Hurricane Survival

What happens when some marriages get off to a stormy start

Wedding planners try not to let hurricanes ruin the big day
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by Tim Smith

Even the best-laid plans can go awry when your wedding gets gatecrashed by a major storm.

But for Francine Trott and her niece Cyniqua Anderson at Just Dreams Events, coping with the unpredictability of hurricane season is all part of the job when they’re handling a couple’s special day.

With quick thinking, flexibility and a “third eye” for spotting things that might go wrong, the wedding planners have ensured numerous brides and grooms tied the knot happily in spite of everything the elements threw at them.

When a storm hits, Just Dreams Events tries to avoid simply cancelling the wedding—and instead makes the best of a difficult situation. “We try to emphasize postponing events and not cancelling them,” says Anderson, founder and owner of the business. “There’s always a solution for everything. I have been through so many situations now, everything is figure-out-able. There’s always someone I can call.”

Anderson has learned many of her skills from her aunt, who has planned more than 100 weddings over the past four decades. “She has a million tricks up her sleeve,” Anderson says.

“I have learned from her not to panic. If I panic, the bride panics, the groom panics, the rest of the wedding party panics, and once they all panic, it’s over! If I keep calm, the guests keep calm, the clients keep calm, and that helps everything go as smoothly as possible.”

The first task is to figure out whether the storm will make the wedding impossible for its planned location and time. Trott explains: “The first thing you check is the weather. How fast is this storm coming? Can I still have a wedding with wind and in between rain? Can we bring it under cover? If the winds are blowing very hard, then of course we have got to postpone it, because it’s a matter of safety now.”

Then the planners spring into action. “We sit down with the bride and groom and discuss what we need to do,” says Trott. “We talk about everyone that has been invited and how we can let them all know. Are they still able to come if the date is changed?” 

Notifying guests can be difficult. “Is it tearful? Yes! We try to assure them that nothing happens by chance,” Trott continues. “The day that you are getting married is the day you were supposed to get married. It’s going to be even better because it’s happening as it’s supposed to. It changes nothing. The important thing is you are getting married.”

If the wedding must be postponed, efforts are made to claw back costs. Anderson explains: “You pay for a lot of things well beforehand, like flowers, linen, wedding favours and bride and groom glasses. As planners, we receive deposits prior to the wedding day and put that towards our own costs, such as the vendors and florists. If a hurricane is coming, you have to consider which of these things are reusable. If you’ve already created menu cards for the table, you can just put them aside and save them for when the wedding goes ahead. You can’t do that with flowers or food though, so sometimes you can’t get your money back,” says Anderson. “We do try our best to alleviate the amount of money that gets lost.”

On one occasion two years ago, Anderson was able to offer a full refund. “They were coming to Bermuda from the East Coast of the United States to get married on Marley Beach,” she recalls.

“Everything was perfect a week before the wedding. It would have been beautiful. Then we saw we had a Category 5 coming our way.” 

So what happened? “We finally made a decision: it’s not going to work. They had already paid a deposit to me. It was not a whole big group—bride and groom and a few witnesses —and because it was going to be on the beach there hadn’t been a whole lot of preparation.”

The only serious expenditure was on flowers, but that was minimized because a local florist was able to sell them anyway. “I gave them a full refund because it wasn’t a whole bunch of costs on my end,” Anderson says.

Sometimes, the weather will not be bad enough to cancel or postpone the wedding, but will force a change of plan. Anderson recalls the time there was a sudden burst of torrential rain shortly before an outdoor wedding. “You think you have everything sorted, and then something like that happens, so it’s stressful,” she says. “We did the entire ceremony in the reception location. We moved the tables to create an aisle. We took all the cutlery off the head table and turned it into a makeshift altar.”

In the end, it worked out. “We got a lot of good feedback,” says Anderson. “They all knew they weren’t supposed to get married like that, but with the curveball we got thrown they understood we had to make those decisions. We had to do a lot of quick work to make sure it didn’t look like they were just getting married in front of a table.”

Trott says the planners try to bear the brunt of the stress. “The bride will be waiting for me to say it’s all done—she might have to feel the anxiety of ‘will this happen?’ But we are the ones that are really freaking out, trying to get this to work! Sometimes we get to do makeshift things, like change the venue. We have to find a truck to cart everything from this location to that location at the last minute. We might not have as many chairs as we need, or even enough space at the other venue,” she says. “I have been truly blessed with a third eye to see things other people can’t see. We have got to do it in a way that looks cohesive. How’s this going to work? That third eye has got to see how we can make it one whole thing.”

While some people find it very stressful, “the end result is what keeps me going for more and more,” says Trott. “There’s nothing like seeing that joy on people’s faces!”

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