I have learned never to say "I've seen it all" or to claim there's nothing left that could surprise me in wedding planning. Just when I think there's nothing left that could shock me, something whacky happens (like the bride's father stripping down to his skivvies) and I'm wrong yet again. So I've given up claiming that I know everything that can happen at a wedding. I don't. Even after eight years and almost 500 weddings, things shock and horrify me regularly.
Here are 10 things it's hard to believe were happening at weddings I've planned -- but they really did (and I have the PTWD (Post Traumatic Wedding Disorder) to prove it):
1. The grandfather of the bride physically attacking the father of the bride during cocktails just after the happy couple made their grand entrance. OMG - shocking! And Gramps got a good lick in and drew blood, so he had to leave before the wedding reception dinner. Otherwise, he would have been escorted out by security anyway. Always have a plan for when a fight breaks out between guests -- but just hope it's not the family members attacking each other.
2. The groom arriving 30 minutes late for his own wedding ceremony, dressed in shredded cutoffs, and then standing on a rock like the Karate Kid, balanced on one leg, throwing stones into the Caribbean Sea while all the guests watched from a distance thinking he'd lost his mind. Eventually, when I asked what he was doing, he replied "getting rid of the bad energy." Um buddy, you're making the bride sit in a car waiting for you to put your pants on. That's called creating bad karma, not relieving it.
3. Two grooms were upset with the way the place cards had been set up on their head table. The problem was they hadn't followed our chart -- they'd created their own and the staff couldn't follow it. We fixed the problem before the guests were seated for dinner, but the grooms were too drunk to care. They screamed and yelled at me every chance they got. Icing on the cake -- when the toasts were finished and I handed them the microphone to thank their guests, they actually used that time to publicly eviscerate me to their 60-plus guests who had just spent three lovely days enjoying the events my company planned. It was humiliating, and yes, the guests (and their families) apologized for the grooms' behavior. Perfect wedding otherwise but we never heard from them again. I think they were mortified when they sobered up.
4. Beautifully executed wedding for a Chicago couple with Mexican origins. After dinner, during the toasts, the Best Man got up and began toasting dead gang members and pouring shots on the ground in memory of/honor of "Vatos Locos." Um, haven't I heard of them in way too many FBI wanted file stories? Scary. You never know who your clients really are until they arrive at a destination wedding.
5. A bridesmaid (and cousin of the bride) who was recently out of rehab took ALL of her Methadone on the first night of a five-day wedding weekend and freaked out. She called the police for an escort to the ferry (she thought she was in danger) and holed up in posh hotel on the big island with her much older boyfriend and the stash of drugs she'd obtained between the ferry and the resort. Unfortunately, she took her bridesmaid dress with her. I had to hunt it down, threatened to send the police to her hotel room (I knew she had drugs from her voice), and arranged to have the dress flown back to Vieques Island for another girlfriend to wear within a few hours of the wedding. Not easy. Not fun. But we did it. Be prepared to capture the wedding attire if a wedding party member makes a run for it!
6. The Best Man forgot the groom's suitcase on the ferry dock on the main island -- the same suitcase that contained the wedding rings AND the bride's engagement ring. Say what? NEVER EVER pack your rings. And the engagement ring belongs on the bride. The worst part was the drunk Best Man (a US Marine officer, I might add) didn't know where he left it -- on the dock, in the taxi, on the ferry -- not a clue. I used my position as police community liaison to work with an Agente in the Policia de Puerto Rico to track the bag and find it in the Customs holding area on the other island where it had been stowed after being abandoned. I can't believe they lost it, but I REALLY can't believe we found it. They had it back within hours.
7. The Mother of the Bride became ill and had to be emergency transported off the island, vomiting blood. I literally hijacked the governor's helicopter off the tarmac (my police pilot friend was there waiting to fly the Guv back from a meeting with our mayor) and got the pilot to fly the MoB to a hospital on the big island. That night, the mom checked out of the hospital against medical advice and returned to Vieques. By midday the next day, she was throwing up buckets of blood and lost consciousness, and I had to have her transported via ambulance and then Medevac helicopter. She almost died. And then she turned around 24 hours later and checked out of the hospital against medical advice again, and returned to the island for the wedding. We had to tell the bride we couldn't take any more responsibility for helping transport her if another emergency occurred. Suicide by wedding? I think not.
8. Drunken wedding guests, out of control, doing shots, and being verbally abusive to the service staff is, unfortunately, not as uncommon as you would think. We've had to call the police on one occasion when the very large, frightening groomsmen were stealing liquor bottles, breaking centerpieces and generally causing mayhem at a $4 million villa. The key is to have enough of our staff on hand with these large groups and always have a security plan ready to go on a minute's notice. Oh yes, we all wear headsets and know what's going on all over the wedding property at all time.
9. Three wedding guests (sorority sisters of the bride) took acid at the beginning of the wedding ceremony (we learned the sordid deets from the bride later on). By the time dinner was through, they were tripping hard! They tried to eat out of the caterer's garbage, then stripped naked and jumped into the pool with the seven-year-old ring bearer. Once we had them out of the pool and back in the villa, they jumped up onto tabletops to dance, semi-dressed in high heels. Asked to get off the tables, one girl (can't say "young lady" and she wasn't mature enough to be a "woman") jumped on my husband and attacked him like a spider monkey. The DJs had to help pull her off of him. My husband, a retired SWAT commander, was not amused. Neither were the bride or groom. Know who you are inviting before you mail those invitations or take the risk of an unpleasant surprise.
10. We planned and executed a Wiccan wedding for a lovely couple from California who didn't tell me that they were witches until a week prior to the wedding. But I was less surprised than the traditional Jewish Mother of the Bride from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, who learned her daughter would be married by a Wiccan priest instead of a rabbi at the wedding rehearsal. From me. Shortly after that, the groom had a hysterical temper tantrum about wanting to move the wedding to a different part of the beach where he felt the "energy" was better. The elderly Mother of the Bride, to her credit, did not have a stroke right then and there, but it was a close one. Watching her old lady friends having to wash their panty-hose covered feet in the ocean to be "purified" and smudged with sage before the ceremony was absolutely priceless. Lesson of the day, find out in advance if your brides and grooms are witches and whether the guests (especially their parents) know they'll be attending a less-than-traditional wedding.
Now I'm on a roll but it will have to wait for another time -- so many more fun stories to share from so many different kinds of weddings. End of day, know as much as you can about your wedding group in advance so you can be prepared for whatever might happen during the main event.
Happy wedding planning!