The Project Debrief -an introduction

It’s inevitable as you reach the end of another year that you start to look back and reflect. Where did you start this year? Where are you ending it? What has worked? What hasn’t? I guess it’s the Project Debrief Meeting of 2016.

When events have been anything other than smooth and predictable, I tend to spend my last 30 minutes at work (late at night, while the dance music rages or while some poor 16-year-old mops the floor badly) in my office with a hot drink, writing an email. In the email, I will catalog how things have progressed: why decisions got made, what has changed from the original plan, and what was missing from the original plan. Sometimes I just send that email to myself. It’s not meant as a moan session about how other people haven’t done their job – it’s just a record of that particular event while it’s fresh in my mind. It’s a learning tool. And I have to do it on the day, because by the next morning I will walk into another event having forgotten 90% of what went on at the last one. After years of doing events, my brain automatically switches to the next priority task rather than dwelling on the past.

It’s a huge problem when someone calls up three weeks later looking for lost property. “The wedding of Frances and Frank?… Um, sure, let me look…” Rummages through her memory. Which wedding was that again? The pink one? The blue one? The lilac one?… Oh, the one where they made the florist cry! The one where they kicked a hole in the wall… Oh fuck those people. “No, sorry honey, I saw your 2-year-old tearing up your $2 paper pompoms.”…

So this is what I’m doing now: writing my notes in the closing hours while the event is still in swing. Listening to the 16-year-old mop the floor while I drink coffee and try to put my addled thoughts in order.

I will keep you posted.


The Long March

It’s been a slow climb into the last event of this looong week. On top of everything, I’ve been feeling sick as a dog – feverish, nauseous, achy. It’s all just reinforcing my desire to find a new job with more reasonable hours and some flexibility to take time off when sick.

However, I did find time to repot my seedlings (so that I have a few more days to get the beds prepared for them). My husband thinks I’m crazy – working outside on the garden in the middle of the night, in a freezing rainstorm, while running a fever. But the work needed doing and summer waits for no one.

My last event this week is a doozy – a big wedding with a demanding and unreasonable young bride. I’m a firm believer that the whole wedding industry (eg. Pinterest, bridal magazines, “It’s all about you!”) has a lot to answer for. You do your best to offer professional advice to people who have never organized an event before in their lives, but if they choose not to listen to you then it’s hard to convince them that they won’t get the result they want from the path they’ve chosen. And of course, that will be your fault.



It’s Not About You

It was a good wedding in the end. The couple were happy and in love, one of the fathers gave me a hug, there were smiles all round.

One of the photographers was a bit of a dick to us, but you get that with wedding photographers. They tend to think that the day is all about them, and everything must wait on their schedule because what they are doing is the most important bit. It’s not. The “getting married” part is pretty darn important too. And from my side, keeping 100 people happy, safe, entertained, fed and watered takes priority over everything else. If the photographer wants to come into conflict with that stuff, then fuck the photographer.

My husband and I solved this (very common) problem with wedding photographers by getting married at an actual photography studio. That way they didn’t need to drag us away from our friends or generally be a pain – they could just mingle and snap things as they happened and the lighting would still be tolerable. The photographers actually seemed pretty happy with this arrangement, saying that it was by far the easiest wedding they’d ever had to shoot. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve run about a billion weddings by now, but I’m a big believer in finding the right contractors and then working with them to make their lives easier and give them a chance to excel.

After having done so many events, I could share plenty of (possibly libelous) stories about contractors who suck. Weddings get more than their fair share of terrible contractors, but that’s largely because people are unduly stressed and the clients are frequently unable to communicate the scope of what they want. It often has less to do with the abilities of the contractor and more to do with the whole industry that has been built up around pushing people’s expectations with weddings. “What’s that? You decided to arrive by helicopter and have all your guests greet you by releasing helium balloons attached to mason jars with burning candles? You saw something like that on Pintrest?… Yeah, that’s not happening. I don’t care that it’s your wedding day – you should have asked us before you decided on something like that. Flammable gas, fire, wind, and a crowd of people altogether in one spot does not fit my Health & Safety brief.”

And then that bride will go on TripAdvisor and post a one star review saying how horrible we are and that I ruined her wedding day. True story.

I guess photographers aren’t the only contractors who prioritize their work over the needs of other people. But at least I didn’t have 100 people and a helicopter explode in a big fireball…

Banana Sap Smells like Bananas, and Other Things I’ve Learned

When you get up at 5am (conferences!) and this is vastly unnatural to you, and the coffee canister is empty… when you open the new packet of coffee, you will tip the whole thing into your cup instead of the canister. Because you’re an idiot. And it’s 5am.

When you get home late after a 13 hour shift and you have to do laundry, you will carefully separate your whites from your colors, you will spray the stains and bundle up your bras into a lingerie bag… and then you will run the whole cycle without putting any powder into the machine. Because you’re an idiot. And you’ve just been at work for 13 hours.

When you’re looking at your finances (Rent AND a mortgage! What were we thinking?) and felling depressed, you will go online and buy plants. Because you’re an idiot. And because you’ve replaced your shoe habit and lingerie habit with a plant habit.

When you decide to go out and work on the new section on an oppressively hot and sunny afternoon, you will put on sunblock, but you will miss a little strip across your shoulder. Because you’re an idiot. And because you need something violent and painful and red to keep you awake at night.

When you have to go to bed early (because conferences), and you’ve eaten all the pasta and drunk all the wine just to make yourself sleepy, you will then decide to go on Facebook for two hours and write a blog. Because you’re an idiot. And because you have to write this blog every day, even when full of wine and pasta.

