Today I’m taking you behind the scenes of a real wedding, and what a wedding planner does on your wedding day. You’ll experience first-hand what goes into a wedding weekend – the obstacles we have to endure – and what we do to get around them.
I took you behind the scenes with me in Season 2 and you loved it, so we’re doing it again!
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EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS: What a Wedding Planner Does on Your Wedding Day
To fast-forward to a specific part of the podcast episode, check out the timestamps below:
- Prep for the Rehearsal Dinner [2:30]
- What happens when there are no place cards [11:50]
- My eye emergency [17:10]
- Set up the aisle runner [18:50]
- The votives are missing [22:20]
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And if you prefer to read, here's the summary of the podcast episode!
What a Wedding Planner Does on Your Wedding Day
Today you’re going behind the scenes of one of our real weddings from the 2022 season.
To protect the innocent, I won’t be giving too many specifics about the wedding because that’s not what this episode is about.
This wedding was a 2-day affair with a rehearsal dinner the day before and the wedding on Saturday. They also had a farewell brunch at the venue, but our team wasn’t part of it.
Our story begins a couple of weeks before the wedding and gives you a play-by-play of our planning and behind-the-scenes.
This wedding was originally scheduled to take place in the fall in a tent. The rehearsal dinner was for about 40-45 people and the weather was trending colder and colder. We do live in Upstate NY, so that wasn’t a surprise.
About 3 weeks before the wedding, we were watching the weather. After a particularly cool weekend, the venue and I had a heart-to-heart re: the rehearsal dinner venue. The venue and I were both concerned that even at 7 pm, the temperatures would be in the 50s, which is not a comfortable outdoor event temperature when people are all dressed up.
The tent had heaters and sides, but it’s outdoors and no matter what you tell guests about dressing appropriately, it often seems to fall on deaf ears. Because they’ve already made up their minds about what they’re wearing or they’re just not paying attention.
Anyway, 50 degrees and dark is not comfortable outdoor dining weather, especially if you have older guests.
So where am I going with this? The venue and I decided we needed to move the rehearsal dinner to one of their other properties. We were hesitant about this because the vibe is very different from the original plan.
I had the call with my client and – luckily – they were fully on board.
So yay! Crisis averted.
Luckily this change did not significantly affect our rental needs for the event. We had already ordered linens for rectangular tables. Normally this venue would have needed round tables. It was too late to change the order, but the size of the group was such that the rectangular tables fit.
Another crisis averted.
Fast forward to the wedding week itself.
Let’s start with Friday:
10:15 am – I get out of my kickboxing class and meet the stationer downstairs at the gym to pick up the menus, programs, escort cards, signage, etc. Luckily she and I both work out at the same place so it works out nicely for our schedules.
10:36 am – I receive a call from one of the rental companies that the linens are arriving late. Instead of being delivered on Wednesday as scheduled, they’re being delivered on Friday. However, their truck to deliver to our venue had already delivered on Thursday. So I asked to pick up the linens and bring them to the venue.
Of course, the answer is yes, but it’s not as easy to do because linens are big and heavy and linen boxes take up a lot of space. I drive an SUV for this purpose, but sometimes I still don’t have enough space.
Luckily, the linens were for cocktail hour at the wedding, not the rehearsal dinner. So that means one they don’t need to get there early on Friday and two there aren’t as many boxes. If it was for the wedding itself, we’d be in trouble because I couldn’t fit all those boxes in my SUV.
I drive over to the rental place and put the linen boxes in my car. Good thing I work out because the boxes weigh 30-40 lbs. They’re awkward to move because I’m 5’2” and have a little wingspan.
11:30 am – The florist delivers the flowers for the rehearsal dinner to my house and I immediately bring them inside so they’re not outside in the sun. Normally they would deliver directly to the venue, but because the venue is an hour away, we opted to have them delivered to my house instead.
12:26 pm – I finish wrapping the couple’s thank you gift, which is a framed watercolor of their wedding venue.
1:00 pm – I start loading the car with all my many supplies:
- Flowers for the rehearsal dinner
- Our radios for the event day
- Their thank-you gift
- Giant Tupperware bins with our cake and dessert stands
- A giant 10’x90’ velvet aisle runner
- My supply kit has a myriad of little nick-backs and tools like extra earring backs, floral tape, sticky notes, etc.
