) and called him to be the “bad guy” and ask that he not bring the kids after all. His wife stayed home with them. I feel kind of bad about it, but I didn’t want to deal with the unpredictability of so many young children.

    Second, a close friend of mine had told me about 4 months before the wedding that he couldn’t hang out with me anymore because his girlfriend was jealous. I still invited him to the wedding, but not her (because #awkward, but also they had been dating less than a year, weren’t living together, engaged, etc and we were having a very small wedding). The day of, he shows up WITH HER, without clearing it with me first, even though her name was not on the invitation and our wedsite said SO’s were not invited unless their name was on the invitation. I didn’t really have to interact with her much the day of, but they broke up the next week and now she’s in a lot of our pictures… le sigh

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