06/05/2012 11:56 am ET Updated Jul 31, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On

In the wedding and events business, there is a mantra that one must not only be aware of but also live by: Sometimes there are uncontrollable forces with a completely different agenda mapped out for us and instead of worrying, we must Keep Calm and Carry On.

Recently, I was at the gym when I got a text from my lead planner, Nick. "Call as soon as you can -- important." I couldn't imagine what it was, but knowing that he is not the type to stir up unnecessary drama, I took a deep breath and called. On the other end, Nick started with a big sigh. "I don't yet know the details, but the invitations for [our lovely bride's] wedding, the ones that were supposed to go out last night but didn't... there was, um, a fire at the printer early this morning. I'm pretty sure everything was ruined." I had seen the four-alarm fire on the morning news and there was no doubt that they were gone.

I immediately went into what my production manager friend Ron Allen called the "Is-anyone-dead? No? Good! Now-how-are-we-going-to-fix-it?" mode. Of course, being the Mr. Planner Extraordinaire that Nick is, he was way ahead of me and had already informed the bride of the problem, talked her through the tears and had her booked that afternoon into another stationer. I'm happy to say the newly-printed invitations went out recently, and we now have a smiling bride who had the amazing grace and fortitude to cry out, "At least it wasn't the venue. This is a good sign!"

My point is plain and simple: Unexpected things are going to happen when you plan a wedding (or are just planning life in general). That is why for every one of our events we try to have a "Plan A," a "Plan B" and a "Plan C." While we can't always predict messy situations, we can plan for them. Step one? Make an ICE (in case of emergency) list of important contacts who might come in handy putting out metaphorical wedding day fires (the fire department is still your best bet for actual ones).

I learned the importance of knowing whom to call and when early in my career. I had just been hired as a freelancer by one of the city's top designers for a huge wedding at The Pierre. It had all the bells and whistles and every peony on the East Coast. As we were finishing up and tweaking the details of the reception, the designer wasn't happy with the placement of the cake and, in a hurry, he pushed the table a bit too forcefully -- only to find that someone hadn't checked the table legs. We all stood and watched with horror as, one by one, SEVEN of the SEVEN layers of a beautiful Sylvia Weinstock cake SPLATTED unceremoniously onto the table and dance floor. To be very clear about the severity of this situation, dropping a Sylvia Weinstock cake is like stepping on a Fabergé egg; each one is incredibly unique, created with that specific event in mind, and worth its weight in gold. Oh, and did I mention that guests were right outside the door sipping cocktails and waiting to come in?

Now, this is where the learning took place. The designer started to panic, but then realized there was simply no time for that. He took a deep breath and pointed to one of the crew. "Call Sylvia now!" And then to another, "Find the hotel's pastry chef and get white icing up here!" With that, he bent down and started to re-construct the cake with his bare hands, piling up and molding pieces on the layer bases the best that he could. (Dear readers, be assured he only used the cake left on the table -- not the dance floor).

In what seemed like only minutes, the hotel Pastry Chef was there, entombing the evidence in white buttercream while the custodial staff mopped up the splay of crumbs and sugar flower pieces. Then Sylvia arrived. To this day I can still see her and her husband Ben walking through the door; Sylvia, cool as a cucumber in her robe and slippers, with a box full of extra sugar flowers. She barked orders with the precision of a military general and everyone rallied, knowing only one thing: there was a job to be done, and done quickly. In the end, guests had a 15-minute-longer cocktail hour (who would complain about that?), the unaware bride and groom had a beautiful cake to cut and the guests were served from pre-existing sheet cakes in the kitchen. No, it wasn't optimal and I'm sure after causing such a ruckus, my designer boss jumped through hoops to make it all up to the client (and to Sylvia). But everyone stayed calm and the job got done. There was no screaming or drama, just the cool-headed action that comes with experience.

Really, what mattered most was that the bride and groom got married, there was love, there was a celebration and there was happiness. And to my friend Ron's credit, there were, indeed, no dead people!

So, to use the phrase from the popular British propaganda posters that I've seen popping up everywhere for a couple of years, when an unpleasant situation presents itself, please "Keep Calm and Carry On." Most of the time, the "disasters" that might happen are, in the grand scheme of things, just a blip on the radar. Heck, in a few years, I guarantee you'll be giggling about it. Just remember, keep your eye on the prize, stay mindful of the big picture, improvise, and move forward.