Wednesday, December 28, 2005

DON’T EVALUATE YOUR GUESTS’ RELATIONSHIPS--AND IF YOU HAVE TO, TACT AND CLASS MUST BE IN YOUR CORNER (PART III: Q&A)

I received a very good question today from a reader. I thought instead of simply posting the comment/question, it would be more helpful to everyone if I addressed it here... Obviously, there are some VERY difficult situations out there as regards this "evaluation" process I speak of.... It's great ya'll are thinking hard about them--you're definitely three steps ahead of many others!!

Q: Well, now I'm confused?! Perhaps you can give me a little advice...I am only inviting immediate family (aunts/uncles and 1st cousins) and close friends to my wedding. However, a couple of my cousins (who are approx. my age) have younger children. I am inviting younger 1st cousins of mine, but I was not planning on inviting these 2nd cousins. I have been nervous for months about my 1st cousins' (the parents of the 2nd cousins) reactions. Do I need to invite them because I have categorized them out of the wedding? There's only 3 children...will this start a war without words if I don't invite them regardless of them not being in my initial "immediate" family plan? Help a girl out!!"

A: I acknowledge that it's certainly difficult to invite every single person you wish you could squeeze onto the final guest list. You raise a good point when you speak to the issue of RELATIVES, which is a subject I hadn't addressed in my last posts.

I want to reiterate this: it's GREAT that you're thinking about/concerned with this issue, because it means that no matter what you decide to do, you'll handle it better than AverageBride.

As it sounds like you have your reasons why you cannot include the second cousins, my advice is not to try to fit everyone in at your expense (whether monetary or figurative). You shouldn't feel overwhelmed and that the decision is out of your control...The trick here is to handle it in a way that will make people feel like they matter--and that you care--whether or not they're at the event. Here are a few suggestions:

(1) If you live close enough to your relatives (i.e. the first cousins--i.e. parents' of the second cousins), perhaps have a lunch/brunch with them to explain why their children have to be left out... and that you are not happy about the situation and just want them to know you care and have been thinking about it. If the children are old enough to understand, then I would certainly include them in the lunch/brunch, explaining that it's a small wedding, there were constraints, you very much care about them, etc..... Obviously you don't have to "make" the brunch about the issue, but it's a nice way of seeing them and bringing up the subject at the same time.

(2) If your first/second cousins are not in the proximity and you aren't able to visit with them and explain that it's only immediate family, then phone calls are the best way to go. I think your picking up the phone and letting your cousins know--in advance--long before they will receive invitations--is an effective way to handle the situation. If you are open and honest (yet firm--don't let people guilt-trip you if your mind is made up!!!), then you are shielding yourself from people saying you were thoughtless. You DID think--you thought hard about your decision--and it was WITH a LOT of thought when you took the time to explain your decision to people so they wouldn't feel put out.

(3) At this point, I'll give some "don't" advice since this is obviously a delicate issue. Unless you are particularly close with your first cousin(s) and you know they're dying to hear it, don't go on and on (and on and on) about the wedding with them (i.e. wedding plans, what you have left to do, and all that jazz). Try to be as subtle about the event as possible, i.e. the exact opposite of the "it's my day" attitude. It sounds like you won't even get caught in that trap, given that you're concerned with their reaction. All I would say is keep wedding talk to a minimum and take an active interest in how everyone in your family is doing--no matter who is on that guest list or not. My point isn't that you should feel so badly you can't talk about the wedding--but just try not to make it a focal point if there are sensitive issues involved.

Remember that what really perplexed me about my friend's behavior on my last posts wasn't as much what she did--but how she did it (i.e. no phone calls, no emails, and a feeble explanation afterwards). I think that's the important thing I took away from my observations and ruminations...

I hope this has been helpful, and the question is one many may have ... Good luck, and keep us posted if you would like!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

DON’T EVALUATE YOUR GUESTS’ RELATIONSHIPS--AND IF YOU HAVE TO, TACT AND CLASS MUST BE IN YOUR CORNER (PART II)

If you think that my first post is unrealistic, I offer you a second piece of advice:

If you absolutely HAVE to resort to categories (as Heather did with her “groups” of desirables and “groups” that were simply not), or even a random guest-cutting tactic that you believe will surprise or hurt those that are invited, then handle yourself with the proper decorum and grace that you would expect and hope that others would give to you.

There was no phone call from Heather before the invitation reached my mailbox, no email, no cellphone voicemails. If I had heard from her before the invitation reached my mailbox, and she had explained to me why TallGuy was not invited, then perhaps I could have been more understanding.

