So, Sunday afternoon it finally happened. It was unexpected, unwelcome and unavoidable, something I definitely had hoped would not happen to me, but always wondered in the back of my mind when it would. My car broke down on the side of the road just 10 miles from my wedding venue and about 45 minutes before I was scheduled to arrive on site.
But because I was fairly well prepared, and thought quick on my feet, I was able to avoid what could have been a disastrous situation. A situation that would’ve led to an angry client and bad reputation. Instead of being stuck on the side of the road and missing important parts of my clients’ day, I arrived just 30 minutes past my scheduled arrival time, didn’t miss a beat, and captured all of the important memories that I was hired to capture. Even though I had an awful situation arise, I still had a job to do and people that were depending on me to do it.
Here is how I was able to salvage a potentially damaging situation.
1) I PLANNED AHEAD. I padded extra time into the arrival schedule just in case anything came up while traveling to the venue, plus I also padded the time I knew I needed to be on site. I knew my bride planned to get in her dress about 2:30 p.m., with wedding party portraits starting at 3 p.m. So I told my bride I would get to the venue at 1:30 to give me an hour for detail shots and any “getting ready” pictures. That day I was actually traveling from Norfolk to Roanoke for the wedding. I’m based in Lynchburg, but had photographed a wedding in Norfolk the night before. So I left early Sunday morning so my arrival time would be about 1 p.m. (barring any traffic or whatnot). My thought was that I could always grab lunch once I got close to the venue to kill a little time if I needed to. But in this case, I used that extra time to trouble shoot my vehicle issues, call my second shooter and make arrangements to get to my job site.
2) I HAD A BACKUP PLAN. I had scheduled a second shooter to join me at the wedding venue about an hour after I was scheduled to arrive. Once I figured out that my vehicle was not going any further than a parking lot to get it off the side of the road, I contacted my second shooter and asked her to pick me up along the way. She was at that time only 30 minutes away. I sent her my location and she arrived in time for me to transfer all of my gear, and my suitcase, into her vehicle and we took off, leaving my poor, sick Dodge Durango in the BB&T parking lot. Now some people may think I’m crazy, but I actually had this whole situation planned out in advance in my head. I DID NOT KNOW my car was going to break down that day, but I always in the back of my mind worry that it might (it is a 2003 with 150,000 miles after all). And even that morning I thought myself through a plan should that situation arise. I always knew that if something happened, especially along that last stretch of the route, I would ask my second shooter for assistance.
3) I WENT WITH THE FLOW. I’m old enough to know that freaking out isn’t going to do any good. You can only do what you can do. When that temperature gauge flew up to the H, and liquid starting spewing from the front of the car, and smoke poured out, I quickly pulled over. I hopped out, waited for it to cool and googled advice! Once the vehicle cooled down, I popped the hood and checked for anything out of the ordinary. I also checked my time. I knew I had a little cushion of time built in to my trip so I tried to remain calm and run through my options in my head. Once I knew my second shooter was on the way, but I’d still be a little late, I called my bride and alerted her (in a calm manner of course, I didn’t want the bride to worry!). And as soon as I got to the venue I put the car trouble behind me, I did not let it cloud my thoughts. I needed to put my game face on and keep my mind centered on the bride, groom and getting the best images I could of THEIR day, because no matter what I just dealt with, or what kind of stress I had waiting for me 10 miles away, this was their special time and they deserved ALL of my attention.
And, as many wedding days do, this one was running behind on the clents’ part too! After 5 years of shooting weddings, I’ve come to realize that more often than not, things run behind. Makeup, hair, lunch, getting ready … it usually runs a little late. And even though my bride and I had planned on doing wedding party portraits BEFORE the 5 p.m. ceremony, this did not happen. Not because of me and my broke down car – I was still on site by 2 p.m., but because of things that just came up along the way. But you know what, we still had time for all the pictures after the ceremony, and we weren’t rushed, and they came out beautifully!
One of my greatest work related fears came true Sunday, but it was nice to be able to know I could keep a calm mind, push through it and make wise decisions that kept me on my game for my clients. I would highly encourage all wedding photographers to have a back up plan in mind, whether it be for a busted vehicle en route to the venue, an illness, or worse. It’s always wise to be prepared for the unexpected.
You can see the full blog post from this past Sunday’s wedding here: Karly and Jeremy’s Mountain Top Wedding