Red wine on a wedding dress. Family drama. A downpour during the ceremony. These cringe-worthy mishaps could definitely dampen an otherwise happy wedding. But experts say a little planning ahead may help to avoid any disasters on the big day.
"The stakes are high when you're planning a wedding because you're putting a lot of your savings perhaps into the wedding and all the planning and such," said Anja Winikka, TheKnot.com's site director.
Sarah Pease of Brilliant Event Planning believes the best way to avoid wedding day devastation is to maintain good communication with vendors. She advises making sure vendors are "as reliable as they are responsive." And remember -- relying on your friends or family members to take pictures may not be the best route to ensuring a flawless wedding album in the end.
With that, it's important to sign on the dotted line, even if you think it's unnecessary. "You should expect to be signing contracts with all of your vendors -- even in the cases a vendor that may be a little bit more of a friend," said Winikka. "You should have something in writing, even if it's an informal agreement making sure everyone is protected. It's kind of painful at times and tedious. You want to get to all the fun stuff -- colors and dresses. But being able to walk through the contract and being very comfortable with everything that's been agreed upon will make pretty much the rest of your wedding plans smooth sailing."
Throughout the entire process, it's key to maintain that budget so there's no unexpected financial surprises. Catey Hill, David's Bridal's resident financial expert, said as tempting as it may be to add in that all-you-can-eat candy bar at the last minute, it's probably best to hold off if it's not within your means. David's Bridal and other websites offer online budget trackers and wedding finance widgets, which can help couples strategize and keep a close watch on their spending. This is just one way to avoid overspending on the big day.
And even if you think everything is all set for the nuptials, you still want to call and confirm any last details.
"A check-in about a month ahead of time is a really good idea," said Winikka. "You're going to hire vendors throughout the whole process. Just confirm all the little details with them. To avoid wedding day-of things, you really want to think about distributing the contact list. Make sure everyone knows how to get a hold of everyone else. For example, have your bridal party make sure they have the contact list with them."
If you're having an outdoor wedding, back-up plans should be in place early on -- and you may want your guests to be in the know.
"A rain plan should definitely be provided on the [wedding] website," said Winikka. "If there's a plan B and it doesn't happen to be in the same location as plan A, that should definitely be included -- and maybe even in the invitation. For really bad weather, I've heard of some people creating phone trees -- having one friend be in charge of calling two other friends, or sending a mass text message."
It's not uncommon for brides and grooms to worry about how their guests will get along, or just the overall welfare of everyone involved. But stressing over crazy Uncle Bob's drama is the last thing you should be doing on your wedding day.
"Assign a mediator -- not an official mediator -- but assign person whose perhaps really good with that person and their drama," suggested Winikka. "Ask a person ahead of time if they would be willing to keep an eye on them throughout the wedding weekend, so you just have peace of mind."
Even if you plan very far in advance, there's always a chance of a photographer, DJ or another vendor canceling in the days leading up to -- or even worse -- on the day of the reception. If that ends up happening, Winikka suggests going to one of your most trusted vendors first.
"Ask if they have a day-of recommendation because they know each other. Photographer know DJs. They're the ones who can help save the day," she said. "If they're not booked, then then they can help bring in someone really quickly," she said.
You'll also want to have an emergency kit on hand for the big day, filled with stain remover, a small sewing kit, safety pins, extra earring backs, hair pins, aspirin, eye drops and chalk to cover up any smudges on your dress.
In the end, though, some disasters are unpredictable (others just plain unavoidable) even how much you plan ahead. So don't sweat the small stuff. Really.
"Remind yourself of how you felt when you first got engaged. Remind yourself of what it was that was so important then. And those things will still hold true on your wedding day. That can help you keep it in perspective," said Winikka.