Diary of a Wedding Planner

A behind-the-scenes look at a wedding day—from the planner’s perspective

Planning, primping, and problem solving: all things a wedding planner does so that you can waltz down the aisle stress-free. But what exactly does a wedding planner do? Ivy Robinson of Ivy Robinson Weddings & Events shares a snapshot of the behind-the-scenes action: a look at a wedding day—after months of planning and hard work—from the wedding planner’s perspective.


The Wedding: April 21, 2012; The Umstead Hotel- Cary, North Carolina

The Crew: Ivy Robinson, wedding planner; Alex Friedrich, director of operations; Aubre Vaughn, graphic designer


After spending the previous nineteen-hour day coordinating details for the big day and managing the rehearsal and related events, including overseeing the set-up of the tent and the installation of a custom chandelier that was built on-site, as well as countless conversations with the florist, rental companies, bride, groom, musicians, and more, Robinson expects the wedding day to go off without a hitch. It does … mostly.


7:30 a.m.: The hotel’s wake-up call rings. Moments later, the alarm on my phone goes off. I snooze for ten more minutes.


8 a.m.: Head downstairs to the main ballroom. It’s time to meet the lighting professional to spotlight the tables and coordinate furniture delivery. I start placing tables and stations in the room.


8:30 a.m.: Alex and I grab a quick coffee and breakfast (to go) to start the day. I know if I don’t have my triple-shot skinny latte, it won’t be pretty—and I know this will be my first and last meal of the day. As I’m chugging my coffee, the rental company calls: they’ll be late because they made a wrong turn.


9 a.m.: The ballroom doors that lead to the tent outside won’t open—the tent has been installed too close to the building. Alex, the rental guys, and I push the tent six inches farther from the building so that the doors will open.


10:30 a.m.: Event planning interns arrive and start making paper cones with personalized logo stickers on them to hold french fries during the reception. The furniture has been unpacked, but some of the chairs are the wrong color. I spend a few minutes begging the rental company employees to swap them out for more ghost chairs (clear acrylic), which they agree to do. Meanwhile, the photo-booth guy arrives and we find a place for him to set up—inside instead of outside as planned because there’s a chance of rain.


12 p.m.: As I’m directing the placement of the ceremony chairs, the bride calls me to her room, where she’s dining on mac and cheese, cheeseburgers, and french fries with her bridesmaids. They have leftovers, which we share with the guys from the rental company.


1 p.m.: The event that had been taking place in the hotel’s salon concludes, so we have three hours to completely flip the room, including flooring, the stage, lounge furniture, and putting up a pipe-and-drape backdrop. The DJs arrive and begin to set up. Meanwhile, as Alex and I are trying to separate stacks of acrylic barstools, I scrape the top layer of skin off three of my fingers—they won’t stop bleeding! I snag a Band-Aid from the florist and drink a little OJ to keep from fainting (I don’t do well with blood).


1:30 p.m.: Sarah Gaskill, the ceremony director, arrives. I walk through everything with her.


2:30 p.m.: The band arrives and begins to unload and set up in the main ballroom.


4 p.m.: The ceremony musicians arrive, and we pull down large market umbrellas from the pool to cover them from the direct sunlight, just as I get a call that the stage is warped in one corner and the girls in the band might trip on it. I send one of the rental company guys back to the shop to grab more carpet, which will hopefully level out the stage to prevent anyone from tripping. The ice sculpture has been delivered, but the shrimp cocktail glasses we specially ordered to rest in it don’t fit in the holes.


4:30 p.m.: The groom calls in a panic—his son just broke his boutonniere. Thankfully, we have an extra. Guests begin to arrive.


4:35 p.m.: One of the groomsmen pulls me aside to show me the storm he’s tracking on his phone. It’s going to roll right over our ceremony. I get on the radio and ask my contact at The Umstead to bring down a hundred white umbrellas.


4:40 p.m.: It starts to sprinkle. Guests that had already been seated come indoors. We shift everyone into the lobby area, while the musicians pack up and run for cover and the groomsmen grab the letterpressed programs on each seat. At the same time, I get a text that the soloist for the ceremony is throwing up, so we switch out the music. When the groom calls to ask if it’s raining, I tell him just a little “drizzle” (I do not want to lose the $500 I bet him that it wouldn’t rain on his wedding day).


4:50 p.m.: The drizzle stops, and we rush to dry off the chairs, reset the ceremony, and reseat the guests.


4:55 p.m.: The string quintet is back up and ready to play; the soloist says he is OK to sing.


5:10 p.m.: The processional begins. I’m waiting with the bride, who has to go to the bathroom. We laugh when I tell her she’s going to have to hold it! The jazz trio arrives on the terrace; I send an intern up to pay them and show them where to set up. The band finishes sound check.


6:15 p.m.: My fingers still won’t stop bleeding. I’m on the third round of Band-Aids. The guests are upstairs for cocktail hour; I’m with the wedding party overseeing the pictures.


7 p.m.: I get word from the videographer that they need more time to prepare a surprise that the groom has planned. I do my best to stall the wedding party.


7:45 p.m.: We’re all holding our breaths. The groom has arranged for a same-day edit of their wedding day by the videographer to play before their first dance, which is an extremely difficult feat. The screen is in place, the laptop is hooked up, we hit play … and it works! The video starts with the sun rising and follows both the bride and groom throughout the day, all the way through the end of the ceremony and finishes with them on the dance floor ready for their first dance. After the video starts, I run back to get the band and have them get in place. After the first dances, the screen is removed and the band is ready to rock. We all high-five: this is the most stressful part of the evening and the most important part to the groom, with whom I worked to plan the entire wedding.


8 p.m.: I sneak through the back of the house to finish setting up the lounge.


9:50 p.m.: I realize I haven’t heard from my dancers for the late-night portion of the evening. They are supposed to dance behind screens on either side of the DJs. I call and find out that they’re running late.


10 p.m.: The band finishes and the doors open to our South Beach–inspired nightclub with two DJs. We start without the dancers.


10:15 p.m.: The dancers arrive and are ready. The groom had debated between starting with the screen dancers or a five-minute Michael Jackson show, since the King of Pop is the bride’s favorite musician. I ask the DJs to give me a full MJ mix. I cue them, and one of the dancers, a Michael Jackson impersonator, enters doing all of Jackson’s signature moves. He dances with the bride and is a big hit.


11 p.m.: After a few slightly inebriated guests drop glasses on the dance floor, The Umstead supervisor insists that the bars close due to the safety hazard. Water and soft drinks are served.


11:15 p.m.: Late-night snacks are served.


11:30 p.m.: The groom’s best friends and I present him with a T-shirt that has a funny picture of him on it and the word “Bride” written underneath. Throughout the wedding planning process, he referred to himself as “Groomzilla.”


Midnight: The party shuts down an hour early, even though it was supposed to end at 1 a.m.


1:30 a.m.: Get back to my hotel room to check e-mail and work on the weddings for the next two weekends.


2:30 a.m.: Bedtime!

Categories: Planning, WeddingsDetails