Friday, December 29, 2006

THE RECEIVING LINE: A NECESSARY EVIL?: PART III

While I'm sitting at work with nothing to do (a rarity for me), I figured I'd wrap up this series with my final thoughts.

I've noted various questions that I suggest a bride asks herself when considering having the receiving line. This final question/issue may be the most controversial, but it must be said.

"WHAT OTHER "TRADITIONAL ELEMENTS" AM I KEEPING AS PART OF THE RECEPTION? WILL MY GUESTS GET BORED OR OVERLOADED WITH THE FORMALITIES?"

As I've reiterated time and time again, THERE ARE NO "RULES" ABOUT WHAT TO DO-- AND WHAT NOT TO DO-- AT YOUR WEDDING.

Think wedding speeches are dumb or overblown? Skip them (or cut down the number of speakers). Shudder at the idea of the grand entrance (where you and your fiance enter the reception to music)? Enter in a more subtle manner.

The bottom line is trying to keep your guests in mind (the common thread among all of my posts), and none of these traditions is hard and fast to having a "good" wedding.

Therefore, in thinking about the receiving line, keep in mind what other traditions you're retaining---i.e., the number of speeches/toasts, the cake cutting, the grand entrance, the slide show of baby pictures of you and your husband, etc., etc., etc.

I'll be blunt. Guests (myself and those I've spoken with, included) don't particularly like being on a schedule at weddings. The more traditions you keep, the more prone they are to get bored (listening to six speeches, unless the best man is hanging from a chandelier, gets BORING!). I've been to dozens of weddings, and the best (i.e., the most fun) are those that provide flexibility (the ability to roam around, dance with my date, talk to my friends). The not-so-great are those where I'm constantly having to sit down and listen. or watch. or shake hands.

I'm certainly not saying that having a few of these elements is hindrance to a fun wedding. But it is important to think about each element in connection with the other--and how they all add up.

Therefore, if you have a receiving line (certainly a traditional element), think about what else you're doing at the wedding besides dinner and dancing. It may really help you figure out what I like to call "cutting the fat."

Hopefully, these three questions will give ya'll some food for thought.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

THE RECEIVING LINE: A NECESSARY EVIL?: PART II

Continuing with the subject of receiving lines, I want to take up the next question in the series:

HOW LARGE IS MY WEDDING--AND WILL SIZE PERMIT ME TO MEET AND GREET EVERY GUEST (WITHOUT A LINE?)

My friend Bonnie had a very large wedding--over 300 people--mainly because her fiance's parents gave her and Brad (her now-husband) an ultimatum. Brad's parents said they had to invite their entire temple community (i.e., 250 people) or only immediate family (i.e., 5 people)--in order to avoid offending their old friends (with whom they mingled playing bridge, at temple functions, etc). As Brad's parents refused to even consider paying for their share of invitees (a cheap and ridiculous concept which I'll take up in a later post), Bonnie felt cornered. Either she had to have a teeny tiny wedding (since Bonnie and her parents had few people to invite), or a huge affair.

What to do? Bonnie opted for a large-scale affair, despite the fact that most of the people there would be for Brad's parents.

Bonnie and Brad had a receiving line--Bonnie's observation about the situation (and her parent's reaction) is quite telling: "We were standing next to each other, and my mom and dad were meeting all of Mr & Mrs. [Brad's last name] family friends. It went something like this: 'Hi, I'm Mrs. X, and I'm from Levittown, New York. Hello, I'm Mr. Y, and I'm from Levittown, New York. Good evening, I'm Mrs. Z, and I'm from Levittown, New York. My father gave 'a look' to my mother, as if to say 'this is ridiculous! Frankly, I didn't disagree. BUT, I will say that with the line, I kind of avoided having to go and seek out random people I didn't really know later in the evening--it was almost like getting it over with!'"

Sometimes the receiving line is the most convenient way of meeting guests, but it really seemed to provide Bonnie's parents with more aggravation than anything else. Nevertheless, it was an obligation that was over and done with at the beginning of the reception, which pleased Bonnie. I'll save the subject of etiquette when it comes to parents and wedding planning, but the story does illlustrate a point when it comes to these issues.

