15 Wedding Nightmares That Will Make You Stronger

What doesn't ruin the wedding... makes for a really good story later on

by Najva Sol, Brand Director

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You know that group that always believes what can go wrong will go wrong? Consider me among them. I’ve long since come to terms with the simple truths of life: subways will stall when I’m already late, I’ll get sick the night of a date I’m excited about, I’ll get stranded on a mountainside highway in the South of France when I try to go “off the beaten path,” and I’ve never, ever travelled without losing some important item. I consider it my offering to the travel gods.

So it seems pretty obvious to me that that weddings would be full of mishaps. Because more pressure is a recipe for more disasters, right? But the other thing I’ve learned about when it feels like you’re having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day: it makes for an amazing story later on. Take this desert wedding: they had a surprise HAILSTORM, the DJ ghosted, and the food was cold… but how many people can say they processed down the aisle to vuvuzelas and chanting?

A few weeks ago, we asked you guys to share some of your own wedding disasters, and they were so good we decided to pull a handful of our favorites for today’s best-of-the-best wedding nightmares. Partially, because they’re epic stories (prepare to be very amused). But also to remind all of those in the trenches of planning: the joy of your wedding has no correlation to how much goes right.

1. you might need two of everything

“My parents’ wedding is famous in our family for all of the disasters. My parents ended up having two cakes because a friend insisted on making one even though the wedding package had one included, which was great because the hall’s wedding cake melted the morning of the wedding. They had two wedding bands made for my father because the first one got lost en route. They had two rabbis because the morning of the wedding our family rabbi had emergency root canal surgery and he sent in a twenty-four-year-old replacement without telling my parents. My mother had two bouquets made because she was super allergic to whatever the florist put into the first one and broke out in hives that morning. My mother also had to buy two wedding dresses after the first custom made one looked like a satin potato sack (so she says). They planned the wedding in twelve weeks back in 1987, and I would have been a wreck but my mom said it was worth it because everyone at the wedding kept joking that now they were going to have twins, which is exactly what happened a year later.”

2. you could almost drown your wedding dress

“My bridesmaids (collectively—I refuse to blame one single person) set off the sprinklers in the bridal suite while we were getting ready—about one hour before our ‘first look.’ For some reason, no one realized what a terrible idea it is to hang things from sprinklers. I thought this was common knowledge, but guess not! The whole room flooded within seconds and there was a mad dash for my dress, veil, shoes, flowers, etc. The entire twelve-story hotel was evacuated (including the Auburn football team—that was fun!). Everything ended up fine, despite the chaos, but we got a GINORMOUS bill for the damages. As horrible as it could have been, my bridesmaids, hair and makeup crew, and extended family and friends all teamed up and prevented total disaster. Even one oily-sprinkler-water drenched bridesmaids dress was saved by a family friend (and I still don’t know how because it went from orange to BLACK). After the wedding, we ended up spending our wedding night in the hotel conference room because ours was obviously ruined and the hotel was booked solid. And while I definitely wish we could go back in time and keep all of this from happening, it totally zapped any nervousness I was feeling, and it makes for a good story a year later. Chaos or not, we were still married at the end of the day—and we had a great wedding!!”

3. someone might get hurt

“Well we had the medical disaster at our wedding… but my husband’s Grandma is doing fine now and we still got married. I think moving forward the important thing is to make sure it’s not the FIRST THING we talk about when we mention our wedding, but it’s also important to acknowledge that it happened. Our friends and family have been great about this. Grandma fell off the side of a relatively short deck right as the dance party was getting started (side note: we have an awesome, unused dance playlist circa June 2015 if anyone needs it), but our friends and family whipped into action almost like we had an emergency plan in place. Some people went to clear the path for the ambulance, others comforted family members, and quite a few seemed to be taking very good care of grandma (turns out about ten of our eighty guests had some kind of medical training). It was really hard to know what to do next, but friends and family helped us figure that out. Everyone had traveled for the wedding so folks were happy to stay and chat and eat cake. Our wedding night was bittersweet, and I wasn’t sure how I would feel about our wedding in retrospect, but a few months out (and with pictures and videos in hand) it feels like the really special day that it was. I think other stuff didn’t go according to plan (e.g., we were one table short at the reception), but those things just fade away!”

