We are proud to present our first guest blogger – Founder and owner of Sage and Time Designs, M. Shannon Hernandez. Shannon discusses her own perspective of hiring a wedding planner.
Two years ago, I was married on a cruise ship, departing from Tampa Bay, Florida. My husband and I desired a destination wedding for many reasons. First, our friends and family were scattered all over the United States, and having them travel to New York City was going to be very expensive when lodging and flights were taken into consideration. Second, we wanted a destination wedding somewhere warm, as we were getting married on February 14th, and that is typically a snowy, brutal season in NYC! Finally, we both wanted to spend quality time with the people we loved so much (We were at sea for 7 days.) and not feel rushed during the typical 3 or 4 hour reception.
One of the most appealing aspects of a destination wedding for me was knowing that I would have the assistance of a wedding planner on the cruise ship! It was exciting and relaxing to know that all the details would be handled for me, from miles away, right down until the time of the reception. While I love to plan projects from start to finish, I was looking forward to the luxury of having someone else take care of all the details for our wedding.
We arrived in Tampa Bay two days early and our guests began trickling into the hotel we had reserved. There was so much excitement in the air, and I remember squealing with delight when each new guest knocked on our door to let us know of their safe arrival. The first night we all went out on the town, had a few drinks, and danced to Cuban music, just enjoying the company of each other. The next day, in the afternoon, my mother and I went to a salon to get our nails done, and enjoy some mother-daughter time. As the final layer of polish was being applied to my toes, the cell phone rang. It was the ship’s wedding planner, and everything was about to change.
I was informed that the ship was stuck at sea and that its return to port would be delayed by at least 5 hours. We were to be married the next day at 1PM, but the time had now tentatively been moved to 7 PM. She informed me that she would be in contact when and if anything changed. At first, I must be honest–I was not upset. I was a little shocked, but not upset. However, as I relayed the information to my mom, a couple of things “hit” me:
1. Several of our guests (one being the best man!!) had flights that were leaving at 6 PM the next day, as they had to get back home to other obligations.
2. Hotel checkout was strictly enforced and was at 11 AM the following morning. What was everyone going to do with 8 hours of wait time?
As the day went on, the ship’s wedding planner did continue to call and update with information. I expressed my concern to her that our best man was going to have to miss the reception, to which she responded that there was nothing that could be done. She was not responsible for the ship’s delay. I also asked her if she had any advice as far as what to do with 40 people who were needing somewhere to go for an additional 6 hours of wait time. She didn’t have a suggestion for that either.
In the end, the hotel was more than generous and extended check out until 2 PM. At that point, we all gathered in the lobby, guests dressed in their wedding attire, and played cards and enjoyed each other’s company. I cried when 5 guests, including our best man, got into a taxi headed to the airport at 2 PM. The tickets could not be changed, and the ship was not willing to work with us on rebooking the flights or any other sort of compensation. (My husband and I spent 3 hours on the phone the previous day trying to find a solution.)
We made it to the port, and it was a beautiful day. The ship allowed up to 3 weddings on the boat, and the wedding planner was running around like crazy because she was responsible for ALL 3 weddings that were going to happen at 7 PM that evening, all in different locations on the huge ship! She greeted me (This was the first time we had met.), tried to console me when I became upset about the 5 people that had headed to the airport, then rushed off to the next bridal party.
We boarded the boat at 5:30 PM and were given two rooms–the men in one, the ladies in the other, to get dressed. The tuxedos were in my room, by mistake, so my maid of honor traveled the corridors of the ship looking for the men’s room so they could get dressed. One shoe had not been packed into the tuxedo rental, and no one had caught the mistake. Little did I know at the time (thank goodness), that the men were in their rooms going through luggage trying to find a pair of shoes that would work as a substitute.
Thinking we had 1.5 hours until our wedding, the ladies were taking our time. My sister had gone to get me a plate of food, because I was starving, when all of a sudden, the wedding planner knocked on my cabin door and said, “The captain has informed us he needs to set sail, the wedding will now be at 6 PM. You have 15 minutes.” I was FLOORED. My makeup wasn’t done, I was hot and sweaty from sitting in the Tampa heat waiting to board the ship, and I needed a few minutes to decompress in the air conditioner and grab a bite to eat. I sponged off quickly, put the food aside, and shoved myself into the dress, trying to apply makeup with shaky hands. At 5:55 PM, the wedding planner came back to the room and said, “I told the captain 6 PM was not feasible for any of the brides, and your wedding time will now be 6:30 PM.” I remember looking her in the face and saying, “Please do not come back to this room until 6:25 PM to get me and walk me to the location”, and I politely shut the door.
In the end, our wedding was beautiful. Yes, we were rushed and frazzled and had to adapt to changing plans that we could not control. And yes some of our friends had to fly home early. And the chain of events leading up to the wedding has certainly left us with many unique memories we can now laugh about. Despite all of these mishaps, we had a wonderful time sailing the seas for 7 days with our closest friends and family.
Why did all these things happen? I had a wedding planner right? Well, not exactly, The cruise ship had a wedding planner. I learned a big lesson this day in the world of wedding and event planning: If you want a calm and stress free event, it is best to hire your OWN wedding planner, because the wedding planner at the venue doesn’t have your best interests, concerns, or needs in mind. If only I had known this before…
M. Shannon Hernandez, owner and designer of Sage & Time Designs, is a stationery designer in Brooklyn, New York. She works closely with clients and event planners across the United States to design handcrafted and custom stationery for their personal and social lives. All products are handcrafted and designed specifically for each client, ensuring truly unique and customized products which help set the tone for the important events in our lives. You can learn more about Shannon on the Sage & Time Designs blog, on Facebook at Sage & Time Designs, and Twitter @SageTimeDesigns.