We planned our wedding from abroad in a part of my home state that’s six hours from the nearest friend or relative. Essentially, we were planning half-blind. So, of course, I spent far too much time online reading reviews of our venue.
The reviews were mixed. All mentioned how gorgeous the setting was. Several noted terrible staff. One bride complained that she hadn’t gotten some of the services that they’d paid for, and that they’d had problems getting a refund. These reviews confirmed some of the feelings my partner D and I had had when we visited: a gorgeous space and a gorgeous venue, all run by a group of seasonal staff who varied between enthusiastically over-sharing to flat out rude. What if we spend $350 dollars on late night snacks, but we never received them? I worried. What if the cake didn’t come on time? What if we had to interact with a terrible person on the day of the wedding? What if someone made me cry? (I’m always crying, so this wasn’t that hard to imagine.)
So we hired a day-of coordinator, a woman we chose because she was the only DoC in the area who had a website. I started keeping a list of things I wanted our DoC to do. We would have her for eight hours only—not enough time to help with both decorating and the reception. Over the course of the year, the list never grew to more than eight tasks, one of which read: “Gather all the babies at the wedding on a quilt for a picture.” I later scratched that because not even the best day-of coordinator could wrangle a dozen babies. But I did expect our coordinator to know what I needed her to do, even though I didn’t. Of her own day-of, my future sister-in-law told me: “I remember having a vague feeling of ‘I want to take off my shoes,’ and there was my day-of with my flats, although I hadn’t even told her.” That’s what I wanted.
In the end, all our vendors were fabulous. The catering manager was excellent, the food delicious, our cake divine, DJ perfect, our photographer a dream. All, that is, but one: our day-of.
To be fair, I never met Andrea*, the professional I’d hired. We never spoke on the phone. Before our wedding week, Andrea sent us a bill for one hundred dollars more than our contracted amount and a schedule that had nothing to do with my own desires for our wedding. The week of the wedding, D and I instead met with Hayley, a bright-eyed college student who, I soon realized, could probably count the number of weddings she’d attended on one hand. I suspected I knew more about weddings than she did, but—perhaps more importantly—I knew more about what I wanted from my own wedding than she did. “Andrea will still be coming,” Hayley assured us. D and I both doubted her. It was the Fourth of July weekend.
We were right to do so. Although Andrea never called me herself, Haley arrived at my cabin and told me that Andrea had gotten food poisoning, and that she wouldn’t be able to make it. So it was the intern coordinating my wedding.
The list of errors and mishaps and frustrations I had with Hayley by the end of the night is long. Here are a few: Hayley did not come with a copy of the schedule that I had sent the week before, so as I was getting ready with my bridesmaids, she asked me to recount our schedule to her. During the ceremony, she had my mother-in-law process before my grandmother. She tried to hurry my youngest flower girl down the aisle, which caused said flower girl to have a meltdown. In the middle of our ceremony, when the usher didn’t quite understand what to do for our ring blessing ceremony, he asked her, “What should we do?” “Get the bride’s attention,” she replied. I saw her waving frantically at me from the behind our guests. Needless to say, there was no ring blessing. As Hayley helped pinned the boutonnière on our groomsmen, she nervously admitted that she had never pinned a boutonnière on anyone and had no idea what she was doing. She left the pins exposed on their jackets, and just after dinner, the son of one of our groomsmen cut himself on an exposed pin and had the second Hayley-caused meltdown of the evening. That groomsman had to leave early.
Hayley offered to stay late to help, and then later interrupted me while I was greeting guests in our receiving line to say that she had called Andrea (that professional DoC I’d hired) who had told her she wasn’t allowed to stay late.
Although our dinner and our reception is that hazy blur the old wisdom says it will be, I have many memories of Hayley sneaking up behind me to whisper a question. At one point she asked me this: “See that goblet over there? Should I move it to this table or keep it at that table?” She rushed breathlessly about, all heart and no composure. “Who is that woman?” my college friends asked. “She’s making us nervous.” Later, she and our security guard shared beers together (from our tab?) and watched us dance. “I’ve got some great ideas for my own wedding!” she said enthusiastically.
I don’t blame Hayley for being young and untrained; I blame her boss for sending her to us unassisted and untrained.
The truth is that I was so worried about our wedding day going smoothly, that I hadn’t done my due diligence. On a whim (and out of fear), I’d hired a day-of whom I’d never met, not even on Skype. And in my panic, I’d overlooked two things. The first is something I should have known: I probably didn’t really need a day-of coordinator. I am a relatively organized person who had thought a good deal about what would happen on our wedding and who had strong idea of the schedule we wanted. I’d been to dozens of weddings; I knew how they worked. Our ceremony and our reception were at the same location, which made things infinitely easier. We have a gaggle of friends and relatives that I felt comfortable asking to help, and I had underestimated their willingness, even though I had been that willing helper in the past.
The second is something I’d heard other wedding graduates say before, but I still hadn’t anticipated: how little we actually cared—in the moment—about how smoothly everything was going anyway. We didn’t really care. Babies cried. Our flower girls did irreverent high kicks during the service. Only half of our welcome bags made it to the people we’d meant to welcome. I forgot to loop up the hundred buttons running up the back of my dress or reapply my lipstick all evening. Our ceremony started fifteen minutes late because D forgot the vows we’d labored over, and I had to jot them down from memory at the end of the aisle. (And we can’t blame Hayley for that one!) Whatever I thought I needed protection from, I hadn’t. The support and love of the people there, the joy of actually saying our hastily-scribbled vows to each other, of being married—we were floating on all that. It’s not that I didn’t notice what was happening, perfect or not. (I did! See above list.) It was just that my perspective was larger, in that moment, than I thought it would be.
We did get our late-night pizza and wings, although at that point D and I were too busy dancing at our perfectly imperfect wedding to notice.
P.S. Even though you might not need a day-of coordinator for your wedding, you do need to figure out how to not be in charge of your own wedding. Read up on how to stage-manage your wedding right here. Plus six questions to ask before hiring a planner or day-of coordinator, and how to do a site visit (with a checklist).
* Editor’s note: All professional names have been changed.