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

  11. Our biggest disaster was not actually much of a disaster but it was certainly amusing. Our caterer was phenomenal, providing a shocking amount of really delicious food for a really stellar price. He even provided desserts in addition to our cake. (If you are getting married in the Ottawa area, definitely check out The Leather Works catering!)
    However, there was a miscommunication which meant that he wasn’t able to serve our wedding cake. So instead we have really amusing pictures of my mum and dad, and my husband’s cousins serving our wedding cake, with everyone getting up and coming to the cake table to get it.

    Lesson: make sure you explain everything! to the caterer! We also were without glasses from which to drink water when he packed up, which is an important thing to consider if you’re having dancing and want to avoid drunkenness. People will drink a lot of alcohol if they are thirsty and there’s nothing else. Fortunately, we had arranged for the caterer to have extra canned pop and juice boxes that would be there when he left.

  12. So I used to work at a venue that did weddings. This one couple was planning an outdoor wedding with music during the ceremony…and the DJ was completely incompetent. Didn’t show up at any of the meetings before the wedding (2 weeks before, 1 week before, rehearsal dinner)…he always had an excuse. On the day of the wedding, he doesn’t show up until 45 minutes before the ceremony. He sets up his stuff and says everything will be fine.

    The wedding is about to start. The setting is a gorgeous outdoor amphitheater. One bride is going to walk in from one side, the other is going to ride a horse in from the other side. They can’t see each other from their starting locations. They will know when to move towards the stage when they hear a certain part of the song they have chosen. And then the DJ starts playing the WRONG SONG. My boss had to keep running from one of the brides up to the music station, trying to get him to play the right song! It took a few tries! After that, they had a lovely ceremony and an awesome reception. But dang, that really stressed out the brides at the beginning. Moral of the story: communicate with the DJ, and if he won’t communicate with you, dump him!

    • Oh man, I hear so many DJ stories! I was at a wedding once where the DJ would, on request, play something the guests would all dance to (Jackson 5, The Beatles, retro kind of stuff) then proceed to put on some Ibiza bangers and clear the dancefloor. It happened 4 or 5 times before the bride’s sister turfed him and put on an emergency playlist she keeps on her phone (she works in events, it’s a legit thing she would have). After being at so many weddings where the DJ was mouthy and exspensive, we opted for a Spotify playlist at ours.

      • Looking back I really regret not going the DIY route for music. I had wanted too but my husband was concerned I was taking on too much and would burn myself out. I agreed to look around for a DJ and we found one who seemed awesome but was a major letdown. He didn’t stick to our list and we had to keep telling him to STOP WITH THE TOP 40! Our guests didn’t realize anything was wrong thank goodness but since we knew what we’d ask from him versus what was delivered we were pretty disappointed.

        • I was fully planning to DIY ours, but our venue provides a DJ so I’ve got my fingers crossed they’ll listen to us.

          • My advice on this would be get it in writing. Like seriously, a step by step everything you want them to do and have them sign it. If we had done that I seriously would have only paid ours half of the balance due at the end of the night. Just a short list of things he agreed to do that he didn’t:

            Didn’t let our special dance songs play all the through, cut them after a minute and a half.
            Didn’t open the dancing with the song we requested.
            Played Top 40 Didn’t make any announcements about signing the guestbook, etc.
            Didn’t decide when to do the toss / dollar dance (My MOH told him to do it before it got too late) Didn’t play 14 of the 17 specific songs we requested.
            Didn’t take requests from our guests even lying to them and saying we said no requests.
            Didn’t do Karaoke. We doubt at this point that he even brought the equipment.

            So when you’re meeting with DJs just make your ideas / request really clear and get something in writing. That way if you end up with a situation like ours (which I sincerely hope you don’t!) you have some recourse.

  13. We had a cyclone.

    Two groomsmen missed the ceremony, half our vendors didn’t make it, and everything on the day was changed at the last minute.

    So all of those months of planning were thrown out the window and it was an ad-hoc wedding instead! At least I still got married on a beach. While sinking into wet sand.

  14. My husband and I met because we’re both photographers, and we’ve been doing weddings together for years–so naturally, we were very honored to say “yes” to capture the wedding of one of our best friends. Little did we know, my husband would be getting a kidney transplant a week before her wedding. So although he couldn’t be there, he insisted that I still go.

    I was extremely lucky to have 2 photographer friends fill in to help me capture my friend’s big day. Still, it was hard for me.. I was worried about him, feeling equally guilty for leaving him home alone to drive two states away for a wedding, and for not being able to give my friend our usual wedding day treatment because he was missing. But I was so happy for her, so grateful for my friends, and in the end we were all very happy with the photos. Even the bride’s friends and family stopped throughout the day to ask me about him and make sure he was doing alright.

    Feeling that support really gave me strength, and allowed me to focus on all of the joy around me. It was a good reminder that things can work out no matter what unexpected catastrophe arises, not to take anything for granted, and that a little love and understanding can go a very long way.

