A local wedding planner in the Washington DC area, Tiffany at Simply Breathe Events, wrote to me with a horror story about how the wedding cake baker did not show at one of her recent weddings! She had to come up with a solution on the fly. Total yikes! Things might not go perfectly on your wedding day and even with all the planning, there will be bumps. But, how do you handle it? What do you do if one of your wedding vendors is late, or just doesn’t show up? What should you do if what your wedding vendor brings isn’t what you thought they were bringing? (I’m having flashbacks to a wedding when I was a bridesmaid the florist delivered a white bouquet of roses for the bride and red rose bouquets for the bridesmaids, and it was supposed to be the opposite!)

In just about every Washington DC area wedding that we feature, the couple advises hiring a wedding planner, or at the very least putting a very trusted friend in charge. Hopefully if you have someone on your side, you aren’t dealing with drama on your wedding day. (I am remembering that on my wedding day the cocktail reception musicians got into a car accident and my wedding planner solved the problem, found an acoustic guitarist somewhere and I never knew!)

I went to some of the best wedding planners in the Washington DC area and asked their advice. What should you do if your wedding vendor doesn’t deliver what you expected? Or worse, what should you do if a wedding vendor is late or doesn’t show up?


Photo Credit:  k. thompson photography from Jessie and Will’s wedding in Virginia

Here is the story from Tiffany:  “As a wedding planner, it’s our job to ensure that every goal is met, and every detail is in place. While we work very hard to ensure everything is perfect for our client’s special day, life happens and you have to be able to think quickly on your toes. Even though we keep in close contact with your vendors right up to the day of your wedding, we ultimately can’t control what happens on their end. I had an incident once where the baker completely forgot about the wedding! I’m in charge of arranging what time all of your vendors are set to arrive, and two hours before the start of my client’s wedding I noticed the DJ was setting up his equipment and the florist was making her last minute adjustments, but no sign of the baker at all. I quickly made a phone call to locate their whereabouts only find they had completely forgotten about the wedding and weren’t going to make it on time! It was now my job to remedy the situation. I called as many bakers as I could, even grocery stores to see if anyone could get me a cake with such short notice. With no luck, I came up with the idea to send my assistant to Whole Foods to purchase already made specialty cakes to display in place of the missing wedding cake. After all of the chaos, I sent my groom down the aisle and in comes the baker at the last minute with a cake from his bakery. It wasn’t what they ordered, but it was a wedding cake. I ended up letting my bride and groom know briefly what had happened later on in the evening. They were actually very understanding and knew I had it all taken care of. Needless to say my couple received their wedding cake half off of the purchase price.” —  Tiffany at Simply Breathe Events

And, here are few tips from a few more local wedding planners on how to handle a wedding situation like this:

“If a vendor doesn’t show up, hit social media. Word travels fast, and if you ask readers to repost, you’ll hopefully find someone that can swoop in at the last minute and save the day. Or, for the vendors that you didn’t hire for your wedding day, but still liked and respected, keep them in your back pocket and their contacts handy. You could reach out to them in a pinch and see if they can help. Keep a positive attitude. Sure, so and so didn’t show up or things didn’t work out as expected, but the most important thing is that you married the live of your life and get to be with friends and family, and at the end if the day.” —  Courtney, owner of A Sweet Soiree Events

“First, as a wedding planner, we always call and email each and every vendor the week of the wedding to check and triple check details of the day with each vendor and get the cell phone number of each vendor that is set to deliver each particular service or product. You, as a bride or a groom, have a very powerful tool…the Internet. So, if a vendor does not show up, put it on social media and then make sure you follow up with them after the wedding and give them a bad review and then be sure to get all of your money back. The day of the wedding, call the vendors that you did not hire and see if they can help or give you advice on who can help you at the last minute. All wedding vendors know at least one other vendor in the industry of each type of vendor or know someone else that does. Most likely they know a wedding planner that they can call too! In the end, you will get married and it will be a beautiful day either way, don’t let it destroy the reason for the day.” — Katie, owner of Elegance & Simplicity

“When planning through the stages leading up to your wedding, make sure to do extensive research on each vendor to ensure they have a great track record and have never missed a wedding. Also verbally confirm each vendor the week of the wedding. Many vendors work on a week-to-week schedule during the busy season and are not always looking far down the road to see what is coming up. You want to have a verbal understanding with each one as you lead into the wedding week. If you do not have a planner make sure to designate one person that you trust, who does not excessively drink, and will be able to make sure that all vendors are in place and ready. Try to not delegate this responsibility to too many people as that creates ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ and can interfere with your vendors actually doing the best possible job. If you do have a planner, make sure to discuss your fears with them so that they are aware of your concerns and can let you know throughout the day that everything is going well and on track. Our best tip is to also trust the vendors you have vetted and hired. If you hire quality professionals, they will be there shining on your wedding day and your fears will have been eliminated. A great coordinator can solve a missing vendor problem using personal contacts or even getting a new cake from the grocery store to replace a missing wedding cake.” — Tabitha, owner of Roberts & Co. Events 

“Assuming you have decided not to hire a planner, I would still designate someone you trust to be the go-to person to handle any unexpected situation. Make sure your vendor team is alerted if there are major events near your venues that might disrupt traffic or parking. Obtain all of their cell phone numbers and provide your team with the cell phone number of the person you’ve designated for handling these emergency type situations. If you are able, plan for some buffer time for the team’s arrival time. If there are problems, first of all, don’t panic. Don’t assume the worst. Take a deep breathe. Let your designee handle the situation. Say, you expect a vendor to show up at 1pm and they are not there, I would normally give them a 15-minute window. If they are still not there, I would call them. If you cannot get a hold of anyone, let the entire vendor team know and see if anyone can help. Let’s say your florist doesn’t show up, perhaps someone can run to the closest grocery store and pick up something. Perhaps your caterer or venue can use some candles as centerpieces. If your photographer doesn’t show up and nobody can locate a substitute, invite your guests to all whip our their phones and start taking photos. There is a solution out there. It just might not be the one you had planned. Just remember that this wedding is about marrying the one you love and the rest is gravy on top.” — Vicky, owner of Event Accomplished

First things first, the couple and the attendants should have a very detailed timeline, which includes email addresses and – this part is very important – cell phone numbers for every vendor. A week before the wedding, every single vendor should be contacted, and their arrival time verified.  At this time, the bride or groom, whoever is calling, should confirm the cell phone number of the person who will be there the day of the wedding. In other words, for your, florist for example, the studio number doesn’t matter. What you need is the name and cell number of the person who will be delivering the flowers that day. The same goes for cake delivery, DJ company, transportation etc.  If the worst happens and your vendor hasn’t shown up the day of the wedding, this is where friends and family come in. People love to help, and, even more, love to think they have saved the day. So, let them! Ultimately, all that matters is that you have the marriage license, an officiant, and the two of you — everything else is just extra!” — Rebecca, planner at Blue Canary Events

“With regards to a vendor just not showing up, the most important thing to do is keep a level head, and work with the vendors who did show up to come up with a reasonable solution. If the entertainment is MIA, maybe the venue has an in house system you can plug an iPod into. Or, maybe another vendor can call in a replacement for you – we all have wide networks of friends in this industry. If the officiant is no where to be found, delay as long as you can – move the cocktail hour to be before the ceremony, if possible. If you have your ceremony script handy, recruit someone else to perform it and work out the legal issues later. If your cake is late, just push back your cake cutting until you can solve the problem. If something shows up and it is not what you expected, again, keep calm and try to carry on. If it is something like you got the wrong cake and the deliveries must have gotten mixed up, recruit a responsible friend to call the bakery and explain the situation. If the caterer is serving red lentils instead of black lentils, there is probably not a lot you can do about it; their contract probably stipulates that they can make reasonable substitutions based on market availability and product quality. If it is something like the wrong color flowers or linens, there is not a lot you can do about it now. Do the best you can to have a positive attitude – you’ll still be getting married, even if the napkins are cobalt and not navy, and your mood, good or bad, will rub off on every single one of your guests (and your new spouse) so try your best to not get bogged down in the little things.” — Janice, owner of Bellwether Events

“If the services delivered were not what you expected, be sure to ask questions immediately. I have been around brides that might not remember what they ordered, because of all the zillions of details that are involved in a wedding, or they are just shy. If something is off kilter or just does not feel right, say something immediately, as time is of the essence. Depending on what the item is, the vendor might be able to remedy  the situation. Saying something an hour later or after the wedding is over with is just too late. It is always best to keep a schedule that has plenty of cushion time. Do what wedding planners do: confirm and re-confirm with each wedding vendor several times the week of the wedding to go over details that you are nervous about. Send an itinerary to every vendor the Monday prior to the wedding and then follow up with with a phone call to reconfirm the details with them the Wednesday or Thursday prior to the event as well.  A bit of preventative maintenance with your vendors  ahead of time is the best medicine to this horrific circumstance.” — Katie, owner of Elegance & Simplicity

“Make sure your contract covers what would happen if the vendor fails to perform. If you are dissatisfied with the service or products delivered, you should express that to your vendors and give them a chance to provide an explanation. Something might have happened outside of their control that you were not aware of. Give them a chance to rectify the situation. At the end of the day, we all want our clients to be happy. If the vendor cares about his or her reputation, they will make it right. Most of the time, the dispute can come to an amicable resolution. If it cannot be solved to your satisfaction, and the vendor is clearly in breach of contract, you can take them to court. If you think you need to go there, I would suggest consulting an attorney.” — Vicky, owner of Event Accomplished


Thank you so much to all of the DC area wedding planners who helped out with this and gave such great advice! You always know what to do and how to solve wedding-day problems! Be sure to visit the websites of the lovely wedding planners who helped out with this post – they simply are the best at what they do!

Are you looking for more local wedding ideas? Be sure to look through our DC area wedding idea galleries and find wedding advice from local DC area pros. If that isn’t enough, check out our collection of local DMV weddings from the real world and the best DC area wedding vendors who make it all happen.

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