What If Your Wedding Vendor Doesn’t Show Up?

Choosing wedding vendors can be nerve-racking (or wracking, both are correct) because, after all, you’re putting your entire wedding in the hands of a handful of professionals. Are their picture perfect portfolio shots really representative of their work? Will they be on time? Do they really understand how important this is to you?

"Waddya mean the caterer is in Borneo?"

Maybe yes, maybe no. More than likely, however, yes. Your wedding vendors will show up, give you everything they’ve promised and you’ve paid for, and help make your wedding beautiful. But that doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen very, very occasionally to an itty-bitty handful of brides and grooms. It’s a difficult situation to contemplate, but maybe one that everyone who’s engaged should think about just a bit.

The question, of course, is what do you do if one of your wedding vendors doesn’t show up.

First, let’s talk about what you don’t do. You don’t, as much as you’d probably like to, panic. When you’re just about to leave for the ceremony and you find out that your caterer isn’t coming, panicking is NOT going to help. And if you’ve just arrived at the reception to find out that your cake isn’t coming, freaking out isn’t going to get you a cake.


Here’s what you do instead of panic: Have your mom or dad or bestie or some other party try calling the missing wedding vendor. Maybe there’s traffic. Maybe there’s been an emergency but the vendor is sending backup. These are good things to know.

In the event that your wedding vendor is simply unreachable or they answer only to tell you that no one’s on the way, the first question you should ask yourself is whether you can live without the services of a pro. Let’s say the reception flowers aren’t coming – can you live without floral centerpieces, etc.? If there’s a full sound system, can you pull of an iPod wedding?

And then it’s triage time. If your baker is the missing wedding vendor, send some responsible people to the nearest supermarket for the fanciest sheet cakes or pastries they can find. A nearby bakery is even better, but call ahead to make sure they can accommodate. For flowers, try florists, farmers markets, or even the supermarket for matching flowers and supplies with which to whip up very simple bouquets and centerpieces. For food, there’s always pizza, the quick and dirty option, but that’s less than ideal. Designate someone to call every restaurant and eatery that’s semi local to see if anyone can hook you up.

Finally, try to calm down. Relax. Do your best to enjoy your wedding day. You have your whole life ahead of you to be pissed off at your missing wedding vendor… and to litigate, as necessary. But hopefully, you’ll only ever have one wedding day. No matter what happens, try to make it a good one.

Question for all the married ladies in the house: Have any of y’all had to deal with a wedding vendor who was a no-show? How’d you handle it?

5 Responses to “What If Your Wedding Vendor Doesn’t Show Up?”

  1. The Jananator March 28, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    I’d freak. Just freak! Luckily this did not happen to us or anyone else I know who got married, so I hope it really is as rare as you say for a vendor to ditch. I’d love to know what you’re supposed to do after the face, like damage control or getting your money back.

  2. Anonymous March 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    My wedding coordinator was less than. . .coordinated. She lost our unity candle and our first dance music. She put table numbers on the wrong tables, which mattered because the tables were different sizes. She also sent the wedding party down the isle in the wrong order. We found extra candles, improvised the first dance, caught the table number mistake just in time, and didn’t care about the order of the wedding party.

  3. Impkitti March 28, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

    I arrived at the hairdresser three hours before my ceremony to find they didn’t have me booked. Turns out that they purchased a new appointment book, and my appointment had not made it into the new book. (they found it in the old book when I insisted I had an appointment and gave them the hairdresser’s name) She was the only one in the shop experienced with long hair (below my waist) and was off for the day. Everyone else in the shop was booked. As I stood in the lobby, trying not to break into tears, they decided to put me in a chair, and about 3 of them worked on my head as they could break away from their other clients. I did not get the style I wanted, but it met my requirements. Neat and elegant with my mother’s pearl headdress worked in. (no veil)

    I survived, and we got married – 23 years ago.

  4. Christa Terry March 28, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    @The Jananator Yup, definitely rare, and thank goodness for that! Brides-to-be don’t need another thing to worry about before the big day!

    @Anon Good for you guys for handling the mistakes with such grace and practicality. Wouldn’t you know there are plenty of people out there who’d just have freaked out instead. The best response, IMO, is always going to be the practical one.

    @Impkitti I would have been in tears – and my tough as nails mom would have been busting heads, no doubt! Awesome that it worked out in the end with your hair style, especially with such long hair!

  5. What a nightmare. I can’t imagine a vendor not having a backup plan in case of emergency.
    I’ve never photographed a wedding where a vendor didn’t show, though once the caterer’s hired help had to be escorted off the property.