Confessions of a Wedding Planner: My First Couple
Kimberly Richmond, Global Director of Sales, Destination Weddings by ALHI, combined her passion for event planning and her hotel background by launching Runaway Bride, an international destination wedding planning company. She has been featured in major bridal publications such as Brides and Grace Ormonde Weddings. She is president of the International Association for Destination Wedding Professionals (IADWP) D.C. Area Chapter. In this series, Confessions of a Wedding Planner, she takes us behind the scenes of some of her most memorable weddings.
Call it beginner’s luck, but the very first wedding I booked was a $1 million event. The cliché “money is no object” was about to take on a new meaning for me.
I was hired to pull off a five-day Hindu wedding for 200 guests at one of Mexico's most exclusive properties. Up until that point I knew nothing about the Indian culture or its traditions, but boy, was I about to learn.
Working Through a Language Barrier
I knew the couple was flying in their pandit (wedding official), but what they neglected to tell me was that he didn't speak English. I found this out in Mexico. That was fun.
The only way for us to communicate was by using our hands. Somehow, through makeshift "sign language," I was able to start gathering what he needed for the ceremony. The first point of order was to find a coconut—the one he had smuggled down in his suitcase had been confiscated by Mexican customs. So, I sent my assistant on a mission of somehow getting a coconut down from one of the many palm trees on the property. Meanwhile, I was tasked with finding nine "perfectly shaped" leaves. If they weren't the "perfect" shape, this could mean terrible things for the marriage. No pressure.
Once we had gathered all the necessary items, we were ready to kick off the weekend festivities.
Medical Crisis Averted
The first event was easy enough, a welcome cocktail by the lagoon. Pretty straight forward, right? Until I was having a conversation with the bride's sister when mid-sentence, she proceeded to choke on the spring roll she had been enjoying. She wasn't coughing, which I knew was a bad sign. She was grasping at her throat and starting to turn different shades of red. Lucky for all of us, there were several doctors in attendance, including the bride's dad. One of them jumped in to save the day. Phew.
The Ceremony Begins
Fast forward through five or so events and we're at the wedding day. The Hindu wedding takes place inside a canopy called a mandap. Our mandap was made up of hundreds of white Phalaenopsis Orchids flown in from Holland.
Oh, did I mention that the budget for this wedding was $1 million?
While the beautiful bride had elaborate henna designs covering her hands and feet and looked stunning in a red Sari, the crazy thing about a Hindu ceremony is that the groom is the one who makes the grand entrance in something called a Baarat, the groom's procession party. Our groom wanted to make his grand entrance via helicopter and couldn't understand why landing a helicopter on a beach was a bad idea. He finally settled for riding in on an Arabian thoroughbred.
The ceremony was slated to last two hours, which was perfect as my assistant, Lucy, and I needed to ensure the next event was being prepped. We both breathed a sigh of relief once the ceremony kicked off.
That was short lived.
Where Are the Rings?
Lucy casually asked me if I remembered to give the rings to the pandit. She was referring to the rings that were still very much in the left pocket of my shorts. I can't explain what emotion I felt at that exact moment and don't really remember what happened next.
Lucy is 6-feet tall with legs that go on forever and I knew she could run faster than I could. I handed her the rings and tried to keep up behind her as she sprinted back to the ceremony location.
The thing of it is, as the ceremony wasn’t in English, we had no way of knowing at what point the rings were to be exchanged. Was it at the very beginning? Did we miss it? Guests were seated on large pillows instead of chairs, so once she reached the crowd, she had to whisper to the guests to pass the rings to the front. All I could see was this sort of game of "telephone" unfolding as guests tapped the person in front of them and slowly, but surely got the rings to the front. Another sigh of relief breathed as my buddy, the Pandit, gave me a wink as if to say, ‘we had gotten there just in time.’
My relief, again, was short-lived.
Where Are the Flowers?
The florist tapped me on the shoulder and told me she forgot the rose petals to put in the paper cones for guests to shower the happy couple with post-ceremony. This was one of the most important things for the bride. I had to think fast.
I recruited the five young children who had grown bored during the ceremony and quickly put them to work collecting the rose petals that had been the "aisle" to the ceremony and had them start filling paper cones and handing them to guests.
It was a good idea on paper and I gave myself big kudos for coming up with such an ingenious plan. I quickly realized the flaw once guests started to toss the rose petals at the couple. I neglected to think about the small rocks and pebbles that were inadvertently being picked up along with the petals and now being pelted at the bride and groom.
Ten Events Down .... One to Go
The final event was a black-tie affair overlooking the Caribbean. Guests feasted on caviar, lobster, and truffles while the band that performed at Billy Joel's wedding entertained guests. The seaside venue was filled with 4,000 white roses and the custom dance floor built over the infinity pool gave the illusion of dancing on air.
The bride wore glittering jewels—that required additional safes in her room—to go with her dramatic, custom-beaded fairytale-type dress designed by Monique Lhuillier.
Fireworks lit up the sky as onlookers sipped on Clase Azul Extra Añejo (only 100 bottles produced per year). The evening was perfect. Everything went off flawlessly and we were almost done.
Knowing that the party was flowing, I decided to be proactive and gather some of the items that I needed to take back to the bride and groom's villa. As is customary with all of my couples, I have a key to their room so that I can pick up or drop off things throughout the day. I didn't think to knock since, well, the last time I saw, the happy couple was on the dance floor.
You can imagine my surprise, and horror, when I opened
the door to find them, uh, "consummating" their marriage. Apologies flew out of my mouth as I retreated from the room. Could it have been more awkward?
Thank You, Surya
I felt a bit like Surya, the sun God, after this wedding. Like a golden warrior, albeit an exhausted one, we had pulled it off. Except, did I mention the stomach bug that went around? Several of the guests came down with it; as for Lucy and I, we got it the day after the wedding.
So, while we were feeling like Sun Goddesses, we ended up praying to another god ... the porcelain one.