The Wedding Troubleshooter: Coaching about coaches

Sometimes hiring friends winds up helping less and hurting more.

Wedding hall  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Wedding hall
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
When arranging a wedding overseas the comfort of guests is always a high priority, especially that of the guests who have traveled far to be there. A nice personal touch is always appreciated, like arranging gifts to be placed in the guests’ hotel rooms, be it something simple, such as a bottle of water and sweets, or some more elaborate, personalized gifts.
Another important aspect to consider is guests' transportation from their hotels to the wedding location. The most convenient, of course, is to arrange coaches, which also ensures the guests arrive at the ceremony on time. It is essential to use a well-established coach company and to provide the coach drivers with the directions and exact address of the event. Sometimes clients insist on using a particular coach company because their quote appears cheaper than the more well-known companies. However, this can prove to be more of a loss in the end. 
I once had clients who were adamant about hiring a coach company owned by a friend of theirs. I told them I felt very reluctant to use a company that I didn't know, but they insisted.
First instincts: Confirmed
I asked a team member to be at the hotel when the coaches arrived and wasn't overly surprised when I was told that the coaches were late, in spite of the fact that we had phoned the company numerous times to confirm the timing. My assistant ensured that the guests stayed inside the air-conditioned hotel and were supplied with drinks while they waited.
The coaches eventually arrived, driven by very gruff, impatient drivers. Fortunately my assistant had copies of the directions to the venue as the coach company had failed to supply these for their drivers.
The coaches eventually arrived at the wedding venue, a sad 30 minutes later than planned. To my astonishment, the drivers – in their not-overly-clean clothes – entered the Garden with the guests and proceeded to help themselves to the reception food.
My assistant asked them politely to leave the reception, to which the drivers took great offence. They reluctantly returned to their coaches – but not before they filled their plates with food and glasses with drinks.
At midnight the drivers approached me and told me the guests had to board the coaches. I pointed out that the contract stipulated that the coaches stayed until 2.00 a.m. when the party was scheduled to finish. The drivers became so angry that I decided to contact the main office to speak to their superior instead, but of course there was no one else to speak to. At last they calmed down and went to sit outside the Garden to wait for the party to end...
Disaster averted?
...Or so I thought.
At 12.30 a.m. I went to check on the state of the toilets. When I returned I was shocked to find all the guests rushing to the coaches. After asking a couple questions I discovered that, in my absence, the drivers went on to the dance-floor and announced that the coaches were leaving, and that any guest who wanted a ride had to get outside immediately.
Trying to stay calm, my assistants and I ran to the coaches and explained to everyone that the drivers had made a big mistake and they were all invited back to the dance-floor. Fortunately, the bride and groom, and their guests, found the situation very amusing and the party continued as planned until 2.00.
Lesson painfully learned
The next day the clients apologized for not taking my advice about the coaches and thanked us for handling the situation in such a professional and calm manner.
Joan Summerfield is an experienced events planner.