4. everyone could end up washing in a lake

“A couple years ago two good friends got married by a lake in a national park. It was a whole weekend event at a place where everyone was staying on-site in cabins. We all spent the morning of the wedding hiking, canoeing, etc., and returned in the afternoon to get ready for the ceremony only to find that the parks service had shut off the water (don’t know why… to fix something I guess?). So there were no flushing toilets, running sinks, or functioning showers. The bridal party had already showered that morning and headed into the nearest town for their hair appointments, but the rest of us were sweaty, dirty, and thirsty. The facility had water bottles on hand, and a few staff members used their personal water filters to filter lake water for drinking. And we all “showered” in the lake! It was all pretty hilarious and it’s honestly one of my favorite memories. Not a disaster, just an adventure!”

5. your dad’s cell phone could go off at the altar

“First, my dad’s cellphone went off—loudly—JUST AS WE GOT TO THE FRONT OF THE AISLE. We were still standing together, and he was about to give me a kiss and shake my groom, DJ’s, hand, when we heard a cellphone ring tone go off. But he had just changed his ringtone, so didn’t recognize it as his, so we were all looking around like, “Whose phone is that!?” Finally, DJ figured it out. But instead of just signaling to my dad that it was his, DJ reached into my dad’s jacket pocket, pulled out the phone, and answered it, pretending to be my dad. It was a hilarious moment that cracked all of us up, most of all my dad. It was so like my dad to have that happen, and it was such a DJ thing to do in response that it was a perfect reminder that I was marrying my best possible partner and it made my wedding that much better.”

6. you could get really, really sick

“My story is mostly a public service announcement that if you’re getting married, especially out of town or at a destination-type weddings—bring (prescription) Zofran! …Zofran is a miracle anti-nausea drug. It’s honestly the ONLY reason I was able to stay for the whole reception after catching a pretty terrible stomach bug the night before/morning of our wedding in a very rural area (with limited cell phone service and the nearest urgent clinic was over an hour away). It works within about twenty to thirty minutes of dissolving on your tongue, and it’s the only thing that actually helped me keep it together to attend our entire reception.”

7. the weather could suck

“So for my wedding we planned a lovely picnic rehearsal dinner, an outdoor ceremony, and an indoor-outdoor reception in a rustic location. The day before the wedding it was HOT, Gross hot. Humid hot. That night after the rehearsal dinner, a storm rolls in, I see the lightening in the distance, and I’m sure it’s going to cool down a bit for the wedding day.

“Well, that storm was a derecho, which is a word I learned on my wedding day. It rolled through knocking out trees and power for MILES around us. And, while it was cool that night, it was once again humid and very very hot the next day (heat index of 110 type hot). I texted and posted to Facebook as I could, telling guests to come in whatever they would be comfortable in. I got my hair done not at the salon, but in a nursing home that had backup power. (LOTS of hairspray was used to ensure it would stay put.) My husband and his friends and our families cleared tress with a backhoe all day. My dad made breakfast for the entire wedding party on three weber grills. My amazing caterer showed up early, and my venue had a generator they used to run lights, refrigerators, and a fan with just enough power left over for a DJ.

“After the wedding ceremony the entire wedding party changed into shorts and tees and tanks. We had cold beer, corn hole and ladder golf by a lake, a bon fire, great food, and get this, ice cream instead of cake for dessert, which was very planned, but my husband and I had no idea how appreciative people would be. Sure, our wedding reception didn’t have an awesome dance party, because it was too damn hot, but we had this awesome summer camp type vibe going on (I had bridesmaids chasing frogs to catch and toss at another friend who has a frog fear). A few songs and some conversation around a bon fire at the end of the night. People still talk about our wedding—and it’s because they had a great time. (And survived. That storm was scary!)”

