Unaccustomed As I Am To Public Speaking…

While I’m picking apart traditions, shall we take a peek at the etiquette around wedding speeches? The speeches are an excellent way of thanking the various participants who have contributed towards making the wedding day a success, so I don’t recommend discarding the tradition of speech-making completely.
A carefully crafted and well presented speech is a thing of uncommon beauty. Unfortunately, wedding speeches are often neither crafted, nor well presented. All too often, they are dull, long-winded or alcohol fueled. The worst are all three, at once, but they don’t even need to be. The good thing about making a wedding speech is that the audience is on your side. Your guests want to enjoy your speeches, and they will if you let them!

Be clear in your expectations. Let your proposed speakers know whether you’re asking them to make a toast, specific thank-you, or a full-out speech.Encourage them not to trust their speech to memory – cue cards or notes are a good way to keep a speaker on track. If you ask, they may be willing to let you have a sneak preview of the speech, or even rehearse it in front of you.

Don’t insist on following the traditional rules for speeches, especially if you have a potential speech-maker who hates public speaking, or is painfully shy. You can leave their speech out completely, or have it made by someone else. For example, if the Father of the Bride can’t or won’t make a speech, perhaps the Mother of the Bride could speak in his place.

Don’t leave the speeches too late in the event. This is especially important if you’ve already had a long gap between the ceremony and the reception, with not much else to do but drink. Although a tipsy crowd might not care so much about the quality of the speeches, a speech-maker whose inhibitions are lowered by alcohol will usually make an extremely cringe-worthy speech, often at the expense of the bride and groom, and to their great embarrassment.
Having said that, don’t start the speeches too soon, either. Get some food in to soak up the afternoon’s champagne toasts. Guests who are impatiently waiting for dinner to be served will not be a good audience. Between the main and dessert courses is often a good time for speeches to be presented.

Make sure the speeches can be heard! Ask your venue, or the  band/DJ if they can make a mic available for the speeches

The traditional order of speeches is as follows. I’ve colour highlighted the speeches/toasts I think are most important, tradition or no.

The bride’s father [or in his absence, a close relative/family friend] proposes the first toast, to the bride and groom. [Traditionally: ‘health and happiness to the new Mr and Mrs’] If he makes a speech, he should address the groom’s parents, relatives of both families any other guests and welcome the groom to his family and say a few words about his daughter. Assuming that the relationship is close and loving, this can be quite moving.

The groom responds on behalf of his wife and himself, thanking all those involved in the organising of the wedding. The groom’s speech is the first official opportunity to use the phrase ‘My wife and I’. It’s important to put some careful planning into any individual thank-you to be included in this speech – while it’s nice to list specific people, you want to be sure not to leave anyone out. As well as thanking all the behind the scenes helpers, this speech should officially thank the groomsmen for their support, and thank the bride’s parents for, well, pretty much everything.  A small courtesy, but one that will be noted and treasured is to also offer thanks to the mother of the groom.

Finishing with a catch-all thank you to ‘every person who has helped make this day such a success” is a wise precaution.
Traditionally, at this point, the groom will thank the bridemaids for their support and propose a toast to the bridesmaids.
After the groom has finished, the bride may also wish to speak at this point.

I’m not sure why, but tradition dictates that the best man responds on behalf of the bridesmaids. Obviously, whichever of your bridal party is the most capable public speaker would be the best choice. The best man’s speech usually focuses on the groom, and his speech should be light-hearted and fun.  The best man then announces any messages, [traditionally telegrams, these days most likely to be e-mails] from absent guests, and makes a toast ‘to absent friends’.

You don’t have to have any speeches or toasts, but I hope you won’t miss the opportunity to speak out your gratitude, respect, and love for your family and friends!



