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!

Guest Book Alternatives

This month’s ‘rush item’ has been guest books. We stock a lovely variety of styles at The Corner Store, but even so, I’m not really surprised to hear that couples struggle to find the right one for their wedding.

I suspect the issue is less about the range of guest books available, [does a quick count – we have more than 20 different styles in store!] and more about the limitations of the traditional guest book – when it comes to creating a wedding keepsake, you’re hoping for so much more than just a list of names. So, here’s a few alternatives I’ve seen recently, and fallen in deep love with:

DOODLE JOURNAL:

One of the simplest, yet most effective guest-book ideas ever. Rather than a formal guest book with measured spaces, use a blank page notebook, and encourage your guests to share their favourite quotes or advice for the newlyweds.

SIGNING PLATTER:
[inspired by Nelson based pottery artisans Pottering About]
Personalise the centre of a blank bisque platter with your names, date, colours or theme, and set it on a table for your guests to decorate with comments, pictures, etc, using a simple ink pen or pencil.  After the wedding, the writing is permanently inked, and the platter is then fired and sealed, creating a permanent, washable, celebration plate for use in years to come.
One of the things I love about this idea is that if anyone writes something stupid or mean [because sometimes people just don’t think], you can choose not to make it permanent. You can also select your favourite comments [or specific people’s comments, eg your parents] to be inked in another colour to highlight them – lots of ways to make it a really special memento.

PHOTO ALBUM GUEST BOOK:
[inspired by Sandra Johnson Boutique Photography] You’ve probably picked up, by now, that I’m a huge fan of the ‘engagement photo shoot’, as the perfect opportunity to test drive your photographer, and get the best value out of your practice hair and makeup. And now, there’s even more reason to make the time to get those photos: Using the photos from your engagement photo shoot, plus an assortment of your own photos [from your childhoods, when you first met, hen/stag nights etc] you can create a beautiful, conversation-inspiring photo-journal to use as a guest book.

DIRECTED JOURNAL:
DIY or order through The Wedding Whisperer’s Corner Store]

For the greatest ‘anti-guestbook’ – a directed journal to inspire your guests to write more than just ‘good luck’ or ‘congratulations’. Each journal is hand written with questions and comment prompts to inspire your guests to share from their wit and wisdom. Books can be customised on request, with a photo and page for each guest or couple, or with specific prompts relating to the couple’s specific situation.

SIGNATURE FRAME:
[order through The Wedding Whisperer’s Corner Store]

A signature frame is ideal if you’re looking for something more than your standard guest book list of names, but don’t want the guest book to be a significant focus of the reception – guests can quickly and easily add their names, and a comment if they wish. After the wedding, you pop in your favourite photo/s, creating a visual reminder of your celebrations. Made in NZ, there are lots of options for framing, mattboard style, etc.

CHRISTMAS TREE SKIRT:

In New Zealand, we tend to let our Christmas trees go bare-legged, but I’m told that Christmas tree ‘skirts’ are a stylish way to catch dropped tinsel/pine needles and disguise the plastic bucket or three prong spike the tree stands in. If you’re planning a summer wedding, using a Christmas tree skirt as your guest book will create an heirloom which will bring fresh memories each year as you pull out the box of Christmas decorations and re-discover the signed skirt, just in time for your wedding anniversary. I’ve seen some simple white and red tree skirts with words such as ‘peace, hope, believe, joy’ etc., which are Christmas themed, but can still fit with a  wedding theme!

TIP JAR:

Put your table name cards to double use by encouraging guests to write their comments [tips?] on the back, and drop them into a jar. Of course, any cute cards will do. I like re-using the name cards because it’s elegant but un-fussy, encourages every guest to contribute, and their small size gives guests just enough room to write something meaningful without pressuring those less eloquent guests.

The Corner Store has lots of new [and very cute] designs of woodcut name cards in all kinds of shapes, which are perfect for doubling as guest book inserts:

You Learn Something New, Every Day

After a dozen years, averaging  30 ceremonies a year, what’s that, then? 350 or more weddings? You’d think by now I’d have been there, done that, worn out the T-shirt.

But already this season, I’ve had some totally new wedding-related experiences: F’rinstance, I got a groom’s name wrong, for the first time, ever. [Only for a second, and not in any of the legally binding bits!]  And, I officiated over a double wedding ceremony [that’s where I got a one of the groom’s names mixed up with the other. Blush]. I saw a bride and her father drive their car, right up the aisle to the altar [and used the bonnet of the car as our signing table]. Let’s see, what else? Oh, I was unforgivably late to a rehearsal, the latest I’ve ever been, [there’s an interesting, though not very believable excuse filled with ninjas and fire-breathing dragons, but no better reason than that I failed to allow enough time to get there]. And I was embarrassingly early to the ceremony, the next day!

And, the thing that I totally wasn’t expecting: even after all those hundreds of beautifully crafted, carefully honed vows and I do’s and promises, just the other day, I was blindsided by a couple’s [secret squirrel surprise] vows totally taking my breath away.

I asked politely after the ceremony, and they said I could share them here.

So, here are the wedding vows I wish I had written:

The groom said:
You are my best beloved, and my best friend.
Somehow, in spite of some spectacular lapses in judgment,
and thanks to some astonishingly good luck,
I find myself standing here, beside you, on our wedding day.
Pinch me, I can’t believe it’s real.

I promise to care for you, to celebrate with you,
and to work beside you to build a life together
better than we could have imagined having by ourselves.
And so, I give you this ring, to remind you every day of my promise
that in all conditions, under every circumstance,
I am always on your team, as long as I live.
Finding you is the best thing that I have ever done,
until this very moment,
when becoming your husband will take that honour.