- And our production books that I picked up from the printer the day before, and other things.
1:45 pm – I order lunch from Tropical Smoothie that I pick it up on my way to the venue.
3:27 pm – I arrive at the rehearsal dinner venue and immediately deliver the rehearsal dinner flowers and check on the setup of the dinner.
The tables look awesome and the flowers look great! Because we were in a smaller venue, the tables were skinnier and the flowers took up a lot of space. That wouldn’t be a problem, except the meal is family-style and the catering staff isn’t happy about how little space there is on the table.
We compromise and scoot the flowers and place settings a little bit so there’s more room. We also put some on the mantle and the fireplace, and in other places so they have room for the family-style meal.
Everything else looks perfect.
3:50 pm – I walk over to where we’re having the ceremony rehearsal. I know some people think that the ceremony rehearsal is just a formality and superfluous, but the rehearsal is VERY, VERY necessary.
1) This is the whole reason we’re throwing this party, right?
2) Your wedding party needs to practice how they’re walking in, hear the music they’re walking to, see where they’re standing during the ceremony, etc. You don’t want them looking around and scooting from side to side when it’s your actual ceremony.
3) It’s also helpful to practice the recessional so again, everyone knows when they’re walking and with whom.
I’ve had couples not tell their divorced parents that they’re walking together down the aisle and then change things on me at the ceremony rehearsal. It’s cool. I don’t care who they walk with, but I’d much rather figure that out on the day before so we’re not playing do-si-do with partners and getting flustered on the wedding day.
Back to our day.
At 4:00 pm on Friday, we have our ceremony rehearsal. We rehearse with the officiant that they’re going to step aside when they couple kisses at the end of the ceremony and that they’re the last ones to recess at the end of the ceremony.
The ceremony rehearsal takes the full hour we scheduled, so that takes me until 5:00 pm.
I head back over to the rehearsal dinner venue and make sure everything is ready for guests to arrive at 5:15 pm.
The champagne is poured, the bar is set, the music is playing on the PA system and everything is set.
Guests start to arrive at 5:25/5:30 pm and everything is going great.
We’re supposed to sit down for dinner at 6:00 pm but the bride’s sister and her family of four haven’t arrived yet, so we wait a couple of minutes.
I don’t want the food to get cold though, so we usher the guests to dinner at 6:15 pm. The missing family has yet to arrive.
Everyone sits down. There are no assigned seats. I had suggested they have place cards designating places for guests to sit, but they didn’t want them. So what happens? Everyone sits down and the bride and groom don’t have seats next to each other. In addition, the family of four doesn’t all have seats next to each other. They’re going to have to sit two at one table and two at another table.
We ask one side of the table to scoot down to make room for the bride and groom, but the family of four, who hasn’t arrived will have to be okay with being split up. Three of them will be at the end of one table and the last person will be next to them at the end of the other table. This isn’t ideal by any means but by now it’s too late as everyone has settled in.
The dinner service goes well. The food is delicious, the family eventually arrives around 6:35 and misses the first course, but since it’s family style, there’s plenty of food.
7:15 pm – The meal progresses and it’s fairly uneventful. I’m standing nearby as dinner is finishing up and the mother of the bride beckons for me to come over. One of the guests, who is a foreign exchange student from France has a fly on her plate. From the looks of it, she had gotten through most of her meal and the fly came to join in for the end. He was not cooked in the food but rather, flew in from outside and landed on her plate. I apologized for the fly’s trespass and asked the guest if she wanted a new plate but she said she was okay. I did bring it to the attention of the catering staff, but there wasn’t much to be done at that point.
7:30 pm – Dinner continues, dessert is served, and then the guests retire to another room in the venue for coffee and mingling. I say goodbye at around 8 so I can get home, pack up my stuff for the next day, and go to bed at a decent hour.
In the car, I receive a text from the videographer that her second shooter is sick and do I have recommendations for a second shooter or a babysitter and asks me what the schedule is for the next day so she can figure out child care.
I don’t get mad or annoyed. This happens. So I pull over, take a screenshot of the schedule on my phone and text it back to her. I send her the names of some babysitters and let her know to call me if she needs help.
Later she texts me that she finds a backup shooter and childcare so we’re all set.