A personal explanation BEFORE the fact is a rational, reasonable way of addressing an uncomfortable and potentially offensive situation. Particularly when you consider someone a good friend. I would have respected Heather's decision much, much more if she had had the courage to face me before the fact. And, if she had, I am sure I would have been much more gracious and at least open to accepting what she had done.

As much as I had wanted to immediately hit delete when I received the email days after getting the invite, I restrained myself. I knew it would be good to have a record of that email in my inbox, just so I could keep both a tangible reminder, as well as something to file in the back of my mind. Even more than that, though, I wanted to make sure that I responded and didn’t forget to write back. I certainly was not going to ignore the message, and I would have much preferred to send back an abrupt email, conveying my disappointment and anger.

However, I decided to take the high road (sort of). “Heather: Thanks for your email. No worries at all, I'm totally fine with it, and understand.... Looking forward to your wedding. My hours are really good at work, so I'm available to meet up whenever you have time. Good luck with the planning.... The Wedding Fairy”.

While the email was certainly short and sweet, it made no bones about the fact there would be no soothing language to address her rationalizations, no comforting words and long message back to her in order to assuage her guilt.

I think that the reason she didn’t get in touch to begin with, and the reason I did not hear from her post-email exchange, is that she knew that she was wrong.

The lesson to be learned here is that if you’re going to do something without thinking, at least know after-the-fact that it was a thoughtless action that deserves explanation.

If you can’t even do that for someone, then don’t bother inviting them--then at least they won't feel like they will have to sit at the leftover single’s table like Samantha, Charlotte, Miranda and Carrie did at Brooke’s wedding in the first season of Sex and the City. Remember Bernie Turtletaub? No one wants to sit with him.

The above may be harsh, but so was the above scenario. Not only are you doing your potential guests a favor, but you will be thanking yourself later. A friend of a friend, who invited many of her guests sans-dates, ended up apologizing years later for what she then realized/perceived was a major faux pas. Don’t end up having to be in that position.

In order to properly wrap this up, I’ll share a small anecdote from a good family friend, which was recently relayed to my mother. Tim had been invited to a lavish four-hundred person wedding in Chicago (he lives in New York City). He knew the groom very well, as they had been in and out of touch since high school (at which time they had been very close friends). Tim, now 28, received the invitation--without a guest. As a guy, Tim didn’t really read as much into it--until Tim’s friend asked him to speak at the wedding. Tim declined (rightfully so), and decided he’d still go to the wedding, despite the snub of not having been invited with a date (I should also mention that at the time the invitations had gone out, Tim had been dating someone for a couple of months. Though even if he hadn’t, wouldn’t common sense tell you he should have been invited with a date anyway?) When his mother told him that he should spend a lot less on a wedding present that he would have before receiving the invite, he told his mother something that I thought was PRICELESS (literally): “I am the gift.”

Always remember that your decisions do not simply end when the stationers lick the postage stamp and place the invitations in the mailbox.

You are responsible for your actions, and be advised that no matter what the etiquette books say about the matter, making across-the-board decisions, or even decisions that seem to be absolutely without thought, can come back to haunt you.

Monday, December 26, 2005

DON’T EVALUATE YOUR GUESTS’ RELATIONSHIPS--AND IF YOU HAVE TO, TACT AND CLASS MUST BE IN YOUR CORNER (PART I)

Heather was a good friend: smart, witty, and a close confidante. While I was single and on the prowl, she had been committed ever since I had met her. Dreaming of getting engaged to her boyfriend, RealEstateDeveloper, Heather was engagement-friendly.

Pretty soon, I ended up finding someone of my own--TallGuy. The day after my first date with TallGuy, I excitedly told Heather I could see myself spending the rest of my life with him. That--after ten hours of knowing him.

Heather soon got engaged. As she attempted to plan her wedding, her emails and phone calls became scarce. During that time, TallGuy and I spent hours on websites and in front of travel books, searching for a perfect destination for our first trip together. We decided upon the Greek islands and we found a lovely hotel in Santorini for a week in July. Having called the hotel, we had it all planned out. Heather emailed me that she was thinking about the second weekend of July--smack in the middle of our trip. As we hadn’t booked airline tickets, she promised me she’d let me know when it was definite. About a week later, she emailed confirmation that they had decided on that weekend.

