I’ve been a wedding planner for 2 years now and my track record is perfect. No one has filed for divorce. Seriously I do think a perfect wedding is the start of a perfect relationship. It says so on my business cards: “Happily Ever After Begins With Jen.” That’s me. I’m Jen.

If you’re going to work with me, backed by my awesome event crew of Ashlee and MacKenzie, the first step is to pick a theme. I can do rustic hippy chic or garden party disco in my sleep. But when Jeff and Holly said they wanted a golf-themed wedding reception, I was stumped. Can you even! It was my most exciting challenge ever. I’ll be honest, there were tears. And some grass stains, maybe a little blood, but we got it all out.

Feel free to use my tips here for your next wedding! Or not, and just do what Grandma GiGi wants you to do and have it in her backyard. 

A little background: Jeff and Holly met on a golf course at a charity event for kids. I love that. He proposed at sunset a year later. When Holly picked her ball out the ninth hole, she found a velvet ring box, turned around and Jeff was on one knee.

They gave me free rein, trusting me to bring the spirit of golf to their special day. I did some research and planned around what their golf-loving guest list would really value. Here you go.

Setting

Jeff’s family knows somebody who knows somebody because we had the reception on this super swanky golf course. Handed this very special setting, I was going to take full advantage of the space and all it had to offer.

Lesson learned: Sometimes it’s better to keep it simple. I used walkie talkies to communicate with my crew, but since I couldn’t make eye contact with Ashlee at hole 4 or MacKenzie at hole 11, keeping tabs was difficult. When I saw them at the end of the evening, shell-shocked Ashlee was white-knuckling five iPhones. “They just keep ringing and dinging but I don’t know who they belong to!” she kept repeating. MacKenzie, on the other hand, was feeling great. I called her an Uber.    

Transportation

People who golf are used to riding around in carts, which is a blessing since the women were wearing heels, the weather was ridiculously perfect and I planned everything to be spread across 18 holes. We had a fleet of shiny golf carts.

Lesson learned: Make sure the couple you represent and the country club have a signed agreement regarding who’s responsible for what related to the carts. There’s a lot of gray areas when it comes to damages, and I’m still trying to get someone to pay the hefty bill that must have been mailed to me in error.

Assigned Foursomes

Most golfers prefer playing in foursomes, so with a guest list of 224 people, we designated 56 foursomes. I’d worked with brides on prickly seating arrangements before. This was a different beast, but to be true to the game they love, we just had to do it. As each guest arrived, they were handed a card and asked to find the other members of their foursome.

Lesson learned: During cocktail hour, we had some pushback. But tackling hiccups is a wedding planner’s greatest asset. As soon as I sensed the alarm, I schooled Ashlee and MacKenzie on the concept, and they canvassed the crowd to educate and answer questions, with a tray of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to ease nerves. 

I’m still unsure what the confusion was all about. You get a name on a card and you go find that person and then sit with them. Maybe more wine wasn’t the best plan to get people to understand directions, in hindsight.

Fast Pacing

Slow play is a real irritant for golfers. Also, they like completing one task (sinking a ball) before they can move onto another one (sinking another ball).

To give guests a sense of actually playing a round, we configured 18 food stations with bite-sized, plated portions at each station across the course, plus drinks. Each foursome had to start at station 1, complete their bites, and then progress to station 2, and so forth.

I thought this was the most clever, easiest part of the whole event. Yet somehow, the “Murrays” still managed to bungle it up.

Lesson learned: Golfers say they don’t like slow play, but I disagree. We had foursomes hanging out at holes for way too long. At hole 6, we had a beet salad and a mini G&T  that caused a traffic jam. And carts waiting to continue on to the next hole had zero patience — not to mention manners. But hole 15 was the worst. These sirloin bites with a bourbon sampler were a complete roadblock. People just hung out like it was the last call on the last episode of Cheers. And by “hung out,” I mean the guys started making bets and taking aim with golf balls at trees. The women weren’t much better, taking over the minibar and drowning out the piped-in classical music with Lizzo on repeat.     

Hole-in-One Experience

Jeff and Holly found their hole-in-one, and everyone dreams of hitting a hole-in-one, so we wanted to give everyone that once-in-a-lifetime experience, too. After enjoying their last bite on the 18th hole, guests were instructed to ride their carts to the pavilion for dancing. Everyone had a blast! (Except, perhaps, the woman in the navy dress on the top of the human pyramid when it came crashing down.) After a long night of revelry — and one impromptu bonfire on the green — guests received a beautifully wrapped box tied up with a green bow (Masters green) containing one perfect donut hole.

Lesson learned: People are ungrateful and gluttonous. Can’t you see the symbolism of the perfect hole-in-one donut hole? I hate golf. I don’t feel 100% about Jeff and Holly’s future together, for the record.

Plus, Ashlee quit.