When Your Couple is Time-Challenged

Island time is code for don’t get yourself in a tizzy

Man looking at watch
Photo by Shamim Nakhaei on Unsplash.com

When you’re on the receiving end of this statement it means you’re dealing with someone who is time-challenged. He or she looks at the clock and the hands tell him or her the time they want it to be. Not the time it actually is!

If you’ve ever visited the Caribbean you’ve probably heard the expression, “island time”.

For the non-time challenged, this expression is code for “being late for an event is just how things are here in the islands. Chill. Have a Dos Equis or Corona.”

When I lived in Puerto Rico for 8 months, there were some folks who were known for being days, not just hours, (I kid you not) — but DAYS late.

The tizzy part? I didn’t do so well in that department.

Maybe it’s because I’m the daughter of a man who regularly showed up early for an event. Yes EARLY.

My mother was pretty much always on time. Dressed to the t’s and with a casserole in hand.

The early bird genes

No early bird genes were passed on to me from either side of the family. I’m the one who’s the most time-challenged in my family.

I’m the one who’s squandered the family punctuality genes. Yes, me, the one offering the good advice in this post.

You might assume I’d be more understanding of a bride who’s an hour late to her wedding.

Horrible traffic

Not too long ago on my way to officiate a local ceremony, the traffic was so horrible I called the groom. Just to be on the safe-side. “ I’ll still be there on time,” I told him. “Just not as ahead of time as I like.”

“Don’t worry,” he told me. “We’re really behind too.”

red flag waving for the time-challenged
Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🇬🇧 on Unsplash.com

A red flag popped up somewhere. “How behind?” I asked him.

“About 15 minutes,” he laughed. He sounded stressed.

“No worries,” I told him. “I’ll get there and check everything out. We’ll just wait.”

When I found the correct location, there were about 20 people standing around. I drifted through the crowd and sat down to go over the ceremony.

When I looked up, it was 15 minutes past the hour the ceremony was scheduled to take place.

Text #1

I sent a text to the bride. “Where are you at?”

“We’re 5 minutes away,” she said.

I shucked and jived with some guests who were rolling their eyes and looking at their watches.

Text #2

Eight minutes later I sent another text. “What’s up?” I asked.

No answer.

Curious, I asked one of the bride’s friends, “Is being late normal for her?”

“Oh yes, she runs late a lot,” chuckled a guy who was wearing a black shirt with big red flames rising from the hem. He turned out to be her Dad.

“Did you start that with her?” I joked with him. “Were you always late when she was a kid?”

He shook his head yes and I chided him, “See what you started? You made her this way! It’s all your fault!” He laughed and joked back about how he knew he was a bad role model.

Making the choice

At that point I had a choice to make. Wait for the bride from her fortress on her island of  time-challenges.

Or set a limit.

Because I’ve been in this situation before and truly, I’m better at managing my tizziness, I chose the latter. Limits were on their way.

The importance of telling the truth

What bothered me the most was that the bride was not telling the truth when she said she was 5 minutes away. I get that she  may have been embarrassed or didn’t want to get scolded for being late. She’d probably been scolded plenty in her time-challenged life.

But she had to expect being scolded. Everyone has something to do, somewhere to be.

The truth was, she hadn’t even left her house yet, which was about 10 minutes away. So she was lying. That kind of stuff REALLY bothers me I don’t care what the occasion.

Whether she was nervous, a bad planner, had too many distractions, these are all and none valid reasons for being late to her own wedding. If instead she’d come clean, and been truthful, I might have read another page of the Mueller Report while I waited.

Text #3

I chose to text her instead. “How are you coming? Getting closer?”

“Almost there,” she said.

“Good,” I said. “Because I have to leave at noon.”

I felt through the ethers that boundaries weren’t something she had to contend with often. People just allowed her to operate on Island time.

But something in her kicked into high gear. I could feel it.

Making good on a threat

Honestly I hoped I wouldn’t have to make good on my threat. I took a few moments to imagine myself walking away. It didn’t feel good but I decided I would trot my body out of there if I had to. The couple could come to my house and I’d officiate for them there later. They could still party and have a good time talking about what an awful a person I was.

Giving her these parameters wasn’t meant to be mean, but to make the point that other people’s time is part of the equation at any event. Agreements are agreements. Whether you’re on the mainland or an island.

And in 10 more minutes they showed up with 5 more minutes to spare.

Why was I there?

I was hired to do a job, and provide a valuable service. That’s why I was there with all the people I didn’t know who were tapping their foot, looking at their watches. I was not there to wait around for her to get her act together.

Although this was her and her fiancé’s day it was NOT the best of times to keep everyone waiting. As much as I didn’t want her wedding day to be marred by the boundaries I’d set if the worse case scenario unfolded, waiting an hour for a wedding to start is too much in my book.

The Pagan Initiation

A zillion years ago when I first started doing weddings,  I officiated a ceremony for people who identified themselves pagans. I’m up for the unique so I was eager to officiate.

The ceremony itself was way out in the country. There must have been 100 people waiting for the event to begin. It was muggy.

I overheard someone in a group of friends mention how she was always horribly late (aka time-challenged) and you just had to put up with it if you wanted to be her friend.

After an hour, even the people-pleaser in me had had enough. I asked a few people where the bride was. Someone guessed she was having trouble with her dress. On the second floor of the farmhouse.

I sought her out to see if I could help. What I found was she and her bridesmaids lounging in the bridal room drinking beer.

The dress was fine.

“If you’re not at the altar in 10 minutes, I’m leaving.”

She was. I officiated. The groom apologized and I felt bad for the lifetime ahead of him.

Being late is an unconscious method of controlling others

But that’s just me. I don’t like late late late. It makes me feel like someone is trying to control me and tell me they’re more important than I am.

I believe we’re equals. And deserve equal respect.

So you have to decide how long you’ll wait for a late bride or groom.

Aunt Mary is running late

You also have to be prepared to make a recommendation of how long to wait for a guest who’s important and is “running late.”

time-challenged older woman
Photo by Shamim Nakhaei on Unsplash

Some couples want to wait for 20 minutes for a treasured aunt who’s always late. Or someone who says they got lost.

In the meantime there’s 50-100 people waiting for that one person. The new star of the day…

That’s not okay with me. Honor the people who are there on time. Let Aunt Mary watch the video.

TO DO: Clarity in the contract

I’ve learned now to put in my contract that any wedding that starts more than ½ an hour late, a fee of $25 for each 15 minutes afterwards will be charged. After and hour has gone by, I’m going bye-bye.

The time-challenged have taught me well.

Be clear up front, and make your clients sign on the dotted line that they’ve read and understood the stipulation about time. Doing so is a good practice.

Beyond that, although every situation may be different, check out the Checklist I created that details how to identify and work with the following reasons island time has been invoked.

When your couple is time-challenged, you’re looking at

  1. Patterns.
  2. Extenuating circumstances.
  3. Honoring those present.
  4. The Domino affect.
  5. The Disease to Please.

I expand these points, and look at how and why to handle them in a PDF Checklist. You can grab it here:  When Your Couple is Time-Challenged

The gentle kind belief

The world’s made up of all kinds of people. Some are chronically late, others like my dad are early.

It’s up to you what you want to do. But make sure you don’t resent your couple later because they should have done better. If you’d been clear up front, could the situation have been improved?

Spell out what you’re able to do and what crosses the line.

That way you can focus on love, on joy and happiness. and on feeling you are respected for all you bring to a couple’s very special day, even those who are time-challenged and deeply in love.


Know Like and Trust
Crystal Yarlott, Officiant and Collaborator







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