Sounds Like… Time I Updated My Opinion…

As much as I joke that,” if it wasn’t for my humility, I’d be perfect”, I don’t mind admitting that, now and then I am completely and utterly wrongheaded about something. Today’s wrongheaded woolly thinking blog post on the topic of mics and sound at weddings is brought to you by the letters O and K and by the number 1, and it goes like this:

As a Celebrant, I am prejudiced beyond debate about how important it is that the words of the ceremony be clearly heard by the guests – after all, the ceremony is the reason for the celebration!  To that end, I work hard to make sure that every word I speak is clearly broadcast, either by using ‘my big voice’ [ TM], and having the couple speak out their own parts of the ceremony ‘repeat after me’ style – so that every one present is able to be an active participant in the ceremony and the vows they have gathered to witness.

I take a great deal of pride in the fact that some well-respected DJs and sound crews who have worked ceremonies with me in the past are confident enough in my speaking volume and clarity to back off the amplification.  I’ve had sound techs unclip the mic and put it away when they’ve realised that I’m the Celebrant who will be speaking.

I’m not afraid to use a microphone, and in certain settings, it’s a necessity. Applied skillfully and discreetly, amplification is an incredibly wonderful thing, subtly supporting those who are speaking.  After working alongside skilled and intuitive operators, with quality gear, I know that it’s not that difficult to place microphones so that the couple can be heard without looking like they are speaking their beautiful wedding vows to a microphone, and not to their own true love, or to quickly adjust for changes in wind direction, or the speaking volume of different participants.It’s my considered opinion that the skill of the tech AND the quality of the gear are equally important – leave one out and it would be like making cheese on toast, without the cheese. Or without the toast…

I hate-hate-hate it, [with the fierce and fiery passion of a thousand dying suns], when PAs and sound gear are used badly, either because the DJ has good gear but no real art, or when the gear is whatever battered old bits can be hired for cheap. To be blunt, poor quality sound is at best, a waste of time, money and effort to set up. At its worst, bad sound is a horrible distraction, overshadowing the words with the way they are broadcast.

So, for that reason, whenever a couple has come to me asking where they can hire a PA system, they’ve usually been the recipients of my somewhat scathing opinions about the quality of the gear an average person can affordably hire, and the lack of skilled operating that tends to come bundled with it.

I’m becoming aware that the times they are a-changing, so I’m drawing my line in the sand, and saying, there are some fantastic options for excellent sound available now, and I’m recommending them without reservation!

First shout must go to Ali Holmes, Avago Entertainment, who is one of the best DJ’s working in Nelson. I’ve had the good fortune to have worked alongside Ali at a number of weddings now, and it’s SUCH a luxury to be in such skilled hands – her gear is top quality, carefully maintained and set up, with attention to detail that is second-to-none. I’ve seen her transition smoothly through subtle pre-wedding background music, through the bride’s entrance, mic-ing the ceremony, and then segueing smoothly into pre-dinner music, mics for speeches etc, and finally cranking up into full party mode for the rest of the evening, reading and responding to the requirements of the guests throughout.

And, since sometimes, the reception venue, or the musos you’ve hired for the party, will have 90% of the sound under control, when you just need a little bit of sound for the ceremony, I’m excited to be able to say that Andrew and Kath at Event Audio have the perfect solution with a totally portable system, totally wireless, and able to be set up in the middle of the remotest paddock, deserted island, or backyard. The main unit is about the size of your commuter’s wheelie suitcase – and with an 8 hour capacity battery, there’s no worries about running extension cables for miles! With a really simple interface, it takes just moments to grasp the basic knob twiddling skills required.  Add in extra mics, CD or mp3/4 players, additional speakers – the sky’s the limit!

And that’s just the start of it – Event Audio were responsible for the sound at the recent Crusader’s game at Trafalgar Park, so I’m pretty confident that they can handle whatever size event you’re planning!

In case you missed it, in among all that, this is me, saying, hand to heart, YES! I do know where you can get really good audio services, and heartily recommending that you go talk with Ali, or Andrew, about your specific requirements. [I’ve never been so glad to be wrong! ]

I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive the options are. Plus, you’ll enjoy the confidence that comes with crossing something off your planning list, knowing you’re actually able to get what you’re looking for! YAY!





The bride’s ALWAYS late, so while the guests wait…

When you’re a guest at a wedding, you know you’re in for a fair amount of waiting around for the next thing to happen: The guests must arrive before the bridal party, and the bride is traditionally late, so you’re practically guaranteed a hurry up and wait from the get-go.

