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Sidestep wedding disasters with this generous dose of advice from local experts who’ve been there, fixed that
Illustration by Rebecca Hahn It’s not uncommon for skyscraper-like cakes to be “dummy” cakes, as bakers call them. Because the weight of actual cake would be too heavy to stand so tall (especially during warm months), bakers decorate Styrofoam sculptures instead, and plate up slices of sheet cake to serve.FIASCO: Cake-tastrophe! The leaning tower of buttercream and luscious cake layers hits the reception floor the second the bride and groom slice it. It’s not uncommon for skyscraper-like cakes to be “dummy” cakes, as bakers call them. Because the weight of actual cake would be too heavy to stand so tall (especially during warm months), bakers decorate Styrofoam sculptures instead, and plate up slices of sheet cake to serve. But Tanya Gurrieri of Good Food Catering experienced the dreaded cake collapse nonetheless. At one wedding, the dummy tower threatened to fall, so she ushered the bride and groom to cut its one true bottom layer right away. As soon as the knife touched the confection, though, it was all over—the table, the floor, even the window. Good Food’s service staff sprung into action to clear away the faux layers and fondant. But since they were already prepared to serve sheet cake, the only issue, says Tanya, “was convincing the guests that their cake was not the one they saw hit the floor.” Her advice: Make sure even the dummy cake is solid, and that you always have a sweet back-up plan. FIASCO: The floral arrangements you requested look nothing like what arrived at the ceremony, plus the bouquets already look wilted and some are so huge they can’t bear the summer breezes. Annie Mueller of Charleston’s A New Leaf Studio recommends you show florists photos of arrangements you like and ask for examples of their work (even request a sample bouquet or centerpiece). Beyond that, be specific: What is blue to one person may look positively purple to another, and terms such as loose, organic, or formal can mean different things to different people, too. She also advises brides to discuss wedding day logistics with florists. For example, Annie makes sure that summer bouquets are kept in water and refrigerated and that outdoor centerpieces are heavily weighted and low in height so as not to blow away in a strong breeze. And on the Big Day, she says, you should demand perfection; according to her, flowers should “look stunning, be fresh, and last through the wedding and reception, at the very least.” FIASCO: Your outdoor ceremony will take place just as the sun goes down over the river. But as the sun hangs low in the sky, the clouds roll in. It’s not raining, but it’s almost totally dark and you need to do group photos under the oak canopy. Jim Gund of Jim Gund Photography says years of shooting for USA Today and Sports Illustrated taught him to take most every bit of equipment but the kitchen sink along when he photographs a wedding. “You should see me when I get ready for a wedding shoot,” he laughs. “I’m out there wearing a fanny pack full of all kinds of equipment and an assortment of lenses around my neck.” His pack-mule attitude means that in the dark, clouded case mentioned above, he had an extra light, softbox, and battery pack to illuminate the bridal party. So while there’s really no way to stop a summer squall from clouding over your perfectly planned photos, ask your photographer to heed Jim’s version of that sage Boy Scout motto: Be prepared—be very prepared. FIASCO: Your sweet little great aunt Tillie says it would be her absolute fondest dream to make your wedding cake for your Big Day. You just can’t disappoint her by saying no, but you’re just not sure she will get it done. Lynn Smith of SweetSmith Bakery has seen this dilemma played out many times over and has been enlisted to make what she calls “rescue cakes” at the eleventh hour when the “friend” has come up short. But there’s never any guarantee that she—or any other baker—can accommodate such last-minute orders. So while having volunteers help out with your wedding is a wonderful way to have a beautiful event on a small budget, make absolute sure that they can handle the task at hand. Or sidestep the issue altogether and kindly advise any relative who wants to tackle a “big” thing that you’d rather they relax and enjoy the wedding day festivities instead of doing work. Or you might suggest that they contribute a non-essential, like an hors d'oeuvres or even a special bottle of champagne. FIASCO: A tropical storm blows through the city and wipes out everyone’s electricity. Wedding ruined? Not a chance, according to event designer Kelly Sofia Covert of Sofia Covert Weddings. Last year, she recounts, a tropical storm blew through Charleston, as they’re apt to do here. Electricity was wiped out, but Kelly had been watching the weather report, so while the hotel was wrapped in darkness, her bride and groom and their contented guests were enjoying music and candlelight. That’s because Kelly had brought four cases of candles and made sure the DJ had a backup battery pack. In the end, what could have been a (natural) disaster turned into an enchanted evening for her happy couple. “It was really very romantic,” says Kelly.