At home, I do a quick manicure on my nails so they can be somewhat presentable, take a shower, and dry my hair. Then I proceed to use my 1 -square hole punch to punch out the labels for our couple’s favors. So we got local maple syrup and locally roasted coffee. However, the maple syrup farm didn’t have enough time to print labels on the mini jars of maple syrup. I was going to let it go, but I couldn’t. Otherwise, the bottles looked like mini airplane bottles of bourbon. I was going to settle for making a sign, but I knew once they got home, they would have no idea what was inside the bottle. So we quickly made a label and had FedEx print them. However, they didn’t have time to cut them out, so guess who was cutting them out?
Now, I would never try to manually cut out a label. That would take too much time and the lines would never be straight. But I did have a 1-in diameter square hole punch. So I cut little slits behind each sticker so it would be easier to peel off the next day. Then I started to punch out some of the stickers but it got too late so I decided to give them to someone to do during dancing at the wedding.
Then I went to bed.
What a Wedding Planner Does on Your Wedding Day
On Saturday, I wake up around 6:45 am and do my hair hopefully before the kids wake up.
7:18 am – I put in my right contact. However, I had made a fatal mistake the night before. For anyone that wears contacts, you might know where I’m going w/ this. I put my contacts in a small flat case and then put the hydrogen peroxide contact cleaning solution on top. Unfortunately, it was the wrong case, so the solution didn’t have time to neutralize overnight. Therefore, I just put hydrogen peroxide on my eye! I was supposed to be leaving for the venue in half an hour. I curse and scream and try to flush out my eye with as much water as I can take. The box says 20 minutes but I don’t have 20 minutes, so I do it for 15. Then I text my friend who’s an ophthalmologist for what to do.
8:10 am – I shove yogurt and granola into my mouth and kiss my kid's goodbye. I then head to Target to pick up the eye drops my friend recommended. After I drive to the venue with my glasses on and my contacts in my bag. Don’t worry, I just threw those suckers away and grabbed a fresh pair. I hoped to be able to put my contacts in right before the ceremony got underway.
9:27 am – I arrive at the venue and am excited to see that the venue has almost finished steaming some of the linens. And then I look closer and realize they’re not the right linens. They had steamed the linens for breakfast the next day, not the ones for cocktail hour or the wedding. And this is why, no matter how much information we give vendors before the wedding, we still need to be there bright and early.
9:43 am – Our team divides into their respective roles and areas of the wedding. I go with my staff that’s setting up the aisle runner for our ceremony. I set up our tripod to film the installation of the aisle runner which takes a loss time than we anticipated. They still have to manually punch holes into the runner and stake it down. I bought a special leather hole puncher that does just that. Luckily I had tested it out when it first arrived because I assembled it wrong and broke it the first go-around.
10:26 am – I make my way to the team that’s setting up the escort card installation. The rental company just delivered the wall on which they’re hanging the escort card tags. We set it up where we had planned for it to go and check with the venue. They don’t like where it is because it covers up the heating vents in the tent. We end up moving it to another corner, which I like better for light and photography purposes.
The rental company touches up the paint on the escort card wall, it dries, and then my team starts to hang the signage and escort cards.
I move the tripod to capture some of that while I go over to the dining room.
On my way, I ask one of my staff to take our maple syrup labels and finish punching them out and applying them to the maple syrup bottles.
11:35 am – We’ve inventoried all the racks from the rental company but can’t seem to locate some of our votive candle holders. In addition, the pillar candles we ordered for the candelabras on the head table look too small. They’re too short and a little too skinny. Finally, the lounge rental company realized they forgot to bring pillar candles to put inside their lanterns in the lounge and also up the steps leading to the tent.
The venue is in kind of a remote part of the state, so I ask the venue manager where the nearest store is to get candles, thinking I’ll send one of our team out to get them. Luckily, they have a whole closet full of different kinds of candles, so we take a walk to see what they have. They have several that fit in our lanterns, and then we decide to stack some of their short, fatter pillars on top of each for our head table.
I know it only took me two minutes to tell you how we problem-solved this situation, but in reality, it took closer to 35 minutes.
While we look for the missing votive holders, I mock-up one of the dinner rounds and rectangles so that the staff can replicate it for the rest of the tables – this includes how the glassware should be placed, the menus and napkins, flowers, etc.
At 12:30 pm, we break for lunch. We take a minute to eat and review our outstanding tasks.
