Sometimes, STUFF just HAPPENS

Bleargh. The weather has been a fiend lately!
Plan A and Plan B have rain and sun covered, but there’s only going to be discontent when you’re facing gale force winds on an otherwise sunny blue day.

I want to give full credit to all the couples I’ve worked with this past weekend. The weather was beautiful but lousy, and they rolled with it, incredibly well. In particular, one bride who solved her own problem, instead of battling the wind and her [stunningly beautiful, fine lace] extremely long veil, she just pulled the comb out, and tucked the rolled up veil under the edge of her train, mid-ceremony. In that one action, she removed a distraction, not only for her guests, who were watching and wincing as it wound and flicked itself about, but also for herself and her groom. By removing the distraction, she brought the focus back to where it belonged, quickly, calmly, and without any fuss.

Stuff happens. The groom ends up with his Mother-in-Law’s lipstick on his collar before the formal photos. The dog runs off with the rings tied to his collar. The flower-girl shows off her Dora The Explorer knickers mid ceremony.
It rains. It blows a gale. It rains AND blows a gale.
Babies cry, candles refuse to light, pens don’t write… Stuff. It happens.

If you plan carefully, and you’re lucky, stuff happens to other people. But occasionally, all the stars align, and it happens to you, at your ceremony. Here’s the one thing you can do to control that random stuff that happens:

Stay focused. Keep your eyes on your bride or groom, smile, laugh if you can, and carry on as if you’d planned for things to go that way. Your family, and your guests will take their cue from you. How you react will give them a script for their own reaction. And, more importantly, how you react will determine whether that random stuff that just happened becomes the defining moment in your guests’ memories, or just another cute anecdote among many warm memories of a beautiful day.

I’m a great fan of the idea that you should ‘solve your own problem’. So if there’s a simple solution, like taking off your wind-whipped veil, do that. But if it’s not actually YOUR problem, or not one you can solve for yourselves, have faith in your Celebrant and ushers, or during your reception, your Emcee and parents, to take care of the problem for you.

A good Celebrant or Emcee will guide you safely through a potential disaster during the ceremony or speeches, your ushers will help with your guests. Everyone there is on your side, wanting the best possible outcome.Stay calm, and let them help. Don’t waste time or energy on getting cross, pulling faces, or doing the angry stabby gestures dance – all that does is keep everyone’s attention on the other stuff, and you will keep the focus where it should be -on  the committment you and your partner are celebrating.

Stuff happens? Ah, let it. It’s not even important. Unless you allow it to be.
So, yeah, don’t do that!

The Naughty Corner: Bad Behaviour at Weddings

Phew! It’s been a ‘fun’ couple of weeks!
I often joke that there’s not much I haven’t seen when it comes to weddings; this month, I’ve added a few new things to my list.

Here is summer 2011’s list of things you shouldn’t have to tell a wedding guest:

Dear Wedding Guests,
The bride’s attire should be the most eye-catching outfit in the room. It’s currently trendy to wear a surprising hat. Okay. I’m not so sure that a surprising dress is a good choice, though.
I’m all for sassy fashion and expressing your personality through what you wear, but I have seen oh, so many outfits that make me wonder what the wearer was thinking when they chose their clothing. For starters, it should go without saying that it’s never a good idea to wear a long white dress to a wedding, if you’re not actually the bride.
Please take the venue into consideration. Clothing that’s suitable for a beach wedding is probably not appropriate for a church wedding. And vice versa.
Your attire doesn’t have to be new, but it should definitely be clean. The same goes for your shoes, and your hair and nails – it looks disrespectful when you don’t take the time to scrub up for an event that will have been months in the planning.

As a general guideline, if you can’t sit down and relax in what you’ve chosen to wear, it’s perhaps a little short or tight to wear to a wedding. It’s silly to set yourself up to be made miserable and  distracted by an uncomfortable or unsuitable clothing choice.

Dear Wedding Guests,
While it’s true that no-one can be excluded from attending a wedding ceremony, priority should always be given to invited guests. If for some reason you decide to attend a ceremony to which you were not invited, in a venue where seating is limited,you should wait until all the invited guests are seated before you seat yourself.
The reception / wedding breakfast is for invited guests only. It will have been catered and set for the number of guests who have RSVPed. If you were not invited, or if you were invited, but did not RSVP, then, too bad. There’s bound to be a McDonald’s still open somewhere nearby.