Getting back to the main question, however-- whether you have a receiving line really depends on if you and your fiance can greet all guests--whether individually or in terms of the tables you have arranged at the reception.

While you should certainly not treat meeting and greeting your guests as a "say hi and run" situation, you shouldn't feel obligated to get into an hour-long discussion. There's simply no time for that. However, it IS important to be realistic about whether or not you can say hello to everyone--if you don't, it's in poor taste. When I went to Heather's wedding (the subject of my posts about inviting guests with a date), she never even came over to the table to say hello to me or the others sitting with me-- I NEVER EVEN SAW HER the entire evening. I felt that was in incredibly poor taste (especially given the circumstances, and that I felt she was on thin ice as it were).

If you have a large wedding, think ahead about whether or not you can realistically greet your guests and thank them for coming. If you feel that is too much to ask, a receiving line may not be a bad idea. When you think about the PRO's and CON's of each scenario, it may help you figure out the best method.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

THE RECEIVING LINE: A NECESSARY EVIL?: PART I

The speeches. The "first" dances (and the various combos thereof--i.e., bride and groom, groom and mother, bride and father, bride's father and bride's mother, groom's father and groom's mother. ETC. ETC. ETC.). The cake cutting. And what I like to call "wedding specific" traditions (cultural or otherwise).

What do all of the above-referenced items have in common? They are all facets of the wedding reception, and make me wonder: given that a reception is really only a few precious hours, have weddings become too regimented and too rote? The various elements have added food for thought.

As a frequent guest at weddings, I find that the events I enjoy most are those with fewer "wedding-y" type of "activities" (like having to sit down and listen to an endless array of toasts, for example)--and more time to hang out with friends, dance with my date, and take in my surroundings.

The receiving line, which is the subject of this series, is one of the elements of a wedding that many people integrate, but may be unnecessary. In order to "cut the fat", so to speak, it's important to remember a few things with respect to the receiving line.

First off, what is it, really? According to Peggy Post's "Q & A" on the Wedding Channel website, "A receiving line is a traditional and organized way for the wedding party to greet guests, after the ceremony or upon their arrival at the reception." A receiving line can include you and your new-husband, as well as your mothers, in addition to other relatives (there is no set formula, and the number of those you include is at your discretion).

There are several factors one must take into account when thinking about the appropriateness of a receiving line. Although these factors cannot be taken independently of one another, I am going to separate them, one-by-one, in this new series. Keep them all in mind when thinking about the topic.

The first question is: WHAT TYPE OF WEDDING ARE YOU HAVING?

The level of formality of the reception comes into play here, and I'll use my mother's wedding as an example. Having been married to my father over thirty years ago (hard to believe), my mother had a large cocktail party reception at a Manhattan hotel. As the older and wiser version of the Wedding Fairy, my mom gave me her thoughts about receiving lines--tied to her own experience thirty+ years back: "Usually, people have them right after the ceremony in the cocktail room--but then you sort of miss the whole cocktail hour. Since I had a cocktail party wedding, we had a receiving line, but as the party went on for a long time, it actually gave the party some structure."

BigSis, on the other hand, had a cocktail reception AND sit-down dinner. If BigSis had the receiving line (either at the beginning of the cocktail hour or the actual dinner reception), she and her husband may have been doing formal meet-and-greets for most of the cocktail hour. Presumably, she still would have included the more formal elements of the dinner reception that I talked about above (including the speeches, cupcake presentation (in lieu of cake cutting), etc. In turn, not only would BigSis have missed getting to relax at her own cocktail hour, but the wedding may have seemed regimented and on a schedule. While a wedding planner may plan a wedding on a certain "schedule" (wedding speech, then dancing, dinner, then another speech, etc.), guests should never FEEL like that's the case. Keep that in mind when thinking about the receiving line--especially as the type of wedding you have may come into play.

Stay tuned!

Monday, December 18, 2006

LET THEM EAT (WEDDING CAKE): PART IV

I wanted to take one last stab at the wedding cake conversation--and use a reader's very cool concept to underscore my point that you can do interest, off the beaten path things with respect to the cake--and the sky's the limit!

