Tales From the Groom: When Weddings Attack!

Most people have seen a wedding disaster, but Carl’s got a plan to avoid one.

The recent White House party crashers reminded me that even the best-planned and -secured events can be fraught with unexpected happenings. I know I’ve been privy to more than a few choice moments over the years. I’ve seen a Jameson’s-fueled grandfather give a toast touting the bride’s virginity (which only led to the guests openly debating the bride’s virtue), watched two uncles get into a fist fight, been made fun of by an inebriated 13-year old, and walked in on the sister of the bride in her birthday suit.

The incident that takes the cake, though, is the time my old boss was at a wedding where the priest was drunk during the ceremony, never submitted the paperwork, and died the next day. After all their planning, the couple wasn’t sure if they were officially married.

These tales of wedding woes got me wondering how often these things actually happen and what, if anything, I can do to prevent our wedding from turning into a three-ring circus.

Being a market-research professional, I decided I needed some hard data. I sought out Nathan Richter, director of polling for a respected national research firm, Wakefield Research to see if he might be able to help me gauge the odds. Having recently been married, Nathan thought this could be fun and offered to field some wedding-related questions in a poll. Together we set out to see what the likelihood of a wedding catastrophe would be.

What he discovered was a bit startling: You might as well flip a coin to determine if something will go down on your big day. His results showed found that 49 percent of Americans have been witness to a wedding gone off the rails.

To frighten me further, Nathan took me through some additional numbers:

• 26 percent wished that Gong Show rules applied while they endured an inappropriate toast.
• 23 percent needed Mils Lane to referee a fight between guests.
• 18 percent (possibly including Alanis Morissette) have had rain on their wedding day.  
• 6 percent gave guests a preview of marital bliss by doing their best Frank and Estelle Costanza impression in front of all the guests.
• 4 percent are stood up at the altar.

While 50/50 odds might be great for blackjack, they leave too much to chance for my taste. To combat this, Nathan suggested I put some precautionary measures in place. Rather than wedding insurance (it blew my mind that it even exists), I decided to upgrade the WOPR (see this earlier blog post) with an early-alert text system that could notify our day-of wedding coordinator, Teresa, to any unforeseen happenings at the ceremony or reception.

Through a complex algorithm that correlates a handful of key human factors (the number of trips to the open bar by a guest, the amount of food the guests have eaten at the cocktail hour and reception, their interactions with the groomsmen, their rank in the family hierarchy, and the expense of the gift they’ve given) the WOPR can determine whom Teresa needs to keep a keen eye on and when she needs to get the fire extinguisher. An example:

WOPR: Teresa, I suspect that cousin Anthony is evaluating the structural integrity of table 5 in preparations for him to do the “truffle shuffle” upon it. Please know that my records indicate he’s neither insured nor a good dancer. Furthermore, his gift was the free giveaway with his recent purchase of a Snuggie.

Teresa: Recommendation?

WOPR: Terminate with extreme prejudice.

Not that I’m expecting this to solve everything, but at the very least I feel like we’re taking the right steps to put some reins on the event. Regardless of all the things that could go wrong—and there are a lot—weddings always seem to rise above the fray and send everyone home with a smile (or a black eye) on their face.

Read Carl's story from the beginning

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