As a wedding coordinator we always want to keep everything positive and lighthearted. While we focus on the budget friendly alternatives, the special details to make the day flow better and offer advice to avoid certain situations. Here’s the story several vendors and clients have asked about… what is the worst thing that has ever happened during a wedding?
“911 what’s your emergency? Hi my name is Jennifer, and I’m the wedding coordinator and one of the property’s site managers and we have a guest that is laying on the ground unconscious due to alcohol consumption.” This happened to me several years ago and I relive this moment every time one of my clients requests a full open bar with a company I’ve never worked with at their wedding. The venue I worked for already had rules in place for no kegs & no doubles or shots to be poured at the bar due to a fight that had broken out during one of their first years being open. As always, I had spoken with the catering staff and bartenders to remind them no doubles or shots were to be served throughout the evening. It wasn’t until this incident did we learn that one of the bartenders had been serving a few gentleman double jack and cokes all night long but what the bartender didn’t know is ALL of those double jack and cokes were going to the same "favorite uncle" of the bride. About three hours into the reception, I was asked for a trashcan and mop due to a guest might be getting sick. Our staff quickly sprang into action retrieving cleaning supplies to invest the situation. I can remember it like it was yesterday… I approached a large male (over 350 lbs) hunched over his seat with his head laying on the guest table. I noticed he was covered in sweat and he seemed to be going in and out of consciousness. Luckily, there were a few EMTs onsite and they quickly accessed the situation. The family wanted to take him home so that wedding reception could continue. As they began to move him, he collapsed onto the patio floor, they got him up once more and he collapsed again that’s when I quickly responded by letting the family know I was calling an Ambulance. After fighting off a few if the family members (because they didn’t want to get into trouble or have him go to the hospital) I called 911. The ambulance arrived and for the next 24 hours the favorite uncle spent Easter Sunday weekend in the hospital getting his stomach pumped to save his life. He is doing well now, but after that moment there was no way to finish the event with a happy fairy tale ending. That bride left in tears and her dream wedding was ruined because a vendor disrespected the venue’s rules and regulations.
I vowed right there to use this as a life lesson and to never have another bride’s day ruined because of overserving. That’s why I still have the portion in my contract that states no doubles or shots shall be served if liquor is present. My contract states that I have final say in the bar and that I have the right to cut any guest off that may need it. The biggest element in my contract states no vendor shall drink while preforming any services contracted for the event date. Professional vendors should never drink while they are under contract. They should remain focus at the task at hand, plus if anything was to go wrong, we as vendors are liable. There are reasons why I require additional event insurance and encourage my couples to only hired professionally insured & certified vendors. I also have distanced myself from venues and vendors that encouraging over drinking and/or create ways to keep my client happy (only allow beer and wine or have them hire professional companies like Bartending Unlimited at certain venues or working with certain vendors).
No one wants the belligerent and loud guest to overtake the dance floor without their shirt on or wants to request the removal of the intoxicated bridesmaid from trying to help the couple cut their cake. There isn’t a venue site manager or catering staff that wants to clean up after a guest has vomited (if they even make it to the restroom). Most venues will retain your full security deposit if vomiting occurs or if damages are caused by intoxicated guests.
As a wedding coordinator, I could write a book from the stories I’ve heard from venues, catering staff members and other coordinators from around the world. We’ve found mini bottles at dry weddings (which scares me because we are not controlling the servings), I’ve found vomit under a guest table before, I’ve even heard when the catering staff removed table linens they found a gentleman asleep under a table... One of my consulting friends has seen her bride carried out because she could no longer walk. No couple wants to spend their honeymoon hungover. Some people may think these stories are funny and laugh but remember the amount to time and money spent planning this amazing day ruined by a few guests. Now most of these stories come from my younger years of event planning but every year we as professionals learn more and more. And now more than ever, I surround myself with professionals that have the same beliefs and passion to create memories to last a lifetime without jeopardizing our client’s well-being. We would like to offer a few tips and advice to help you control your guests and still have fun!
· Hire 1 professional bartender per every 70 guests when only beer and wine is being served. Hire 2 per 70 guests if liquor is present. No one wants to wait for alcohol and these professionals are trained to count drinks and to spring into action if someone isn’t used to drinking on a hot summer afternoon.
