Why the Old Song “Get Me to the Church on Time” Is No Joke on Your Wedding Day

“You’ll never work in this business again!” Seriously? Yep, a really inebriated father of the bride screamed that at me after we executed a nearly flawless wedding for his daughter. I’ve gotta be honest, I’ve heard that expression in movies and on TV, but I’ve never actually had somebody say that to me. I’ve never heard it said in person by anyone to anyone before. Wow.

Here’s the thing, I said we executed a “nearly flawless” wedding because it wasn’t perfect, but it also wasn’t my fault. The bridal party wasn’t ready on time and went down the aisle 45 minutes late. This set off a chain of delays and problems that had a ricochet effect throughout the rest of the evening.

“Get Me to the Church on Time” is a famous song from the movie “My Fair Lady” and it was sung by a groom who was afraid to be late for his wedding. Thing is, in my more than seven years of experience in this business, most of the time my grooms are ready to go with plenty of time to spare. It’s the female side of the wedding party that holds up the process.

If you go down the aisle late, you mess up your entire night. Your wedding starts at a certain time and ends at a specific time and that’s that – if you start late because you weren’t ready, your wedding still ends at the same time. Why? Because all of your vendors were there and ready to go at the appointed time. You hired them for a certain amount of time. If you aren’t ready, it’s not their fault. Believe me, I’ve got years of experience working with the same beauty team and we know how to schedule everything so that the wedding party is ready in plenty of time. Unless of course, the young ladies with appointments aren’t where they’re supposed to be, showered and ready, at the time stated on the wedding day schedule. The beauty team is always there and ready – it’s the bride and bridesmaids who sometimes are not.

You might be thinking, so what? Lots of brides run late on their wedding day. And I’m sure that’s true. But reality check: That means lots of brides are burning wedding reception time because the clock starts ticking according to the schedule, not when they’re finally ready to grace the guests with their presence and go down the aisle. So let’s examine the unintended consequences of going down the aisle 45-plus minutes late, shall we?

If you’re getting married outside, you’re jeopardizing your wedding photos because you may lose the light (especially a vibrant sunset) you were so looking forward to including. And regardless of how late you walk down the aisle, you still need time for photos. The caterers have to adjust EVERYTHING and depending on what food you’ve selected, you could diminish the quality. If they’re expecting your wedding reception to start at a specific time, they’re going to have the food ready to go, trays set up for passing, and signature beverages mixed and ready to pour. A good wedding planner will work with the kitchen to push back the times whenever possible, but not everything can be put “on hold” when you’re pushing out hundreds of appetizer bites that must be ready when the reception is supposed to begin.

I was doing my best to make up time at that wedding, but what was left of the schedule went to hell in a hand basket the minute the toasts began. First, they decided to add a couple of additional toasts at the last minute. Okay, no problem. If the toasts had actually been toasts. They were speeches. Heartfelt in most cases, but still, RIDICULOUSLY long. When I kicked off the toasts, we had only a little more than 90 minutes left of the reception and we still had a cake cutting, bouquet toss, last dance and fire pit finale leading to the after-hours party to complete. As the planner holding the clipboard with the schedule, I was juggling like a mad-woman. Coordinating with the band, the kitchen, the bar and the rest of our staff as we tried to move things along. But it was all for naught.

Just when we thought the end was near, the mother of the bride gave a 22 minute toast. Then father of the bride gave his “speech”. Between the two of them, they “toasted” for more than thirty minutes. By the time everyone finished, there was less than 45 minutes left in the wedding reception. I suggested we go straight to cutting the cake but the bride didn’t want to move that fast. Okay, fine. You’re the bride. Heads up to the kitchen that we’ll be cutting the cake about 20 minutes before the whole she-bang is going to end. Warn the band about the changes, and try to figure out how to go about getting the bouquet toss and last dance in, too. I’m a wedding planner and not a magician. I can’t make the clock stop or time expand just for you. And let me assure you, if you were a bride and groom who bitched and moaned and cried poor about your final balances due after you’d planned the wedding, I’m not going to trust that you actually have the money available to pay for any extra hours of wedding reception you want to add on when you’re drunk and don’t want the party to end.

