Push and Pull on a Wedding Day: An Example of Dealing with Crisis
Behind the Scenes Story and Image by Andrea Eppolito
Every event I produce has something that needs to be managed behind the scenes that can negatively effect the outcome of the day. As my weddings have become more elaborate and opulent, those things tend to take place in the design and set up of the day rather than in the flow. It’s more about installation and outcome than it is about something that someone has done, and yet the process deeply alters how everyone in the room will feel for the duration of the day.
Many times we talk about the importance of having a professional wedding planner and what we do. There is a large focus on event design, timelines, vendor selection, etc. We touch on crisis management and problem solving, but rarely dig too far into it because no one want to start a relationship talking about problems. But the problems and overcoming them are where the work is, and the ability to work through them is what makes our events great.
I produced a stunning City of Oz styled wedding at ARIA Las Vegas. The Primrose Ballroom was covered from wall to wall in green grass turf. That’s over 21,000 square feet! We had drape on top of drape, custom trees, beautiful chairs, these insane glass and mirror topped tables…
Which is where things got a little dicey. First, I could not find the owner of my rental company, which is unheard of because he is incredibly diligent and very present. It turns out that the elevator was broken with the team and many of our pieces inside. That elevator issue put our load in on stop for a full three hours. Once we opened the box, we had to unload all of the inventory, load it back onto the truck, and then begin the process all over again at a dock 2.5 miles away. The entire order needed to be hand pushed from one side of the building to the other, carried up the stairs, and ultimately then reset; costing us another 3 hours. As we watched the space come to life, layer upon layer, it came to light that 16 of our 24 custom mirror top tables were broken in the move.
In times like this, it’s important to understand two things: where you can push, and where you can pull.
Where you can push is what you can do to massage a timeline. What can go down in place of the tables? How can we deploy resources with the team to shift the to do list, and actually make headway during those 6 hours. In this particular situation, we were able to finish the turf, set the chairs, build the tables (minus the glass tops), and lay out the florals so that we could put them up as soon as the glass top tables were replaced. Essentially, we were able to do prep work, and to spend time buttoning up the little things that can sometimes get missed. You see, when you have forced downtime, it is easy to wallow in stress. Instead, we channel it into the details. We think “what if” instead of “how come” and we create unique solutions and design elements to problems that previously did not exist. Beyond the details and the prep work, we used our time to be in the space and feel it. Just like when you move into a new house, you need to feel the energy of a room; it will tell you what it needs! This room needed an adjustment made to the length of the chandeliers, a slightly wider entry way, and white light in the entry hallway to create a pattern on top of the ceiling. All of these things are done on the fly with the intention of just moving the needle forward. It’s always about pushing through and getting to the next sapce.
The harder thing is to know from where you can pull. Pulling means that you create something where there was nothing. You manifest it; quite literally pulling something out of thin air. For some, that means you pull labor, for others it means you create experiences. In this case, we needed to create a replacement for the broken mirror topped tables. But how? This is where the ability to pull comes from.
I really want to impress the urgency and the reality of this situation. The time delay and the elevator issue meant that we didn’t see this problem until 10 AM on Saturday with a start time of 6:30 PM. In a situation like this, you are grasping for answers. We could have used the back up tables, but those were not to brand standards. We tried to tried to trick the eye and use a vinyl wrap. Once the tables were fully set with chargers and florals the surface area was fairly covered. For the guests and the client, they would have worked. For me, they didn’t. I wasn’t happy because the vinyl dulled the sparkle of the room. The only way to effectively create the look and feel that my clients deserved was to have the table tops recreated and cut from scratch. We started to call around to other vendors and rental companies, but no one had these pieces in inventory. Next, we moved to see if anyone in the design world had large pieces of plexi glass that we could cut, as we had a cutter on hand. Sadly, no one did. After exhausting all of the opportunities to take care of this within our industry, I got creative and started to call real estate contacts and home builders. These types of retailers are closed on Saturdays, but after about 45 minutes I found one company that was opened and working on a special project. While they didn’t have what I needed in stock, they did have a wholesale license. From there we identified a glass and mirror company that owned the pieces we needed. Company number one was able to buy the pieces from Company number two and use their own team of laborer to cut it for us. We got it done in less than 4 hours.
Push and pull. Fault vs responsibility. What I was able to push on the timeline, and what I was able to pull through my contacts and relationships. No fault in that no one did anything to cause the breakage, and yet everyone took responsibility in getting it fixed.
Sharing my experiences here has become important to me, because I want my clients to understand what truly happens behind the scenes, and I want them to respect why I chose certain vendors and bring them onto the team. For the industry, I want to encourage other planners and partners to consider how we work together in order to create these experiences for our clients.
The experience my clients and their guests have is a testament to the work we do together, and I look forward to sharing more behind the scenes stories with you so that we are constantly moving the needle forward and doing better business with (and for) one another.