Waiting for the bride’s arrival is usually not so bad – there are other guests to catch up with, or introduce yourself to, and the small frissions as each stage unfolds – the groom arrives, the bridal car pulls up, and so on.

It’s the waiting that comes after the ceremony that’s harder to bear. If the newlyweds have followed mainstream tradition, you’ll be waiting to get out of the venue [while they pose for photos in the doorway] then waiting while they have family and formal group photos. And then, they’ll head off with their photographer for the rest of the photo shoot, leaving you with a huge chunk of time to fill.

As a guest, you may be stuck in limbo, uncertain of when or where you can go for the time between the ceremony and the reception. Though many will troop off to the pub, it’s not such a great start to what is often a long night of steady drinking, so a little forward planning isn’t a stupid idea, especially if you’re an out-of-town guest not closely related to the bride or the groom’s families.

When you get your invite, try to judge how long and how far it will be between the ceremony and the reception. Even the latest bride with the most sermonizing minister won’t keep you more than 90 minutes – for most ceremonies, you can expect the formalities to be well over 45 minutes after the posted start time. The invitation should give you an idea of when you’re expected at the reception venue. Depending on who you have with you, and what you think is fun, you might  take yourself off for a walk down the beach, curl up somewhere with a trashy novel or 40 winks, check out the local museum or art gallery, or even just arrange to meet some of the other guests at a coffee shop rather than the pub. It’s not a silly idea to pack a pair of comfortable shoes [or even a total change of clothes], even if you’re not planning on going anywhere else. There’s not much worse than watching strangers drink themselves into idiots, unless it’s doing it from an uncomfortable seat, wearing shoes that pinch.

If you’re the bride or groom, or have any say at all in the planning process, may I make some polite suggestions to help plan a wedding day timeline with guests in mind?

Timing is everything: Obviously, it makes no sense to plan a midday ceremony with a supper and dance reception. So why would you plan for 3 or more hours of photographs while your guests are waiting. Wedding photos are incredibly important. But so are your guests. So a compromise may need to be reached. Consider having the bulk of your formal photos taken before the ceremony. A good photographer will be able to preserve the ‘aha’ moment when you first see each other on the day, if that’s important to you, and you can even still have the traditional walk up the aisle to your groom. The advantages of photos first are that you’ll be more relaxed and connected with each other for your wedding ceremony and the rest of the day, PLUS you don’t have to go away and miss out on any time with your guests.

If you just can’t face the idea of photos before the ceremony, consider booking a ‘fashion photo shoot’ for after the honeymoon, where you can go to as many locations as you wish, and take time over getting really stunning wedding photos for the wall. Trash the Dress/Drown the Gown photo shoots often start out quite formally, but have the luxury of being able to climb into a tree, or whatever, without worrying about getting your hair mussed, or dirt on your gown.

If the time lag is unavoidable, make some options available for your guests – perhaps a party bus sightseeing tour from the ceremony venue to the reception, a bouncy castle or other entertainment for the kids, live music or other performing artists, or even something as simple as setting out some couches at the venue for guests to relax on – your guests will spend hours sitting at their tables, and it’s such a relief to sit somewhere different for a while.

If your guests are already at, or will head directly to, the reception venue, you might provide some nibbles and drinks – but in the end, this can end up costing more than a second photo shoot or a tour bus would – and can sometimes mean that guests are too full [or tiddly] to appreciate the wedding meal you’ve put so much thought, time and money into.

Don’t be afraid to try something different – A wedding recently had a NZ edition of Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, and Pictionary set up on tables – the guests quickly set up locals vs tourist teams and had such a great time getting to know each other, that it was hard to get them to stop for the arrival of the newlyweds! I’ve seen guests playing petanque and minigolf, relaxing on couches under the trees, building lego towers, even getting fake tattoos, courtesy of the bride and groom.

It sounds kind of odd, but when you think about it, why wouldn’t you do something that’s fun for your guests – after al, presumably, you like these people enough to invite them to be part of one of the most important days of your life. It makes sense to follow through and make sure they’re glad they made the effort to be with you, to help them celebrate, and to create a truly memorable occasion!