During the next few weeks, TallGuy and I scrambled to rearrange our plans... The hotel we had fallen in love with (and we had booked) didn’t have room any other weekend in July. Although extremely disappointed, TallGuy and I made the decision that Heather's wedding was more important. . I emailed Heather that we had pushed our trip back, and she quickly responded that she was so happy to hear it.

Months passed, and I received a large square envelope, topped with my name in squiggly calligraphy. It was from Heather and RealEstateDeveloper. I wondered if TallGuy's name had been left off the envelope accidentally, but then I looked at the response card. Sure enough, there was no “and guest” at the end of Ms. Wedding Fairy.

I considered that perhaps it was a mistake, and that TallGuy's name was neglected by an irresponsible calligrapher. I realized that notion was pretty unrealistic.

I received an email from Heather two weeks after the invitation reached my mailbox. After not having heard from her for months, and only after I told her we moved the trip, it was an interesting correspondence:

“I know it's been forever since we've talked...I'm so sad about it. I wanted to call you, but have felt so uncomfortable because I didn't know if you'd be mad that I could not invite TallGuy to the wedding. Things got expensive, and the list of guests wound up much longer than we thought/wanted. RealEstateDeveloper and I both have many friends that are in very serious relationships, some with significant others that we are close friends with, and others with significant others that we don't know as well. Although we would have loved to invite everyone with their significant other, we just couldn't. So, we had to make the decision that we would only invite couples who were engaged or married, or if we were close friends with both people. This meant we had to invite a lot of our friends in serious relationships without inviting their significant other...I'm sorry it worked out that way.... I know you would have had more fun with TallGuy there, and I wish he could have been there to share our special day, especially because I know that you both rearranged your vacation so you could be there."

Having read (and re-read and re-read), I wasn’t sure what got to me more--what Heather did, or that she handled the aftermath so poorly. I’m sure that many of my readers will disagree with me about this, but the fact that Heather was effectively evaluating the relationship I had with TallGuy, compared with the other couples that would be in attendance, was something I found to be a big "don't"--particularly because this wasn't a situation where the budget should have been such an issue, given that Heather was a big-shot Ad Exec working at a large shop in L.A....

I don’t disagree with the idea that trimming a guest list can be the key to saving money, and I understand that the cost of a wedding can get absolutely excessive.

Having said all of that, however, I believe there is a difference between cutting out the family dentist from the list, or the groom’s parent's family friends that the groom has not seen in three years....

Every circumstance is different. In this instance, Heather called me right away when she became engaged, and repeatedly told me how excited she was for me to share her special day, and that it was so important to her that I be there.... this was why her behavior was more surprising than if it were simply "just another friend"....

Heather's attempt to differentiate her guest’s relationships, to me, seemed a problematic way of cutting costs. The first category of those who were “in”, as I understood it from her email, were (A) those couples that were engaged or married. But how can anyone be sure that the guests who are engaged have “better” or “more serious” relationships than those who just started dating? TallGuy and I were super serious off the bat--does that mean that our relationship is less tangible because I have yet to receive a piece of jewelry?

The second category she listed was (B) those couples who Heather and RealEstateDeveloper knew very well. I don’t disagree that she and RealEstateDeveloper barely know TallGuy (I actually barely know RealEstateDeveloper). Although I understand it makes sense to invite couples with whom both individuals are close, it seems strange that because she had carried on a long-distance relationship with her husband-to-be, and she and RealEstateDeveloper didn’t have the means to get to know my boyfriend (and others in the same scenario), she could simply cross out couples from the list.

I believe the lesson to be learned is this: If you are going to categorize, be VERY clear about how you’re going to do it, and try to cut your guest list in such a manner that makes sense. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t cost-cut, but if you have the slightest inkling (like Heather did) that your method of categorization is insensitive or hurtful, then it’s probably not the best approach.

Adhering to certain “formulas” is bound to relegate certain people as “haves” and the others as “have-nots”, and people are likely to know which category they fall into very quickly. I’m not saying that the bride-to-be will please every guest, but it’s important to remember that the invited attendees should not feel offended, uncomfortable, or put out--particularly given that each and every one of us is spending at least $150-200 on each wedding and shower gift, as well as the frilly negligee for the bachelorette party.

The trick to this type of natural selection (i.e. survival of the fittest as pertains to wedding guests) is to be as random and as unformulaic as possible. While TallGuy may not have fallen into category (A) or (B), he was one-half of the decision to completely rearrange a trip to Greece, as well as forego a stay at a hotel that he and I both adored. And although RealEstateDeveloper may not have known TallGuy, Heather considered me a good friend (see above email), and she knew how much I cared about my boyfriend (engagement ring or not).