8. the cake could melt

“I made the cake for my best friend’s wedding. It was small, and honestly not my best work but everyone was impressed with how well it turned out considering I traveled six hours to be there. BUT it was a very hot June day. I dropped the cake off at the venue and stuck it in the fridge and some well meaning soul pulled it out when they set up the catering and by the time the ceremony was done and people started talking to me about the cake, the frosting had melted. Fortunately it expanded instead of totally sliding, but it was just this small cake in a giant pool of melted frosting. And then family members of the couple were coming up saying, ‘Oh are you the baker? Let’s get your picture with the cake??’ and I was ready to crawl under a table and die that my gift to my very best friend was so hideous.

“Luckily it was delicious, and my friend didn’t care.”

9. your historic venue could schedule tours when you want to take photos

“About ten days before the wedding, I read in the news that the neighborhood where our venue was located was celebrating its centennial, and various locations were giving tours all day. I thought that sounded like fun… until I noticed the date. It was, of course, our wedding date. And our venue was giving tours, with historical re-enactors in period clothing, until 4pm the day of the wedding (with the ceremony scheduled to start at 5:30, and we had planned to take most of the group photos before the ceremony).

“I had to read about it IN THE NEWS. The owner didn’t have the courtesy to tell us we were double-booked (when we booked the venue, we were assured that they NEVER double-book and weddings have the entire venue for the whole day).

“Since the wedding was ten days away, I panicked. Since I was reading this at 10pm, I couldn’t just call the venue and find out how exactly we were supposed to be able to start decorating and take photos if there were tours until 4pm. But I called at 8:00 the next morning with that very question.

“The owner assured me that the tour wasn’t a big deal, and everything was going to be happening outside the venue, so OF COURSE we could show up at 2:00 as planned and everything would be fine.

“Everything was not fine. We showed up at 2:00 and there were fifty people touring INSIDE the venue, including the areas we needed to decorate and the rooms we were supposed to be able to get ready in. There were historical re-enactors outside, including a banjo band. And this was all going to be going on until 4:00. My original schedule—which I had given the owner months before—was to START photos by 4:00. (In the end, the tours and re-enactors weren’t finished until well after 4:00.)”

10. your guests might end up stranded

“We had guests stashed at three different (nearby) hotels with different price points. I wanted to operate under the ‘everyone is an adult’ philosophy and trust that they could get themselves to the venue on time (the farthest hotel was half a mile away—in a city with ample cabs and a subway, not to mention Uber), but my in-laws insisted on (and graciously paid for) hiring two buses to run pickup routes before the ceremony. Only problem was, fifteen minutes before the ceremony, the bus from the hotel with the lion’s share of guests hadn’t shown up, and we got calls from family staying there saying that they had been waiting for the bus for thirty minutes. Turns out the bus had been waiting at the wrong Holiday Inn, and of course the company didn’t think to contact us to ask where all the passengers were. By this point, a bunch (but not all) of the people had simply put themselves in cabs anyway, and luckily there was no traffic so the bus was able to quickly reroute and get our people to us, so we’re still started the ceremony basically on time. I am still unsure whether this was a mistake on the part of the bus company or the in-laws in charge of booking them, but that was about the most stressful part of the whole day.”

11. your venue hosts could back out

“My parents hosted the rehearsal dinner at a rental house, and despite having cleared it with the owners ahead of time, one of them showed up and demanded there was NO WAY they could host an event of that size at their house. Everyone was pretty sure there would be no rehearsal dinner or that we would have to scramble to find another location.

“What’s hilarious is that I caught wind of it while I was getting my nails done with my bridal party, and I just WILLFULLY IGNORED it. I knew something was up and I just chose to not ask questions. I just figured, well—someone will work this out!

“And luckily, due to the sweet talking skills of my brother-in-law, it worked out!”

12. you could lose your wedding license

“I had a little freak out the day after the wedding last summer! The legal papers are handled by the officiant here in Norway, so this is the paper you sign, with witnesses, to confirm the marriage. My dad was our officiant, and we didn’t set aside time to sign our marriage contract during the ceremony, thinking we could do it after. Well, it’s easy to forget about the paper when you have a party to attend… In our bridal suite I finally remembered, wondering if we were actually legally married without it! The next morning the problem got bigger, when we realized that the paper was gone, including the whole folder with the rest of the ceremony papers!

