While the world has been overwhelmed with the effects of COVID-19, the event industry has been working hard this last week to pick up the pieces. It reminded me that while we work hard to make a wedding day appear seamless and as if you were in a wonderful dream, what it takes to get there or what is happening behind-the-scenes rarely matches what the guest sees.
You can attend trainings, you can read books and blogs, you can watch webinars, and you can get on-hands experience with other planners, but when you are leading a wedding, it all comes down to you. Only two years into my career as a wedding planner, I faced a wedding day crisis that no book could prepare me for. It was a beautiful October afternoon. The deck on the 28th floor of the building in Midtown Atlanta provided the perfect backdrop for a flawless ceremony. Cocktails had been enjoyed, pictures were taken, and everyone was seated for dinner. This is typically the moment in which planners can breathe for just a moment. I had finished my walkthrough of the cocktail area to see what personal items needed to be collected when I hear the fire alarm go off. As I am headed back into the reception space, a chef is coming out of the venue’s kitchen putting on a fire marshal vest. He notifies me that we must evacuate the guests as a small fire has broken out of the 16th floor of the building.
This was it – the moment that would separate me from novice level and put me in expert level. How I handled the next 15 minutes could alter my career path. Approaching the DJ, I asked him to announce to our guests that we would in fact need to evacuate in a calm and collected fashion. I collected the bride and began to escort her to the stairs. The guests began to follow with the groom and my assistant bringing up the rear. All 120 guests were following myself and the bride down those 28 flights of stairs. As we descended, a plan began to form. I decided to assume we would not make it back into the building and would need an alternative reception location. Luckily, the couple had selected the hotel next door as a room block hotel. By the time we reached the street, I was ready to take action.
I led the guests to the lobby of the hotel and encouraged them to find a seat in the bar/lounge area. I approached the front desk and asked to speak to the manager on duty. It was time to put on my biggest smile as this was not likely to be an ask he wanted to hear. When he arrived, I explained the situation and asked if their onsite ballroom was open for the evening. Unfortunately, the ballroom was still in use as the Real Housewives of Atlanta has been filming a baby shower inside. He said they would be clear within a half hour and the ballroom could be ours. I asked him to fire up some appetizers to serve to the guests and began to research local pizza places to see who could get us a ton of pizza within the next hour. My assistant and I began to check on guests and vendors to make sure everyone was hydrated and doing ok (especially the groomsman who helped to carry Grandma down the stairs and the photo/video team who had carried all of their equipment out of the building). Everyone was accounted for, and impressively, everyone had a smile on their face.
About 45 minutes later, at the same time the hotel ballroom opened up, the fire department declared the building safe and we began escorting guests to the elevators of the venue to return to the reception. The chefs were still able to complete dinner preparations, guests ate a delicious meal, and the venue and vendors all agreed to extend their contracts an hour to make up for our lost hour of adventure. Looking back on photos from that day, you would never know that any of this had happened.
The moment I exited the fire escape stairs with a plan in place to feed 120 people and give the couple the dance party they were hoping for was the moment that separated me from the pack. Even though the full plan did not have to take effect, I was ready. And that’s how I approach every situation within the planning process. Life around you does not stop when you are planning a major event – and that has never been more apparent than it is now for couples all over the world who were hoping to have spring weddings. And that’s where I come in. I am ready to provide that peace of mind and give my clients the wedding they have been dreaming of. Whether you are a current client in need of some extra guidance during this uncertain time, or a couple who has questions about their 2021 wedding, we are here to help. Wedding Belles wants to provide you with certainty during this uncertain time.
Curious about how we can assist you? Click here to schedule a complimentary call today and let us provide you with the expertise you need to have a seamless and stress-free wedding planning process.