Last month I had the pleasure of planning a beautiful wedding for a couple in Toronto. Despite countless hours, meetings and preparation, something quite unexpected came up in the middle of their ceremony - the power went out! Disaster averted thanks to tons of candles, a quick thinking team and an incredible bride and groom who didn't let a bit of darkness affect their spirits in the slightest!
This experience reinforced the importance of emergency planning so that even when problems arise, everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience. I always have the following prepared:
- Key contact list (and a few more)! Aside from the family and wedding party, I keep poison control, the fire department (and apparently), hydro on speed dial. Think about the contacts you would need for crowd control issues (if it is a larger event), bomb threats, fire or explosion.
- Review all guest dietary restrictions with the kitchen weeks in advance. I worked in the hospitality industry for years before planning weddings and one allergic reaction was enough for me to take extra precautions every time. Make sure all dietary requests are clearly outlined by table and seat well before the event, discussed in a details meeting with the caterer and all staff are aware of the ingredients in their dishes.
- Brush up on that St. John Ambulance course. I try to take this course annually. Every planner (and every person for that matter), should know what to do if someone is choking or needs CPR.
- Take note of emergency exits and venue emergency plans (evacuation and assembly) during site visits. This knowledge can make a big difference when an emergency arises.
- My most sacred emergency kit. There are tons of goodies in here to take me through the day but most importantly I have a first aid kit and lots of BBQ lighters which come in handy whether or not the power is working!
I've learned to appreciate that the extent to which disaster unfolds is really dependent on my ability to have these plans worked out prior to event day and it is up to me to share that information with key people on site to ensure everyone knows the steps to take in an emergency.