“My siblings had to leave earlier than us, and had packed their cars full of wedding stuff and started on their eight hour ride back home, so we figured the binder was probably in one of their cars. My husband and I were leaving for our honeymoon the next morning and would be gone for two weeks, so I was worried we’d have to go back to the courthouse and do it all over again!

“Then my poor dad called the office and explained our situation, but there was no need to worry. The lady he spoke to said, ‘It’s summer anyways, they can just sign when they come home.’ We managed to get a signature from the best man, and my mom had to sign as our other witness. Happy ending, but we weren’t legally married for the first two weeks, which is a little funny!”

13. your photographer could get the date wrong

“My photographer got the date wrong and didn’t show up until the middle of the reception. And somehow that was the one phone number I had not gotten to the friend who was serving as day-of coordinator. But my friend is a rock star, so she called two professional photographer friends who were coming and had them bring cameras. I didn’t get all of the magical perfect photos I had dreamed of, but I do have at least some good photos, and most importantly, I didn’t let it get in the way of being present and enjoying the day. You can’t control the disasters that might happen, but you can try to control your reaction.”

14. your venue could shut down

“We’d booked our beautiful French style venue (very historic) two years out and had moved the date once. The January of that year, the owners, who run multiple restaurants had one of their more iconic ones burn down. They decided, six weeks before our wedding to announce they were moving this beachside restaurant to the city and closing down our venue. We found out in an online article on a Friday at 5pm.

“They wouldn’t return our or our wedding planner’s calls until the following Tuesday. The venue ‘reopened’ as this city version of the beachside venue the night before our wedding. They literally worked up until the day and we weren’t sure the ‘Renovations’ were going to be finished.

“Our beautiful French inspired venue turned into a hobo, mismash mash style of neon lights, graffiti’d letters, ugly paint work, sticks over the gorgeous mirrored bars, zigzags, and THE MOST HIDEOUS fishing nets over a beautiful Murano glass chandelier.

“Our French inspired menu was gone, and the planner had to make them straighten the darn chandelier because the nets had pulled it. The negotiations to get us our original package inclusions were tough. All I can say is thank god for wedding planners, because by then I was so incredibly over it all I didn’t want to deal with it.”

15. basically this entire list could happen all in one day

“We had the most PERFECT wedding…and it was totally fraught with disaster.

1. My grandmother—my last living grandparent—passed away ten days before our wedding, and we held her funeral the week of the wedding because the church was booked to do it any sooner.

2. My maid of honor, who magnificently flew in a week before the wedding to help out, broke a tooth and had to have emergency dental work hours before my grandmother’s funeral. (In the most small-town story ever, the dental hygienist was planning on attending the funeral too, so she just drove my maid of honor over after the procedure.)

3. Not one but two bridesmaids sustained ankle injuries the night of the bachelorette party, and one had to go to urgent care the next morning and then find new shoes that could be worn with an ankle brace.

4.  My parents’ car broke down leaving the rehearsal (in a church camp in the middle of the woods) after everyone else had left, so the maid of honor’s husband had to go back and rescue them.

5. The catering company inexplicably arrived hours later than promised and blocked the walking entrance to our reception, needed help from the wedding party setting up their equipment, forgot to bring glasses (the bridesmaids borrowed all the glasses from the nearby chalets we were staying in), served appetizers an hour late and only upon being asked by my husband to do so, and then served dinner another hour later, in tiny portions, one (family-style) dish at a time, with about ten minutes in between ‘courses.’

6.  Because of said catering delay, my memory of our cake cutting is something like, ‘OMG fuck this. We’re an hour and a half behind and we have twenty minutes to get sunset pictures.'”

Najva Sol

Najva Sol is a queer Iranian-American writer, photographer, branding consultant, artist, and ex-poet.  She’s the token staff Slytherin and—while formally based in Brooklyn—tends to travel as much as possible. Storytelling is her life, but making chicken broth is a close second.