One reader commented: "We will have a cake as the centerpiece of each table. That way we have lots of flavors, and it encourages guests to mingle."

What a lovely idea! Having different wedding cakes which are on a smaller scale is one way of keeping things fresh and versatile--and as the reader suggests, a way of encouraging people to socialize with others they may not ordinarily have met. Getting guests to move around may not seem like that important of a concept, but the more movement you have at your wedding (in terms of guests talking, dancing, etc.) is a way to ensure that everyone will eat, drink and most importantly, BE MERRY.

They say variety is the space of life--here, that concept plays to the nootion that each guest is different (ever heard the "I HATE chocolate versus "I can't LIVE WITHOUT chocolate" debate?) Crazy, I know, that some are vanilla-guys/gals, but I am one of those people, and I know there are others out there!

My final thoughts in conclusion to this series- YOU GO, GIRLS (Chrissy, Sara, Megan, and anyone else I've forgotten but should be named!)! It makes me happy to hear about creative brides thinking outside the box.

Stay tuned (next order of business: the receiving line!)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

"LET THEM EAT (WEDDING) CAKE: PART III"

One important thing to remember about wedding cakes: they don't have to taste like cardboard anymore.

In the past, brides often felt that they either had to sacrifice SUBSTANCE or STYLE -- even just a few years back, a beautiful and/or creative wedding cake wasn't necessarily....tasty. On the other hand, a yummy wedding cake was oftentimes limited in terms of how creative it could be.

So, how do you make sure that the cake is both tasty and tasteful/beautiful/magical/[INSERT YOUR FAVORITE ADJECTIVE HERE]?

There are a few things to think about on your quest to find the perfect cake--one that your friends and family will enjoy eating--and looking at.

1) CHOOSE A BAKER BASED ON "YOUR VISION": Before you go cake shopping, think about the overall theme/vision of your wedding, and how your cake is meant to fit in. Things to ponder: color scheme, traditional versus modern, and shape. My suggestion is to take clippings of cakes you've seen (and either adored or even hated!) in magazines or websites--this will help you think about what path you're taking--and how the bakery can help meet your needs. In addition, keep in mind the season in which you will hold your wedding reception, as well as whether you are partial to integrating real flowers into the cake--or if you want to let the cake speak for itself in terms of color and style. Many cake makers have websites, which is a great place to start--you can really get to know his/her individual style (whether they are more of a 'romantic' when it comes to creating a cake, or if their taste tends towards funky or unconventional).

2)INGREDIENTS, INGREDIENTS, INGREDIENTS : According to "The Knot", there are a myriad of tasty options when it comes to wedding cake confections. According to the Knot website: "Buttercream, made from butter and sugar is smooth and creamy, and it stays soft so it’s easy to cut, color, and flavor...easily shaped into swags, borders, and flowers. Fondant, another popular option is made of sugar, corn syrup, water, and gelatin, and is rolled out with a rolling pin before it’s draped over the cake. It makes a smooth firm base for decorative details, and it has a porcelain finish. Other icing choices include marzipan, a paste made from ground almonds, used in sheets like fondant; whipped cream, a sweetened whipped heavy cream (great with fruit fillings); and ganache, a rich mix of chocolate and cream."

Although you needn't be the Rachel Ray of wedding cakes before going to see different bakers, it's a good idea to get schooled on the type of ingredients mentioned above, as the ability to fufill your vision--not to mention the price--will depend on the type of ingredients used. The importance of BALANCE when it comes to a successful wedding cake cannot be overstated--emphasize to the prospective baker that the cake needs to look amazing--and taste that way too!

3) MIND OVER MATTER (THINKING ABOUT THE BUDGET) : No matter what goes into your cake (literally), it's important to remember that while brides have beautiful visions, if the price doesn't work, then you may need to scale things down. The cost of the cake is, at least most of the time, calculated per slice. And, according to the Wedding Channel, most brides spend between $3-$6 per slice. (That money adds up as you find your guest list getting longer and longer!)
However, the price per slice for more complicated and elaborate cakes can go up to as much as $20 bucks! Therefore, you should get as much as possible for what you pay, since this is a large expense that is one of the most noticeable.