While I’m on the topic: Just because there will be plenty of ‘free’ food and booze isn’t a reason to consume as much as you possibly can. By all means, eat, drink, make merry, but don’t be ‘that guest’.
No-one wants to step over, uh, pre-warmed leftovers on the way back to their cars at the end of the evening.

Dear Wedding Guests,
Just because someone sends you an invitation, you don’t have to attend. If you don’t approve of the wedding, or have some feud with the couple’s family, or you just generally don’t have a nice thing to say about anyone or anything, please feel free to stay at home. That’s what the RSVP card is for – you can choose not to attend. I’ve seen far too many ‘side eye’ looks flitting among guests. I’ve heard far too many snide comments about the quality of the wine, the tackiness of the decor, or the dismal outlook predicted for the couple.
Come on, people, it’s a celebration.
Please stay away if you can’t at least convincingly fake being happy for the newlyweds.

Dear Wedding Guests,
Don’t forget to put some manners in your pocket with your hanky. It costs nothing to be polite, and only a little effort to be friendly to people you have not met before. Some of those people are now related to you by marriage. A little good behaviour and courtesy will stand you in good stead for the many family gatherings to come.

The same goes for your interactions with wait staff, and others who are working the wedding. There’s seldom any reason to yell at or physically handle any person who is being paid to [among other things] make your day go well. You will expect them to be polite to you, why not return the courtesy? A shift of tone will change a demand into a request, the addition of a please, or thankyou will cost you nothing, but might get you even better service.

And finally [ I hope!] Dear Wedding Guests,
It was the cutest wedding, wasn’t it? And didn’t you get some great candid photos? Yay you! But before you go posting any of those photos onto Facebook or G+, you should check that the bride and groom won’t mind – everyone THEY wanted to share their day with was invited to the wedding, so they may quite rightly wish to keep the images from the day private to that group of people.
In addition, the couple will almost certainly have paid a chunk of cash to have their wedding professionally photographed. Would they really want lo-res snapshots to be the first images shown to the rest of the world?
We’ve all seen bad-taste/wedding disaster photos that have gone viral.
It’s not what a friend would do. Well, not what a GOOD friend would do….

Long story short: You’ve been invited to the wedding because the bride and groom, and their families, value the relationship they share with you. You’re someone special to them, and they want to share their celebrations with you.
So go on, celebrate with them. Have fun, and please, be a good guest!

That’s not lipstick on my collar…

…but that IS pine sap on my new pants!

A regular, reflex part of my wedding planner routine is the quick once-over to check that the bride, groom, and bridal party still look like they’re fresh out of the packet – keeping an eye out for extra lipstick and rouge in the wrong places on the bride, [and anywhere on the groom!], zippers zipped, ties tied, hems free of cling-ons, and so on.

It’s amazing how much muss can happen between the top and bottom of the aisle, and it’s part of my job to quietly make it go away. A “thumb-flannel” is sometimes enough. A babywipe is a godsend. Spit on a hanky, even among family members, a definite no-no!

I love the idea of  ‘Trash the Dress’, but your wedding day is not the time, or that place to do it, and never accidentally! So, I know how to deal with automobile grease on a white gown, baby vomit on a dark suit, and a horde of other minor disasters. This boy-scout attitude has not, unfortunately,  saved me from my own day-to-day battle with spaghetti sauce down the front of  my white T-shirt, dog slobber on my shoes, beetroot juice on my socks [don’t ask!], and today’s addition to the stain family –  pine sap on my brand new black pants.

My daughter had a fight with her best friend, ran out to the wood pile and  sat on a log to cry, I hauled her onto my lap [because she’s still not too big to hug] and got pine sapped. The resulting mess could pass for a “Monica Lewinsky blue dress”, and if I’m ever going to wear them in public, it’s going to take a lot more than a babywipe to get them clean.

Polling my friends gave me a variety of options to try ranging from rubbing alcohol to professional stain removal. But there was one solution I hadn’t ever tried, and it’s so good, I plan to add it to my stock of babywipes and clean hankies. Riv’s suggestion was:

“But that’s how we tell the good parents from the bad parents. The ones without pine tar stains, or any other stain, or rips, or the hems of shirts pulled out of shape by the waist-high crowd– those are the ones who might as well start the kids’ therapy funds now. Wear that pine tar stain with pride.”

