How I stay calm under wedding day pressure
Four weeks ago, we produced our largest wedding of the year. The ceremony was set to start at 6pm. The bride would walk down the outdoor path to a beautiful floral covered arch that overlooked the Arkansas River Valley. My team and I had worked on this wedding for a year and the day was finally here and all of our hard work was about to pay off in one of the most gorgeous ceremonies I’d ever seen.
Except around 3:30pm, Danae (our lead coordinator) came up to me and said, “I need you to nail down a rain plan. I’ll be back in 30 minutes.”
Fast forward to 6pm that night - ceremony time - and it was raining. I had 11 bloomers (someone who has purchased The Business Behind the Blooms) in town that day helping me execute the event and as we drove home later that evening one of them asked, “Jessica, how on earth do you keep such a calm and positive demeanor in such a stressful situation?”
I remember a few years ago before we incorporated wedding planning into the business, I was doing the flowers for a wedding and the planner was clearly stressed. Weddings can be stressful. I totally get it. Every single vendor that helps to make a wedding what it is understands that they can be stressful. But this situation struck me because, to this day, I’m not sure if it was more important to this planner to solve whatever problem had been thrown her way or to act in a way that let everyone in the building know she was stressed.
I vividly remember thinking to myself, “this behavior is the opposite of professional. If the bride saw her right now, I bet she would be so embarrassed with how she’s acting. Every single vendor in this room is uncomfortable and I guarantee are taking note of this and will never refer this person to any of their clients.”
When we decided to add wedding planning services into our floral design business, I thought about that wedding and I made a promise to myself that no matter how stressful a situation was, my team would never behave that way.
So how do we do it?
Step 1: Be prepared with more help than you think you need.
Especially with a large wedding with a lot of moving parts, it’s important to have a team who work well together. No single person can handle the stress of a big wedding day. It’s just too much. You need people you can delegate tasks to, people who can share and divide the stress instead of carrying it all on your own.
Step 2: Know your strengths and weaknesses!
I don’t dwell on what could have been, I’m always about moving forward and asking what can we do to fix the current problem? I never allow anyone to sit and wallow in what went wrong or blame anyone else. Whatever happened - happened, and as a wedding planner, it’s our job to fix it as best we can. Danae is a very quick, on the spot, problem solver. Danae is also amazing at keeping clients happy and calm on their wedding day. I’m not the best at this, to be honest. If they ask me a question and I don’t know the answer yet, you can read it all over my face. Danae, however, has a way of making them feel that everything is completely under control. Kellie can literally be asked 1000 questions in an hour by 1000 different people and maintain her composure. I, on the other hand, want to bite someone’s head off after the second question. So we know our roles. We don’t have to discuss, “who is going to tell the bride that?” We know Danae communicates directly with them on the wedding day. All vendor communication goes through Kellie. So if a vendor comes up to anyone on our team and starts asking questions, we point them to Kellie. Everyone knows their role and we work as a team to solve the problems.
Step 3: Communication with the client leading up to the wedding day.
This is EVERYTHING! I make sure to say multiple times throughout the planning process with my clients that I can schedule the vendor. I can communicate with the vendor 10 times how we want something done. I can have them sign a contract that states they will arrive at the venue at this specific time, but at the end of the day, I’m not the vendor. I’ve done everything I can do leading up to wedding day, but it’s ultimately their responsibility to come through. On this particular wedding, everything on the gorgeous back patio with the amazing view was centered around a white dance floor. It was scheduled to be there at noon. Guess what time they arrived? 5:45pm. Yep! 15 minutes before the ceremony was set to start. About every 30 minutes I would go to Kellie and say, “update on the dance floor” and she would tell me what she knew. We were doing everything we could to get it there, but ultimately, it’s not my responsibility if it doesn’t show up and I’ve done everything on my end that I’m supposed to do. My client knows I can’t literally go and drive this other company’s truck to the venue site. They know because I’ve communicated with them about it repeatedly, that I’ve done all I can do. Knowing I’ve done all I can do and knowing that my client knows I’ve done all I can do allows me a sense of peace and allows me to stay calm in the situation.
Step 4: Protect yourself with a contract
If you don’t have one, click here and you can have a copy of mine. A contract is the #1 most important thing you can have as a wedding planner.
Step 5: Have a firm grasp on reality
When it started raining that day, I was disappointed. We all were! But the truth is, I can’t control the weather. And here’s the other thing, no matter how much money someone puts into a wedding, the one thing they can’t buy is a guaranteed beautiful day with perfect weather. Fully accepting what we can’t control and being ok with it is half the battle.
Step 6: Don’t take it personally
Wedding days are stressful. Wedding days that have been planned for an entire year that are envisioned as being outside overlooking a gorgeous view and all the sudden it starts raining can be even more stressful. Thankfully, our clients were wonderful and they treated us with nothing but kindness and appreciation. However, I wouldn’t have been surprised nor would I have taken it personally if they had been short with us or snapped at us. My team and I know if something like that happens that it isn’t about us and not to take it personally.
Step 7: Keep it positive
There are a lot of vendors and family members looking to you to lead this day, whether you like it or not. So stay calm. Stay positive. Never ever say anything bad about anyone or any business. Never ever blame anyone or any business. Look for solutions and keep everyone in high spirits.
So what ended up happening with this wedding? At 4 pm Kellie, Danae, and I had a non-conspicuous team huddle. I told them at 5 pm we need to make a call. We are going to do everything we can to pull this wedding off outside because we know that’s what the bride’s dream is, but in the event it has to be moved inside, here’s how we are going to do it. At 5 pm Danae looked at the radar and saw there was supposed to be about a 15-minute break from the rain around 6:15 pm. I told Danae and Kellie to go to the bride and ask if she wanted us to begin moving the ceremony inside or if she was ok gambling on the 6:15 pm rain break. Danae showed her the radar, calmly explained there is no way we can be assured the rain will stop, assured her we have enough time to move the ceremony inside if we began now, and allowed the bride and her mom to make the call. They said they wanted to take their chances on 6:15 pm.
Danae came up to me and said, “We’re sticking with the original plan. Go to Dollar General (about 20 miles away) and buy all the paper towels they have on the shelves.”
Remember, she’s the quick problem solver, I didn’t ask questions, I just went.
The line at Dollar General was long and I arrived back to the ceremony site at 6:12 pm and handed Danae sacks and sacks of paper towels. At 6:15 pm, the rain stopped. The beautiful ceremony ghost chairs were covered with water. Danae and Kellie greeted each guest with a smile and a paper towel asking them to kindly wipe off their seat before sitting. All I could think of is a bunch of bright white wet paper towels on the bright green grass in all the ceremony pictures. I walked briskly (because running would show panic) to the ceremony site and as guests were wiping off their chairs I kindly pointed (channeling my inner flight attendant) and asked guests to pass their wet paper towels to the center aisle so I could pick them up. As I picked up the last one, the string quartet began, and the ceremony officially started.
It was beautiful. The bride’s dream came true. We pulled it off.