· Offer several fun beverage stations throughout the day. Bring snacks and a cooler of water, Gatorade, juices and sodas for your wedding party as you get ready. Have a separate cooler of beverages and snacks for all of your vendors to have access as they are setting up for your event. Offer bins of bottled water during pre-ceremony photos for wedding party and family members. Have your catering staff offer lemonade or at least ice water during outdoor ceremonies (this allows your guests to hydrate prior to your cocktail hour). Make sure to have non-alcoholic beverage (lemonade or punch) stations during cocktail hour (some “drop off” catering companies only supply enough tea for the meal). Offer coffee and hot chocolate during cooler months with cake. Another great and easy party favor is to offer water bottles with your monogram for guests to take as they leave (guests will appreciate the rehydration on the way to the hotel or home).
· Don’t pre-game with your wedding party. I know it sounds like fun to drink the night prior or all day with family and friends but your wedding day should be looked at as marathon not a sprint. The ceremony is legal binding contract that is a BEAUTIFUL emotional moment between two people and shouldn’t be looked at lightly. Your wedding party shouldn’t “ping-pong” down the aisle or be the “life of the party” all night, because if they are either of those they are probably not going to see the end of the event. Your wedding party should set an example by NOT walking around with a drink in each hand. They are there to help make memories with you not take the spotlight off of you. They should be the ones staying after to help your parents load gifts and personal belongings.
· Limit alcohol selections at the bar or if you are going to offer a signature drink; have your bartenders pre-make & LABEL contains XYZ alcohol. This way your guests won’t see liquor bottles and ask for other mixed drinks. Make cute signs for the bar letting your guests know what their selections are and/or types of wine, beer and names of signature drinks. Signature drinks will have your guests talking so be creative!
· Offer more than just peanuts at your cocktail hour. Offer 2-3 passed hors d’oeuvres while you are busy taking photos with family and the wedding party (make sure those get to them too). Save the fruit and cheese display for later in the evening and serve it with the cake/dessert. Even better, offer late night snacks (mini grilled cheese, sliders, or late night breakfast bar) because everyone is always hungry after a night of partying.
· Provide a shuttle service to and from the hotel you have room blocks. 14 passenger vans are not that expensive and your guests will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
· Provide a picture frame in each restroom with local taxi cab and/or safe ride contact information. Guests can take the information discretely.
Unfortunately, alcohol will effect each and every one of your guests differently. It will depend on if they are a man or a woman, if they drink on regular basis, their age and health along with their family history. Are you going to know each of your guests’ drinking habits…NO but you can help control the evening by following the above tips and have strong conversations with all of your vendors and venue to let them know the expectations of the type of event you want to host. Remember you are hiring each of them, so make sure they have a clear idea of their job description and your anticipations.
Remember although it’s a private party, the bartending and catering staff has the right to card/ID each and every guest to insure proper drinking age. They have the right to choose not to serve any guest that appears to be over intoxicated. Beware of local rules and regulations on cash bars. We recommend speaking with Contonna Peterson with Bartending Unlimited about any questions, comments, concerns involving alcohol. ALE laws requires all alcohol to stop being served 30 minutes prior to an establishment from closing (end of your event or your exit). We encourage to use this rule for private parties also to allow your guests to know the party is winding down and the bar is closed.
Although I am a certified mixologist and have been a professional bartender for over 15 years, I am not an expert on the subject but I am very experienced in the subject matter. I wanted to share my story not only to my clients but to my students and vendor industry friends. I am passionate about event planning and coordinating weddings and I am completely aware that every weekend is a blessing but I am also always on my “A GAME” watching an average of 150 guests because my clients trusted me to watch over their family and friends and to keep them safe. I am responsible for each guest, vendor and my staff during an event. So for the vendors and clients that think my rules are harsh… safety first because I can’t bring back a loved one from an accident. I try and teach my students and staff to stand up for their beliefs because at some point and time they will be questioned; and it’s how they handle that situation that will show their true character. Professional vendors will applauded & request to work with them again and clients will thank them because they did the job they were hired to do. Be safe and follow our Facebook Fanpage to see fun signature drinks and free tips of the day to create memories that will last a lifetime. #CHEERS