I've had my share of interesting weddings: wacky weddings, weird weddings, traditional weddings - you name it. Most weddings go along pretty smoothly, but inevitably, there are those occasional weddings where things might have gone a bit better. I've only had a truly horrendous wedding experience once. The date was Saturday, May 30, 2008. I'd had a bad feeling about this particular wedding from the beginning. The bride was super-anal, wanting a full background check on each member of the quartet and having the pickiest and most difficult music selections of all time. But the bride was just a warm-up for the wedding planner, who was by far the most neurotic person I had ever come in contact with. She needed like 4 recommendations from the quartet and a complete run-down of the contract - picking apart every little detail and offering suggestions for multiple revisions. I almost cancelled then, but felt like I couldn't after I had signed the contract.
I had a lot of anxiety in the days leading up to the wedding, but as the day started things began excellently. The quartet I was playing with wasn't my normal group (my 'Russian Quartet' as I'll call them, had another job) so I was playing with another set of players. We decided to meet at Mannes College of Music since it was centrally located and we had all attended at one time or another. We were originally going to take a Metro North train and then a taxi to the venue in New Rochelle, NY, but one of the violinists had to rent a car for a gig the next day and so he offered to go ahead and rent the car for an extra day so we could drive.
We all arrived at Mannes early (which was a miracle in itself), and parked in an amazing spot in a 15-minute zone directly in front of the building. We stuffed everything except for one viola in the trunk - two violins, the cello, all the music stands and all of the sheet music. We closed the trunk and we were off - at least, I thought we were off - until our violinist announced that the keys were in the trunk - the locked trunk.
A moment of panic ensued, until we realized that the car was unlocked. All was saved!! We could just pop the trunk from the drivers seat and away we'd go. So our violinist went around to the drivers side, found the button and pushed it - to no avail. He pushed it again - still nothing. Over and over we pushed that button, every member of the quartet trying in his or her own turn, thinking they might have the magic touch, but that damn trunk just wouldn't open. It kept making this promising clicking sound, but it wouldn't unlatch.
However, all was not lost. Our next idea was to break through the trunk through the back seats. We swarmed the back seats, looking for buttons to push, poking through cracks and crevices and yanking on each seat in a desperate attempt to get in the trunk and to our lost keys. After 15 minutes of that activity with no progress made, we decided it was time for a locksmith.
This was okay - if we found one in the neighborhood who could come within the next half hour, we still could make it on time to play the prelude. We ran into Mannes in search of directions to a locksmith or a phone book, whichever was available. We were in luck! The guard knew of a locksmith a block or so away and there was a yellow pages available, so we had one member run down to the neighborhood locksmith while the rest of us started calling places on our cell phones. We called several places that day - a couple were closed, a couple were out of business and a couple answered. We asked two different companies to come as soon as they could and they reassured us they could be there within a half-hour. The other member returned from her search for the neighborhood locksmith unsuccessfully, but it was fine, we had the two other companies on the way.
So we wait, watching the time fly by, fiddling with trunk button and and each stepping in the dog poop that has been (so thoughtfully) deposited right outside the door to the car. Then we realize - we can call the rental company! They will have an extra set of keys they can bring to us. We look for the number in the glove and call - no answer. That's okay - there's an emergency number and we call that number - nothing. We continue waiting and wondering and calling. A half and hour passes, and now the worst part - I have to call the wedding planner from hell to let her know what is going on. Even if the locksmith arrived at this point, we would have been a few minutes late, so I had to call.
She handles the situation much better than I anticipated; She is calm and suggests that we use her AAA card to get a locksmith right away. We explain that there are already two on the way, but she makes the call and lets us know that there's a third on the way. We continue to wait anxiously for someone (anyone) to arrive as we continue to fiddle with the car and step in dogshit and chew our fingernails. Time continues to click on by and finally, after an hour passes, the locksmith arrives! We know that if he can open the trunk quickly, we can still make it to the start of the wedding, so we're thanking God as he takes a look. After a few minutes of looking at the lock, he explains that the only way to open the lock is to take the car door apart, take a mold of the lock and have a new key made - a project which requires a separate guy with a separate truck and equipment.
At this point we are panic stricken - I call the wedding planner to tell her the news and this time she's not so nice. She starts yelling and cursing at me and I try to explain our next idea: to send the violist (the one musician whose instrument in not locked in the trunk) and to try to find another violinist (or just a spare violin) so at the very least this wedding will have some music for the processional. We race through the halls of Mannes looking for a violinist - or even just a violin that we can borrow - but it's a Saturday and all we can find are two pianists and a vocalist. We start calling everyone we know that lives in the area and, after several calls, track down someone who lives a few blocks away who is willing to come. I call the wedding planner to let her know of our plans and she is livid by this point. The new violinist arrives and we tell the wedding planner we have two musicians on the way and send them off in a cab.
Soon after they leave, the special locksmith arrives and begins to takes the door apart. He only accepts cash, so I have to walk a few blocks to the ATM. When I return, he has finished the job and I hand over $300 and we're finally able to open the trunk and retrieve our keys! We decide to go ahead to the venue to apologize to the wedding party in person and to see how everything went with the two we sent ahead of us in the taxi. We drive the 45 minutes to the venue (getting lost several times on the way) and arrive at the country club 30 minutes after the wedding was to begin.
We walk into the club and spot our friends, who explain that the wedding had already begun by the time they had gotten there - the wedding planner hadn't waited for them to arrive - the DJ ended up providing the music for the ceremony. We meet the wedding planner (who had inexplicably morphed back into a regular person, thankfully) and apologize, giving the deposit back for the wedding. We drive back to the city and all go our separate ways home.
Financially, this gig was a complete disaster. Instead of making a couple hundred dollars, I ended up paying the $300 for the locksmith, $100 for the cab ride (for the two musicians who went up ahead) and $50 for the last-minute violin replacement's time. Professionally, this gig pretty embarrassing, especially after I had reassured both the bride and the wedding planner that we were experienced and competent. But personally, (and some might say spiritually) something else happened for me that day that wasn't so bad. I realized that one of my biggest professional fears - missing a wedding - had come true, and I was still alive. The earth hadn't shattered, my skin didn't melt off, I didn't have a heart attack. I was disappointed with the situation, but I handled myself with dignity (minus the dog poop) and did the best I could do.
We found out later that we had accidentally pushed some safety button when we stuffed all of our equipment into the trunk, which is why the trunk button wasn't working. The rental place was supposed to be open when we called, but they had closed early for a family gathering. And although the manager's cell phone was set to receive incoming emergency calls, their phone was malfunctioning that afternoon. For some reason, it just wasn't meant for us to get there that day.