We ordered our wedding cake (actually cakes; a cupcake tower with a top tier designed to look like the crenelations on top of a castle tower) some time in advance. We had what I thought was a fairly good relationship with the baker and we hashed out most of the details fairly early on; where we needed the cake to be, and so forth. At this time I was assured that even though our reception was being held an hour's drive away from the baker, she would be happy to deliver the cake.
In the week before the wedding, I paid off the final balance on the cake and confirmed the details with her. In hindsight, I should have been more concerned about this conversation. She asked me what time the reception started and I told her 'about 5:30' and told her that she could deliver the cake before that time. At this point she nodded and told me that she had other cakes to deliver that day, but that she would work it out. Two days prior, she got in touch with me again to ask me exactly what time the reception hall would open for delivery, and what time would be the latest she could deliver it. I confirmed that she could deliver the cake any time between 9am and 5:30pm, and she said that she would deliver the cake 'before 5'. I pretty much thought that was the end of it.
Except we arrive at the reception (at about 5:30) after the ceremony and are immediately told that the cake hasn't yet arrived. Naturally, I called her, but got no answer. I tried again twice more over the course of probably ten minutes (probably unnecessary, but I was worried), and still no answer. Approximately two minutes after my last phone call (at about 5:45pm), I received a text message from the baker, saying that she had gotten halfway there and realized she'd forgotten the cake stand, and was on her way back to get it now.
To be honest, at this point I was a little stressed, but I did my very best to take some deep breaths and get over it because, to be honest, shit happens. However, I was still pretty unimpressed that she was apparently 'on' her way back to get it at 5:45 when she said she would have delivered the cake by 5, and I really wanted to know what time the cake would actually be arriving, so I tried again to call her, still with no answer. I texted her back asking for an estimated time of arrival, and got no reply.
In between making phone calls and checking my phone, I did my best to just enjoy the night, but I was, I admit, a little stressed out at this point.
At about 6pm, my sister's boyfriend asked if I'd like him to try calling, in case she was ignoring my calls. I thought this was pretty unnecessarily suspicious, but I said 'fine'. She answered immediately, which did make me rather more suspicious. They spoke for a few minutes, and then my sister's boyfriend passed on the message to me that she was estimating that she would be there with the cake at approximately 7:15pm. Now that I had my ETA, I wasn't really worried, and could just go on with enjoying the night.
Or so I thought, until 7pm, when I got another text message from the baker, saying that she was "too upset" to drive to us and be "abused", and requesting that I send someone to come and pick up the cakes from her. I called her back immediately and explained that no, I couldn't send someone to get it as it was a two hour round trip for one of my guests, and there was no one who wasn't at the wedding I could ask to pick it up and bring it to us. She replied that it was a very long drive for her as well, at which point I (probably quite tersely) told her that yes, it was, but she had agreed to deliver the cake, and we were even paying her extra to deliver the cake such a distance. She did sound quite emotional, so I was doing my best to be supportive, but I was still pretty stressed out too. She then told me that she would deliver the cake as long as no one was rude to her, and I assured her that no one would say a word to her.
I guess it probably didn't help, but in my exasperation I asked why she had waited a full hour since the phone call with my sister's boyfriend to tell me this - and, in fact, why she hadn't told us until after 5:30 that she was going to be late. At first she said, "I was just late, these things happen", and I told her that yes, but she could have told us sooner that she was going to be late, and she snapped back, "I'm not lying". This was really off-putting because, well, I was implying that she was being unprofessional, but I never called her a liar, or even insinuated it.
Still, at the end of the conversation, she said she was leaving immediately and would be a little over an hour.
I did, for the record, double-check with my sister's boyfriend and those who heard him speak to her on the phone, to check that no one had been unnecessarily rude to her. Three different people told me independently that he had been polite, but firm about finding out what was going on. They also all confirmed that the rudest thing he had said to her was "you realize this is her wedding?" which was probably unnecessarily rude of him, but at the same time I can't imagine that a snapped line like that was worth all this.
With my new ETA, I tried to relax and just get to it. Still, at this point, I felt it had gone beyond just "shit happens" and into "are you serious?" territory.
At 8:40, the cake still hadn't arrived, and by this point we had arranged a "backup" cake with the on-site caterers, who had managed to find a basic vanilla slab cake that they could dress up with strawberries and that we could use. I agreed that I'd try calling the baker to see what was happening and then we'd just go with the back-up cake. I tried to call her again three more times (at approximately five or ten minute intervals - the last call was at 8:55pm), and she picked up the third time. Immediately, I could tell that she seemed really emotional and she launched straight into "I'm lost and I don't know where I am". I tried to help, asked for landmarks, and tried to point her in the right direction but she interrupted me to say "I have to go back home, I can't do it". I told her that if she was going to do that, I was going to insist that I get all the money I paid her back, as I wasn't going to pay for cake that never arrived. Her response was, "But so much effort went into this cake", which to be honest I thought was ridiculous - I'm glad she put effort into it, but I never so much as got to see it. I told her this, that I wasn't going to pay for cake that I never saw, even if she did put plenty of effort into it, and she told me "this has just ruined my night, I can't believe this". All I could think to say in response was, "that's great, but how do you think I feel?", which was, once again, probably unnecessary but I was kind of at the end of my tether with her at this point. By the end of the conversation she was just repeating "this has never happened before, this is ridiculous, I can't believe this", and I really wasn't really sure what aspect of it she was talking about - the huge delay that turned into a no-show, or my response to it.
I sent her my bank details and I guess we're just waiting on that refund.
To be honest, I understand that things happen and that not everything can go perfectly smoothly. And she seemed so emotional every time I spoke to her, so I feel like I'm being horrible to be upset with her, but really... there's nothing wrong with saying that if your cake doesn't arrive, something has gone very wrong, right? As one of my friends put it, "It's not like it's ruined the whole night, but the cake has just added a whole extra stress that didn't need to be there".
But, you know, on the bright side it was a lovely night, we had plenty of fun, and I told some of our guests that the cake table without a cake on it was just a big Portal shout-out.