By Gabriella Rello for Bridal Guide
As any bride-to-be will tell you, planning a wedding is no cakewalk! According to a recent survey of Bridal Guide readers, 40 percent of couples spend between 13 and 18 months planning their wedding, and over 90 percent opt to create and organize their big day without the help of coordinators or planners.
Although couples are certainly devoting the time and energy to turn their dream days into realities, occasional planning fiascos are bound to occur. Between juggling countless vendors, appointments, and schedules — along with their everyday priorities — couples are spread paper-thin. We reached out to brides about the challenges they faced and how they powered through to have their perfect weddings.
1. Disappearing Baker
Theresa Roma searched for a local baker who could create her ideal wedding cake. She received quotes averaging $750 until she met a relatively new baker who offered to provide the cake for $400.
"She was young and just beginning," Roma says. "But her pictures were beautiful, she was willing to be flexible and do what we wanted, and she provided samples of her cake." She signed a contract that day (November 10) and put down a $200 deposit.
But when Roma's mother tried to contact the baker in April to order a cake for the bridal shower, all of the phone numbers they had were disconnected, and both the website and the storefront were gone. All emails to the vendor went unanswered.
"With two months left until the wedding, I finally found a vendor who was willing to provide a fake cake in the design I requested, but serve sheet cake, for $550. I also contacted the Attorney General to inquire how to track down the first vendor and get my deposit back," she says. Her advice: "Always keep a copy of your contract. It helped with pursuing my deposit refund."
2. Double-Booked Photographer
Jen Greico and her future husband selected a photographer six months prior to their wedding date. Though his personality made her uneasy, she fell in love with his photos and knew that the quality of his work was most important to her.
"All went smoothly until about a month before the big day," Greico says. "I began emailing and calling to go over the location for the photos. He would respond that he would call me back later, or he would give me a time to call on a different day. It became impossible to get a hold of him."
Just six days before her wedding, her photographer finally returned her calls and admitted he was double booked for her wedding day. "I actually thought this was a practical joke," she says.
Though the photographer in question found someone else who could shoot the wedding and even offered an upgraded package at the same price, the bride-to-be didn't feel comfortable trusting his recommendations. She reached out to the photographer who shot her sister's wedding three years prior and, thankfully, she was available on her wedding date.
"In retrospect, I should have realized that my photographer was dodging my calls [for a reason] and been more concerned with the difficulty I had in getting a hold of him," she says.
3. Wedding Gown Scam
Daniela Buscio knew exactly what she wanted for her wedding gown but had a difficult time finding anything that resembled her dream vision. "After searching online and going store to store, I finally found a designer I liked... The line is located in Israel and only has one shop on the entire East coast," says Buscio.
She visited the store, found the style she was searching for, and ordered her custom dress in ivory. The owner explained that it would take a year for the dress to arrive, as it was made entirely by hand. After patiently waiting over a year, Buscio had her first fitting three weeks before the wedding.
"The owner put me in the back changing room and kept me there for almost ten minutes as she 'got the dress.' She then reappeared with the same exact sample gown that I had tried on a year ago," Buscio says.
The owner proceeded to argue back and forth with the bride-to-be, insisting that she was mistaken. Buscio pulled up her contract, which confirmed her belief, and was told by the owner that it was too late to order a new dress in the color she had selected. While in the salon, it became clear to Buscio and her family that other brides in the store that day also had issues with their dresses.
"She pulls this same stunt with every bride. She waits until the last minute and then tries to disguise a sample dress as 'the dress' and pockets the money the bride has already paid," she says.
After researching the store online, she realized the owner had run this scam at various storefronts throughout New York and was being pursued for her crimes. (Tip: Before purchasing a dress, search the Internet for reviews of both the salon and the owner to determine if past customers have had positive experiences with the management.) She and her fiancé searched for the dress but, as it was custom-made, no stores kept the style in stock. As a last resort, she reached out to the designer directly and received a response within minutes.
"He said that he wanted to help and that he'd personally oversee my dress. He told me that he had been trying to retrieve sample dresses from a trunk show there for quite a while," Buscio says.
Though she had to wait for her dress to clear customs and didn't have her final fitting until 1 a.m.(!) on the day of her wedding, she walked down the aisle in the gown of her dreams.
Find out how to avoid counterfeit gowns here.
4. Rented Dress Ruined Before Wedding
Nicole Dunn believed that renting her wedding gown was the perfect option after a friend had a wonderful experience with a California retailer. For a fraction of its retail price, she could rent her dream dress, which she knew she would only wear once.
"The last dress that was presented was 'the dress.' I was told that it was a brand-new $15,000 gown that had just come in the night before,"; Dunn says. "I was so impressed by the material, the beading on the top and bottom, and the fit."
