The Ten Most Memorable Lessons Learned in 2012 by a Caribbean Destination Wedding Planner

Happy 2013 to Everyone!!!

It’s hard to believe that 2012 is coming to an end already.  It was a year of excitement and new experiences for the crew at Weddings in Vieques, and it was a learning experience for those of us who run the company (isn’t every year an education for me?) as we moved into a new, much bigger office building and launched Flowers in Vieques in last December. This December, we opened Boutique in Vieques just as the tourists began arriving.  The new year – 2013 – already holds more excitement, surprises and challenges that we know what to do with, so it seem appropriate to take a moment to go back and share my “most memorables” and some “lessons learned” from this year before we close that box and start fresh back in the office tomorrow.

1)    You never know who your clients are.  I don’t mean that I don’t get to know my clients – believe me, with most of them I know far more than I really want to know by the time we make it to the actual wedding weekend.  But not every client feels the need to wave a big flag in the air to announce their relationship to other important people.  While this is an amazingly good trait for a human being, as the wedding planner, it would be nice to know when the bride is the granddaughter of a former Governor of Puerto Rico.  Not that we would have done anything differently in the way we planned and executed the actual wedding – we wouldn’t have.  But it would have been nice to warn the minister who almost wet her pants when she looked up and saw the former first lady of PR sitting in the front row.

2)    Married women with children who never get away from home and come to Vieques Island for weddings without their little darlings require more supervision than their children would have if they had come.  It’s like a “hallelujah, I’m free” situation that always, without fail, ends badly… usually involving vomit.  Now I’m not one to judge (much), but ladies, ladies… a little dignity here.  Nothing attractive about drooling, puking wedding guests.  And you will feel so crappy the next day that you’ll really wish you hadn’t ruined your own vacation.  By the way, these women are usually married to men who completely ignore what’s going on and are happy to let them make asses of themselves and keep out of it – until we get them and force them to involve themselves.

3)    The old expression was “champagne taste with a beer budget,” but we’re seeing more and more “cava or prosecco taste with a pinot noir budget,” if you know what I mean.  From the first moment, we give you a budget estimate – high and low – and tell you what you can afford.  A bride with a $10,000 budget who chooses a $4,000 – $6,000 photographer is not going to be happy with her final numbers no matter what.  But she’s going to have to find the money to pay for it because she’s been signing contracts for the services, despite the red flags and warnings we give her to the contrary.

4)    The failing economy does not mean that nobody is getting married or that wedding budgets are shrinking – it just means that people are putting more time and energy into their wedding planning and spending more on their guests because they want them to feel spoiled rotten when they’ve traveled so far to be a part of the couple’s big day.  There’s a reason the wedding industry has continued to grow at a time when the economy is not – I think it’s because people need happy occasions to look forward to and their wedding is something they refuse to compromise on.  Just because money is tight when they finally get the ring doesn’t mean a bride will give up her dreams of getting married in a certain way with certain accoutrements.

5)    Gay weddings are no different than straight weddings.  I say this because every month I struggle with blog topics for my Purple Unions blog.  The only difference between planning the two different events is that gay men seem to make faster decisions with more certainty than straight couples.  Usually brides work with me on the planning, but then have to turn around and get everything blessed by their future life partner in order to make final decisions.  Not so with gay couples who seem to have already thought through most of the little bitty details and know exactly what they want to plan.

6)    Transportation for drunks is a pain in the ass.  Oh yes, we do it almost every weekend, setting up shuttles or “drunk buses” and making arrangements for everybody to get where they’re going for the after-party, and then back home, safely.  But you cannot make people do what the bride and groom have planned.  And you cannot make drunks get on a shuttle bus when it’s leaving if they don’t want to.  The result: Nasty drunky-drunks who get left behind and start screaming at us because, of course, it must be MY fault they didn’t leave after three warnings the last shuttle was leaving.  Also, if you’re told the last shuttle leaves the bar at a certain time, and the shuttle driver and the bar announce the departure, and you miss it.  You are SOL.  New rule for 2013 – I will not save you from your own stupidity at that point.  I hope you’re wearing comfy shoes if it is a long, walk home.

7)    Groups who party-hearty at the welcome party and move slowly at the beach party on Day Two, are going to be wild and crazy on the night of the wedding (time to recharge).  If they’re mellow at the welcome party and drink til they stink at the pig roast, then you’re guaranteed an easy guest management situation at the reception because they will still be hurting.  Oh sure, some will rally.  But the bulk will be moving like slugs.

8)    Status, class and wealth have nothing to do with appropriate behavior when wedding guests come to the Caribbean.  The gentleman bankers may become grabby jerks with the staff and their ladies-who-lunch (but don’t work) wives will stand 20 yards away and pretend that nothing bad is happening in their peripheral vision.  It’s insanity and resulted in some hard-core new company policies about sexual harassment and guest behavior last year.  It’s a wedding, folks, not spring break.

9)    The phrase “reverse beer goggling” was coined by yours truly, and has been used several times since its creation.  Reverse beer goggling refers to when a wedding guest is so drunk that he or she TRULY BELIEVES that we, the service staff at events, see them as they are seeing themselves. And they are drunk enough to talk to themselves in the bathroom mirror and tell themselves how fabulous they are. And they flirt and behave as though they are total superstars gracing us lucky island residents with their presence.  Reality check – we’re not interested.  Go talk to your wife (standing 20 yards away, weaving in the breeze) and prop each other up as you stumble to the drunk bus for the After Hours with more cocktails you definitely don’t need.

10) You never know what will embarrass the clients – and it doesn’t matter because whatever it is, if the bride or groom is upset about it, it must be corrected immediately.  This could include drunk fathers of the bride (oh yes, we had several special ones this year) who go into the villa bedroom being used as a staff/supply stash room and completely disrobe and pass out on the bed, face up.  It can include parents of the bride or groom who are in the midst of or have just completed a nasty divorce and drink so much that they don’t care if they destroy their own child’s wedding with their asinine behavior.  In one case, the bride had to ask me to remove an out-of-control groom from a welcome party before her relatives who had yet to meet her future spouse could find out what a flaming jackass he becomes after too many cocktails.  Whatever the embarrassment is, it needs to be removed and corrected as fast as possible so the memories aren’t ruined for the happy couple.

I could go on and on all day long – and I feel badly because the above list is definitely in no particular order – just things that stick out in my mind as the “most memorable” from the wedding planner’s perspective.  Most weddings are beautiful and go seamlessly – and that’s why they don’t jump out in my mind and make my top ten lists.  I may sound snarky (cuz I am), but in reading back through these, I see a common theme – alcohol.  Too much of it.  We’ve had brides arrive on the island schnockered, and guests who end up in the emergency room.  These aren’t the memories that the bride and groom are spending almost the same amount of money as a new car to create, so it’s my job to triage, mitigate and repair as much as possible.  I do as much unfucking of things as I do planning of things once rambunctious wedding groups arrive on the island.  I make a point of this because, wherever you’re getting married, you should listen to your wedding planner when she tells you that five hours of unrestricted free alcohol is enough for any group.  We’re trying to help you have a fabulous wedding weekend – that’s all.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!  And happy new year to everybody!


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