The Amazing Travelling Photobooth

And, on the topic of getting the photos you want… Check out The Amazing Travelling Photobooth:

Aint that something special?!

None of this “poseur faux photobooth that’s really your wedding photographer” stuff for these guys – it’s the full iconic photobooth experience, right down to the photo strips popping out the slot, ready for your guests to take home that night!

I love everything about The Amazing Travelling Photobooth –  the way they have created some kind of retro-steampunk thing [is that even possible?? ugh – it’s school holidays, and I can’t formulate a coherent sentence due to children eating my brain – can you tell?!] that isn’t just a quirky gimmick, but is part of the bones of the setup, right down to the smallest details. The photobooth is entertainment in it’s own right – fun for the people inside the booth, but also for the onlookers. It’s  intriguing, enticing, and you know that even Old  Aunt Maude who NEVER sits for photos will end up in the booth with a silly hat on before the end of the night! It genuinely is an amazing travelling photobooth, and I’m busy coming up with an event,  just so that I’ll  have a reason to have a photobooth in my backyard.

Dion and his team offer a fantastic service, which includes a brilliant guest book option where guests can take as many photos as they wish, stick their favourite shots into a beautiful album, add comments and best wishes, and Tah-Dah! create a stunning keepsake album that will have you smiling for years to come.

I heard a rumour that The Amazing Travelling Photobooth will be passing theough Nelson this Summer, and I highly recommend that you contact Dion and make plans to have The Amazing Photobooth stop by your wedding or event.


The Wedding Whisperer’s How To: plan to get the best out of your reception

After the formalities of the ceremony, your reception is time to relax and celebrate with your guests – The Marquee set up at Monaco Grand Mercure thanking/honouring them for their support, and treating them like they are the most important people in the world…

…well, aren’t they?
And if that’s truly the case, it’s worth spending some time, planning carefully to create an environment that really makes your guests feel special.

Contrary to what you might expect, in your starring role as “The Newlyweds” you probably won’t get to linger over your meal – you’ll be kept busy chatting, getting photos, etc, so rather basing your menu choices around your favourite foods, identify who your VIP guests are, and plan to cater for them. MudCastle Turret RoomYou will not be able to please everyone, so don’t try. Instead, figure out who you most want to honour, and build your celebration around that framework.

This is actually a key point in creating a genuinely memorable event – if your most special guests are, say, your grandparents, then they will probably value good plain food [and lots of it], comfortable seating, quiet music, etc., far more than clever lighting, elaborately plated morsels of food, and a large dance-floor – Which may be the way to head if your VIP guests are your workmates and friends!

Sometimes it works well to essentially host two reception events – an intimate, simple meal with close family immediately after the ceremony, and then a fresh and funky evening event with everyone else. The weird thing is that this can even end up costing less it would to provide the more traditional full sit-down meal with evening entertainment for your whole guest list.

Most often, your guests will arrive at the reception venue before you do, so make sure they know where to go, and plan something for them to do [other than soak up alcohol] while they’re waiting. This is especially true for any children or young adults in the party –the grown-ups will happily make polite conversation, but the kids have already sat politely through  not only the ceremony and group photos, but also the time waiting for the bride to arrive. It’s pretty reasonable to offer them some kind of diversion – from a basic goodie bag, through to their own entertainment, menu, and space to wriggle!

Kids [especially if they’re part of the bridal party] need potty breaks. And snacks. And time to run around yelling “boodleyboodleyboodley”. If they’ve made it through your ceremony without fuss, it’s only fair to give them a break at the reception

I very highly recommend the services of Flossie the Balloon Lady, and Meredith Thorpe, Face Painter [ph 548 9135], two local professional entertainers who quietly but effectively create a fun diversion for kids [and often, the adults]. They are also beautifully house-trained – leaving their work space spotless once they’re done.

Even in an informal venue, such as at the beach, thoughtful touches like sunblock, bug spray, chilled water bottles, etc will make your guests feel cared for. No matter how much champagne you’ve ordered, order more fruit juice. Guests are often aware of their alcohol limits, particularly early in the event, and will be very pleased to have soft drink options available. Trust me on this – while it’s poor form to run out of bubbly, it’s much worse to run out of non-alcholic drinks.