  15. Our wedding was super small and we handled everything ourselves. No wedding party, no planners, so anything that went wrong was on us (No pressure!) The whole thing was stressful and a mess, but just before the ceremony I realized that our rings were in the car! I was so panicked that I couldn’t articulate what was going on, so all my guests and near-husband saw the bride RUNNING AWAY FROM THE GAZEBO! Fortunately when I stopped at the car (and didn’t get in and leave) everyone settled down, but oh my god…that was embarrassing. My poor husband and his runaway bride.

    • This is why I’m going to avoid a flower bouquet. I’m deathly afraid of bees, so if one came to investigate, I would be a bride on the run.

  16. The wedding story I rarely share. I was a front desk clerk at a big hotel when I was 19. There was a wedding booked for that evening with the ceremony on site immediately prior to the reception. About 45 minutes before the ceremony family began to gather in the lobby. Then the groom’s sister in law (best man’s wife) collapsed. 911 was called. There was a nursing convention at the hotel and some of them rushed over to help. The woman was rushed to the hospital and died the next day. She was only in her early 30s and her kids had stayed home out of state for the wedding. My heart still breaks thinking about it. Lessons learned from that: no matter what goes wrong, it could be much worse; kids aren’t that much of an invasion of a wedding and the kindness of strangers can be amazing. The bride and groom did go on with the wedding but the tone was drastically different and I believe the grooms parents left for the hospital right after the ceremony.

  17. When I was in college I worked reception at a country club that had a wedding practically every weekend from June to October. One wedding in particular sticks out to me because about an hour after the bridal party arrived to get ready the father of the bride came into the foyer outside my office to call his other daughter, the Maid of Honor, who was MIA. He spoke with her briefly, got extremely angry, then pulled his wife into the foyer to tell her that “Because of the bullshit at the rehearsal dinner last night she’s not coming.”
    Not sure what occurred in the bridal suite when this information was relayed but next thing I know another bridesmaid is coming in asking for scissors and a sewing kit. Apparently, the dress for the Maid of Honor was a darker color than the rest of the dresses. So the solution was to try that dress on all of the remaining four bridesmaids and the one it fit the best got promoted. It didn’t fit her exactly right hence the scissors and sewing kit. Then the poor groomsman who was supposed to walk the promoted bridesmaid got demoted to usher and didn’t get to walk down the aisle or be in pictures because of symmetry.

  18. The day of our wedding everything was rushed because my getting ready took longer than we originally planned, so in the rush to get through wedding party pictures, get to the ceremony and reception location so we could do some family pictures, I left my wallet which had all of the cash I was going to use to tip our DJ and photographer in our hotel room. And when did I realize this? At the end of the night when I needed to present them with their tips. Luckily, our dear friend and groomsman Dustin thought ahead and had grabbed cash just in case something happened so we were able to do so. And I had the money so there was no worry about not getting paid back. I still can’t believe I did that because I never go anywhere without my wallet.

  19. Not a wedding disaster but a rehearsal dinner disaster: The rental company had set up the tent for the reception the next day on the quad, plus they had already set up some tables and chairs, so we decided to just have a low-key potluck underneath the tent. We didn’t rent lights for the tent because we thought we’d be done while the sun was still out. (Well, “sun” in the sense that it would be light out, it was actually raining very hard.) Lo and behold, a police officer’s funeral procession on the highway caused a major traffic snag that trapped groomsmen and bridesmaids, so the rehearsal started late, and I just watched with dread as the sun sank lower and lower into the sky . . . and that is the story of how we ate our rehearsal dinner in the dark, in the rain, our food lit by the lights of a few people’s cell phones.

    No major snags the day of, fortunately, so I’m thankful that night soaked up all our wedding day bad luck! We also didn’t rent lights because we didn’t have any money left in the budget for it, so my advice would be no matter how hard you’re scrimping and saving, have a little fund of “Oh shit!” money for things you might need at the very last minute.

  20. My wedding near disaster was caused by my mother sabotaging me.

    My dear mother is a passive-agressive manipulator who I was estranged from for a decade. With good reason. Somehow, having a kid then getting married thawed my boundaries and when she begged to be included, I caved.

    The exact specifics do not matter. We were self-catering all the sides to a spit-roast, relying on my five siblings who all arrived two days early to help. Anyway, through self-centered perfectly orchestrated manipulation, she managed to tear the family apart on the day before the wedding. We had no rehearsal dinner; me, my husband and my two best friends stayed up till midnight amid tears and rants so guests would have food for lunch the next day. I actually disconnected both my phone and cell and decided to let the family battle rage without me, focusing on salvaging what I could. Best decision ever.

    Moral of this story. People do not change even if wedding sparkle dust is flung on them. Someone back-stabby and egocentric should not be trusted even if they promise best behavior.

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