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  • BeccaC

    I have the perfect one for #16, which happened at my wedding in January. Your groom could pass out during his vows. My husband actually passed out twice during his vows. The first time it happened I caught him and sat him down. His first thought when he woke up was that I would be mad at him (which I certainly was not), my first thought was fear that something was really wrong with his health. Once he seemed better we continued our vows and he passed out again very briefly. At this point I had him in a bear hug and told him it was all going to be okay and that we could do this. That seemed to re-assure him so we continued our vows sitting down. He said the line “I will stand up for you” and I just couldn’t help it and let out a little giggle. Our guests until that point had been the quietest 120 people can be, but at that point they laughed and laughed until the ceremony room was ringing with it. It really broke the tension! We now look on that moment fondly and laugh, and so does our family and friends. Our wedding video is quite dramatic too, we are excited to someday share it with our future kids. I got him checked out by our doctor and it turns out he has stress related syncopy so there’s no scary underlying medical condition. He passes out when he is really stressed or scared and we had seen it before with needles. All’s well that ends well!

  • Lisa

    I somehow missed the original thread so I wanted to share the story of the biggest wedding disaster I’ve heard of, which came from my high school comparative religions teacher.

    He and his wife were getting married in January 2000 in the midwest. This was also the year we experienced what was known as “The Winter Blast of 2000” where schools across Indiana were cancelled for an entire month due to snowstorms. The first storm of the Blast rolled through the tiny town where the teacher was getting married the day before the wedding. He and his wife called all of their vendors to make sure everyone would make it and were constantly reassured by every one of them that they had never missed a wedding in their entire 20+ year careers.

    The storm came through, and it was awful. (I remember getting 12 inches of snow in a couple of hours that night.) The morning of the wedding, there was a travel advisory that no cars could be on the road because the snow plows were having trouble getting through. One of the groomsmen had a giant Suburban, which he used to pick up all of the members of the bridal party and take them to the church because the limo service cancelled.

    Then the reception venue called to say that they wouldn’t be able to get in to open it for the reception. The family started calling the other vendors to let them know they were moving the reception to the church basement (the bride’s father was the minister at the church and the wedding officiant), and the vendors all offered their apologies but said they wouldn’t risk coming out in the storm. After the vendors cancelled, the family started getting calls from guests saying they wouldn’t be making it either.

    This all culminates in the bride standing at the back of the aisle to the church in her dress with her father and the wedding party sobbing because only 40 people have shown up out of the 100+ who were supposed to attend.

    At this point, the bride’s grandmother whipped into action and called every restaurant in town, promising to make it “worth their while” to deliver some food, and finally got a Pizza King to agree to deliver several pizzas to the church for the reception. The groomsman with the Suburban drove to a gas station to get two liters, plates, cups, and bags of chips. The same grandmother called the local radio station during the reception and convinced them to play the couple’s first dance song on the radio.

    My teacher said it was the worst at the time, but they were amazed afterwards at how their families came together to support them. And now every year he has the cheapest anniversary date because his wife always insists on getting Pizza King to relive the experience!

    • BB

      I got choked up when I got to the part about the radio playing their first dance! What a great grandma move!

  • emilyg25

    After reading about the wedding that was basically ruined by Hurricane Sandy, I was terrified that the same thing would happen at our all-outdoor with limited rain plan wedding. I’m definitely someone who always thinks the worst will happen. Then when it doesn’t, it’s a pleasant surprise!

  • walls

    Oh no/oh yes, this is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Our wedding is next weekend, and our Quaker ceremony (actually Quaker, not Quaker-style) involves all of the guests signing our certificate as witnesses. I ordered a gorgeous custom certificate from a well-reviewed Etsy artist with plenty of lead time, designed it together, and waited… and waited… and am still waiting. Every deadline the artist set for updates and shipping has passed without notification, explanation, or apology. Since a certificate is not optional, we may end up signing a Kinko’s-printed homemade poster instead of the beautiful (and not cheap) artwork we’ve been so excited for.

    • Megan

      If you don’t mind my asking, who’s your Etsy artist? We had the same problem with ours, though with enough angry emails and nagging it *seems* like we’ll be getting it ASAP…
      Good luck! I know how stressful this is, but everything will work out as it should.

      • walls

        I don’t want to share her shop name until I see how it shakes out, but her name is Michelle. Beautiful work, super friendly, and just… not doing the other half of the job. Sound familiar? Good luck!

    • JDrives

      Oh no!! I hope this all works out for you!

