I am not a fan of sneaky people during wedding planning. I answer to the brides and grooms who hire me and nobody else, unless they've been foolish enough to let their parents sign the contract. But I strongly discourage that. There will be disagreements between parents and children during the course of the wedding planning process, especially if the parents are contributing financially to the wedding. When it's a significant contribution or just picking up the whole tab, things can get sorta ugly.
The first red flag I get is when I receive an email from a Mother of the Bride or Mother of the Groom (or another important guest) wanting to set up a "surprise" for the bride and groom. I always try to be open-minded and hear them out, but by the time they come up with these brilliant ideas, I'm usually attuned enough to my clients to know if this is something they would want or would not want.
I'm not talking about making special arrangements to have flowers and champagne waiting in their room after their wedding reception (that's easy), I'm talking about people who should technically be VIP guests that want to do something to change the actual plan of events at the wedding weekend.
First off, I will not hide any email about their wedding from the bride and groom, no matter how whacked-out it is. I had an uncle of a bride come to me to try and fight the couple's "Adults-Only" dictate on the wedding weekend. I told him the party line: The venue didn't permit children. But that wasn't enough for this rude dude.
He contact the villa owners as if he were a potential renter and asked if he could have children at an event at the villa and they said yes. Then he contacted me again to bust me. I told him that the bride and groom had made the decision to exclude any and all children (they weren't even having flower girls or ring bearers) and that he should make other arrangements for his children that he wanted to bring. I was polite, but firm.
Of course, I kept the bride and groom in the blind copy loop on all of the emails with her uncle, and we strategized before I responded because she said he was a little nuts. His next email to me was just plain crazy-nasty and rude, threatening how he would react if he saw any other children there because his daughter had wanted to be the flower girl. At that point, the bride had to say something to him. I'm just the wedding planner. His invitation was from the bride and groom and they were the ones who didn't invite his little darlings, not me. His flower girl comments were just over-the-top.
When her uncle found out that I had shared his emails with her, he flipped! I received a series of hate emails about what a horrible person and wedding planner I am, and how I had an obligation to keep his requests confidential. Wrong. There's no confidentiality agreement in wedding planning. All the drama and baloney we see happen and don't publicize is simply because we are professionals. But I certainly have no obligation to do anything "confidential" for a random wedding guest who had contacted me because he's trying to bring his kids to an "Adults-Only" wedding. Not my job. My job is to rat him out to the bride, actually.
The next email blew my mind! The uncle sent it to EVERYONE ON THE GUEST LIST for whom he had an email address and he blasted me! He told all of the guests that I was thoughtless and rude and had violated his confidence and on and on and on. Fortunately, I'm sure every single recipient thought he was insane. I didn't get a reply email from anyone on the distribution list. But I did receive an apology phone call from the bride's mother and an email from the groom's mother - even though it wasn't her family member. The bride and groom were mortified. Sadly, I've dealt with this sort of crazy before and I was able to tell them not to worry about it at all. This is my job.
Fortunately, all this hit the fan a month prior to the wedding so it died down before the actual festivities. The uncle gave me a wide berth the events - it was a wedding of 150-plus guests and I'm not sure I even spoke to him the entire weekend - and there were no children present. Mission accomplished!
It's not that I don't want children at a wedding. The bride and groom had made the decision and it was my job to implement it. We'd warned security just in case he did show up with the kids so they could ask them to leave (or just not let them in) rather than me having to get into it with the uncle and let him cause the scene he so desperately desired. Really, it was unfair to his children. Why would you ever try to take your young kids to a place they were not invited or wanted? That just messes with their heads.
Another sneaky problem I deal with regularly is being contacted by the bride or groom's mom about setting up an additional event as a "surprise" for the bride and groom, or sometimes completely separate from them. It's the craziest thing. Do they not think I'm going to tell the bride and groom what's up? They're my clients. It's their wedding. No way am I going to let somebody slip in anything unexpected - I don't play that way.
If it's something specific to either the bride or the groom, I tell the opposite one what's going on and ask for direction. More often than not, they tell me to disregard the request and they put the kybosh on it on their own. Sometimes, they'll okay it and I coordinate with the mom and make it all happen. If the surprise is for both of them, I run it by the bride without giving everything away to see what she thinks and what she wants me to do. She can still pretend to be surprised if she wants it to happen. She just doesn't have to suffer through an unpleasant surprise if it's something she does not actually want.
As you can imagine, this doesn't make me popular with some of these guests reaching out to ask me to help "surprise" the bride and groom. Some of them are rude to me the entire wedding weekend if my big mouth squashed something radical they'd wanted to do. I try to remind myself that the problem is really between the bride and groom and that person, not me. I'm just the messenger and I'm the one who got shot delivering the news.
Sneaky knows no boundaries, as I learned when a Mother of the Groom pulled a dirty trick over the traditional Puerto Rican capias (little decorated doilies) she wanted to pin on every wedding guest. The bride was not Puerto Rican and the groom didn't care, so they'd opted to put the capias and pins on the guest book table at the reception with a sign explaining them for any guests who might like to wear one. Lots of people do not want to pin anything onto the delicate fabric of a summer dress, and many brides don't want the usually multi-colored capias all throughout their wedding photographs. It's a pickle. But it's a cultural clash too. My job was to make things happen the way the bride wanted them to happen, angry relatives be damned. They could pin one on themselves if they liked.
Despite our best planning ahead with the bride on this one, the minute the bride and groom disappeared to shoot their formal pictures, the groom's mother, his aunts, and her besties pounced! They grabbed the basket and started pinning away on startled guests who were too polite to tell them no. My husband actually tried to intervene and one of them got aggressive. I told my team to stand down and went to the beach to ask the bride and groom what we should do. We were not getting into disagreements with VIP guests (and making ourselves look unprofessional) about something this stupid.
The groom was angrier than the bride. And fortunately, they'd just finished their portraits so he was able to go get his mother and try to fix the situation. The bride stayed out of it. I got the impression she'd given her opinion on the matter and expected the groom to make sure her wishes were followed. I admired how cool she stayed because I knew how she felt from our planning conversations.
It's important for well-meaning family and guests to understand that the time to pull a surprise on the bride and groom is NEVER on the wedding day, or even the wedding weekend. The reason weddings are "planned" is so that this sort of thing doesn't happen. More and more, we designate exactly who will be toasting and keep tight control of the microphone because brides and grooms do not want to be surprised by something that comes out of a well-intentioned, drunk friend's mouth.
The only surprises on a wedding weekend should be from the bride to the groom or the groom to the bride. Nobody else should interfere. If a family member or guest wants to host something special related to the wedding, they should make the offer to the bride and groom and be gracious if the offer is declined. Sometimes there's a very good reason for the guests of honor to NOT want something done. And they don't really owe anyone an explanation. Taking it upon yourself to do it anyway is really in bad form.
The best way for close family and friends who want to help to do so is for them to ask the bride and groom if they may give a party or help with an event. Find out what the couple wants and do their best to give it to them. Save the surprises for when they get home from their honeymoon.