12 Secrets Your Wedding Coordinator Forgot To Tell You

Don't forget to eat (and other useful tips)

by Alyssa Griffith, Contributor

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A s a wedding coordinator, it is literally my job to make people’s lives (and wedding days) easier.  Weddings can be overwhelming, hectic, and there are almost always some bumps along the way.  I’ve been to so many weddings now that I’ve seen (and fixed) a lot of the common mistakes that pop up on wedding days.  I’ve put out fires (both literal and figurative), gone on beer runs, and altered dresses on site.

Since I’ve done this wedding thing so many times, a lot of the hitches in the day are predictable to me. But chances are you’re planning a wedding for the first time—so, the stuff that’s obvious to me, won’t be obvious to you until it’s happening. So, whether you hire a coordinator to put out fires for you, convince a friend to be your stage manager, or you’re running the show yourself, here’s some of the best tips and tricks I’ve learned from years of going to weddings!  (And no, I’m not just talking about a bag with extra bobby pins and tissues—though that’s a good thing to have too!)

1.Hair and Makeup ALWAYS takes longer than expected:

Are you getting your hair and makeup done professionally? This applies! Are you DIYing your hair and makeup or getting help from a friend or family member? This still applies! There is just something about hair and makeup on a wedding day that practically never fails to take longer than we expect (especially if it’s more than just you getting ready). So instead of planning to be ready at exactly the time your photos will start—aim for 20-30 minutes before that.

2. Tell a little white lie…or a few:

I always recommend telling your family, wedding party, and maybe even your partner a few little lies during wedding weekend. Just let them all know that they should be at the rehearsal at 4:45 instead of 5:00pm, and at family photos at 3:20pm instead of 3:30pm. This is one of the best time saving tricks to make sure that people are where they need to be when they need to be there. And since late happens, a white lie or two won’t hurt them (and will ensure some buffer time for the latebirds.)

3. Don’t starve…anyone:

Wedding days can feel really hectic and crazy, and one of the things that almost always gets left to the wayside is eating. That goes for the couple, the wedding party, the vendors…everyone but the guests. Have a plan in place ahead of time so that the whole wedding party gets fed while they’re getting ready—this will keep a lot of people from becoming hangry!

Also, your vendors need to eat. They love you, and they’re there for you. But without food they tend to forget how much they love you, if you get my drift. And while at some smaller weddings it can be nice to sit with the guests, contrary to popular belief, vendors almost always prefer to sneak away to a quiet spot to shovel food into our mouths and recharge.

Please, please, please make sure there is enough food and enough time for everyone (yourself included) to eat!

4. Not all pens are created equal:

There are about 10,000 different versions of a guestbook out there in Pinterest-landia and beyond. Regardless of which version you choose: test out the pens that you’ll use in advance. It’s a bummer when your guest book, (or guest picture frame, or guest quilt,) is covered with smears before you ever get to read it.

5. Wind and escort cards do not mix:

If you’re having an outdoor reception and you plan to assign seating—avoid the simple trifold card. Why? Just imagine a bunch of tiny pieces of paper with peoples names on them…flying around the yard. Think: chalkboard, mirror, glitter sculptures, wood blocks… pretty much anything but tiny cards for an outdoor space!

And while we’re at it—alphabetize those suckers in advance. There is nothing worse than scrambling to put 200 items in alphabetical order just thirty minutes before guests start arriving!

6. Make it official:

Want to have a legal ceremony?  Don’t forget to bring your marriage license with you to the venue, and leave time in your schedule to sign that thing! Also, you have to sign it while all parties are still sober (at least in CA), so try to get that taken care of quickly after the ceremony. And then be sure it gets put somewhere safe (AKA give it to your wedding stage manager.)

7. Walk through the day…before the day:

A minimum of one time, (or twenty-seven times,) in the planning process—you should walk through the actual venue in person (and in your mind). This is the time to think about the flow of the day, everything that will happen at any given moment, and how it will all come together. This is when you’ll realize that you printed really beautiful programs…but you have no idea how guests will get them. Now, you know to ask your cousin Joe to hand them out. By thinking about the day from your perspective, a guest’s perspective, and even the vendors perspectives, you’ll be able to prepare for all kinds of kinks, and work them out in advance.