Which, IMO, beats babywipes and spit-on-a-tissue, hands down. She’s right – pine sap on my new pants is nothing if it’s the only thing stopping me comforting my baby girl.

Smeared happy-tears-mascara on the collar of the groom,  or baby drool on the bride’s gown might not be something you’d set out to collect, but if the badge fits, you might as well wear it as hide it.

Which is a long way of saying,  if you ever see me at a wedding,  not rushing to clean up a fuchsia lipstick stain, you should look around and find which lips it matches. I guarantee, it will be one of the best beloved old nanas or aunties. It will, no doubt, look as garish in the flesh as it does on the bride’s forehead, but you’d do well to find yourself a seat at her table. Best beloved old biddies are something pretty special.  Riv was right. Some stains you should wear with pride!

Let’s go make some noise… or not!

Pardon my grump. One of our neighbours hosted a party last night, which lasted into the wee hours of the morning, and I’m a bit of a bear today. The techno-funk at midnight was bad enough, guitar hero at 1am was irritating, but the cherry on the pile was when [so far as I could tell] someone plugged in their guitar amp and began writing new age mood music. They may have been torturing small mammals, it was hard to be certain. What it certainly was NOT was appropriate noise to be making  at that time of the morning, and I have to confess, I came over all curmudgeonly and phoned noise control a little after 2 a.m.

When you’re planning your wedding celebrations, you’ll need to take into account that there may be restrictions relating to the amount of noise, and how late you can make it, [in addition to any other specifications of the venue’s  liquor licence]. Restrictions will vary from place to place, and may be effected by local council requirements under the Resource Management Act [RMA] which specifies that people are not allowed to make ‘excessive’ noise, and must ensure that noise from their property does not reach an “unreasonable” level.  [Vague much?]

The factors that might make noise excessive or unreasonable include:

  • Volume: Although vague, the RMA does not  not accept that Justin Bieber, or Rachmaninoff, for that matter, are excessive at just any level. Just because the neighbours can hear it and don’t like it, isn’t grounds for a complaint. It’s worth pointing out that the most common cause for Noise Control complaints is loud music. You may be surprised to know that it’s more likely to be caused by the  ‘plug the iPod into the sound system’ party than a live band or DJ, even with all those massive speakers on the rack. A skilled technician will  maximise the music, minimising the ‘noise’, in a way that compressed mp4s and struggle to achieve anything more than a flat wall of sound. Live musicians/DJs are generally better able to create a party atmosphere without breaking any sound barriers!
  • Time of day: Unless you’re doing something totally extreme, chances are that you won’t have to worry about your wedding ceremony or reception disturbing the neighbours’ peace and quiet until after it gets dark.
  • Background noise: If you’re using a venue that regularly hosts events, they will have a good idea of what the neighborhood can tolerate. Venues may require the bar and band to shut down as early as 10 or 11.30pm or a final all quiet by 1am, if at all. Even so, there are limits to what’s reasonable, –  don’t surprise the venue with your plans for a karaoke marathon, or a live fire cannon salute!
  • Length of time and frequency of occurence: Most people are fine with late night noise and fireworks etc on New Years eve – but less tolerant on the night before the working year begins again.One solution is simply to make sure all the neighbors are invited to the party, so that they’re the ones making the noise, not the ones trying to sleep through it!  As a sweeping generalisation, you can get away with almost anything, as long as it’s not persistent or overly repetitive.

The job of deciding what’s excessive or unreasonable ultimately falls to noise control officers, who are employed by local councils. They work under guidelines for various zones contained in their district plan. Restrictions will vary from city to city and differ between the inner city or industrial zones and in the suburbs, which may explain why different venues may have different restrictions.

Noise control arriving will only ruin the celebration if you choose to become confrontational, [or to sulk and moan about it after they leave]. It’s pretty rare that a spiteful neighbor will be routinely trying to shut down  the party – when a complaint is logged, the complainant is required to give their name and contact details, and a log of complaints would show pretty quickly which side of the fence the problem is coming from.

