10 Major Wedding Fails That Really Happened

Considering the time, energy, stress, and (borderline absurd) amount of money that goes into a wedding, it’s understandable that brides and grooms want every detail to be just right. Yet, as anyone who’s experienced wedding planning firsthand can attest, the quicker you can brush it off if anything does go wrong — and, rest assured, no matter how much you plan or pray, something always does — the more you’ll enjoy the day you worked so hard to create.

Of course, for future marrying couples, it can also help to learn from others’ mistakes or misfortunes. Ahead, top wedding professionals share some of the most egregious (yet also completely avoidable) nuptial gaffes they’ve witnessed, and offer advice on how to avoid them on your own big day.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Dessert Disasters
Although a creative dessert display can bring a major wow factor to your wedding, beware of bringing it out too soon, caution wedding and event planners Jennifer Arreguin and Natasha Burton of Swoon California. At one wedding, guests began swiping treats from the cupcake display during the cocktail hour, causing a problem later on when it came time to cut the token cake and serve the cupcakes as dessert.

Another piece of advice: If your wedding cake will be stationed outdoors, avoid buttercream (or refrigerate it for as long as possible before the grand reveal). "We watched flowers slide down the side of the cake — as it baked in the sun on the cake table — before one wedding we went to even started,” Burton recalls.

Speaking of the cake’s location, make sure it's delivered to the right floor if it’s a multi-level venue, says Viva Max Kaley, a New York-based wedding planner and creator of Viva Max Weddings. In one instance, after the deliverer placed the cake on the wrong floor, Kaley and her staff had to move it down the stairs for the ceremonial cutting. This proved quite difficult, thanks to guests talking, drinking, dancing, and generally blocking their path. The cake did, in fact, get smudged, and required an emergency smooth-down.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Hora Horror
If you’re planning to do the hora at your reception, don’t wait too long into the night (and too deep into the open bar). Arreguin and Burton witnessed one groom do a full face-plant when the inebriated guests holding the chair grew overzealous and hoisted it a bit too high. Also, if you’re having a chuppah for the ceremony, don’t try to cut corners on the budget by doing it yourself (or if you do, make sure you know exactly how to construct it). Those DIY versions online may look simple enough to recreate, but celebrity wedding and event planner Danielle Rothweiler has watched too many chuppahs start to crumble midway through the ceremony. “It’s a wedding fail I have seen more times than I can remember,” she says.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Bathroom Beware
Be sure to double-check the restroom situation well beforehand, especially if your wedding is taking place in a historical setting. Arreguin and Burton once attended a ceremony that had only one single-stall bathroom (you can probably see where this is going). Not only did the toilet flood, the toilet paper also ran out. To avoid any washroom snafus, check with the venue beforehand to ensure it's well equipped with lavatory supplies. Also, if it is a single-stall bathroom, consider renting additional porta-potties just in case. You won't regret the additional expense.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Kissing Catastrophe
Those “first look” moments in a wedding ceremony are adorable, and this one was no exception — minus one small gaffe. Once the bride and groom kissed, the groom then got on his knee and kissed his bride’s pregnant belly. Unfortunately, he didn't realize that his wife's pink lipstick had transferred to his own lips, leaving a very pronounced pucker mark front and center on her dress, says Kaley. It's an honest mistake, but brides might want to think twice about their lipstick choice just in case some residual color remains on their spouse’s lips. Also, be sure you always have a stain remover handy just in case — those white dresses are like magnets to every discoloration imaginable.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Costume Changes
Before the big day, try on every item and accessory you plan on wearing to ensure that nothing is missing or needs to be altered, says Kaley, especially for weddings with more than one outfit change. One of the grooms she worked with was changing from his formal suit into a sherwani (a traditional Indian outfit) and realized, a bit too late, that his pants were missing a drawstring. In an effort to prevent a serious clothing malfunction, Kaley had to safety-pin the pants to his boxer shorts to keep them secure. Needless to say, the groom likely was more focused on keeping his drawers up rather than enjoying the reception.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Presiding Problems
Having a friend preside over your nuptials can certainly be a meaningful component of your ceremony — unless he doesn’t know what he’s doing and didn’t actually receive the proper certification. “I try and steer my clients away from this because they really need a seasoned and licensed professional in this position,” says Rothweiler. “However, sometimes I lose that battle, and in those cases things typically go wrong.” At one wedding, the friend officiating stumbled over the words, attempted to go off-script without having anything memorized, and even forgot to pronounce the couple husband and wife. And, as it turns out, they discovered after the fact that his ordination paperwork never even went through. “To this day, I have no idea if they are actually married or just had a wedding,” she says.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
DIY Debacles
From chalkboard welcome signs to DIY centerpieces, wedding ideas from Pinterest always seem great, and they certainly can be. But don’t let your pinspiration overshadow your guests’ comfort, says Kristen Ley Green of Something New for I Do. For example, at one rustic barnyard wedding, guests were left sweltering outside with zero shade, sitting atop hay bales in a field full of bugs. No matter how gorgeous those pictures were, the guests probably won’t remember it that way. “Styled shoots are often romanticized, and it's easy to get sucked in by the pretty details and ambiance,” says Green. “Pull off the rustic wedding look you want to achieve, but be realistic about what works stylistically and logistically.”
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Party Animals
As with children, animals can be a wild card at weddings. Alan Katz, a presiding officiant in Southern California with GreatOfficiants.com, can recount several instances in which animals caused things to go a bit haywire. At one wedding, a couple opened a box to commence a “butterfly release” — which would have been beautiful, were it not for the fact that the butterflies died in the box. At another wedding, the butterflies did survive, but when they were released, several of them landed in the bride’s hair and got stuck. And when another couple wanted to do a dove release to represent their love “spanning the sky,” one of the doves decided to take an unexpected bathroom break mid-air, over the guests. Bottom line: “Animals are very unpredictable, and I don’t recommend them,” says Katz.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
With This Ring
If there's any question as to whether the best man or maid of honor might forget to bring the rings, give them to your planner or hold onto them until right before the ceremony. At one wedding Katz presided over, the best man forgot the rings and didn't realize it until two minutes before the ceremony. Since it would have taken 40 minutes to get them, they needed another solution. Thankfully, Katz realized he had “practice rings” from another wedding rehearsal the night before — though they were ridiculously gaudy costume jewelry. The bride didn’t know the proper rings were MIA until the substitutes were revealed during the ceremony’s ring exchange — and, needless to say, she was pretty livid.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
DJ To The Rescue
Always, always, always read the lyrics of any song you ask your DJ to play. Even if the title seems to be clearly about love, make sure it’s about lasting love — especially if it’s the final song of the night. Green recalls one wedding when the couple stepped out to dance to their last song, “I Will Always Love You,” by Whitney Houston. Judging from the title, it seems wedding-appropriate, right? Not quite. Just take the lyric, “So goodbye, please don’t cry, we both know I’m not what you need,” and suddenly, the song is a pretty bad omen. “Thankfully, the DJ stopped the song and made a joke to save the moment,” says Green.
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