Murphy’s Law Weddings

Story by Catherine Bodry

You spend months, a year, or maybe most of your life dreaming about and planning your wedding. It’s the one day you expect perfection, and everything is coordinated and timed. But what happens when the unplanned throws itself in your face? How do you deal with, and plan for, events beyond a stormy day or a late groomsman?

Like most brides, I tried to anticipate and avoid potential problems when planning my August 2006 wedding, but I took certain details for granted – namely, that I would walk down the aisle. But a month to the day before my wedding, I was struck by a car while riding my bike in Anchorage. I burst into tears when the doctor announced that my ankle was broken. “But my wedding is in a month!” I cried. Flustered, he simply apologized for my unfortunate luck. I spent the following month begging rides, outsourcing errands, and generally worrying about getting married in a cast.

Like me, Shawana and Paul Guzenski were set on minimizing stress for their October 2006 wedding. They contracted a wedding planner over a year in advance to cover most details, including invitations and flowers. They discovered in their planning that even giving themselves a full year was not enough to ward off the unknowns.

In late June, Shawana and Paul began asking their planner for an invitation. When the planner still hadn’t produced one by August, Shawana communicated her frustration in an e-mail. “So she finally sent a proof, and it was nothing like what we asked for – it wasn’t even in our colors!” Fed up after months of fighting to get the invitations, Shawana spent 15 minutes on the phone with a designer in California who “nailed it” and sent her a proof that day.

The invitations may have been perfect, but they cost an extra $400 to rush.

After taking care of the invitations, Shawana began asking about the flowers. “We wanted autumn colors,” she explains. “We’re outdoorsy people and we wanted our wedding to reflect us.” But when they met, the wedding planner produced a generic photo of baby’s breath. “I looked at her like she had three heads,” Shawana fumes. The couple ended up hiring Michael Zoske of Art Services North to take charge of the flowers.

While she was dealing with the stress of an unreliable wedding planner, Shawana was having equally stressful problems with her wedding gown. “When I was measured, I came in between sizes,” she explains. “I wanted to go with the larger size, but the saleswoman advised me to go smaller since I’d probably lose weight. She argued that by getting the smaller size I wouldn’t have to spend money getting the dress altered.” So Shawana hired a personal trainer and worked out hard – so hard that at her first fitting, the dress wouldn’t zip up over her back muscles. The saleswoman instructed her to stop working out and sent her to a seamstress, who installed a corset-style lace-up back.

A month later, when Shawana tried it on again, the back was so stretchy it sagged. She took it to a second seamstress, who noted that the material for the corset lace was wrong. At the end of September, the back was fixed, but then the bust didn’t fit correctly. So Shawana went to a third alterations person, who not only redid all the earlier work, but also added boning to give the bodice a structure.

Four days before her wedding date, the dress was finally ready. But on her actual wedding day, the boning popped through the dress, and Shawana found herself trying to stuff it back in two hours before the ceremony.

What we've learned

Although we both laugh at our experiences now, at the time the stress of trying to deal with constant mishaps was enough to makes us cry. Between broken ankles, worthless planners and dress nightmares, Shawana and I have learned a few things about the stress of dealing with the unanticipated when planning a wedding.

Maintain a sense of humor. When she realized she might not have a dress that fit, Shawana joked about hosting a “BeDazzle My Burlap Sack” party. My friend sewed “sympathy casts” – silky legwarmers – for my bridesmaids to wear on one leg, which made for hilarious photos. When you bring humor out of the situation, your guests and friends will follow your cue, relax and join in to help you.

Stay positive, but mentally prepare for those unknowns. Neither Shawana nor I could have anticipated the events that caused us so much planning pain. But with so many tiny details, something is bound to go wrong. Anticipating the unknown better prepares you to deal with it when it happens – just don’t let yourself worry so much that you begin to obsess! The point is to be prepared so you can handle the situation, not necessarily change it.

Get your partner involved. My fiancé worked in Bristol Bay and wasn’t due home until days before our wedding. Eventually, though, I asked him to come home early. Besides being depressed about my ankle, I couldn’t drive (or work, since I waited tables) and felt bad having my friends shuttle me around town. Shawana also relied on her partner. “I felt alone throughout the ordeal, so I really leaned on Paul,” she says.

Be firm when you need to. Shawana and Paul finally terminated their contract with their planner one month before the wedding. “I didn’t want to fire her,” Shawana says. “Throughout everything I tried to be accommodating, because I didn’t want to be Bridezilla.” But besides letting them down on invitations and flowers, the planner took phone calls during meetings, didn’t respond to e-mails, lost her notes, and even showed up to their first meeting with a hangover. The couple hired Karla DeLong, owner of Karla DeLong Weddings, who “did a fabulous job” with all of the last-minute details.

Stay focused on the end result. You’re getting married, whether in a burlap sack or a clunky cast. I abandoned my crutches to walk down that aisle, and I also danced later that night, though my ankle was sore and swollen in its cast the next morning. Shawana had a fabulous time as well. “No matter what happened,” Shawana says, “I was marrying my Prince Charming, and that’s what it’s all about.”