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Puerto Rican Nightmare: Reality TV Star Wedding Planner Unf*ck Wedding Disaster, Part 2

Sandy Malone
Sandy Malone, who runs Weddings in Vieques

I took on the challenge of unfucking a totally screwed up wedding on another island a few weeks ago. It looked like a mess when I jumped in, and I hadn’t even seen the half of it when I blogged about it the last time.

To be honest, any weird challenge thrown at me on TLC’s “Wedding Island” reality show doesn’t compare to the strange stuff going on with Bianca and Bryan’s wedding on the big island – and we have resources available over there that we can’t get here, so that’s saying a lot.

When I first started fixing this wedding, I couldn’t believe what was going on – it was like getting sucked into a Lifetime movie about an evil wedding planner who set out to destroy a wedding. It had to seem worse than it really was, right? But in two weeks, this shit has just gotten better and better. And I was wrong.

The builder of the Titanic ain’t got nothin’ on the wedding planner my clients fired. OMG. She should be put out of business.

Backing up, for those of you who didn’t read my last blog about me agreeing to unf**k this wedding (although you should go up and click the link and read it if you haven’t), I came on board eight weeks prior to the wedding, after the MoB (who is in Australia) contacted me about firing her wedding planner.

She was looking for advice based on one of my blogs.  When I heard the whole story, I not only agreed with her that the planner HAD to go, but I’d agreed to leave my little haven on Vieques Island to go fix this wedding over on the big island of Puerto Rico. This is not what I do. Okay, now I guess it is what I do.

I sooo wish I could name and shame this wedding planner, but in the legal interests of my clients, I won’t – because she had a “you can’t review me” clause in her contract.

ATTENTION BRIDES AND GROOMS:

If your planner tells you that you can’t give her a review, don’t hire that company.

Obviously, they’re not that good. Nobody has a perfect review record, but it’s SHADY to say you can’t comment on my services from the outset. Don’t agree to that.

This not-very-professional wedding planner, who continues to amaze and astound me with her ignorance and stupidity as I read through her correspondence with my clients, has now had the nerve to send the MoB a letter threatening legal action if she doesn’t pay her planning bill. Say what?

“To avoid litigation in this matter, I will accept the $1500 payment that was past due at time of cancellation plus the $1 late fee ($38 as of today; please add $1 for every day after today), as well as payment for the 5 hours of work I performed on your daughter’s wedding after you placed stop payment on the check but failed to inform me of the cancellation. The total as of today would be $1913 ($1500+$38+$375).”

Is she kidding? She’s lucky they’re not suing her for all of the money they lost unf**king this mess. I pity the fool who takes on this Mother of the Bride. She has been documenting every step. By my count, the parents are more than $10,000 farther in the hole than they should be because of the stupidity of this wedding planner. And she’s threatening to sue them? I hope she has EXCELLENT insurance.

The bride’s parents have absorbed extraneous costs of moving the entire wedding group to a new hotel closer to the wedding venue, they’ve burned hours of time on vendors she never followed up with, and they had to hire me and my fabulous team to come fix this mess. We aren’t doing this out of the goodness of our hearts, although I might have given what I know now (don’t quote me). Last night, I learned a real doozy – the old wedding planner actually made the bride and groom fly to another state to get their paperwork for their marriage license. No lie!

Here we go: I got an email from my fave MoB last night that casually mentioned that the bride and groom were headed off to Texas to get their blood work done for their marriage license in Puerto Rico. Say what?

Puerto Rico does not require any lab work for non-resident marriages. And why the hell would they go from Louisiana to Texas to get their doctor’s letters and affidavit of residency? It’s supposed to come from wherever they live. And it’s supposed to be obtained within 10 and 14 days, respectively, of the actual wedding date. So why are my late-May clients in Texas THIS WEEK getting blood work they never needed to have done in the first place? OMG again.

Turns out that the original wedding planner gave them all the wrong instructions for getting a marriage license in Puerto Rico. It’s been easy for years, but she gave them really outdated instructions that haven’t applied in a long time. And they NEVER had to go to the state where their driver’s licenses were issued to get the medical paperwork. I can’t even imagine where that came from.

All the bride and groom had to do was send me back the completed marriage license information form, and bring doctor’s letters and the affidavit as is outlined in the instructions I sent them. But because the first planner told them they couldn’t have Texas driver’s licenses with Louisiana paperwork, my bride had to haul her ass (and the groom’s) to Texas for a completely unnecessary doctor’s appointment. I wonder how much this is costing them.

Yes, I sent them the correct instructions, and yes, they read them. But they didn’t completely throw out the old instructions – they incorporated them. So that’s how my clients ended up in Texas this week. Oh boy, I hope that makes for a funny story for them one day. I just feel badly even though it’s not my fault.

Remember how the original planner, who first promised them Cabo didn’t require passports (Mexico, Chiquita!), and then switched them to Puerto Rico instead, put all their guests in a hotel more than an hour away (by bus) from the actual wedding venue?

Well, the travel saga continues even though the planner is gone because – yep, you guessed it – the travel agent is a friend the first planner recommended to my clients.

