The best way to avoid one is to plan for it.
1. Inclement Weather
For an outdoor reception, pick a venue with a big enough, nice enough indoor space (book both at once, in one contract). Or, if it’s allowed, reserve a tent (be ready to put down a 50 percent deposit). Go to Plan B a week before your wedding if the chance of rain exceeds 60 percent. Don’t wait; tent setup can take up to three days. If you fear the worst—having to postpone—buy insurance early on ($195; wedsafe.com).
2. Late Arrivals
If your ceremony and reception sites are far apart, provide your guests with transportation to guarantee no one gets lost along the way or is stuck circling for a parking spot. Reserve buses (try Campus Coach Lines; 212-682-1050). The day before the wedding, make sure the drivers have an accurate schedule and directions. On the day-of, notify drivers of any traffic advisories (check nyc.gov).
3. Droopy Flowers
Avoid flowers like gardenias, camellias, and hydrangeas, which brown quickly. If you’re marrying in summer (sometimes superhot radiators in winter are just as detrimental), choose heat-resistant buds like orchids, pincushion proteas, and anthurium. Avoid out-of-season blooms; they’ll likely come from overseas, and the extra travel can cause visible strain.
4. Drunken Behavior
Make sure that the first trays of hors d’oeuvre are passed not too long after “I do”—though sometimes unavoidable, a lull between the ceremony and reception basically guarantees pre-partying. For the cocktail hour, delegate a bridesmaid to keep the food coming and make sure the band starts on time. A musicless room may inspire tipsy guests to create their own entertainment.
5. Catering Mishap
Ask your caterer to visit your venue so he or she can gauge potential elevator load-in and kitchen problems, check restrictions, and anticipate hidden costs on your behalf so you can negotiate (or budget for them) in advance. Over-order entrée options—if that’s excessive, have at least 70 of each for 100 guests. Be certain your caterer has a professional waitstaff in tow (outsourcing servers can be hit-or-miss).
6. Power Outtage
Have a back-up power source. If your wedding is in the country, bring a second generator. If it’s in an old building, look for an alternative power source next door. Make sure your caterer, band or D.J., and lighting designer (if you have one), are communicating about power distribution. If there is a blackout, check the circuit breaker first, then the main power supply.
7. Melting Cake
Fondant and marzipan won’t melt, and modeling chocolate tolerates humidity well (unfortunately, none is as delicious as puddle-prone buttercream). Schedule the cake’s delivery as late as possible. If it’s multi-tiered and precariously tall, have it brought over in pieces and assembled on site. Make sure your cake designer brings extra sugar flowers and icing to repair any minor damage.
8. Bursting Budget
Negotiate your venue contract. If you’re marrying in a hotel on an off-peak date, ask if they’ll throw in extra food or give you the wedding-night suite for free. Bring down (or get rid of) hidden costs: fees for an on-site ceremony, fines for not using preferred vendors, charges for elevator and janitorial services, and overtime rates. Be sure they factor in the “plus-plus” (tax and gratuity) from the get-go.
Illustrations by Roderick Mills
From the Winter 2008 New York Wedding Guide