If noise control turns up on the doorstep, it will be because someone has made a complaint, the officer has done a drive by and already agrees that the noise  is “excessive”.  In most instances, they’re not there to ‘shut the party down’, simply to require that the noise level decreases. There’s no point in arguing with them – just turn down the volume, and carry on celebrating, albeit a little less boisterously, and that should be the end of the issue. Take it simply as a reminder that you’re making more of a disturbance than you realised, and someone has finally reached their limit of endurance. Be kind!

Whose party is it, anyway?!

I often joke that ‘It’s not Christmas until somebody cries’, so I ought not be surprised that there’s a tad bit of friction among the whanau in the week before the jolly fat man arrives.

What it mostly boils down to is this: My mother’s job is to co-ordinate the distribution of Christmas gifts and food hampers not only to the clients they work with during the year, but also for the many other public service/charitable organisations they work alongside of. This means that she is working all the hours God gives her [and any extras she can magic up] between now and Christmas morning to make sure that the donations of toys and goods are fairly distributed, and that the gifts and food arrive at their many destinations in plenty of time for the families to gain the most benefit.

It also means that Christmas as a fun, relaxing event isn’t really on her radar yet, and won’t be until the last package is safely delivered… probably sometime late Friday. But it so happens that it’s my mother’s birthday on Friday, and the next day will be CHRISTMAS!! and well, and the rest of us want to celebrate…

You can see it coming, can’t you?

Now, you know it’s not a major, serious drama, or I wouldn’t be posting about it here, but there have been a few wee moments where the rest of the family have said “But I thought we’d…”  and “well I wanted to …” because what started as a well-meaning plan to take the youngers of family to a movie so that Dad and Mum could go quietly out for dinner has together somehow morphed into Mum wanting to chill out at the movies, too… and on it goes from there.

But in the end, what kind of celebration ignores the needs or preferences of the person you’re supposed to be celebrating?

[On second thoughts, don’t answer that, because you’ll wreck the point I’m about to make!!]

When you’re planning any kind of celebration, one of the most important things to hold in the front of your mind is who you are doing it for.

With a wedding, it’s easy to assume that the wedding is for the bride and groom, but of course, a moment’s reflection will make it clear that if a bride and groom were to be totally selfish and cater only to their own whims, it would be a pretty dull event for most of the rest of the guests!

Weddings on the whole are a celebration for the friends and family of the couple. It’s not totally altruistic, but there are many, many choices that are made with a view to accommodating the needs and preferences of the guests and family.

Of course, if you try to please everyone, you’ll end up with chaos, but it’s worth making a list [and checking it twice, just to be seasonal] of who you’re trying to impress, and how, and why.

From the choice of venue [too many stairs for grandpa to manage] to menu [substantial amounts of  food to soak up the booze for the workmates] the people you’re inviting to celebrate with you will be influencing many of the decisions you make. It’s worth taking time to make sure you’re actually hitting your target, and at the same time, not making ridiculous or unnecessary or unreasonable compromises.

It’s worth sitting down together with as many of the important players as possible, right at the beginning of the process, and talking through what you think they’d like. Once you have an idea of what’s important to the people who are most important to you, decide which things go at the top of the list as a ‘must do’ and which fall more into the ‘hope to do’ section.

There’s probably going to be a few ‘tell them they’re dreaming’ requests too, but you don’t have to do everything!

Let me give you an example. Let’s imagine a couple who are considering holding their wedding in the same church their parents and grandparents were married in, in spite of their own atheistic leanings.

They discover that they will also expected to have significant christian content to the ceremony, and six sessions of ‘what is a christian marriage ‘  themed premarital counselling. By talking it over with their families [who started the tradition] they can make an informed decision that really does honour their families and themselves. The balance will vary from situation to situation – a nominal atheist might roll with the conditions for the sake of tradition. Some families would be quite upset to think they’d be the cause of philosophical angst just for the sake of tradition. But until you talk about it, how do you know?

It’s not just the major issues, either. I mean, what if three of your elderly aunts won’t be able to walk out to the romantic spot on the end of the pier? Or your BFF is a vegetarian, but you want to have the reception in the town’s best steak-house? There’s truth in that old saying that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. In the event that the decisions you finally make will be less than optimal for your family or guests, it’s always nicer to talk it over with them than to just announce it, if that’s a practical option. You stand to make allies, rather than enemies that way – even if they don’t like your decision, if they understand your reasoning, it’s harder to take offence!