8. Take a moment, or a few:

I always recommend that my clients take a 10 minute break together after the ceremony. In Jewish wedding tradition this time is called the ‘yichud’, but I just believe that after the excitement and anxiety that can come with the day and the ceremony, taking a moment to breathe is essential for everyone! Try to do this together, but also, alone. When you’re walking back from the restroom— just stop, take a breath, remind yourself to appreciate your wedding day, and look out at all the people who are there because they love you and your partner. You won’t regret it.

9. Bring some snacks and extra hydration:

Remember when I said earlier to schedule time and a plan to eat? Well, you still might end up hungry, dehydrated, and faint at some point in the day. If you have a secret stash of protein bars and waters or Gatorades, you can refuel and get back to the party—stat!

10. Confirm…everything:

This is task that will be completely off your plate if you work with most coordinators and planners, but about a week or two before the wedding, you should confirm with all of your vendors and key players. Send out an email, your timeline, and your wedding day contact list to everyone involved. A lot of your vendors will ask for this, so it’s best to beat them to the punch.

11. Put your phone away…all day:

It’s you and your partner’s day and you’ll be surrounded by loved ones, so put (or give) your phone away for the whole thing. Worried that vendors or guests will call you for important information? Pass it off to a friend or family member to manage. Kick the your phone habit for a day and stay present with your guests and your partner. Your emails and Facebook notices will all be there tomorrow! (I promise.) Not to mention—where, exactly, in your dress or suit were you planning on stashing that thing?

12. Something will go wrong:

This isn’t just me being a Negative Nancy—this is the truth. No matter the amount of planning and effort you put into scheduling, assigning, and delegating—something will be forgotten, lost, or messed up on wedding day. It’s best to know that in advance.

That way, at 9am on wedding morning when you can’t find your shoes and your sister has to drive forty minutes back to the house for them, you can just agree with everyone and the universe that that was the big moment. And after that, it’ll be smooth sailing!

Alyssa Griffith

Alyssa is the owner and lead event planner for Rose Gold Events in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s been rocking the wedding industry for the last four years after becoming a Certified Wedding Planner in 2011. In her free time, you’ll find her traveling, reading, and training CrossFit. Alyssa loves love, macaroons, logistics, and a good party dress. And she still cries at every wedding.

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  • H

    Thank you for this! What pens do you recommend?

    • Hi there,
      This is completely dependent upon the item people will be signing. I have found that the difference between a matte printed photo book, a wood puzzle piece, and a globe is huge!
      The fine sharpie permanent pens are great for lots of things, but some things even require a ‘painty’ style pen!
      So, once you’ve decided on an item to use for the guestbook, then is the time to research what pens might be best.

    • Christina McPants

      If you’re doing any kind of paper craft, use an acid free pen, but test out the thickness before you commit to it. And buy double the pens you think you need – they always wander off.

  • Alanna Cartier

    These are good things to note for any event. I’m on a planning committee at work to plan a department off-site committee, and I’m taking note of all of these things!

  • A

    One thing I experienced—even though I made plenty of time to eat (scheduled like mad!), I actually didn’t WANT to eat because I was so jazzed and filled with adrenaline. Our wedding weekend started on Thursday afternoon and I didn’t feel true hunger until 10pm Sunday. But even if you’re like me, force yourself to eat! At the actual wedding, I literally stared down a martini glass filled with mashed potatoes and shoveled it in my mouth with wrought determination, then did the same thing with a piece of prime…because every instinct was telling me that I didn’t need food, I needed to PARTYandseeEVERYONEyayayayay and OMGijustgotMARRIEDyayayayayayayEVERYBODYDANCENOW and that food would just hold me back, man. But even though my stomach hurt a little bit at first, that forcing helped me not fall into a heap at the end of the reception. Seriously.

