Save the Day!

Expert tips for planning a glitch-free wedding day

By Julia Moore

You’ve spent the last few months planning every detail of your big day – what could possibly go wrong?
Truth be told, no wedding is flawless, and you’re bound to miss a few details or encounter mishaps. But with the help of our local industry pros – who have seen it all – we’ve identified some of the common wedding-day glitches so you can be prepared to handle things before – or when – they go wrong.

Your ceremony and reception are in two different places – and when it’s time for the reception, many guests are missing.
How can you ensure your guests arrive on time? Cut back on the number of cars taking ceremony-goers, especially your key party members who can’t be late, to the reception, says Erin Chalstrom, owner of Your Story event planning. “The more cars you have, the more opportunities you have for someone to go ‘oh gosh, I forgot this,’ and be late.”

While providing transportation for your wedding guests isn’t a requirement, it’s a thoughtful gesture – especially for out-of-towners in an unfamiliar town. Let guests know exactly what transportation options exist, such as a courtesy shuttle to any of the venues.

To avoid guests getting lost, include a map from the ceremony to the reception location with their invitation and at your wedding website. If possible, mark the way with signs or balloons, or give local landmarks for reference.

Guests show up expecting a big meal but there’s only finger food.
Communicate with your guests, advises Rebecca Kopperud, owner of La Boum Events. Giving your guests general information, including if they’ll have to pay for anything or if they should plan to eat before arriving, is key. Rebecca says, “It makes people feel more secure and makes them stay longer.” If you’re only serving finger foods, tell your guests at your wedding website and on their invitation.

The flower girl or ring bearer is shy and won’t budge and/or runs down the aisle crying and screaming.
“Have someone walk with the kid,” suggests Evelyn with R&R Productions Professional DJ Entertainment, Lighting & Photography. Usually the presence of an adult – or even another child – will help calm them down. If they’re being fussy about walking down the aisle, incentivize it a bit with some candy or a treat. If all else fails, even when kids don’t cooperate, they make an adorable addition to a wedding. Evelyn laughs and adds, “It’s kind of cute when they plop their little butts down and cry.”

Bugs eat the guests alive.
If you’re hosting an outdoor ceremony or reception, you need to consider the unwanted, winged guests that may arrive. “Implement your battle plan early with Mosquito Magnet traps,” says Anne-Renee Gumley of Special Events Alaska. Check with your venue to see if you can set up the traps a couple weeks before your event or if you can have bug experts spray the grounds. If you’re scrambling before your wedding, baskets of bug spray on the tables are an easy fix – just make sure you buy them early before stores run out. Alternatively, if you want to keep things a little more natural, bring in flowers that ward off bugs. A few flowers Anne-Renee suggests are lavender, geraniums or marigolds.

Rain/wind/etc. ruins the outdoor party (and you have no back-up plan/shelter).
“It’s a well-known fact that guests who are dry and comfortable will stick around for the cutting of the cake, not to mention the music and dancing,” says Anne-Renee. Anticipate any form of weather, and check with your favorite local event company about tent and tent heater rentals. She adds, “Tent walls can be added for protection, tent liners for added pizzazz, and tent heaters to help combat any potential chill in the air.” If you’re counting on outdoor group photos, be sure to bring umbrellas, just in case.

The music selection for the dance floor is awkward / inappropriate.
The simplest solution: Hire a good wedding DJ. Don’t trust a friend-of-a-friend who DJs at a bar – even if your friend says he’s really good, says Rebecca. A professional DJ will not only sit down with the couple and consider the music they enjoy – and a “do not play” list – but they’ll consider the guests’ needs as well. If you listen to hard rock, but your family only listens to country, people won’t get up and dance. “Have guests send in song requests on the back of their RSVP – I love that,” suggests Evelyn. Creating a playlist of songs you and your guests love will ensure everyone will be singing along.

You run out of alcohol.
“The issue of alcohol is actually a math problem,” Rebecca explains, “Typically, we find that people need to budget one drink per person per hour.” This equation will hold for most couples, but it’s important to know your guests – if your guests drink hard while partying, you’ll have to alter the equation. “I’ve never, to date, had anybody run out of alcohol by using that equation,” says Rebecca.

You have guests that drank too much and shouldn’t be driving.
Even if you aren’t expecting your guests to be heavy drinkers, it’s important to keep them safe when leaving. The easiest solution: Hire a bartender. Rebecca says, “Couples should assume that people are going to be drinking, and drinking too much.” Bartenders in Alaska are required to undergo the Training for Alcohol Professionals program, which ensures they know the laws regarding alcohol, how to identify intoxication, prevent drunkenness, check IDs and handle sticky situations. It’s the bartender’s duty to watch over those who drink, making sure nobody goes over their limit or reaches for their keys when they’ve had a few. If you don’t have a bartender, consider having a key check, having cards for local cab companies available at the bar, or even providing cab rides or shuttles for your guests to get home or to their hotel.

Your buttercream wedding cake melts in the summer sun.
For food safety, your wedding cake should only be out for four hours at most, says Rebecca. Cake is usually served towards the end of an evening, which could push a buttercream frosting to its limit for safety and appearance. To prevent a cake catastrophe, keep it stored in a fridge until close to serving time, and avoid placing the cake in direct sunlight. Talk with your baker to see how long your frosting choice will hold up in the sun, advises Rebecca.

The bride is dealing with too many details and can't enjoy her big day.
Plan ahead, and give yourself plenty of time – don’t take on DIY tasks that have to be completed on your wedding day, like making your bouquet or baking your cake, says Erin. When you’re making plans, designate different points of contact for tasks on the big day – someone for different vendors to check in with or ask questions. “Write things down in an itinerary, and give that itinerary to the people you’re designating those specific areas to,” Erin advises. Another option Erin suggests is doing a “round table” with your vendors when your planning is almost finished. This way, your vendors can ask you, and each other, questions, creating a cohesive event.

Hiring a wedding planner takes away the stress of tying together small details, but if it’s out of the picture, consider hiring a “day-of” wedding coordinator, advises Evelyn. Some companies will offer their expertise on the wedding day only, helping iron out wrinkles as they appear.

You get a huge bill from your venue because the venue wasn’t properly cleaned – and your marriage license is nowhere to be found.
There are many small details couples can forget to attend to. “People often forget about garbage, like where’s the garbage going to? Who is taking the garbage out?” says Rebecca. Some venues require garbage to be taken off of the premises – if a couple doesn’t have a plan guests’, or the couple’s, cars may end up being packed with smelly garbage bags. “Designate someone to pick up your things at the day,” advises Evelyn. This way, special commemorative cups – or worse, the marriage license – won’t be thrown out by mistake.