As in everything, there’s always a balance between inviting input and giving away control, and I’d be the first to agree that it can be a very fine line at times. As you walk that line, take the time to make sure that the things you’re compromising on, or going to great effort to arrange, is actually the thing that will best hit the target you’re trying to reach!

For us, having talked it over, it looks like we’re having a low-key, relaxed, do-nothing birthday and christmas. And i think that it’s going to be perfect!

A quiet hour to work on invites

Following on from the word-smithing workshops, I spent a quiet hour brainstorming invitation working on invitation wording with a bride (let’s call her Jess) and her family.

Although this couple’s specific circumstances are unique, the fact is that the traditional wording rules don’t fit many modern families anymore. I’m sure there are things in this bride’s story that will have relevance for many other couples, so I thought I’d include it here.

Invitation etiquette dictates that whoever is paying for the wedding is technically the Host, and as such, gets to have their name/s as the invitees on the wedding invitation. Jess, her fiance Steve, and all their parents are chipping in towards the cost of the wedding, so the options are fairly wide open.

Jess has a close relationship with her parents and wants to include them by name in her invitation wording.  And here’s where it starts getting tricky, because Jess’ parents divorced when she was still in school, and her mother has remarried. Jess has an excellent relationship with both her stepfather and her Dad’s longtime partner, considering them all to fall into the parents category, so she would like to include them also.As far as I am aware, there is no standard formula that fits the simple math of four different first name/last name combinations, just on the brides side!

I very sensibly suggested using a simple catch-all of “Jess and Steve, along with their parents…” And that’s where it started getting tricky.

While it shouldn’t matter one bit that Jess’ Dads partner happens to also be male, Jess and Steve both understand that  Jess ‘s side of the family have had the luxury of several years to get used to the idea, where almost no one on Steve’s (quite conservative) side of the family have any clue about the dynamics of Jess’ family. Jess and Steve reason that by including these details, calmly and without comment, in the invite, they can perhaps help one part of the process of smoothly joining two quite different  families.

To some extent they’re right.  A clearly worded invitation is one way of saying “Jess has a Dad who happens to be gay, and we’re perfectly fine with it”, without directly making a big issue out of the fact.

In theory that means that if anyone chooses to be scandalized, then they can quietly decline the invitation (or have histrionics if they must) well away from the wedding itself. This is the beginning of paving the way for an open and honest relationship between the two families, promoting tolerance in both directions – Jess isn’t aiming to shock the conservatives in Steve’s family, but she’s also not wanting to create a situation where her family is required to justify, defend, or explain themselves.

In the end, it’s a fairly long invitation, but it’s a thing of great beauty, and I sincerely applaud this young couple for their sensitivity to the needs of their guests.

What Could YOU do with One Quiet Hour to Work on Your Wedding?

The Wedding Whisperer recently launched a service called ‘One Quiet Hour’, where The Wedding Whisperer meets with a bride, or couple, or whomever, to intensely work on the current challenge they are facing in their wedding planning process. There are so many different strands to keep track of that you can begin to feel completely overwhelmed.

A Quiet Hour gives you 60 minutes of expert advice that you can really trust, based on the experience of hundreds of weddings. Even if you’re doing something totally and completely different [and to be honest, that’s rarer than you’d think] there’s still a wealth of knowledge that can be applied. You’re not expected to be an overnight expert – and, since you’re not planning on doing this again any time soon, it makes sense to tap into The Wedding Whisperer’s wisdom and experience, rather than racing around re-inventing the wheel.

The Quiet Hour is charged out at $35 per hour and makes a fantastic gift, if you’re standing on the sidelines of wedding planning chaos and unsure how you can help.

Depending on the subject, it can take place at The Corner Store, at the wedding or reception venue, or in your home, at whatever time is appropriate. You can bring as many others along as you wish – depending what you’re working on, you might need to get your team all on one page, or just have a bit of  a heart-to-heart about some of the details – it’s really up to you!

I’m dedicating a section to the Quiet Hour, because, so far the situations I’ve brainstormed are fairly common challenges. I plan to blog some of the more generic tips and tricks, which may be enough to get you going again, or perhaps highlight how much you could do with a little bit of extra help.

Watch this space for some of the challenges other couples have overcome [No revealing details, I promise!], or make an appointment for your own Quiet Hour, and get your momentum back!

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