Heather's admission about my potentially uncomfortable feeling being sans-date at her wedding was also noteworthy. that “I know you would have had more fun with TallGuy there.” While TallGuy may have been an extra “cost” in the end, I really believed that being good friends with someone + moving and rearranging a trip to Greece + having a boyfriend who the bride knows is important to you + knowing hardly anyone else at the event = a common sense conclusion that adding one more person to the list (and, in the case of others in the same boat, two or three or four more) is not a burden that will ultimately alter your wedding planning.It all depends on the situation, the circumstance, the individuals involved.

Therefore, Heather's express decision to put TallGuy to the “(C)” category highlighted his have-not status. While it is certainly frustrating to have to place limitations, it’s best to isolate each and every scenario and to carefully consider each potential guest as an individual--rather than to divide and conquer.

You’re probably wondering where the hard and fast solution is--unfortunately, there are no clear answers, which is why wedding planning is never as black and white as the Ralph Lauren tux the groom wears.

Each experience, though, must be treated separately, and careful consideration must be given to everyone involved. Why? No matter how right you think you are about your wedding list, or how much planning you’ve done, your guests can very much make-or-break a reception. If most everyone wants to leave early because they’re not happy with your decisions or how you have handled yourself along the wedding-planning way, then you have ultimately failed in at least one goal of your wedding - making sure your guests are having a good time.

I acknowledge that these decisions are going to be inevitable for many brides-to-be. However, if you have to make these tough decisions (and I KNOW they are ridiculously tough), there are ways to ensure that you don't act as inconsiderately as Heather did. How do you do guest-cutting gracefully (or as tactfully as you can?) More this week.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"But I'm So Busy" : Avoiding the WeddingWarpZone (Part III)

Although my feet feel like they're about to fall off (having walked MUCH, MUCH more than normal due to the transit strike), I wanted to write a short post to conclude my three-part series of the WeddingWarpZone.

Ironically, this tunnel vision attitude can linger.... even after the "big day" is long gone.

My point? Even after you become "Mrs. I'mTheHappiestBrideEver", DON'T FORGET YOUR FRIENDS!

A friend just emailed me the following point, which I hadn't considered (But you should!): "Your latest entry is very informative and a GREAT one. Also, you should mention how AFTER you get married, not to neglect your friends either! I have been a bridesmaid for two people I considered my best friends in college -and now I don't talk to one of them at all and the other I get the perfunctory Christmas card each year or an e-mail forward."

Hmmm. That isn't very friendly! Read on...

"I know married couples disappear off the friend radar, but if you were the bridesmaid you'd think there was a good reason you were chosen and you wouldn't necessarily be one of those people."

Point well taken.

Having seen how the WeddingWarpZone can happen during the wedding planning, I wanted to post something short and sweet about making sure it's avoided--even after the party is over.

Monday, December 19, 2005

"But I'm So Busy": Avoiding the WeddingWarpZone (Part II)

Having spent a while talking about the pitfalls of creating the "I'm Too Busy" mystique, I want to give brides-to-be a few tips about how to avoid this unattractive behavior...

*SEND FRIENDS A HANDWRITTEN NOTE.

Sounds corny and old-fashioned? Perhaps. But taking the time to write your friends a cute card, just letting them know you're thinking about them and you're sorry you've been so MIA is a terrific way to express yourself and emphasize that you haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Getting some pretty cards at Kate's Paperie or Hallmark, writing a thoughtful note, addressing the envelope and licking the stamp will take all of an hour. Your friends will remember it for a lot longer than that.

*HAVE A NON-BRIDAL BRUNCH.

I often feel like there's no better way to connect (or reconnect, as the case may be) with people than over Bloody Marys or Mimosas on a Sunday morning. While wedding stress happens every day of the week, the best way to alleviate some of that--and to catch up with the friends you don't have time to see during the week--is to take them out to a good brunch. While you may feel compelled to talk about the dirty details of your bridesmaid's dresses and floral centerpieces, STOP yourself. Instead, take most of the time in catching up to do just that. Catch up. Taking the time to ask a friend about a new boyfriend, or an old, boring job, is extremely important. Doing it over Mimosas? That just makes it more fun. :)

*SEND A HALLMARK E-CARD.

Although you may think that this contradicts my point in item 1, it is more complementary than anything else. While sending handwritten cards is a nice touch, what's great about e-cards is that they're a form of instant gratification -- and easy access to thoughtfulness -- all at your fingertips. Best of all? E-cards are often free (try the ones at Hallmark which are cute - particularly the Hoops and Yo Yo cards :), and they're easy. Just saying "hi" to someone can make friends feel like they're still "in the loop" -- and that you haven't forgotten about them.

*BAKE SOME COOKIES (YES, READY MADE ARE OK!)

This may sound extremely silly, but it's not. Giving something homemade and, well, edible is always a sweet gift - particularly when there's NO reason at all that you're doing it. At the end of the day, think of this as your stress release, and a way of taking your mind off of the craziness of planning. This may also give you a sense of control, and that you DO have time to make time. Popping by someone's house or apartment with cookies and a smile will be one way of proving that you not only can do it all, but you're a damn good baker too :)


*TAKE A YOGA, SPINNING, OR DANCE CLASS WITH A FRIEND

Having an activity that you just do with one or two friends is a way of keeping up with people AND having something special that you do together--in spite of all the wedding photography, florist, and bridal dress appointments. It's great to have something to look forward to, which you and your friends can enjoy together, as well as keeping a specific and defined time for your friendships. Not only will you be exercising and feeling better (both mentally and physically), but you'll be fostering and maintaining your friendships (while getting in kick ass shape for the wedding!)

In conclusion, there are plenty of things you can do to avoid the WeddingWarpZone, and to make sure that your friends know you're trying. Therefore, I'll leave with one final point:

*BE YOUR HAPPY, THOUGHTFUL SELF AND YOUR FRIENDS WILL APPRECIATE IT!*

Sunday, December 18, 2005

"But I'm So Busy" : Avoiding the WeddingWarpZone (Part I)

I'm not sure what happens when people begin to plan their weddings, but some brides-to-be enter what I call the WeddingWarpZone. It's almost as if the time pressure of planning becomes an inevitable force that sucks women into a zone, or tunnel vision. Everything else surrounding them (i.e. friends, family, their job) becomes less important than it really should be.

Take, for example, the case of my friend Lisa. About a year ago, her then-close friend, who I'll call SAB (or, SelfAbsorbedBride), had gotten engaged. Lisa received an email from SAB, sent to all of her friends after she got engaged. “Just a quick e-mail from Maui to let you all know that Jonathan and I got engaged on Sunday night. It was so beautiful and we are so happy and can't wait until we're back in the United States to talk to all of you. It feels so impersonal to write this over e-mail, but we couldn't wait until next weekend to share the news!”

Lisa thought that once SAB got back, she would have a chance to take her out for a celebratory drink, dinner... anything. Unfortunately, SAB seemingly entered the WeddingWarpZone-- even before she got off the plane.

Lisa emailed and called SAB to hear the juicy details, but SAB's short responses (both literally and figuratively) indicated that she was trying to start wedding planning ASAP and didn't have time for, well, anything else. Expressing that she really didn't have time after work for Lisa, SAB made it clear that her priority--and only priority--in those next months was her wedding.

In a six-month span, SAB didn't contact Lisa, let alone try and get together to catch up. Having made repeated attempts at contact, Lisa decided that she simply had to let go. To add insult to injury, Lisa heard daily from a mutual friend (who was also engaged and helping SAB with her wedding planning) about how she and SAB were constantly in the throes of helping one another plan, talking about ideas, etc...

When Lisa told me about the situation, I asked her how she felt. "Honestly? At first I was really hurt--[SAB] was the last person I thought could be so thoughtless. After that, I was actually just kind of pissed off more than anything else. In that year's amount of time, I had moved apartments, begun dating someone very seriously, and had changed jobs. These were important things in MY life - didn't that count for anything?"

Although not every bride enters the WeddingWarpZone, the ones that do inevitably end up hurting the feelings of those friends and family members (many of whom will be standing at the alter with them, or at least watching them as they walk down the aisle!) While a wedding is certainly an amazing thing to which brides look forward, it's important to remember that a new apartment, or a new guy, is just as exciting to someone else who may not be planning their big day. If you forget this, you are relegating your friends' experiences to a place of lesser importance. Big no-no.

Although it may not seem like there's much time for anything else but weddingweddingwedding, I do have some thoughts as to how to avoid entering this WeddingWarpZone, and doing things that may take from 5 seconds to half an hour--in order to show your friends you are NOT a SAB--and that they save that label for others, but not you.

Tomorrow, I'll take up the ways of avoiding this behavior. Although you may think you would NEVER end up doing this to someone you care about, isn't is safer to know you'll be armed with the information to never make these mistakes?

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

DO be that Bride: Giving Thanks to Level-Headedness (Part Two)

Since I bandy about the word "don't" in so many of my posts, I wanted to take a moment to return to an earlier topic, where I take some time to celebrate the brides who DO make fabulous decisions, and are thinking five steps ahead of me.

Take, for example, the concept of the Destination Wedding. I spoke a little about DestinationDisasters, and how a lack of awareness can leave guests in the dark (or in the red!)

A friend of mine sent me this story about a destination wedding she attended, which, to me, really emphasizes the elegance with which this bride carried herself (and the thoughtfulness she showed to her guests).

"My friend Sara got married in Italy. [She] only had 60 people at the wedding - outside Florence, at a little church, and then a reception at a villa overlooking Florence. The smartest thing she did was warn me a year in advance, which meant she really wanted me there, and I could search for the best flights and routes with frequent flier miles and plan a nice trip to Italy at the same time."

Sounds good so far -- planning a destination wedding far in advance in order to give guests time to book flights and save money is super thoughtful. Read on....

"She also sent out a very comprehensive list of hotels in Florence and Fiesole (town where the wedding was) with phone numbers, websites, emails addresses, prices and descriptions so we could book way in advance since it was summer tourist season."

The bride made very sure that all of her guests were taken care of and didn't expect people to fend for themselves. Definitely a do!

"And then, because she knew everyone traveled so far for her wedding, and since it was so small and clearly the guests were all close friends and family, she wrote every single person a very personalized thank-you card that was waiting for us at the rehearsal dinner."

The fact that this bride made each guest feel "at home" at her wedding---even when it was out of the country--very much highlights her thoughtfulness and her careful planning. Sometimes it's the little details that make all the difference, and it may come down to a handwritten note that is what the guest remembers--not necessarily the floral arrangement.

I'll wrap up this destination wedding "do", but I think it's worth mentioning that I think these are valuable lessons--just as much as the "don'ts" (which I will be getting back to tomorrow!) :)

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Grand Entrance or Grand Ridiculousness? The "Introduction of the Bride and Groom: Part One"

Since I touched upon this in my Nutcracker post (the grand entrance), I wanted to start this extremely large topic with a particularly short anecdote--just to get the ball rolling.

Before I do, I wanted to note that the "grand entrance," or the beginning of the reception where the MC/band leader introduces the happy couple (and they walk in to a standing ovation from their guests), is a complicated subject.

The entrance can be done tactfully, gracefully, or not at all (and it's YOUR choice! Don't let convention make your mind up for you).

However, there are definitely tricks of the trade which I believe that every bride-to-be should keep in mind. There are certain ways of doing the entrance that are classy and tactful--and won't surprise/overpower your guests (or may make them wonder if they're at the circus).

An example of this over-the-top behavior which should be avoided is from one of BigSis's best friends (who I also know pretty well from years past), who told me the following story about a friend of hers:

"My friend Sharon was at this wedding in Kansas City where they had the "Grand Entrance" for the Mr. and Mrs. Couple and they played the theme from 2001: Space Odyssey
"Introducing...daaaa...daaaa...... da-duuuuuuuhhhhhnnn! (drums beating dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun)... Mr. and Mrs. Couple!!!" They swept through the door. Yeah..... no."

The first rule of the game is to make sure that your Grand Entrance doesn't turn into something that seems, well, other-worldly. If it's something that you think is more dramatic than you see on Days of Our Lives wedding sequences, my advice would be to avoid it. Using the Space Odyssey theme song definitely falls into that category.

The more dramatic, over-the-top entrances may turn into something more akin to a performance. It's something, I fear, that guests may not understand or feel all that comfortable with--why else do you think that Space Odyssey story was told to me in the first place?

Although I'll wrap it up for now, I can promise there will certainly be more within this topic to talk about later.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Seating Slip-Ups (Cont.): Do's, Dont's, and the Dais

Before I get into the tricks of the trade with Dais tables, I want to throw out a little movie trivia for my readers. What is the most famous line uttered in the 1987 hit, Dirty Dancing? The $100,000.00 answer is, of course, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

So your bridesmaid’s name may not be Baby, but that line underscores how she’ll feel if she ends up at that corner of the Dais -- particularly when she doesn’t have a date on her arm (or one as cute as Johnny Castle).

My friend Julie, part of the wedding party for her friend Catherine, was happily single and content with going to the reception on her own. After all, she thought, how bad could it be with one of her good friends (Pam) in the wedding party as well? The answer was: pretty bad. Catherine decided to put Julie in the corner--sans date--and next to a random, drunken groomsman (who we'll call JackandCokeGuy) whose wife couldn’t make it to the event.

Instead of placing her near the one friend in the wedding party that she knew, Catherine didn’t pay much attention to the fact that Julie was on the absolute end of the dais seated next to only one person. Julie had only met JackandCokeGuy a few hours before, and was made particularly uncomfortable by his downing his signature drink of choice, and the fact that his flirting didn’t seem to jive with his having a wife at all! Julie put it this way to me: “It was a rather weird situation, to put it mildly. It was kind of strange that she didn’t bother putting me near Pam… It was like I was relegated to Siberia in that corner, and all I had to show for it was a shady groomsman who spent the whole night talking about himself.”

Although this is merely one problem that may occur as the result of using a dais table, it goes to show that you should almost think of your seating arrangements and table placements in the larger sense of a chess game.

Every individual is a “piece” and only certain pieces work with others--failure to recognize this will lead to ill-timed moved and ill-placed players. If you choose to isolate each friend and family member as an individual, with specific needs and desires, it may become more sensible when you look at the table as a whole. While the dais table may work well in some situations, the scenario described above indicates how that seating arrangement may fail certain players. Sure, you may not foresee that your fiance's best guy friend will turn into JackandCokeGuy, but if you try and think about what COULD happen, you can avoid what SHOULDN'T happen.

A small dose of sense can go a long way. Make sure you have some....

Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Wedding Fairy Favor (and Thank You)

Hi everyone-

First, I wanted to say thanks for all of the support, feedback (even when you disagree with me, I promise!), and words of encouragement - I have very much appreciated that.

Second, I wanted to post a request: for help. The only way this blog is going to get going/stay going is by word of mouth. For those of you who are enjoying these posts, I would really appreciate your passing this along to one, three, fourteen or as many friends as you think would like it.... I really hope to get a lot of readers, but I am very much dependent on you for support AND expanding the readership of this blog.

Thank you to those of you who keep coming back, or to the curious observer who thought to come in for a peek. I love doing this, and I hope you're having fun with it too!

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Seating Slip-Ups Revisited: The Sweetheart Table, a/k/a "The Nutcracker Effect"

I thought since I was able to stir up some conversation (and perhaps controversy) with my seating arrangement posts, I wanted to write about another type, which I've found particularly interesting:

I encountered the “sweetheart table” for the first time a few months ago, where the bride and groom sit at their own table and thereby set themselves apart—literally—from the rest of the room . In theory, this seating arrangement, where the happy couple sit by themselves at a round table, is an effective way to avoid offending anyone (i.e. a relative or close family friend, for example, who couldn’t conceive as to how she didn’t make it into the wedding party, or even the wedding table for that matter). In addition, the bride and groom are free to mingle with their guests and make sure they “work the room” and say hello to everyone they’ve invited , instead of feeling guilty about neglecting their own table.

Although there are certainly strong points to this type of arrangement, any sensible bride must be aware of what I call the “Nutcracker Effect,” a term coined by my father when I described the bride/groom table scenario after I first encountered it. When I was a little girl, my parents would take me to see The Nutcracker, what I consider to be one of the most beautiful ballets (particularly the result of the enchanting music composed by Tchaikovsky).

This ballet has always been a favorite of mine, and one of the best scenes is when the handsome Prince takes Clara (or Marie), the principal character (depending on which version you're watching), to the Land of Sweets. At that point, the Prince and Clara are seated in their thrones, set higher back on the stage, as they watch a slew of dances that the Sugar Plum Fairy treats them with for the Prince’s victorious battle with the army of mice. As Clara and the Prince look on from on high, it is clear that they are, at this point, spectators to magic. It all seems rather surreal as the happy couple sits amidst candy canes, gingerbread houses, and a myriad of other sugar confections to fulfill even Clara’s wildest dream. The point of the ballet is that dreams allow for hope and wonder, and even the most unbelievable can become real—even for just a flicker in time.

What’s my point of recounting the above?

Remember that you are not Clara, and your groom is not the Prince. A sweetheart table can have The Nutcracker Effect (the “NE”), if you aren’t careful, even if the Land of Sweets is really The Waldorf Astoria.

