Have you ever planned an event down to the last detail, and shortly before the event, something you didn’t anticipate almost halts your event in its tracks? Well, for weddings, there are some things that even an experienced event planner can’t anticipate, as this story illustrates…
Steve Lander, executive director at Temple Beth El in Stamford, CT, thought he had seen it all. He had been the director at the conservative Temple Beth El for many years, oversaw many weddings, bar mitzvahs, fundraisers, and meetings, but when he came across this situation, it almost brought the wedding to a halt 45 minutes before the wedding was supposed to take place.
In 2010, Lander was confident that the wedding he had so carefully planned with the bride and her family was about to transpire. The sanctuary was filling up and with over 300 guests, it was a particularly large wedding but the family was confident that all the details had been taken care of. He recalls it this way:
“The family chose to use a beautiful free-standing chupah (wedding canopy) which was hanging from the ceiling and provided by the Temple. And 45 minutes prior to the wedding, I received a phone call from the party planner that there was a problem: The rabbi that was signing the ketubah (the wedding contract), refused to sign the contract because in his view, a chupah represents a home. The poles represent the walls of the home and therefore, the structure cannot be free standing.”
What happened next sent Lander into problem-solving mode. He had less than 45 minutes to create a new chupah with poles and limited options. Not a difficult challenge, but one which required fast action and quick thinking.
“I looked around to try to find some wooden poles. I found some attached to a portable chupah that we had in our storeroom only to discover that we still needed to cover 9 inches to the ground. So I asked the caterer if he had any glass blocks to fill the gaps that we could put on the ground. The caterer told me that he was using them for all the trays of food. Then I searched all the supply closets to see what I could use, and I found reams of plastic cups still in their sleeves. I was able to nest the cups until it was just the right height, so the weight of the chupah was resting on the cups. We covered them with taffeta from the florist. It was a bit precarious, but we were good to go, doing all of this without the families knowing what was going on!”
Relieved that he had rescued a particularly difficult situation, Lander stood in the back to watch ceremony. Then, standing next to him was a guest rabbi. Turning to him he said, “Rabbi, is there a prayer for keeping chupahs from falling down?”. “There’s a prayer for everything. I could make one especially for this situation,” the rabbi added and went on to recite his prayer.
“It must have worked because a few minutes later the groom’s shoulder knocked against one of the poles, and the chupah began to sway. Beads of sweat began to form on my forehead but the chupah stayed intact.”
This story drives home the fact that unpredictable situations can arise but it’s very important to have a professional managing your event on that day to resolve any unexpected problems.