    • guest

      At the reception, I had the extremely strange experience of food having no taste at all. I stopped, ate, and thought the texture was good, but I couldn’t taste anything. Also, I wasn’t that hungry – I just kept eating small bites all day.

    • Raissomat

      I wasn’t hungry either. I was shocked about that as I was looking forward for months to have our fantastic caterer’s food again. I couldn’t eat. My stomac opened up around 16.00, and I munched on leftovers sitting in my husbands lap.
      Also the one thing that went wrong at our wedding was my mother in law having a crying/screaming freakout about my husband taking my family name (yes we had prepared her) and generally being a diva and mean to people.
      It was a huge disappointment but looking back, everything else was perfect.

  • Christina McPants

    When that first thing goes wrong, just remember – something always goes wrong at the wedding. The microphone feedback or ripped phone or late rental delivery or whatever just happened? You just got the wedding snafu done. It’s over. We don’t have to worry about it. Thank you.

  • This is such a great list! We employed almost every one of these items and I’m so glad that you listed them. I also realize how great our coordinator was – she triple-confirmed all the vendors; led our walkthrough where we planned the day of timeline & maintained the updates; and she supplied pens for the guestbook (I literally just realized that was 1 thing I forgot). The point about taking a few mins with your spouse to have a moment alone is so true! I’m really glad we did that.

  • Bsquillo

    The eating thing is fascinating to me, because I’m pretty sure there has never been a time in my life that I’ve “forgotten to eat.” I am a FOOD PLANNER; I am pretty much always thinking about when I’m going to have my next meal. Luckily, our catering team at our wedding was great: not only did they HAND US BEERS right after our recessional (an idea that sounded weird before, but was AWESOME in practice), but they also filled our plates up with a little of everything from the buffet and served us first. I ate A LOT at our own wedding: passed apps, dinner, and cake. And then they sent us with wrapped up dinner plates to our hotel, which I later ate with my hands because we forgot utensils (sexy).

    Also, as a wedding musician, my advice is to expect everything to run at least 20-30 minutes behind schedule during the reception. This is alleviated by having a great coordinator who keeps things on track, but in general, things take a little longer than planned- ESPECIALLY multiple toasts. Don’t fret too much, and make sure your contracts for your entertainment specify that you’re hiring them for a total amount of time (like 2 one-hour sets of music) and that their start time is flexible.

  • egerth

    One food tip — if you’re having a buffet, the perfect time for the bride and groom to eat is while everyone is in the buffet line! Our venue put a plate of food down for the bride and groom waiting at our table before guests even started down the buffet line. They then sent the rest our table first, so the amount of time we were the only ones with food was minimal. With our 150-person wedding, we were pretty much done eating by the time everyone else got through the line.

    We were then free to do other things (visit tables or, in our case, sneak outside for a few pictures) while everyone else was actually eating. It was genius and I hadn’t even planned it!

    • eating words

      Yes! We went through the buffet first, ate, and then sneaked out for some quiet time and a few more portraits.

  • eating words

    The time alone after the ceremony is really important. But also don’t forget how freaking long it can take to bustle a dress! Especially if you’re *each* wearing a dress that requires bustling.

    • Audrey

      Also, if you can, have one of your friends learn how to do so beforehand! We were super lucky because one of my bridesmaids was with me picking up the dress, so she got to practice then and there so the actual bustling wasn’t a big deal. I hadn’t even thought about the whole “can’t really bustle your own dress” / have to show it to someone else thing!

      • eating words

        Yeah, that was the only time I wished we had a bridal party. So many buttons to find and fasten!

  • NatalieN

    A note about #3 though, talk to your photographer and videographer about eating. For some photographers and videographers I know it’s actually really stressful when they have to go somewhere else to eat. Especially when they (as an industry standard sometimes) get served or go through the buffet last. Which, basically means they have to get their food and scarf it down before rushing back because the schedule has toasts starting during the dinner. No one has to do this, but we made sure our photographer and videographer got served right after us, and had seats in the hall. Both of them commented on how great that was for them.

  • emmeline

    I always find the reminders to make it legal funny, because in Australia it is a ritualised part of the ceremony to sign the register!

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