  • Alison M

    Our big wedding emergency wasn’t detected until the day after the wedding – it was at my dad’s house, and it turns out that one of the tent stakes had pierced their private gas line (which wasn’t covered by Miss Utility). We had candles and sterno cans going during the wedding, but luckily nothing happened. When they pulled the tent stake out, there was a STRONG odor of natural gas, and we called the fire department. Exciting!

  • Sara

    I remember reading #1 during the original thread, and I find it completely delightful. It sounds horribly stressful but clearly that family has a great sense of humor!

  • Eh

    Our wedding was overshadowed by a huge family feud on my husband’s side that resulted in my BIL refusing to be best man and my BIL’s wife and children not coming to our wedding (my MIL dragged my BIL to the ceremony). The weeks leading up to our wedding were very stressful trying to work things out with them (and them refusing to work things out with us), not knowing if they would show up, worrying how other people would react if they did show up (BIL/SIL were the centre of the feud that extended through my husband’s aunts/uncles/cousins), my MIL worrying what people would think if they didn’t show up, my in-laws demanding my husband pick another best man since they had never been to a wedding without a best man, coming up with a contingency plan for our wedding if they didn’t show up. A few weeks after our wedding we worked things out and we are very close but they are a noticeable a sense from our wedding pictures.

  • jubeee

    I got up the morning of the wedding at our B&B, we showered, I dried my hair and we sat and had a lovely and quiet breakfast (the first quiet moment we had in days) We were totally on time to show up at the venue and set things up and in 2.5 hours I would leave to get my hair and makeup done, so we would taker separate cars. Except when I looked at my car, the rear tire was flat, so we just left it. Getting married outside the last weekend in September didn’t worry me like it worried others, September is historically beautiful and pretty dry in eastern PA but I didn’t think of wind. We had 25mph wind gusts that was blowing literally everything over, we had to solve the issue of our disposable dishes flying away and glasses knocking over, I almost lost it when the wind knocked a large art print off the mantle off the fireplace (we had a rustic stone pavilion) and smashed the glass all over the floor. When I left we were ready but I was anything but comfortable leaving all my hard work for the next 6 hours and hoping it would be OK. Luckily the wind died down about an hour later and the sun came out. The owner of the B&B changed my tire while we were doing our first look. Our wedding was lovely even though we had no plans for the actual service and totally winged it.

  • The restaurant we were having a family dinner at the night before and had promised us a private room had decided they were too busy on a Friday night to let us have the room to ourselves and kept trying to seat people in the room with us. And then there was a real big blizzard before and during the ceremony. But you really can’t beat the pictures we got in the freshly fallen snow.

    • Kathryn

      The venue for our rehersal dinner forgot we had booked the room in the first place! They really hussled and pulled it out at the last minute setting up, getting the food ready, etc., but OMG!!!

  • # 13 is my worst nightmare.

  • Margie

    We got married this summer on July 3rd (A Friday). We had left Tuesday afternoon to start driving up to my grandma’s before continuing our journey the next morning to pick up the marriage license. After a 4 and a half hour drive, a mile away from my grandma’s house we were rear ended by a truck and hit into another truck… My car was in a sandwich, and all the wedding centerpieces were in my trunk! Everything broke, and the reception just ended being a much simpler version than what it was originally intended to be! We will never forget that week…

  • Laura Bennett

    Pro tip: if you don’t have your own Zofran, contact any pregnant wedding guests. It’s commonly prescribed for serious “morning” sickness.

    That was really the only “what if” that truly scared me: what if everyone traveled here from across the globe, and I’m too sick to show and it all has to be cancelled?

  • Kathryn

    While planning our wedding, a friend crashed with us after attending his sister’s wedding. He told us the following horrible story: Their wedding took place during summer, someplace where wasps are an issue. The officiant ended up being stung multiple times during the ceremony, and had to tap out due to complications from the stings! Someone from the audience had to get up and finish the wedding! Then, nobody could eat the food because the wasps were swarming the outdoor buffet the whole time, and everyone was pretty freaked out by what happened to the officiant. For the remainder of our wedding planning, anytime issues arose, our motto was, “at least it’s not bees!”