Replanning a wedding in 24 hours: how one couple coped

If you discovered you had to change your venue to a new town and completely re-plan your wedding 24 hours before the day, how would you react? We hear from Canterbury bride Sherryn Reed, who found herself in this exact predicament.

  • Story by Photos Handmade Photography & Words Trudie McConnochie

If you discovered you had to change your venue to a new town and completely re-plan your wedding 24 hours before the day, how would you react? Canterbury bride Sherryn Reed found herself in this unfortunate position when a severe mid-week snow storm in June closed the roads leading to her wedding venue, The Hermitage in Aoraki-Mt Cook. As you’d expect, the blushing bride to be had a minor meltdown. Although she and fiancée Martin Fox had been holding out hope the roads would be cleared in time for Saturday, at 10am on the Friday they made the difficult decision to look for a new venue. Upsetting as it was, Sherryn says there was simply no time to dwell on the disappointment.‘With all our guests travelling we decided we couldn’t put that many people at risk,’ says Sherryn, who lives in the township of Lincoln, 25 minutes south-west of Christchurch. “All those months of planning – gone. There had been tears the day before and earlier that morning as I was so, so stressed but once we made the decision it was down to business to sort everything out. ‘It turns out we made the right decision, as the roads did not open.’

Plan B
Because the couple had their hearts set on a winter wedding that would offer guests a break away, the tourist town of Hanmer Springs was on their radar. With her fingers crossed, Sherryn’s mum phoned Heritage Hanmer Springs; cool-headed wedding coordinator Nicole Lamont said she needed to check with the head chef. Incredibly, half an hour later she rang to say the hotel would be happy to host a wedding for 110 guests the next day. 

With a shiny new venue locked in, it was all hands on desk to make the wedding happen.

‘We called in reinforcements and began dividing up tasks,’ Sherryn recalls. ‘Our best man found out what we needed to do to change our marriage licence and we headed there next. Our MC organised accommodation for our guests at various motels around Hanmer with a couple of our other friends. One of my bridesmaids rebooked our hair and makeup and then we packed up and got on the road to Hanmer.’

While many brides would have fallen apart with the stress, Sherryn says it was the commitment of her support team that kept her focused.

‘It brought a buzz and a sense of adventure to the wedding – all our guests had this common bond which brought them together. Our families and friends gave a lot of support to ensure our day went ahead, and we are so grateful for all their help and energy.’

The night before
After arriving in Hanmer, a 90-minute drive from Christchurch, the couple spent a long night ironing out a new wedding plan – including a menu and the order of events – with the unflappable Nicole. It was a far cry from the relaxing pre-wedding night at Aoraki they had envisaged.

‘There was a lot to confirm as we needed to run through where we would have the ceremony, and where the reception would be held. There was also the timing of speeches and when the food would come out as well as decorations and confirming the seating arrangement. Once that was all done, we needed to sort out the music for the ceremony, as our chosen music was with our original celebrant.’

The next morning, there was no chance of a relaxed build-up sipping champagne with her bridesmaids; Sherryn leapt out of bed to meet her new celebrant and run through a ceremony plan, then raced to get ready.

You’d think, with so much drama in the lead-up to the wedding, that a smooth-running day would be impossible, but the newlyweds say it was a big success.

‘We got married surrounded by our family and friends, which was what the day was really all about,’ Sherryn says. ‘Yes, it would have been nice for everything to go as planned. However our wedding worked out well – it was just the stress prior that we would change if we could.’

To any other brides who find themselves in the uneviable position of having to replan their wedding at the last minute, Sherryn says it’ll be your family and friends that’ll get you through. Her advice: ‘Call in all the help you can. There will be a lot of communication required.’

The details

Here’s how Sherryn and Martin tackled the nitty gritty of planning a wedding in 24 hours:

The Heritage Hanmer Springs
Not many hotels would agree to host a wedding with one day’s notice. Heritage Hanmer Springs’ general manager Vicki Bretherton says the hotel had never operated on such a tight timeframe. ‘The biggest challenges were calling in all our staff at short notice and then keeping them sustained while working double shifts – and in our wedding coordinator's case she worked right through the 24-hour build-up. We had an advantage though as we had all the necessary equipment and didn't need to rush around and hire items in.’

Hanmer Springs Bakery
On Friday afternoon Martin remembered something crucial – The Hermitage had been making the wedding cake. “Mum contacted the bakery at Hanmer Springs and they were happy to make our cake, even though they don’t usually do that sort of thing,’ Sherryn says. ‘They did an amazing job at such short notice.’

Debbie Moody, Hanmer Springs
‘Our celebrant was in Wanaka and was snowed in. Nicole from Heritage Hanmer Springs helped us out with contact numbers for Debs, and luckily she was happy to take on the job.’

Cashmere Gallery, Christchurch
‘One of the florists moved down onto the flat – as most of them live up on the Port Hills – so that someone would still be able to sort our flowers if it snowed. Due to the weather we had picked them up on Thursday afternoon.’

‘Nicole managed to print our menus and drinks list using the pattern we had used for our wedding invitations. I had made our table numbers using the same pattern, which my aunt had designed originally. Luckily the original table seating plan still worked. We had arranged chocolate placenames from Chocolates from Insignia and they had been delivered earlier in the week, before the weather got too bad.’

Stephanie Defregger, Handmade Photography, Christchurch
‘Stephanie was able to travel to Hanmer instead of Mount Cook. She made us feel relaxed and happy – and given the lead-up we had, this was fantastic.’

Callie Sandford, Christchurch
‘We had to change our hair and make-up bookings as they were based in Tekapo and Fairlie. They were very understanding. My bridesmaid found Callie Sandford from Christchurch to do our make-up. Callie was amazing and organised a hairdresser. We were very lucky, given it was school ball season in Christchurch.’

Ctrl Alt Rock, Christchurch
‘The band were just as happy travelling to Hanmer as they had been travelling to Mount Cook, so we were able to stick with our original plan. They provided a great night’s entertainment.’

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