We still can’t find the votive holders and I’m starting to get angry / very annoyed.
The cake baker is on their way
Our photographer and videographer have come down from the wedding suite and are shooting the bride’s details and their wedding stationery.
The bride texts me that the air conditioning in the wedding suite has leaked a giant puddle onto the floor and it’s very warm.
I talk to the venue about this and head up to assess the situation.
It turns out they’re also behind because the bride was late getting started and people didn’t know where to get dressed.
Before the week of the wedding, we send an itinerary to the wedding party and family about where to go, where to eat, and when and where to get dressed. You can’t help people when they don’t read things, so I let them know it’s okay to get dressed in the wedding suite since they have all their stuff.
The venue is now taking care of the A/C and we’re a little behind but that’s okay since we build in extra time throughout the day.
It’s now 2:00 pm – I make sure the florist has all the personals ready inside and show them to the photographers so they know where to get them for photos. In the past, we used to deliver them, and the people would forget to bring them and it was a lot of back-and-forths, so more of that.
I also head up to the groom’s suite with the florist to pin the boutonnieres on the groomsmen and fathers.
2:45 pm – The DJ has arrived so I discuss how the lighting should look around the dance floor and the uplighting on the trees on the back lawn. I hand him off to my production lead who goes over all the music and cues with him and the pronunciations of the wedding party. She also orders the meal for the string quintet because they have to leave right after cocktail hour to get back for a performance with the orchestra later that night.
3:12 pm – The cake baker has arrived and we discuss how to set up the cake table. We decide the cakes can be set out, but all the mini desserts need to go in the fridge. The bride and groom choose a 3-tier cake plus 2 side cakes that are slightly different in design so it’s like a little mini cake buffet.
My staff is also checking in with the transportation company to make sure they’ve left the hotel and are on their way to the ceremony.
Most of my staff go change into our wedding clothes really quick, freshen our makeup, and get back to our remaining setup tasks.
3:30 pm – The string quintet has arrived and is set up outside. This string quintet has been a nightmare not because they’re hard to work with, but because the couple wanted a string quintet to play outside in late October. String instruments can’t get wet AND they can’t be outside if the temperature falls below 55 degrees. They also wanted a flat stage of some sort, which they didn’t tell us until 3 weeks before the wedding.
The venue and I went through many backup plans to figure out how they were going to play if it was cold or raining outside. We had a tent planned, but depending on how cold it got, even tent heaters might not be enough if it was too cold. We spent hours talking through our options.
Luckily, it’s a balmy 67 degrees outside – the best possible October day we could have hoped for, and they were happy to play outside and decided they didn’t need the carpet and platform we had procured for them so they could play.
It’s 3:43 pm and I notice that lots of leaves have fallen on our beautiful ivory velvet aisle runner, so I ask the venue if they have a leaf blower. She grabs it and starts to blow the leaves off our aisle and it looks great.
4:00 pm – Guests start to arrive but the couple hasn’t come back from photos yet. This is problematic because we need to hide them when they get back so the guests don’t see them.
I text the photographer to see where they are and she says they’re coming WITH an exclamation point, but I don’t see them anywhere. The venue is holding the guests upstairs in the lobby so they don’t come down too early, but we don’t want them waiting too long. Finally, I make the executive decision to let them come downstairs and get refreshments and make their way to the ceremony.
The string quintet has begun playing the prelude music and all we need is our couple.
It turned out to be a good idea to let the guests go to the ceremony because they were all gone by the time the couple had come back from photos at 4:17 pm. The ceremony was scheduled to start at 4:30 pm. Our actual plan is always to start the ceremony 5 minutes late because we have people walk in 3 minutes after the ceremony is always supposed to start.
I’m annoyed, but the couple wanted photos, so I just go with it. No harm done and we’re back on schedule.
We usher guests to the ceremony seats.
We line up the wedding party for the ceremony and cue the ceremony music and we’re off.
During the ceremony, I check in with my staff to make sure the catering is ready with hors d’oeuvres and signature cocktails and that the chairs are set up for the quintet in the cocktail space.
We never found our missing votive holders, so any staff that was not part of the ceremony is spreading out the votive holders we had. I hate seeing a table with nothing on it. I think it looks like a mistake. We have flowers for all of them, but I like to decorate in odd numbers so two votives and one floral arrangement or three votives.
