Professional special event planners share their horror stories of mishaps that took place at their events.
Photo by iStock.com / © Drxy
No matter how carefully you plan or where you try to hide, still they stalk you like the undeterred undead. They are crazed clients and kooky guests, determined to turn your event into a horror story. The only good news: No matter how bad it seems at the time, it makes for a great story afterward.
HIGH TIMES "Two things--and I swear my clients are not all drug addicts …
"At a very posh wedding, one of the groomsmen was banned from the host hotel property for six months the night before the wedding because he was caught doing cocaine in the men's room. The reception was at the same hotel.
"At another wedding, the bride clearly did not want to marry the groom. At the reception, she proceeded to do lines of cocaine in the rest room, aggressively hit on the photographer, and tell me all about her days as a dancer in gentlemen's club.”
Yvette Audrain, CSEP, CPCE
Mox Event Boutique, Dallas
ON SECOND THOUGHT … "How about halfway through an event, the client decides they don’t like the automated silent auction software and wants to immediately revert to paper? I averted the horror by saying no and holding steady!"
Bravo! Events by Design, Washington
DO WE HAVE A BUDGET LINE FOR BAIL? "The client who got himself arrested. Yes, it's not a typo. He got himself arrested!
"It was during a launch of a luxury brand product at Cancun for the sales force from Latin America. This means we had people from all over the American continent--and what is the essential experience everybody wants in Mexico?
"So, the whole group was staying at an all-inclusive hotel. This means bottomless drinks. After the main party for the product launch, we left the group at the hotel's disco and bar. That´s where our staff left, because everyone knew their way back to their rooms--or so we thought.
"One of the girls at the disco lost her purse. Later she found it. But two guys from the group--many tequilas later--didn't realize she had found it and they were so angry--and drunk--that they called the local police to 'make things right.'
"The police arrived but since it was a private property, they couldn't go in without permission from the hotel. Also, the hotel told them things were back to normal so there was nothing to be 'solved.'
"These two guys got so aggressive at the police for not taking any action on the purse incident that they started punching and kicking them.
"And so ... the police arrested them. Yes, they called the police, and at the end, they were the ones who got arrested.
"We got them out early next day, but I'm not sure they wanted to go out, they were so embarrassed!"
Mari Carmen Obregon
Imagina Eventos, Mexico
THESE SHOES WEREN'T MADE FOR WALKING "[The client] showed up in red stilettos heels to the beach setup--we are talking a football field of sugary sand beach—saying, 'Honey, I'll help at load-in so you don't need to charge me for the extra help.'
"She was useless and my calves still burn thinking about it... "
Stacey Paul Barabe, CSEP
Exhilarate Events, Orlando, Fla.
LET'S DO THE TIME WARP "I just did an event for a man who just turned 55. His wife wanted a late '60s Hippies, Love & Peace, Magic Bus theme. She kept emailing, 'You know, Woodstock, Hendrix, Joplin, the Who, Tommy, Beatles.'
"I had two weeks to create four hours of motion content, designs and graphics and wasn't clear what they really wanted--not sure if they were, either.
"Then the wife emailed me and said, 'My husband loves tennis. Can you add in some scenes of the U.S. Open from 1980?' Huh? How could I make that jibe with vintage oil-wheel projections and trippy, psychedelic scenes? Then she wrote again: 'And you know--we have to have Ali McGraw. Can we show her--maybe scenes from 'Love Story'?
"As you could imagine, this was a little daunting. I had to go back and re-prioritize, and source new content, and do re-edits and still make cohesive sense of the Jimi Hendrix-John McEnroe-LSD-McGraw connection for the projections on the stage backdrop!
"On top of that, Roger Daltrey from the Who was performing, so we had to do graphics for his set! Aha! So that's why they asked for something from 'Tommy'! Then, to make it even more challenging, the opening band played songs from the '70s and '80s! Whatever happened to the ‘60s peace and love theme?
"That was truly a mad scramble to improvise on the spot. Luckily I had brought a lot of extra content from other jobs to improvise with, and had a VJ who could pull from hundreds of clips.
"Anyway---it all worked out brilliantly. I asked my editor to make the U.S. Open look as if someone had dropped acid and was hallucinating the game. Ditto 'Love Story.' So it all came together.
"I don't think the client was around for Woodstock or old enough in the '60s to get that vibe. So we incorporated plenty of animated peace signs and flowers to balance out the trippy stuff and concert footage and mimic the decor (peace signs and daisies)."
Megavsion Arts, Santa Monica
STRUCK BY LIGHTING "We're doing a presidential incentive program for a major automobile company at Pelican Hill Resort. It's the final-night dinner with elegant tables, gorgeous lighting on each table, and special guest entertainer Huey Lewis.
"The lighting is dim with pin-spotting on each table with crystal chandeliers throughout the ballroom. I'm very detail-oriented, so I walk in the room and I'm making sure everything is perfect.
"I see one of my client's event managers standing in the back against the wall, and I go back to join her. I cross my arms and lean against the wall.
"All of a sudden, the lighting in the room starts going up and up. I'm furious and looking around to figure out what the h*** is going on! But everybody is staring at me? …
"I had leaned back against the light switch, which turned up all the chandeliers in the room. Mostly I was in horror!"
Russell Harris, CMP
Russell Harris Event Group, North Hollywood, Calif.
There's still time—do you have a horror story to share? We'd love to hear it—feel free to post it below: