All in a day's work: Wedding pros reminisce



From beefy bodyguards to rotten vegetables to dying dogs, these wedding pros have seen it all and then some...


Larry Lustberg, Blue Ridge Light Forms

 Even the best-laid wedding plans can sometimes go awry, says lighting expert Lustberg, and sometimes wedding professionals must dive in to help– quite literally.

Lustberg recalls a wedding several years ago at which the event planner had hoped to fill a swimming pool with floating candles "for a spectacular and magical effect."

Unfortunately, the pool wouldn't cooperate.

"The filter pulled all the candles into the skimmer," Lustberg recalls. After he turned off the skimmer, the wind picked up and blew all the candles under the diving board. At last, Lustberg says, one of his crew– a fishing enthusiast– suggested tying all 200 candles to fishing line and anchoring them at the bottom of the pool with sinkers.

"When the derisive laughter died down," Lustberg recalls, "we sent that person out with an envelope full of petty cash to find a fishing supply store. Upon his return, we took turns wading into the pool and anchoring the candles so that they'd look and feel random. The designer thought we were insane, but he loved the result and greatly appreciated the effort."



Barbara Bradburn, wedding officiant

 A nondenominational wedding "celebrant," Bradburn says she always encourages couple to include their pets in the ceremony. One such couple had a 17-year-old Schnauzer serve as their ring bearer, Bradburn recalls. "This little doddering schnauzer was deaf," she says. "He was dressed in a tuxedo and a tie, with tuxedo cuffs on his two front paws."

When the minister was ready for the rings, the couple "did a sweeping hand gesture, and he came just as we had practiced," says Bradburn. "The dog had cancer, and as an elder who was quite ill, he was doing his last bit of service for this couple. He went to the spirit realm a few weeks later."

After the dog's death, Bradburn paid a visit to the couple to reminisce about the wedding and their loyal pup.

"We looked at those pictures of his face," she says, "and we all just wept."




Dave Simpson, C&O restaurant

 After catering events through his C&O restaurant for the past 25 years, Simpson knows the biz is "fraught with all sorts of surprises."

One of the biggest surprises happened in the early days, when Simpson and crew traveled to West Virginia near the Homestead.

"We didn't have the right equipment," Simpson says, so he had rented a refrigerated truck to transport all the groceries to the reception site.

Unbeknownst to him, the truck's temperature gauge wasn't working properly, and when Simpson opened the truck, he found that everything had frozen.

"The lettuce was all black and awful looking," he recalls. "It was extremely stressful."

There was no time to replace the ruined veggies, but as a "crestfallen" Simpson looked around, he saw a welcome sight at the top of nearby a hill: a large garden.

"We ran up there and learned it belonged to the family who was hosting the wedding," he says. "We were in there tearing lettuce out, shaking the dirt off it."

Once they found that bounty, Simpson says, the rest of the event "went off without a hitch."



John Hingeley, Skyline Tent Company

 There are a few things in this world you just can't control: weather's one, and bodyguards are another. At a recent wedding atop a mountain in Southern Albemarle, John Hingeley confronted both these forces.

"A really bad thunderstorm blew in," Hingeley recalls. "Although we had a couple of weddings I wanted to check on, I headed up the mountain first to see if the caterer needed any extra sidewall before the guests were seated for dinner." After arriving, Hingeley discovered the wedding party was happy and dry– as was Governor Mark Warner, who was officiating. But upon returning to his truck, Hingeley discovered the Governor's security detail two huge black Suburbans had parked him in.

"I had about six cars including Warner's state troopers blocking my truck," he says, "so I knew I wasn't going anywhere for a while.

"In the meantime," says Hingeley, "we were air conditioning a 6,000 square-foot tent for another wedding that I had planned to check on next."

Fortunately, the father of the bride owned a disaster-relief business." He knew exactly how to operate all the equipment and didn't want any help at all," Hingeley says. He turned down the massive A/C unit when the storm cooled things off. The next day, Hingeley recalls, there was proof of the storm's fury.

"There were huge oak trees blown down at McIntire," he says, "but all the wedding guests that weekend stayed dry and comfortable."



Ellen O'Neil, event planner

 Brides can't always get what they want, but sometimes they get what they need, says event planner Ellen O'Neil, who recalls an elegant wedding at the Boar's Head Inn four years ago.

"From the beginning," says O'Neil, "the bride and groom had set the tone of the reception to be very sedate. She chose to have a DJ to have more control over the type of music to be played, and it was very low-key and sophisticated. She had given a list of 'Do Not Play' songs to the DJ, and he was following her wishes. The tempo was very slow, and she seemed pleased. It appeared that the reception was going to be brief."

But about half an hour after dinner, O'Neil recalls, the father of the bride tracked her down.

"He took me aside and said 'This party is dying– can you find me a broom?'" she recalls.

O'Neil asked a Boar's Head staffer to bring a broom, and then the father had O'Neil tell the DJ to "step up the music."

Everyone, it seems, loves to see just how low they can go.

"Within five minutes we had about 40 people doing the limbo," says O'Neil, "and then the tone of the evening totally changed. They ended up paying the DJ overtime, and the party went on for several hours. The bride and groom were totally enjoying the lively dancing."