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Sandy Malone Headshot

What I Never Expected to Happen to Me When I Was Running a Wedding

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I had a scary experience the other night at a beautiful big wedding where I was the woman in charge. I've planned and executed more than 400 weddings in five years on Vieques and Culebra Islands and I've had a lot of sticky situations, but this recent wedding was the first time that I was really afraid something terrible was going to happen to me.

An outrageously drunk wedding guest set his attentions on me and wouldn't leave me alone. First, he was touchy-feely. Then he was gropey-grabby. Then he wanted to dance and wouldn't let go. Then he tried to dance with me (after the music was shut down) in a dark corner and lead me off into the dark, against my will. Really freaking scary. Thank goodness for radios and alert staff who helped intervene. But what if they hadn't heard me in the chaos of shutting down the event?

I've never worried much about something this extreme happening to anyone at any of our events because we're pretty well staffed, and we're all hooked up with headset radios, plus most of the people (not the service staff) who work for me have some experience in law enforcement. I also have my husband and staff watching my back most of the time. Very little happens that I don't see or hear about within minutes of it happening. So I won't pretend I wasn't aware that we have ass-grabbing problems all the time at most wedding events. I've had my own butt grabbed more times than I can count, and I usually just brush it away with a dirty look and firm "no" and stay away from the person. That's how most of the staff handle it too. Because nobody working a wedding WANTS to cause any kind of problem that would take away from the bride's night. After all, it's not her fault that her guests are acting like jackasses.

What is it about being on a Caribbean island at a destination wedding that makes some wedding guests think it's alright to grope and manhandle the staff at events in a way they never would back north? Do these people realize that unwanted touching is called "assault"? And touching boobs and butts or other private areas is "sexual assault." Yep, these things are also illegal in Puerto Rico and most other places outside the United States, so it's really not okay. But that's a common problem down here. C'mon guys -- this isn't spring break and you're not 21 years old (not that being a pervert was okay then either).

Imagine what happens with some wedding guests who come down to the islands to let loose for a few days. A lot of the guys seem to think they are very attractive and charming and that all of us ladies here on the island should want them. Let's call it reverse beer goggling -- they see themselves the way they wish we were seeing them. The truth is, we see them for what they are -- somewhat pathetic, drunk tourists in desperate need of a tan who are blowing off steam in a tacky way. Usually their wives are less than 20 yards away while the guy is making a play too. And while my staff is all super polite and will stand and chat, nobody is looking for a date or any more attention than you would give any other server working at any event you would attend anywhere. The people working for me at these events don't want to dance with you -- neither do I -- we're working. Nobody wants to go out with you later that night (quick hint -- it's against my company policy anyway, buddy, so leave my staff alone).

Now to be fair, the male guests aren't the only offenders -- my poor husband has been harassed by many women over the years. The WORST are the really drunk mothers of the brides and their friends. Of course, I know he can defend himself. Some of the girls who work for me cannot, and most of the bartenders and servers are women.

So what's a good wedding planner to do to protect her staff while still producing perfect events? It's tricky. I have instituted a firm policy since my close call, and make sure my clients know about it in advance -- no touching the staff or the offending party will be asked to leave upon second offense. If they have a problem with my company policy, I probably don't need them as clients. I'm running a destination wedding planning company, not an escort service. I have a highly trained service staff that is going to make your wedding reception dinner service appear as streamlined as any of the best venues back in a major city in the states, and we all deserve to be treated with respect.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Wedding in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy