Sunday, September 24, 2006

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: OR IS THERE?: A DISCUSSION OF WEDDING RECEPTION SITES (PART I)

Choosing a reception site is a daunting process. If your ceremony is at a church or synagogue, brides-to-be have the added complication of travel issues to and from the ceremony and reception, as well as the questions about timing (i.e. when things should begin, and end). But even if your ceremony is at the same place as your reception, there are many things to think about.

Indoors or outdoors?

Hotel or private club?

Modern or romantic, old-school elegant?

Large or small?

These are some of the questions that brides-to-be must answer even before thinking about floral arrangements, Band/DJ, and caterers. The choice of the venue is among the most important decisions made during the planning process--PLUS, it will affect your guests, and therefore, becomes an issue of importance.

For some, the answer is simple. Using one's home as the site for a ceremony and/or reception can be both elegant and cost-effective.

When I was eight years old, I was a flower girl in my then-au pair's (Catherine's) wedding--she had been with my family (and lived in our house) for 10 years and had become a second mom in many ways--although she had left our home to get married, my parents offered our home to her as a site to have the reception. Although it wasn't her "home" in the literal sense, it was figuratively. The wedding was beautiful, and we were lucky enough to have gorgeous, sunny weather which allowed everyone to mingle outdoors.

Don't get me wrong, though -- although our house is very pretty, it by no means is the type you'll see in Modern Bride when they do articles on throwing the "perfect" reception at home. I didn't grow up in a mansion (by any means), and it's not as if there were so many options about where to have the actual event in the house (we had one medium sized living room with french doors which led onto a patio - that was the only choice in terms of an indoor scenario).

In this case, size mattered -- we were lucky that there was only sun and clear blue skies -- otherwise, it could have been CRAMPED. CRAMPED. CRAMPED if rain had set in.

Therefore, if having a wedding at home, the first thing is to think about the number of guests in play, as well as if they will fit both inside and outside your home. Otherwise, things could get a little tight and uncomfortable for everyone.

Thinking back, I'm not sure WHAT would have happened if Catherine's wedding day was rainy or freezing cold -- Catherine was lucky, and my parents were even luckier (since I don't think there was a Plan B, and as the ones who offered, it would have been stressful to scramble at the last minute!)

Make sure to have a Plan B if you're having a wedding at home. Although the photographs in Modern Bride always portray picture-perfect receptions on sunny days--with large, white mansions and picket fences, in real life, things won't be as glossy as they may appear in the magazines.

Most of this is straight-up common sense, but best to think about it right off the bat as you try and tackle the questions I posed above (as related to choosing a reception site).

There may be no place like home, but it's best to think long and hard about your options before turning to that as an option.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

THE INEVITABILITY OF THE NAYSAYERS: HOW TO BE A GRACIOUS BRIDE

The other night, I had the pleasure of watching my favorite sports team in the world, The New York Mets, win the National League Eastern Division Title. As Cliff Floyd caught the final out in left field, and team members tumbled onto one another near the pitcher's mound, I felt nothing but elation. For the first time in eighteen years, The New York Mets had once again become the top of the heap during the regular season--which earned them a berth in postseason play.

The win flooded me with memories about how "Amazin" the Mets used to be---in the days of Strawberry and Darling, Hernandez and Orosco. I grew up with the New York Mets, and distinctly remember attending 1988 NLCS game 3 against the L.A. Dodgers, where Jay Howell, one of the Dodgers' pitchers was thrown out of the game (and subsequently, the series) for using an illegal substance--pine tar--on the ball. My dad bought me a Mets teddy bear at a souvenir stand that night, and I named him "L.A. Cheats" (perhaps not the most subtle name, but please, I was, what, nine years old?) I still have him.

While I still was giddy with excitement the next day, I got to thinking about how people were starting to rain on my parade.

I feigned anger when TallGuy (also a Met-lover), for example, said to me at dinner (I'm paraphrasing him, as I didn't decide to take out my tape recorder at the table): "I don't really see what the big deal is - they were going to win the division anyway... I mean, it was inevitable that they would win the season -- I think baseball overdoes it [i.e. champagne celebrations] for that kind of stuff." I immediately became defensive.

What was the big deal? I huffed and puffed. Here's why:

"There have only been THREE other teams in the HISTORY of the Mets ('69, '86, '88) to WIN the division title!"

"They just BROKE the Atlanta Braves' FOURTEEN year winning streak of division titles!"

"Because Jose Valentin, their eighth hitter, became the hero of the game once again by hitting two homers to help lead them to victory?!!"

Grr. There were so many reasons why this moment was special. I understood TallGuy's point, but I was annoyed that he was making it.

"STOP BEING A NAYSAYER", I told him. I then realized how ridiculous I was acting. We both laughed.

There are other Naysayers out there when it comes to the Mets-- some talking about how the always entertaining Pedro Martinez wasn't the same Pedro he used to be while on the Sox (and would that come back to bite the Mets in the ass). Some others talking about how the Mets had problems hitting against left-handed pitchers. Still some others talking about how the Mets are the poor-man's team in New York City (when compared to mighty Yankees of the Bronx).

For all of the awesome headlines in the NY Post and the NY Daily News, I was also seeing glimmers of doubt. Doubt about how good the Mets really were (since their division was "bad", according to some), doubt about how far they'd make it, etc. etc. etc....

"STOP NAYSAYING!" I wanted to scream at the television and these articles that were casting shadows about the division win.

I can't explain it, but there's something magical about the moldy apple in the top hat (see my sweet photograph which I took at a recent game) that pops up and down when a Met hits a home run, something about the run-down Shea Stadium, and something about Mets fans that gives me reason to believe in something I love.

As you may have seen in my prior posts, I like to make sports analogies when I can. Whether or not you enjoy MLB, the Mets, or NASCAR, sports are part of our social fabric, and therefore, very relatable.

And just like in sports when it comes to the critics (the Mets are overrated, Tom Glavine is over the hill, blah blah blah), there are NAYSAYERS EVERYWHERE -- including in the midst of wedding planning.

Everyone's a critic. I hate to say it - but it's true. What you think is beautiful or fashionable or elegant is probably so, objectively speaking - but while you may think that everyone should be 100% in agreement with you, life doesn't work that way.

Your mother may end up fretting over the flower arrangements (too many hydrangeas? too few?), and even your closest friends may untactfully question the cost of the bridesmaid's dress (inexcusable, as is choosing a dress that is so unaffordable that they'd have to say something!)... there are NAYSAYERS everywhere -- if you choose a destination wedding, people will complain. If you choose a hometown location, people will complain.

YOU CANNOT PLEASE EVERYONE. NAYSAYING is just as tacky as acting like a bitchy bride who is entitled to everyone's attention 24-7.

My suggestion? Ignore the naysayers, but understand that no matter what you do, you can't please everyone. Therefore, go into wedding planning with a fresh perspective--keeping yourself open to suggestions and criticisms--instead of becoming an overly defensive, high maintenance bride. If you act with that sense of entitlement, you not only will alienate those around you, but you will fail to make your guests comfortable in the process.

My first reaction to TallGuy was to act defensively. But then, you know what I did? I laughed - and during my few days of vacation from work, I took some time to watch the post-game celebration on my own.

There will always be those who question, those who criticize -- but I've chosen to block out those doubters and thoroughly enjoy this post-season experience -- as a die-hard fan without a chip on her shoulder.

A bride should never have that chip on her shoulder -- and should remember that she's planning for the non-naysayers. Enjoy yourself - and remember that being a gracious bride with a good perspective will keep you happy throughout the entire process (just as being gracious and acting without defensiveness will hopefully carry me to a NLCS game at Shea....)

Stay tuned!









Tuesday, September 19, 2006

DILEMMAS RE: DIVORCED/SEPARATED PARENTS: HOW TO DEAL: PART VI

There are a couple of other issues related to this topic that are worth mentioning--particularly because all eyes will be on you and your parents during this part of your celebration.

I've ruminated on the trickiness of walking down the aisle when it comes to brides/bridesmaids - but what about divorced/separated parents? THAT'S even trickier.

Do both parents have to walk down the aisle together (with dad then returning to walk the bride-to-be to her groom)? Does your divorced mom (who has remarried) get escorted by her new husband? What are the "rules"?

As I've said before, there are no "rules", and you have to do what you are comfortable with.... but the main issue is that no matter how you spin it, you have to do what's comfortable for those involved-- what's best for them is best for your other guests (who will be none the wiser!)

Take, for example, this scenario (and I'm looking at this from the perspective of the groom - they are his parents): Divorced parents. Mother doesn't talk to father. Mother hasn't remarried. Father has. Stepmother has pleasant relationship with groom, though they aren't particularly close.

The groom's father/stepmother didn't participate in the ceremony (and sat in the front row of seats close to the chuppah)-- and the groom's mother was escorted down the aisle by the groom's brother.

Is that normal? Is it "right"? I don't know. And I don't care. The point of the matter is that the mother/father were comfortable doing it this way--and isn't that the bottom line? During the ceremony, the guests (I was one of them, along with TallGuy) didn't notice. Those that did (if any) really didn't seem to care all that much.

It's best that, no matter what the etiquette books tell you, the people involved (or who could be involved) in the ceremony are happy and doing what they feel comfortable doing -- if that father ended up walking down the aisle with the mother (if, hypothetically, that's what the etiquette books say is "correct"), the tension between them may have been a lot more obvious to guests at the ceremony than the absence of the groom's father participating.

Therefore, use your best judgment when figuring out the procession for the ceremony, particularly when it comes to divorced/separated parents. No matter what the circumstance, never forget that what is "right" may not always be "right" for you or your guests.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

DILEMMAS RE: DIVORCED/SEPARATED PARENTS: HOW TO DEAL: PART V

A few months ago, I found myself (with TallGuy) on a lazy Sunday watching My Fair Brady: We're Getting Married! So... I used to have a major crush on Peter Brady when I was nine. I'll admit it. I loved watching re-runs of The Brady Bunch (and you could basically find them on 15 different channels at all times), and Peter was always my favorite. Forget Greg, the hearthrob/wannabe singer (Johnny Bravo) -- Peter was a middle child (like me), sensitive (like I try to be), and damn cute! So who CARED that he wasn't real? Or was a product of the late 60s (and was about 20 years older than me??)

Naturally, then, My Fair Brady: We're Getting Married! has become standard fare in the TallGuy/Wedding Fairy household (at least when we stumble upon it while watching TV at random hours -- i.e. not during our The Office, Reno 911, or Project Runway viewings (my choice). There was one particular episode that struck me - and relates to this series - about divorced parents - and how Adrienne dealt with that situation PRE-wedding.

With respect to divorced parents, issues don't simply arise AT the actual wedding. One thing to keep in mind is that thought should be given when it comes to the planning stage--in terms of the levels of involvement that each parent will have during this process.

During this particular episode, Adrienne (Peter's pretty yet slightly crazy/odd fiance) left the warm and fuzzy confines of L.A. to see her parents in her small hometown during the planning process. And it wasn't pretty. Or fun. Adrienne was doing her best to see both her parents (her mother, still single) (her father, newly remarried), and keep them both in the planning loop - but she was finding it difficult including both of them - separately - and keeping her emotions in check.

I don't remember every detail of that episode, but I do remember a lot of crying (on Adrienne's part), and a lot of helpless staring (on Christopher Knight's part) -- there were separate visits to each parent, and the visits were not always comfortable. As I watched, I realized that the planning process is not all fun and games for all involved. And I wondered how these complicated relationships played a role in the planning process.

The bottom line? The bottom line is whatever your bottom line can be--i.e. your doing as much as you can to include and accommodate everyone--but remembering your own feelings/emotions too. If planning is painful/stressful to you because you feel like you have to include your mother in the dress shopping, but ALSO not offend your father by asking your stepmother to get involved in some way -- then you have to remember your bottom line - always go back to that.

Normally, I'm all for doing everything possible to make your guests feel comfortable. I still stick to that, but during PLANNING, you should be your own boss--and do whatever you need to do in order to make (and keep) the process enjoyable. Planning doesn't involve the same discomfort issues that a wedding does (i.e. loud announcements by DJs, or very obvious seating situations). Therefore, keeping everyone happy during this stage isn't really the goal - the goal is to get the job done, and to enjoy doing it (from what I hear, planning is stressful enough - even WITHOUT divorced/separated parent issues).

If your mother doesn't like that you didn't ask her longtime boyfriend for advice on selecting photographers (and he's a photographer), tough #&!. If your father doesn't understand why you didn't invite your stepmother along to the caterer tasting -- deal with it. As long as you try to keep in mind the thoughts/feelings of others, you've done your job.

So plan away and keep in mind those who want to help you - but don't get mired in the BS during this stage of the game - it's more important to think about how those relationships will play out AT THE WEDDING (and plan accordingly) than deal with family strife BEFORE HAND.

That's the advice I would give to Adrienne and (sigh) Christopher Knight/Peter Brady, and that's the advice I am giving to you now.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

DILEMMAS RE: DIVORCED/SEPARATED PARENTS: HOW TO DEAL (PART IV)

As I've mentioned before, table arrangement issues are oftentimes the most complicated--and contentious--when it comes to dealing with your guests.

With regard to divorced/separated parents, these situations once again come into the forefront. This time, these issues are not within the control of others (i.e. band members, DJs, or even the bartender), but entirely within your own hands.

I can tell you right now - you will not please everyone.
Finding the "perfect" table arrangement is not necessarily an option - however, creating a WORKABLE table arrangement-- when it comes to divorced/separated parents -- is the name of the game. Again, the goal is to put everyone at ease to the greatest extent possible. If you attempt to do that, your job is done. I'm dealing this time around with the concept of DISTANCE -- not the actual people at each table. Read on.....

I was talking with a college friend the other night (Liz), who was telling me about a wedding that she had recently attended (for one of her best friends, Tara -- a pal from graduate school). Liz knew (through hearing about it on many occasions from Tara) that Tara's parents had recently gone through a tough divorce--and while it didn't come to dish-throwing or custody-battles (or a War of the Roses type scenario), it wasn't that pretty, according to what Tara had told her about the situation.

Liz told me she was surprised to find, then, that at the wedding, Tara's mother and father were sitting at tables within inches of each other. Seated with her new boyfriend, Tara's mother was laughing and joking around with her friends/relatives at Table 2, while Tara's father at Table 4 (who attended the reception solo) was seated with his relatives and other assorted guests. Both the mother and the father were polite and interacted with one another on occasion (for example, when images of Tara in her snowsuit at age 3 popped up on the screen during the slide show, or during the dinner hour, as they greeted guests and thanked them for attending), but Liz said it looked like an awkward situation for the two.

I asked Liz why she thought Tara--who was cognizant of the strained relationship --would have seated her parents so close together. "I don't know -- I guess maybe she was hoping that they would be ok, and somehow it wouldn't be awkward. It's her parents, after all -- that's the way she looks at them, and that's how she wanted to remember them on that night, I guess..."

Liz went onto note that while Tara's parents were cool about everything, and did nothing ridiculous or offensive like making a scene, it seemed to her that they shouldn't have had to make small talk with each other, and could have at least sat a few more feet apart -- not necessarily across the room, but at least some distance apart that they could have done their own thing for most of the night.

Interesting story from someone who actually witnessed a table arrangement situation (as related to divorced/separated guests) -- as well as knew about the relationships that were in play.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

DILEMMAS RE: DIVORCED/SEPARATED PARENTS (HOW TO DEAL): PART III

I was re-reading my last post, and I didn't think I did Taylor's story justice (or Taylor's mother-in-law, to be more specific) -- I feel very strongly about the fact that family members shouldn't have to shut up and take it, when it comes to their own relationships being called into question, and the specifics of what happened to Taylor's mother-in-law really bring that feeling to the forefront.

Taylor told me that she and her husband were called to the dance floor by the band leader -- showing off their moves to Etta James' "At Last" (they had been dating since their senior year of high school, so it seemed appropriate!), Taylor and her husband were enjoying the moment as their family and friends looked on, smiling all the while. It was a beautiful moment.
As the song wound down, Taylor and her husband mingled with the guests who had been outlining the perimeter of the dance floor -- at that time, the band leader announced it was Taylor's time to dance with her father. She and her father then danced to Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" -- one of her father's favorite songs, and one of Taylor's favorite artists. It was perfect.

Following a few more minutes of mingling and chatting, Taylor's husband danced with his mother (who was divorced and was attending the wedding solo). The mood was relaxed, and the guests (including this woman in question) were immensely enjoying themselves.

After these dances, the band member, with a flourish (and with the keyboardist playing some sort of tune on the keyboard) said loudly to the crowd: "I now want to introduce Taylor's parents to the dance floor for a special dance, Jim's father and stepmother to the dance floor, AND Jim's mother and sister to the dance floor!!!!"

As the announcement was made, the band leader was wildly gesturing to Jim's mother, motioning for her to join the group on the dance floor. Both Jim's mother and sister were extremely embarassed -- the mother, of course, feeling completely humiliated, and the sister, mostly because she is a very shy girl and didn't like the attention. USING THE MICROPHONE -- said to both of them "Why aren't you two dancing together? C'mon and join the party!"

Jim's mother and sister got through "their dance" -- more like standing on the edge of the dance floor and watching on in embarassment -- but it was not the start of the evening that at least some of these guests wanted.

I will of course come back with more examples, but I thought being more specific would help illustrate the ridiculousness that ensued -- and why guests in these type of situations should always come first - whether or not it's the bride's "day".

Stay tuned!