Her friend supposedly specialized in destination wedding travel – and she was insisting on bringing the travel agent along to be the “transportation coordinator” for the wedding weekend. That’s called finding a way to bring your bestie on vacay with you – not planning a wedding. I was freakin horrified the more I learned. And it just keeps getting worse and worse.

Turns out the travel agent isn’t very experienced with Puerto Rico either (I nailed her to the wall on our first conversation when it became clear she had absolutely no clue as to the geography of what she had done to this wedding group). Because of her misguidance, they couldn’t have a wedding rehearsal, people were spending hours on buses, and nobody would be together on the wedding night. What a complete disaster.

What’s worse is that the travel agent subcontracted the whole group out to a trip company and they’re all locked into weird requirements. Fortunately, we’ve been able to move the entire group to a more appropriate resort located much closer to the venue. And I have to credit the travel agent for accomplishing that as of last night. However, it was a two-week saga that involved a LOT of stress for the MoB and lots of freaked out wedding guests who had already paid deposits but NEVER received confirmations or itineraries for their trips.

I wrote an email to the entire group explaining who I was and what was going on – a plea for patience, as it were. We provided our contact info and we’ve been answering questions and fielding some calls, but I think the message really calmed the group down. In general. The MoB is probably still living one giant anxiety attack.

Of course, that’s when the angry vendors start coming out of the woodwork. Seems that the previous planner had made some commitments to vendors (no contracts or anything like that) and those vendors are genuinely NOT HAPPY to find out six weeks ahead of the wedding that they haven’t actually been booked. I’ve written a lot of explanation and apology emails, but at the end of the day, what were they thinking with no contracts?

I mean, I have vendors I can call and hold without paper for a bit because I work in the same places all the time and I have credibility with the vendors. But why would any musician begin learning songs for a specific wedding ceremony that she hasn’t been contracted to perform, or received a deposit to play? Booked by some random wedding planner in Louisiana? No really, as a business woman I don’t like to have to be the one to tell them they’re not getting the gig, but it’s totally business. You never got a contract from the clients and it’s too late now.

Not all of the vendors have changed – the photography/videography team the MoB had chosen appears to be pretty top notch. The cake is all set (the MoB, not the planner, of course). The florist the MoB picked is one of the best in Puerto Rico, if not the best. And at the end of the day, the St. Regis Bahia Hotel where the wedding is actually being held, is one of the most fabulous resorts in all of the Caribbean. So at least there’s something we can count on.

However, the MoB may be counting on advice from vendors a little too much in some areas. As I went through the décor bid with her, I had to ask her why she was renting dinner chairs, lounge furniture, napkins and water glasses. When you pay to have a wedding reception at a resort, they do provide the dishes and the beverage ware, as well as the linens. Upgrading things and paying to rent something nicer if you prefer it is one thing, but leading a client to believe these things are absolutely necessary isn’t right.

Right now, I’m waiting for the hotel to answer all my questions about what exactly is provided so we can slash a few things off the décor rental list. I know it’s all about making money, but that’s not the way I deal with my décor clients at Flowers in Vieques. Maybe because I’m usually their planner too and I’m trying to keep them on budget. But seriously, are you telling me that we’re going to rent furniture for three separate lounge seating areas for a wedding group with a total of 35 guests, including the bride and groom? WTF? I bet the hotel will tell me that we don’t NEED any of that. And renting water glasses? Just shaking my head.

So where do things stand now? A lot better than a few weeks ago. We’re actively planning a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner event, the MoB is shipping me things as fast as she can shop (the personalized water bottle labels arrived yesterday), and it’s time for our team to go over to the big island to meet with our counterparts at the St. Regis and the Gran Melia, where the guests will now be staying. I’m hoping both venues are sympathetic to the stress these clients have already been through. While none of us are responsible for the front-end disaster, we are the only ones who can fix it for them right now. And it’s a challenge for everybody.

I’d been debating whether it was time to catch you up on my progress unf**king this wedding when I received the news the old planner had threatened to sue and the information that the bride and groom were headed to Texas for paperwork they didn’t need to get. When Andrea, my favorite MoB, suggested an update for our readers, I agreed completely. Truth is so much stranger than fiction, right?

Meanwhile, there is some good news! My nocturnal MoB (swear to God, if you could see the timestamps on her emails) can now relax a little bit and focus on the fun stuff like favors, welcome bags, and what she’s going to pack for her own trip halfway around the world in six weeks. Andrea’s amazing – how she held it together for so long from so far away is baffling and impressive.

I also FINALLY met the bride this morning – when she called me from TEXAS! She also has a sense of humor about the situation now that she feels like things are under control. Or at least getting there. They’re going to have a lovely week in Texas for absolutely no reason, but at least that’s home to both of them (they live in Louisiana now where the bride is finishing school). Making lemonade out of lemons. I like that.

Stay tuned… this is only going to get worse for Weddings in Vieques before it gets better. I can just feel it! But we’re going to do our best to create the most beautiful wedding ever for this client. And my staff hasn’t killed me (YET) for agreeing to do this. I’ve learned one thing for sure – it is harder to unf**k a wedding that was badly planned by a “professional” than to fix a wedding the bride tried to DIY.

Sandy Malone is a reality TV star, expert wedding planner, and internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast's BRIDES and The Huffington Post, in addition to Monsters... read more
Sandy Malone


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