When I’m in a social setting and I tell people that I officiate weddings, inevitably, they will ask, “So, what was the worst thing that happened at a wedding?” And they ALWAYS ask the question with a glint in their eyes!
Recently, just for the heck of it, I jotted down a list of the more memorable things that have gone wrong at my weddings over the years. I’ve been fortunate, or rather, my couples have been fortunate that no one of these “disasters” was worthy of going viral. However, each and all gave a signature, “wack-a-do” moment to the ceremony. And with each memory there’s a lesson learned.
Here are my Top 10 “What The?!” Wedding Moments
- The longest reading I ever heard in a ceremony was three pages, single-spaced. The bride’s sister wrote a reflection entitled, “What Is A Marriage.” The ceremony took place on a summer’s day at a venue that had no trees and no shade. None. It was near 100-degrees. The bride’s make-up ran; the groom swayed; and the sister kept on reading. Oh, and I later learned that the sister had recently gone through a nasty divorce. This was her idea of group therapy!
- The bride asked her married sister to be matron-of-honor and her single sister to be maid-of-honor. I didn’t think it mattered who signed the license as a witness and so I asked the first sister I found – the matron-of-honor. On the drive home I got a call from the bride’s mother demanding to know why I had asked her married daughter to sign when “everyone” knew the single sister was supposed to sign. The mother screamed at me, accusing me of having ruined the day for her daughter – no, not the daughter who was the bride – the daughter who was the matron-of-honor! She told me she was sobbing at the reception.
- Two hours before the start of the ceremony, the maid-of-honor got into a verbal fighting match with the bride and accused her of being an alcoholic and “white trash.” She then drove off to parts unknown – with one of the groomsmen!
- While it’s traditional for the mothers to sit on the aisle seats of the front rows, this bride’s step-mom decided she wanted to take that seat and so plopped herself down before the Processional. She refused to move. The bride’s mother refused to sit anywhere other than the first seat of the first row. The ceremony was delayed a solid half-hour. I eventually coaxed the step-mom into moving. I won’t print what I said to her, but keep in mind that my father had been a cop and my grandmother a prison guard!
- At the end of the ceremony, after I pronounced the couple married and they kissed, they and their wedding party were supposed to release butterflies. They opened the boxes and – most of the butterflies were dead and the rest wouldn’t fly away. I thought it was a disaster, but the guests laughed and finally the bride’s butterfly flew off. She smugly smiled, kissed her groom again and whispered, “Follow me” and off they went up the aisle.
- The rings were tied on a white silk pillow that was held by the bride’s four-year-old nephew. At the appropriate time, I called the boy up and he handed the pillow to the Best Man. I then pulled on the string holding one ring and it easily slipped off. I then pulled on the string holding the other ring and – it pulled into a tight knot. I couldn’t undo the knot. The Best Man couldn’t undo the knot. The groom couldn’t undo the knot. The bride couldn’t undo the knot. Everyone smiled, not sure if this was a gag. Finally, the photographer whipped out his penknife and cut the ribbon, freeing the ring!
- The mother of the groom did not like her future daughter-in-law. To her credit, she had told both her son and his fiancée that she didn’t like her! To the couple’s credit, they invited her AND the groom told his mother that he would not tolerate her pulling any stunts. His mother assured him that she wouldn’t. However, ten minutes before ceremony’s start, she began to cry and the crying turned into wailing. She sobbed so hard (because he was marrying “that one”) that the ceremony was delayed 25-minutes until she could compose herself.
- Then there was the Armenian dad who was devastated that his daughter was marrying a man who was not Armenian. Two weeks before the wedding, he called and pleaded with me not to officiate the wedding. He said, “It will kill me if my daughter marries this man!” It was when he told me that he’d rather see her dead than married to her fiancé that I grew alarmed. The couple hired security and it’s the only wedding I officiated where I kept wondering if I was going to show up on the local Ten O’clock News! The bride’s father (and mother) boycotted the wedding and I still don’t know if I “killed” the man!
- My second all-time favorite mother story is the mother whose son did not invite her to the wedding. He had a strained relationship with his mother and feared she’d do something to ruin his day. She showed up at the church just as I was asking the question, “Who presents this woman. . .?” Suddenly, standing in the church’s doorway, in the shadows, yet backlit by the sun, stood the groom’s mother. She said nothing. She did nothing. She simply stood there throughout the ceremony. Wonderfully dramatic – and creepy!
- And now for my #1 favorite mother story. . .the bride and groom had been together five years and were great partners. Towards the end of their ceremony the bride’s mother stood up and walked towards me. Puzzled, I walked over to her and in a voice only I could hear, she said these immortal words: “Do not pronounce them husband and wife, I have reservations.” Beyond stunned, I smiled and said to her: “The only reservation you better have is for dinner.” I raced back to the couple and quickly pronounced them husband & wife. After the ceremony, I found the bride and as I gave her a big hug, she sheepishly said: “I guess I forgot to tell you about my mother.” Duh!
What did I learn from all this?
Weddings can be wacky and unpredictable – and I can never be too prepared. I have to be the rock for a couple and for their families and guests.
While each of the above-mentioned ten couples experienced some disappointment, annoyance, concern and puzzlement, not one of them allowed any mishap or moment of melodrama to rain on the joy of their day BECAUSE each couple decided their joy was stronger than anger.
Nothing can ruin your day unless you choose to make it ruin your day.
In the face of potential disaster, you have only three options:
You might end up doing all three – just make sure you end with the laughter!
If you want more tips on how to communicate in smart, healthy ways with your partner – during wedding planning and beyond –
check out my book,
How To Plan Your Wedding AND Stay Sane!
Treat you and your partner to a communications coaching session with me.