Thanksgiving and other family gatherings

It’s almost Thanksgiving in the USA, and since I have friends over yonder, I’ve heard some pretty incredible descriptions of the insane lengths people seem feel they must go to for [what I’d always thought of as] a simple family dinner.

From this side of the world, it looks like a dose of voluntary insanity – between the super-sized turkey and the super obnoxious relatives, Thanksgiving sounds to me like something you do just so that you can be thankful that it’s over!

It’s as if the symbol of the celebration has become more important than the thing we’re actually celebrating. And as I hear those words coming out of my mouth, I realise that it’s not just something that happens on the other side of the world… we do it here, too, with weddings.

Somewhere, on some level, if you’re having anything more than a registry office ceremony, or eloping, then your wedding day is in large part being built around getting together with your close friends and family to celebrate. [slight hijack: no really! If all you wanted was the pretty dress and the fancy words and the album full of photos, you’d have made plans to head to a remote location for your wedding. If you’re not doing that, then by default or design, you’re chosing this particular version of insanity – so you might as well make it work!]

I’m just going to go ahead and be blunt about it. Having made the choice to include your family and friends in your wedding day celebrations, you owe it to them and to yourself to keep the drama down and the celebration up.

Just like it makes no sense for someone to get up in the wee hours to baste the turkey at hourly intervals, if it means they’re going to be tired and cranky by the time that bird makes it to the dinner table, it also makes no sense to plan a wedding and reception that requires you, or someone you care about, to run themselves ragged to get everything done.

If you’re going to have a high-maintenance celebration, then PLEASE hire a stranger to do that running around, and give yourself and your family the best of your time, energy and attention. Seriously, there’s no amount of money in the world that you could count as worth saving if you spend your wedding day [or if your mother spends her daughter’s wedding day] on the verge of hysterics, running back and forth, trying to keep everything moving forward.

That’s one of the reasons why I also strongly recommend using a purpose-built venue, or one where most of the basic requirements are already on site, and I passionately advise that if you’re somewhere that requires you to hire in and set up your own chairs and tables etc, then you should hire a team to take care of those details. That allows your guests to be the guests, and leaves the hired help to do the slaving.

Before you head off into determined DIY territory, consider this: In practical terms, for every 50 guests, you should allow a minimum of an extra hour’s worth of setup time. Think about it. How long does it take to unpack and neatly set up a single table,  8 chairs with sashes or covers, linen, cutlery, glassware, favors, place cards, napkins, decorations, let alone an extra six sets? Not to mention getting all the assorted bits and pieces picked up and delivered, unpacked and placed. Invariably something gets missed, or dropped and broken, or needs ironing, or whatever.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve commented about how beautiful everything looks and found myself on the receiving end of  the horror story of what it took to achieve.

Not fair, not by a long shot. It’s not just your day. Your guests are an important part of the celebrations. And as strongly as I advocate for the wedding couple to only be the bride and groom on their wedding day, so should your guests get to be the honoured guests, the celebrating family. Not the unpaid labour, or the blood sweat and tears behind the scenes.

Pulling together any kind of family celebration is a mission. If you’re smart, you’ll do as much as is humanly possible to remove any additional stressors and potential points of friction, rather than building them into the structure of your day.

Uh, so, yeah… Happy Thanksgiving!

random factoid: The image for this post is a real life bride posing with a turkey. While wearing a wedding gown made with turkey feather detailing. I couldn’t make this stuff up!

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