Very rarely have we extended wedding reception times after an event has started. On those rare occasions, conscientious couples asked us early in the evening if arrangements could be made and gave us time to check with all of the vendors and we were able to make sure all the necessary folks could stay and tell the couple EXACTLY how much the extra time would cost. And we have to get the payment right then and there. While I wish we could work on good faith, every wedding vendor in the world has kicked themselves for being too nice about this at some point in their career. We have to pay the vendors on the next business day, and you have to pay us before we can pay them.

I have never done such a speedy cake-cutting in my life – but we pulled it off. All the wedding planning staff jumped in to help out and passed cake and picked up plates like champs. The hotel’s service staff moved like lightning. I was proud of our teamwork. We almost missed having an official “last dance” because we ran out of time – but I asked the band to play one more song and figured she’d toss her bouquet afterwards. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

First, a wedding guest dragged me aside and told me they wanted to extend the party and she would pay for it. Righhht. Then the bride grabbed me as I passed the dance floor and told me that they were “going to” extend the party. I tried to tell her why it wasn’t possible to extend the party 10 minutes AFTER it had already technically ended and she started literally screaming at me in the middle of her last dance. Pardon me, but you’re getting what you paid for and the reception is over. There’s a fun after-hours waiting for you, all ready to go and running on schedule. But she’s the bride and she can scream if she wants to, I guess.

We explained why it wasn’t possible. You can’t just keep the music and the bar going. There’s service staff, wedding planning staff, and other people who are working your wedding that have to clean up and tear down and leave the venue at the time they’ve planned (some even have babysitters waiting at home). Some staff will have to be back first thing the next morning to serve your guests breakfast and do the teardown and cleanup from your wedding. But your party isn’t over if you have something planned for afterwards like we did in this case. The bride flipped when she was told the reception festivities could not be extended. That’s when the father of the bride told me I’ll never work in Puerto Rico again. Multiple times. Fabulous. And you’re welcome for all the hard work our teams did for your daughter’s wedding. Have a lovely evening, sir.

While such a vicious attack is really unusual and bizarre (people who want a favor are usually nice), we’ve had altercations before over the end-time of weddings. Ironically, it’s not usually the bride and groom who are trying to keep the party going. Usually it’s some really drunk loser friend or an inebriated parent who demands the party continue. If the guests are already aggressively drunk, we’re not going to hang around and see what happens after they’ve had more booze. As usual, we got it all on film. Not for our scrapbooks, I assure you. Just in case we need to prove what happened later on. The one advantage we always have in any contentious situation at the end of the night is that we are sober and they are not. We are logical and they are not. We continue to be polite while they are rude and obnoxious. I really wonder if they think that bullying their wedding vendors is going to get them what they want. I mean seriously, it’s not as if we believe you’re going to tip us more or give us some great testimonial after you’ve verbally assaulted us with an audience. Do they really think being nasty is any motivation for anyone to do you a favor?

This bride did her best to publicly humiliate me. Nobody would have known there was a problem if she hadn’t made a scene – we were doing end of wedding activities when she freaked. She didn’t even make sense as she ranted and raved. If she had, then I guess the groom wouldn’t have taken the time to thank us and apologize. Don’t get me wrong – he was unhappy that the bride was unhappy. He knew she’d been nasty before the wedding. He knew she’d missed every deadline on everything, even changing the seating chart for the fifth time less than 48 hours before the wedding. He was absolutely on her side – as he should be considering they’d been married for about 5 hours – but he knew that we were being very mistreated. And yet he pushed too. I was disappointed. I’d really hoped he would be the voice of reason.

Sandy Malone is an experienced professional wedding planner and the owner of Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events.

Sandy Malone is an experienced professional wedding planner and the owner of Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events.

Moral of the Story: Be on time for your own wedding. If you’re late, you lose time. A good planner can make up the time if you let her, but if you ignore her advice, you may find yourself unhappy the party is ending when it does. Sadly, you cheated yourself. Everybody you hired was there and working and did their job except you. All you had to do was be ready to walk down the aisle at the appointed time. And if you want a reception that goes longer than what is standard at your venue, you have to request that in advance – and pay for it.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!

Sandy

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