When I think of the NE, I have images of Clara and The Prince seated in their high chairs, watching the entertainment and celebration held in their honor. While as a bride and groom, you are certainly entitled to choose a separate table seating arrangement, it’s important to make sure that you don’t create the impression that you are above your guests—literally and figuratively. That means NOT having surf-and-turf while your guests feast on chicken. True story. A friend of a friend was at a wedding where that happened, and it didn't make it any less obvious or help the situation that the bride and groom were seated separately from everyone else.

I would suggest not having a raised rectangular table if it’s only going to be you and your new husband. If you are going to do the table-for-two, a circular table that is adjacent to and around your guests – rather than in the front of them or even above them– avoids making you look like you’re watching over everything or in a class by yourself.

A wedding should be about celebration, not about separation or classification. In addition, the best way to avoid the NE is to make sure you are a particularly fine hostess . After all, you and your husband may be the center of attention, but you MUST BE responsible for making sure your guests are having a good time—and they are aware of your concern. While the wedding is for you, it is certainly not all about you.

I think I have made my point, but if you go with a Sweetheart Table, I’ll leave you with a few other notes about avoidance of the dreaded NE.

• Skip the sappy slideshow. While it may seem romantic, think for a moment: Is this something YOU would enjoy if you had to sit through it? In my opinion, slideshows of the bride and groom (with snapshots of the bride in a snowsuit when she was three years old, or images of the groom grinning while in his high school football uniform) reek of conceit. Not only that, they’re boring as hell for most of us there. If you’re going to do it, then opt out of the Sweetheart Table. There are only so many times during the reception that it can AND SHOULD be about you. This is a celebration not a lesson in idolatry.

• See Speech Type C. Enough Said.

• Nix the grand entrance. If you’re looking to make your wedding an intimate affair, the “look at me” effect can best be avoided by inviting two hundred pairs of eyes to watch as Mr. And Mrs. Just Married are announced by the leader of the band and walk into the ceremony hall. Though this oft-performed tradition may be done tastefully, it isn’t a requirement. (Remember that nothing is!) Do what you’re comfortable with. If you’d like to have a Sweetheart Table but want to have a subtle celebration, perhaps walking in and greeting guests (without any fanfare, announcement, or Sinatra music accompaniment) is the best route.

In a nutshell (no pun intended), the gist of my post is that while it's "your day", you need to remember that even though your guests are there for you, you are also there for the guests.


Next time? Do's, Don't, and the Deis. Stay tuned....

Saturday, December 03, 2005

"CONGRATULATORY" VIDEOTAPED SPEECHES: SPEECH TYPE A + SPEECH TYPE B = DISASTER!

I certainly understand why brides and grooms like to have any type of recording of their wedding, so they can reminisce on either the ceremony, reception, or both.

At BigSis's wedding, someone taped the ceremony. However, CameraGuy had directives to remain as inconspicuous as possible, and only remained in the back. Although he didn’t always have the best camera angles, he got exactly what BigSis wanted; a memory of the ceremony without any complications or interruptions.

Taping the ceremony or the reception, therefore, is a great way to make sure you remember the event. Having said that, however, I strongly urge anyone to read my last posts regarding videographers asking guests to “say a little something” on tape for the bride and groom. I don’t need to go into detail on this point, but the fact that people are speaking extemporaneously (and with the alcohol flowing) makes for very dangerous possibilities.

A friend of mine told me that his sister had congratulatory messages from guests on the wedding video. One of the guests decided to affect a quasi-Chinese accent as he spoke. It apparently went on for about 3 minutes. Necessary? Absolutely not. Ridiculous? Surely. Although you may be able to have your videographer cut out this nonsense, it's a waste of your time and money.

If you don’t think the video speech-making aspect would bother you, then at least take your guests into consideration. In addition to stupid and pointless messages of congratulations ruining a perfectly good video, the fact that a videographer thrusts a microphone into guests’ faces while they are trying to enjoy dinner, or a night of dancing, makes for an intrusive and obnoxious experience. Sure, it only lasts a few seconds, but as I’ve watched the glaring light behind the camera follow each guest who takes her turn at the weddings I’ve attended, I have noticed that the wedding becomes more of a spectacle than a celebration. In addition to the intrusiveness aspect, I feel like this tradition of sorts is very self-serving. Do you really need forty-five minutes of videotape having people extol their appreciation of you? This is a wedding to celebrate your vows, not to relive your greatness.

The conclusion is that you have to be careful when it comes to wedding toasts, both for your own protection, as well as that of your guests (particularly your younger ones, who won’t know to “ear-muff” it, as Vince Vaughn’s character in Old School would say). Otherwise, you may be getting a mouthful--and much, much more than you bargained for….