Music and entertainment is another area where receptions sometimes fail to reach their goal, simply by not thinking through what you are trying to achieve. Consider the ambience you’re trying to create throughout the event. i think it’s incredibly arrogant for a bride and groom to insist on only their own style of music for the whole time. Certainly, you should play some of your favourites, [even if it’s acid rock or baroque strings]. Make the most of it by choosing your  timing – a few specific songs when the two of you arrive at the venue, and for your first dance, for instance. Once again, it comes back to thinking about your VIP guests, as well as what you personally want.

Plan for a variety in musical style and volume through the course of the reception – such as, over dinner, your guests need to be able to converse easily over any background music, not so much later in the evening when you’re wanting them all up and dancing. Cheesy as it sounds, it’s definitely worth including some old-fashioned numbers early in the evening for the grannies in the party, as well as some  loud noise later for the young adults.

The true secret of success really comes from seeing your reception through the eyes of your best-beloved guests. Trust me on this – if you’re making the people you love feel welcomed and cherished, even their polar opposites will see and respect that, but if you try to please everyone, or just please yourselves, you probably won’t quite hit the mark. Why put that much time, money and effort into only going halfway?!

And remember, if you’d like to bounce your ideas off a professional, The Wedding Whisperer’s Corner Store offers a FREE consultancy service, and we’d be delighted to help you make the most of your reception plans!

Confessions of a confetti lover

To throw or not to throw?  That is the question….You’d think by now, having attended many hundreds of weddings, that the confetti buzz would have worn off for me by now. But it absolutely has not!

I don’t know why tossing handfuls of coloured paper in the air fills me with such glee – it just does. And I’m genuinely sad that so many venues are banning the use of confetti – especially as there are so many environmentally responsible options available.

The best and most exciting new option is confetti made from rice paper – which means it’s totally water-soluble [and edible, even!]. Unlike the metallic shapes that pass for confetti these days, it’s designed for great amounts of flutter when tossed, and comes in pastel colours that simply fade into the environment after a few days.  I’m hoping to start a bit of a confetti revival, and will be speaking persuasively to local venues, in the hope that some of them might drop their ban.

The Corner Store also has a fantastic range of confetti cannons. You can pre-load a confetti cannon with streamers, metallic or tissue confetti shapes, and even flower petals. They create a massive confetti effect, shooting a cloud of confetti over the crowd, with dramatic fluttering as it falls from a greater height than you could usually toss confetti to.

What we now know as confetti started out as rice or grains of wheat, scattered over the bride and groom as a symbol of fertility and prosperity for people whose livelihoods depended on fertile fields and strong children.

Unfortunately, traditional rice, grains or even bird seed mixes are not really ideal as a confetti substitute, not least of all because those tiny grains really sting if they hit bare flesh! Between the biologists who state that birds will choke on a surfeit of hard-to-digest raw rice, and gardeners complaining of wheat [or even birdseed]  growing in the cracks of the paths, it’s just not  really a practical alternative.

With this in mind, The Corner Store has also sourced some “Eco-fetti” – an edible, non growing, natural, neutral coloured option made of puffed millet and rice flakes,which you can blend with dried flowers to match your wedding colour theme. These softer, lighter grains create a pretty, bird-friendly, and environmentally kind option.

Of course, then you still have to deal with the fact that any food left lying around will attract rats.

You just can’t please some people.

Dried flowers alone are another very good option – in particular, lavender florets, rose petals etc, make a very sweet and beautiful confetti alternative. Fresh petals create a confetti full of colour, fragrance and flutter, but beware – fresh, coloured petals will stain carpets and clothing if crushed.

Bubble mixture is a cost-effective option – generally cheaper than packets of confetti, and give a longer lasting visual display than a few handfuls of confetti. The Corner Store stocks a variety of bubble containers, from the standard tiny white bottle, through to elegant champagne glasses. Bubbles are fun and beautiful, but again, no matter how much they claim to be non-staining, a spilled container of bubble solution will leave marks on clothing, furniture, and paths.

