How to Plan for Wedding Emergencies

The Coronavirus and the effect that this virus has had on the events industry will change how couples plan weddings in the future. One of the effects I hope we see in the wedding industry from Corona is more couples planning for the unexpected in their initial wedding planning process. While no one can predict the future, it is important to give yourself some wiggle room in case something goes wrong.

There are two types of wedding “emergencies” that you should plan for. The first is just an event that creates the need for an adjustment in your wedding day plans. This might include minor inconveniences like weather, late vendors, or some other miscommunication. Almost every event I’ve ever attended or worked has had something on this level occur. With large scale events, something almost always goes wrong, so it’s important to know what happens when they do. The other “emergency” is an actual catastrophic event that forces you to change venues, your wedding date, or your guest count (such as a global pandemic).

Let’s start by talking about the wedding day adjustments for smaller issues. As I mentioned, you are almost guaranteed to have at least one of these happen on your wedding day, so you should have a plan in place on how you’d handle any of them.

The first thing that might go wrong is the weather. This is something you should be sure to plan for if you are having an outdoor wedding, but don’t think you are exempt if you are having an indoor wedding. I have a full blog post here with everything you need to know about how inclement weather might affect your wedding day. I recommend every couple put together an inclement weather plan for any weather conditions that are possible (in Colorado that can even mean snow in June).

Another possible snag on your wedding day is something happening to one of your vendors, so they are unable to make it to your wedding on time or at all. The best way to prepare for this is to make sure their contract includes a contingency plan. Most wedding vendors have a network of other professionals in their industry and should be able to reach out to their contacts to get you a replacement, but make sure you have it in writing. This is typically not an issue with larger companies (as they have a staff with the flexibility to replace people as needed), but with solo wedding professionals. As for vendors arriving late, make sure you have clear communication with them about your expectations around arrival time in the week before the wedding. Also, assign a contact person (ideally your coordinator) who will be available to direct them once they arrive, even if that is after anticipated.

The next issue that may arise is shipping or delivery issues. This can manifest in a variety of ways from a crucial part of your centerpieces not arriving as expected the week before your wedding to the rental team forgetting your forks. With shipping issues, I would encourage you to be proactive and reach out to the company you ordered from. Don’t assume it will resolve itself. If there is a risk the item won’t arrive until too late, get a back-up. Better safe than sorry. As far as delivery mistakes or issues, you should have someone (again this is typically within the coordinator role) who is responsible for carefully checking the rentals invoice and making sure everything is there before the rental team leaves. You may also want to have someone who could run to the store to pick up anything, if absolutely necessary. This should be someone you won’t mind missing a bit of your wedding (so not a close family member or friend).

The final little issue I see arise all the time is just general miscommunication. This can happen with anyone including your guests, vendors, and even the bridal party. The best way to handle this is to be clear in all communication and expectations in the weeks before your wedding. Don’t assume anyone knows your expectations; make sure all your expectations are in writing! Even if you are super clear with everyone, their still might be miscommunication. Assign someone (again, a wedding coordinator should handle this) to handle all questions and issues on your wedding day. You shouldn’t be the one finding your DJ a parking space, so even if you don’t have a coordinator, assign a family member or bridesmaid to answer all questions.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen over the last several months, missing forks aren’t the only thing that can go wrong on a wedding day. There can be major events that drastically change your wedding plans. I can’t tell you what specific events you need to plan for and you shouldn’t rip your hair out trying to predict the future, but you should have an idea of what would happen if everything needed to change.

The first thing that you should think about during your wedding planning process is your top priorities for your wedding day. This conversation is important for so many aspects of your wedding planning process, but I think it’s especially important when you are thinking about contingency plans. Your priorities can be anything from your parents being present, to the perfect venue, to getting married in the next year. Consider the one or two things that are the most important things (like you couldn’t get married without them) and have them in writing.

The next thing that you should think about (again early in the planning process) is your personal risk tolerance. Are you guys people who love spontaneity and easily go with the flow or do you like to have a plan for every scenario? This will help you determine how much detail you should put into your contingency plans. Even if you are someone who flies by the seat of their pants, you should still put together an emergency plan, it just might not have a lot of detail. Also think about how comfortable you’d be with an unknown if you are someone who stresses about something going wrong when there is a slight possibility, make less risky choices in your wedding details. Choose an indoor venue, make sure your vendors have great cancellation policies, etc.

Speaking of vendors, one of the biggest and most important things you can do to put you in the best case scenario if something major were to happen is to have vendors with great contracts with clear cancellation and rescheduling policies. Make sure to have a conversation with your vendors about deposits and what part of their fees are non-refundable. Talk with them about how they would handle a major event change (like a date change). If you do have to cancel, you’ll want to get as much money back as possible, while recognizing you still have to respect the time that the vendors have already put into your wedding. Clear contracts help everyone stay on the same page and avoid confusion.

Additionally, I believe that couples should always leave a little extra room in their budget for what I like to call the wedding emergency fund. I recommend five to ten percent of your overall budget (more if you are doing a lot of DIY). This should help you cover anything that goes wrong or unexpected expenses on your wedding day. In the best-case scenario, where you don’t need all that money, you get to start your marriage (or honeymoon) with a little extra cash.

Finally, I think you should have a plan for last-minute guest communication. If your venue needs to change or your date is different or even if you need to drastically cut your guest list, you’ll want a way to quickly and efficiently reach out to all your guests. Sometimes couples only gather addresses for invitations, which becomes a problem when you need to move your venue last minute. I’d encourage you to create a spreadsheet of emails and phone numbers, so you can send out information quickly.

I hope that your wedding day goes smoothly and that nothing goes wrong, but even if it does your pre-planning should save you some headaches down the line. Nobody can predict the future, but we can have plans in place to help us cope with whatever comes down the pipeline. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.