A week before her wedding, Dunn returned to the shop for her final fitting. When the dress was removed from the bag, she was horrified to see the silk was ruined and the beading was unraveling. The dry-cleaner it had been sent to had, in fact, destroyed the gown mere days before her wedding.
Despite the manager's rude behavior when confronted about what had happened, Dunn was able to depend on her saleswoman and the seamstress to solve her dress drama.
"The seamstress noted that there was a sister dress to the one I had picked out. This dress was exactly the same from the breast line down, but had straps that hung off the shoulders," she says. The seamstress cut the dress and recreated the halter neckline of her original pick.
"Do your homework and look online at reviews first before setting foot in the establishment. Reading reviews about an unfriendly, argumentative owner is never good," Dunn says. "If there are 10 people saying the same thing, it says a lot."
5. Destination Wedding Venue Sold
Jennifer and Cory Burnett had been planning their dream destination wedding for over a year when they learned their resort -- which had glowing reviews online -- had been sold.
"My husband and I spent hours researching, eventually leading us to a 'swinger' website group chat that confirmed the sale and new excitement from 'lifestyle' group members," Jennifer says. "My husband looked at me and said, 'Please tell me when I can laugh' and we just broke down in hysterics."
After receiving a formal confirmation from their wedding planner, the couple jumped into replanning mode. They were offered a new wedding at a “comparable” resort, but Jennifer felt it didn’t live up to their expectations, so they secured refunds for their guests' accommodations and decided to get married in New York — where they live — instead.
They had just three months to reorganize everything: "I have no idea how we did it. We kept perspective, supported one another and were crystal-clear about the only thing that mattered: We were getting married surrounded by the love and support of our family and friends!" Jennifer says. Keeping an open mind, considering all options and keeping guests informed is key when changing your wedding venue so close to the date.
6. Unaccommodating Venue and Planner
Kara Sisson and her husband used their year-long engagement to plan their ideal wedding with the in-house planner for their venue. Three months after they secured their wedding date, they were informed their planner had left, and they were assigned someone new. Throughout the six months they worked together, Sisson had difficulty getting in touch with her planner, making it extremely challenging to actually plan anything for the big day.
When Sisson and her bridal party arrived at the hotel on the morning of the wedding, they learned that their promised rooms were not available — the women had no choice but to style their hair and makeup in the lobby. Things went from bad to worse when they arrived at the reception space. "They had to set up all the tables backwards. The planner I had dealt with for the last six months had quit," Sisson says. She and her husband learned that details they had requested had been omitted and dinner was served entirely raw.
Sisson admits that she should have recognized signs of disorganization from the moment her planner was initially switched. “Be aware of issues in the beginning, even if they’re small. Always have a back up venue, and make sure you have someone and a place you can trust,” she says.
Here’s what to do when you and a wedding vendor don’t get along.
7. Disastrous Hair Trial
Michelle Kincanon booked a hair trial with her usual hair stylist who, without even seeing a photo, executed her vision perfectly. One month before her wedding, the salon called and informed the bride-to-be that the stylist was no longer employed there, and they set up a trial for her with a different employee.
Armed with photos from the first trial, Michelle kept an open mind about loving the new girls' work just as much as she did with the original stylist. However, things didn't go as well as she hoped: "It was a disaster. It literally looked like there was a beehive on my head and in no way resembled my pictures. I sat in the chair and cried," she says. Just a few weeks before the wedding, she was forced to find a new salon.
Kincanon researched stylists in the area and found someone who was available the morning of her wedding and had excellent online reviews. Though she was happy with the results, the stress from finding a new stylist in such a short time made the weeks leading up to the wedding less-than-perfect. Avoid last-minute worries by having a plan in place in the event that your stylist becomes unavailable on the morning of your wedding.
Get more advice on how to prep for your hair trial here.
8. Unreturned RSVPs
April Smith and her husband-to-be waited patiently for their RSVP-by date, excited to find out who would be able to share their special day with them. When the date came and went and an alarming number of RSVPs hadn't been returned, the couple began reaching out to friends and family members.
Despite providing straightforward RSVP postcards with the mailing address on the back and prepaid postage, "People didn't understand how to reply back and when they did, they wouldn't write their name or how many guests would attend," Smith says.
Without a final guest count, it was impossible to finalize plans with the rest of their vendors, and this added a signficant amount of stress to the couple's final planning.
Although she is still waiting for responses, Smith proceeded to finalize plans with her vendors. To accommodate additional guests, the couple changed the reception meal to a buffet rather than a plated dinner and added more seating to their ceremony space. To avoid the last-minute panic, Smith wished she had allotted more time for guests to RSVP or had collected phone numbers in advance to make contacting tardy guests less stressful.
Check out more advice on how to handle guests who won't RSVP.
Tell us: What was the biggest wedding-planning challenge you had to overcome?