And when she could speak, the bride said back:

You are MY best beloved and MY best friend, too.  Jinx!
With this ring, I give you my promise
to be by your side and ON your side from here on out.
I promise to honour you, and to BE honourable,
to listen as you trust me with your thoughts, your fears, and your dreams;
To see you as the extraordinary person that you are,
even when you don’t believe it.
And to love you deeply and honestly.
You heart moves mine,
your mind challenges and inspires me,
your humour delights me,
and your hands are the ones I wish to hold mine,
until the end of my days.

I gladly make these promises to you,
and I am proud to become your wife.

Sweet, no? Maybe it’s just that so often, by the time I hear the couple actually saying the words to each other, we’ve been over and over them, tweaking and fine tuning – this was the first time in a while that I got to hear a set fresh out of  the box.

I’m kind of surprised that there’s been so much to blog about this season’s weddings, when it’s still only the middle of November. Even after all this time, there’s still so much more to learn, discover, and experience – I love it!


 

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!

Twenty Years From Now…

Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now. you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the things that you did.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the Trade Winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”

Twenty years ago today, I walked down the aisle and into married life. Far from ‘throwing off the bowlines and sailing away from the safe harbour’, our marriage has been an incredible safe haven – the home port from which I have been able to confidently face the next adventure, and to which I have gladly returned at the end of the day.

As the days have turned into years, it’s started to feel as if those years have turned back into days – I don’t know how we squeezed all those experiences into less than a month, but sometimes, that’s about how long it seems to have been.

A lot has happened in twenty years. As a f’rinstance, take another look at the photo for this post. That’s 1GB of 1990s technology storage – massive compared to the terabytes we carry around today. I’ve been married since before the world-wide web existed, longer than 50% of YouTube users have been alive, since the days when Prince Charles was still married to Diana, before Whoopie Goldberg hammed it up in Sister Act, before Boris Yeltsin was a household name, back when Mount Pinatubo erupted. WAAAAY back in the day.

Suddenly I’m feeling like I ought to be feeling old.

No-one is more surprised than I, to discover we’re so far down the track and still happily married. It’s not been an easy route – [you know me, I always want to know what might be up that other path, and in the past twenty years, we’ve travelled most of them] – it’s been better. It’s been worse. We’ve been comfortably off, and we’ve been totally, hopelessly broke. So far we’ve survived Norovirus, Crohn’s disease, infertility, parenthood, pets, prangs, and pranks.

There’s no magic formula, though. It’s not like we can map out a schedule, and say ‘do this, then that, and you’ll be fine’. I can recommend for you a large assortment of things you shouldn’t do, or say. There have been times when we’ve each said things we’ve lived to regret, days when the only reason to go home at the end of the day is because all our stuff was there. We’ve battled through seemingly irreconcilable differences, and come through that to be on the same side against some pretty insurmountable odds.

And, so far so good, we have both managed to love and to cherish each other, to remember that we chose and committed to this relationship, and ultimately, the only ‘trick’ is that each of us has come back around to choosing it again, and again, time after time after time.

And there’s the uncomfortable truth. In the same way that it doesn’t matter how shiny and perfect one face of a coin is if the other side is missing, it doesn’t much matter how hard one side of a couple works at the relationship, if the other side is missing, or fake. As awesome as I am [and so, so modest!] I have to acknowledge that a significant part of the success of my marriage belongs to the guy I happened to marry.

I’m looking forward to sharing the for richer, for better with him, and content that if there must be a for poorer, or worse, a death that inevitably parts us, [hopefully many, many for than another 20 years away], I won’t mind so much, if I can do it with that guy by my side.

Twenty years from now….

Writing from the head AND the heart

20110628-103809.jpgTo my shame, I’m woefully behind on getting ceremony drafts finalized (or even started, to be honest). That’s partly the result of things being insanely busy and/or on bed rest, but mostly it’s because, at the front of the queue there have been a couple of ceremonies requiring more than usually careful attention to their content:
There’s a certain delicacy required in the way you approach the ‘giving away of the bride’ when you know her father is living with a terminal diagnosis, or the way you draft vows to last ‘forever’ for a couple who have lost their home and livelihood in the Christchurch earthquakes, or the greeting for the half of a gay couple who probably won’t have a single member of his family present during the ceremony.
Usually, I love this part of my job- smithing the traditional phrasings of ceremonies, reworking their form into something new and better suited for their purpose. I really enjoy the process of finding the right combination of words that make it possible for a couple to perfectly express their emotions to one another and their guests.
I often joke that if I can make the mother in law cry, I ‘win’, but that’s only when she’s crying happy tears. These ceremonies are something else all together.

On one level, I’m relishing the challenge. And on another level, my heart is breaking. In the middle of so much happiness and hope for the future lies a core of bitter sorrow that cannot, must not be ignored or swept aside. While giving it due acknowledgement in the ceremony, must not be allowed to dominate and overshadow the celebrations. There’s a line to walk, between celebration and sorrow, that must be navigated without dipping into triteness or becoming maudlin, and I really won’t know if I’ve truly succeeded until the day the words are spoken at the ceremony.
Which is a long way if saying, if you’re waiting on your draft, it’s coming, and I suspect that it will turn out to be a little gentler, a tad more thoughtful than it might otherwise have been. If you’ve just received your first draft, I hope I have captured the heart of your words, and walked softly enough not to bruise the tender parts.

More than usually, be kind to the people you care about! Grab the opportunities, say the words, love extravagantly, out loud and in full colour. So far as it depends on you, live happily, ever after, for every minute that you can.

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!

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