Which brings me back to rice paper confetti again – No mess, no fuss, and lots of fun.

Call in to The Store and check it out for yourself!



The Wedding Whisperer’s How To: pick your caterer /reception venue

When it comes to choosing your venue and/or caterer, your first question will most likely be:
Are you available on [wedding date]?  But once you’ve got that established, what should you ask next?!

I’ve complied a [not very short] list of the questions you should know the answers to before you confirm your booking.  You don’t necessarily need to ASK all of them, but here’s some things to keep in mind when you’re making your choice:

It’s a good idea to research at least 3 options, even if you have a clear favourite. If possible, arrange at each option to meet directly with the person with whom you will be liasing for your planning. You should be able to establish a good rapport with the event coordinator or host, and feel confident that they can orchestrate your event to your requirements.
If you’re selecting a venue, visit the space so that you can get an idea of how much room there is, whether the decor will compliment or clash with your colour scheme, etc.

COSTS: Even in the early stages, you should be able to get a ballpark figure to compare costs. When you’re asking for a ballpark quote, make sure you use the same numbers at each venue, of course!

Questions to ask include:

How are the charges calculated? Is there a set fee and/or a per-head charge? Maybe I’m cheely, but I reckon it’s always worth asking whether there are any criteria [day, date, party size etc] that might attract off-peak or discounted rates.
Is there a discount or surcharge for a significantly large or smaller than average number of guests?6036
How long is your booking for? Is there a time limit on your celebration?
Is it possible, and/or how much will it cost to extend that deadline, if required?
Are there any regulations in place regarding noise level, sale/consumption of alcohol, etc?

Exactly what is included in the charges?
What is NOT included? Some quotes will include everything, down to table decorations. Some quotes won’t even provide tables!
Will the meal be a set menu, or will guests have an option of entrees, mains and desserts?
How do they cater for with guests with special dietary requests?
Are any drinks included in the price? [Often not alcohol, but what about juice, or tea and coffee?]
Can you supply your own wines, or must you have the house brand? Can you bring in personalised wines or specialty liqueurs? Is there a corkage fee?  Do you need to provide a bartender?

Who does what? Are you able to arrange some of the details, and/or comparison shop, or are you required to use the suppliers recommended by the venue?

Once you have a written quote, are prices subject to change?
What is the policy for deposits and cancellation fees?

Specific to choosing a venue: If possible, have a look at photos of other recent functions at the venue. Ask specific questions about what you see: “Is THAT included in this quote or is it extra?”
Are you able to decorate the venue and/or gardens?
What are the options in extremely cold, wet or even hot weather? Is there adequate shelter from sun, wind or rain? Does the venue provide additional heating or cooling if required? May you set up a marquee?

What is the time-line for set up and pack down? How early can the decorators, florist, musicians, techs, etc get access to the venue to start setting up? What is the deadline for removing any decorations after the event?
What is the absolutely latest that the last guest will have to be gone by?

How much of the venue space will you have access to?
Can guests use any surrounding garden areas?
What is the policy on rice, confetti, etc.
Will you have sole use of the venue, or will it be open to the public, or hosting another group elsewhere on-site?
If it is a multi function site, how private will your function be?
And how well will your function be signposted? [you don’t want your guests turning up at the wrong wedding breakfast!]
When fully placed, does the set-up allow for ease of movement for elderly or disabled guests?

What are the toilets like? Seriously. Go and have a look at them. Remember it’s these seemingly little, unimportant things that will build or detract from your event as a whole. If not for the sake of your guests, then for the fact that the bride’s gonna need to use the ladies room at least once.
Will there be sufficient parking for all your guests [and any suppliers’ delivery vehicles]?

Ha! And, I’ve just noticed that all of these questions don’t make any real mention of the specifics of what the actual food is like! sigh.

I know, when you lay it all out like this, it seems a tad OCD, and yet… Your reception is a very improtant component of the event as a whole. Asking the right questions at the beginning of the process will help you to choose the best venue for your requirements, and help you have the best wedding possible!

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