The ceremony ends and we cue the quintet for the recessional and postlude.
The venue is ready to serve signature cocktails and tray-passed wine so I head to the dining room to make sure everything is ready for dinner.
I walk around the room and then check in with the DJ to see if he has any questions. Of course, he doesn’t have the script that I put together for him and let my production manager deal with it.
He has something cued up on his computer, but I make a script for him so he knows exactly what to say and when.
I love this DJ, I just don’t know why people don’t use the tools I give them. I know it’ll be fine because we have a great team, but I know my production lead will have to be on him more.
Then I check in with the photo and video and they’re ready to take photos of the room before the guests come in. We take photos and then bring the couple in. They’re super ecstatic and notice any of the changes we had to make last minute.
It’s 5:45 pm and we get ready to invite guests to dinner at 6:00 pm. The bride goes to bustle her dress before we introduce them at 6:15 pm.
The guests come into the room and I check in with the bride and they’re still trying to bustle her dress.
For the love of Pete, people, PLEASE practice bustling your dress with your bridesmaids or whoever is supposed to help you. If you can’t do it, then at least send the video to your wedding planner. Normally I try to let the bridesmaids or moms do it because they like having a special job to do. Eventually, the venue and I had to step in. We’ve bustled a lot of dresses in our day and are used to having to find the tiny little buttons and ribbons.
So we started dinner 15 minutes late because the bustling took too long. Luckily, the venue was on it and served guests wine and confirmed their meal selections, no one even knew that we were off schedule.
Dinner proceeds as planned. The couple opted to serve a sorbet course in between the salad and the entrée. This made dinner take longer than normal but this crowd seemed like they preferred visiting with each other and chatting.
We went a little over on time because the photographer and videographer were supposed to leave at 9:00 pm. They stayed an extra half hour. They normally would charge extra, but because we have a really good relationship, they weren’t going to charge the couple, which I appreciated.
After the first dance and parent dances, they cut the cake and then the dance floor opens.
At this time, my staff starts to help clear the tables, take the card box and gifts to the couple’s room, and do some tidying of the space.
We also take this time to move all the welcome bags that they finished stuffing during dinner to the hallway so guests can take them before they leave.
Then we take inventory of all the rentals that don’t need to be washed and start packing up. We also take a minute just to sit for a little bit because we’ve been on our feet for 12 hours and our backs and feet are starting to hurt.
At 9:30 pm, we make sure the buses have returned to start doing loops to take guests home.
10:30 pm, we check in with the venue to confirm that the bar will close at 11 and that the After party space is set up and ready to go.
Then at 11:00 pm, the reception ends and we quickly finish breaking down the room. We packed up all the cake stands, candle holders, and lanterns. We also, move in the lounge furniture, count all the napkins, and take down the tablecloths so they can be shipped to the rental company. There are a bunch of other tasks but this episode is getting too long so I’m going to skip it.
I confirm with the venue to pack up the top tier of the cake because the couple wants to take it home, we pack up my car and headed home at around 11:50 pm.
Then I get home a little after 1:00 am, take some melatonin and fall asleep. I always have a hard time going to bed after a wedding. My body is exhausted, but my mind takes a while to turn off after all the adrenaline from the day.
On Sunday I send a thank you email to the couple and their wedding vendors. The couple texts me and asks where the top tier of the cake went.
So I check in with the venue and they said that someone told them they didn’t want to take it home so they threw it out.
I have no words, so politely explain what happened. The venue offers to make them a cake to take home and they say they’re already driving home so it’s fine.
Also, the rental company text me that they found the missing votives – they were delivered to another event.
Cue a massive eye roll.
At this point, it’s just humorous. I can’t do anything about it now, so I just laugh at the irony and make myself one of the maple apple bourbon cocktails from the night before and take another nap.
And that concludes today’s edition of what a wedding planner does at your wedding.
To make it easier and faster, I glossed over many other things that happened because this episode was getting too long. Don’t forget, I have a staff of 4-5 people with me on the wedding day.
If you liked this episode, please leave us a 5-star review in apple podcasts.
As always, if have any feedback or follow-up questions, make sure you send me a DM on IG at asktheplannerpodcast or call the wedding planning hotline at 585-210-3467.
Thank you so much for joining me today. I can’t wait to talk to you next week.
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