Like with every other item on the list of expenses, make sure you get what you want--in writing. (Will purchase of your cake include delivery and set up? What about a cake topper/stand? Whether big or small, the questions aren't stupid--and should be asked. Your vision is important, but the price must be right. Make sure you have open communication with each prospective baker--you'll thank yourself for it.

These are just a few of the things you need to think about when attempting to achieve BALANCE as regards your wedding cake. Your guests should be wowed by both the taste of the confection--and the imagination that goes behind it.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"LET THEM EAT (WEDDING) CAKE: PART II"

I really enjoyed the comments to the last post--thanks for sharing what you've all done for your own weddings. The comments are great, too, as they are very "on point" with my thoughts about the "non traditional" wedding cake and/or "wedding cake alternative."

Sometimes, the concept of doing something different or off-the-beaten-path is unappealing--("What if people think it's weird?" "If they don't like it?") etc. etc. etc.

However, having a "spin" on the wedding-cake can, in fact, be an excellent way to separate yourself from the pack, so to speak. When you have a special element that you can highlight? All the better.

With respect to Megan's wedding in France, I LOVED hearing about what she did for dessert: "We had the traditional French Pièce Montée- stacked cream puffs covered in caramel. Usually they are in the shape of a cone, but we had it in the shape of the chateau where we had the reception. It was different and the American guests really enjoyed it..."

Interlacing cultural themes/traditions into one's wedding--where it's appropriate and fits the circumstances--is a really nice, subtle way of doing something different--but unique and noteworthy. I recently read in a bridal magazine about a bride and groom who had their wedding at a vineyard in Long Island, New York. That particular area of Long Island is very famous for a particular farm, which sells very famous pies (apple, blueberry, and more adventurous flavors as well)--instead of having wedding cake, the bride and groom served pies from the Brieremere farm--which was very much a hit with the wedding guests.

Doing something different doesn't have to be limited to the location of one's wedding, but the heritage of the participants. Serving a traditional dessert to celebrate one's culture--even if it's in lieu of a wedding cake--is a way to invite your guests (in a welcoming and non-intrusive way) to share your background and cultural beliefs--even if it's just for the evening.

There are so many ways to introduce an interesting and varied theme to your reception--beginning with the concept of the wedding cake--and going from there--is certainly one way to do it.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

THE WEDDING FAIRY RETURNS: "LET THEM EAT (WEDDING) CAKE": PART I

Good evening. I have returned from my hiatus, and I appreciate your staying with me while I've been away. Although I've been working my little tail off, I haven't left what I love to do in my spare time --writing about weddings (and while I've been "away", I've been doing a lot of research into the nuts and bolts of wedding planning).

For the past few weeks, I've focused less on etiquette-related subject matter and indulged in learning about the straight-up aspects of planning. And why not? Although I'm (a) not engaged or (b) a paid wedding-planner, I find that looking at the various elements of a wedding leads me to understand bridal behavior--and how planning affects treatment of guests/what guests end up looking when they think about what makes a fun wedding.

What have I been particularly obsessed with? Cakes. For some reason, dresses, flowers, and table settings take a back seat to my persual of the hundreds of wedding cakes on The Wedding Channel. Square ones or circular ones? Fondant? Buttercream? Artificial Flowers or Real Flowers? Conventional or Funky?

I think that choosing a cake is almost like picking a piece of art work -- there is an impressive level of craftmanship that goes into a beautiful cake, and it's an interesting conversation piece--even after the last piece is eaten.

For those of you searching for the perfect cake: definitely check out The Wedding Channel--they have wonderful photographs to help you get a feel or what you're looking for.

I think something important to remember is that there is no paint-by-numbers to picking a cake. The days of conservative, white wedding cakes are a thing of the past (if that's your style, that's great, but it's certainly not required), and guests (believe me, I do) really enjoy seeing (and tasting) something new and different.

So hot pink (like the cake pictured here) may not be your thing. Understandable. Just remember that maintaining that element of fun is part of the modern day wedding, and if you're enjoying yourself (and perhaps not taking yourself so seriously), then your guests definitely will, too.

Stay tuned!