And when you wake up on the couch again at 5am, with the kitties batting at your face, the TV will be on something funny at a low volume, and you will have a warm blanket, and your glasses will be on the end table… Because you’re an idiot. And because you don’t deserve such a loving, considerate husband.

Missing Time

At least, after the second round of crazy-long events this week, I got to come home to a husband and pets who missed me. My husband was briefly happy and sympathetic, watching an episode of Seinfeld with me before he had to go to bed himself. While Scrappy and Eva alternated between the climb-on-your-torso-purring-headbutting-and-licking-your-face type of cuddles, and the more gentle curl-up-next-to-you-and-clean-myself cuddles. Eva also throws in the here’s-my-butthole show of appreciation, just to mix things up a bit. It is nice to feel wanted.

After this weekend, I am beyond sore. My gut is in pieces again, and my legs shake when I stand on them. It’s like I’ve suddenly got really, really old…

And all I can think about is getting back into the garden again on Tuesday. Hopefully it is not sheeting down with rain again this time. Hopefully I can get those fruit trees in the ground. Hopefully I will have more vegetable seedlings to plant out.

Hopefully I don’t just spend the whole day sore and asleep…

15 Hours

15 hours on my feet at work was a bit much.

It felt okay at the time – it always does. It felt okay as I left and walked to my car. It felt okay on the drive home.

But getting out of the car was tough. Sitting in one position for 20 minutes was enough to petrify my muscles into solidity.

I was sensible and decided to sleep before I did my blog. I have to do two of these long events in a row. Anything I write will make more sense if I do it while I sit here with my morning coffee. But every movement is tough this morning. I am having to lower myself carefully into a chair like an 80-year-old. And in another hour I need to be standing and moving and smiling through another round.

Such is life. And this is why I miss my garden on busy weeks. I just wish there was more time…


Saturday down and just one more wedding to do. I really want to just curl up with my husband right now, but I have sewing to do…

It’s a long story. I don’t sew.

Well, ok. I do sew, but only under duress. I can take up a hem or replace a button. I can mend a torn seam. But only simple hand sewing. It’s not like I can follow a pattern or take in a pair of pants or darn anything.

My mother is an amazing seamstress (it’s her career) and despite spending years watching her work, I’m the person who managed to sew my own thumb into a garment during sewing class at school. I mean, I ran it right under the machine and drove the needle right through my thumbnail. And it hurt… It was then that I realized that the sewing gene had clearly skipped a generation, and that there was at least one subject at school which I would fail miserably.

Anyway, it’s been very windy at work lately, and I now have drapes to mend before the wedding tomorrow. Not regular drapes, you understand – it’s the long, floaty, chiffon ones that people hang outdoors at weddings.

Yeah. They don’t stand up to wind all that well.

So now it’s midnight and there is sewing to do… Sigh.

Be an Event Manager, they said. Glamorous and inspiring, they said… Well, I guess there is diversity. How many jobs are there where you have to know how to clean audio contacts, arrange flowers, fix a toilet, make a white russian, and sew up a 10 meter drape all in one day?

I was better at the toilet.

Petty Frustrations

Two weddings done for the week and I woke up in the wee hours of the morning under a pile of kitties. Scrappy was doing his usual thing of alternately licking and clawing at my face in order to get my attention. Gomez was loudly purring and nuzzling in the way that he only is when the lights are off and he forgets his usual disgust for humanity. It’s always a nice moment, but it doesn’t last long.

We had some big problems with these last two weddings – although hopefully nothing that the guests noticed. It all came down to lack of attention from the coordinator who did the bookings, which is immensely frustrating and embarrassing when you’re trying to give the clients the best experience. We put the event together on the basis of the information she gives us, and when that information is wrong… Well, she wasn’t even there to deal with it.

That is one of the weirdest things about our venue: I’ve never worked in another venue where the person who fosters the whole booking right through to the event date then just disappears and washes their hands of the booking on the most crucial day. Everywhere else that I’ve worked, there was a clear expectation that the salesperson was also involved in (and understood) the operation of the event. It’s actually very important. It stops you from promising the client that you can hang that heavy thing in a spot where there’s no structural support, and gives you a better chance of remembering that flippant comment three months ago about the fact they hate frosted tea light votives. I wasn’t there for that comment, but you can bet that I don’t want to get it wrong.

Of course, every bride expects us to have every piece of information that they ever discussed with their coordinator. It means that we often have to exercise a bit of psychic power. But I’d prefer it if the coordinator was there to answer the questions and/or deal with the crisis so we didn’t have to guess.

That’s all.

Now back to my kitty pile.

Yay. Weddings.

I awoke this morning to a kind of bodily revolt. Even wrapping myself around a large mug of coffee genuinely couldn’t seem to keep my eyes open, and I ended up dozing on the couch, coffee still in hand.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) I’d mistakenly set my alarm twice, half an hour apart, so my phone managed to rattle me from my slumber within a few minutes. And I didn’t spill my coffee all over myself. It was always going to be a hard day to have a wedding.

The rain has been insistent over the past few days. Not enough to be a flood, but enough to constantly remind one of its presence. Even if it held off today (and there appeared little hope of that) the grass was soaked, and having the lawns mowed during a break in the weather two days ago had just left it full of soft pats of clippings… and still too long. It’s spring. The grass is growing.

I’d met this bridal couple a few months ago when they came in for a site meeting. They were nice, but their respective parents were very involved in the event (which is so often unhelpful from an Event Manager’s perspective). It is always so much easier for us to have one point of contact. Events run by a committee (especially a committee of people who don’t ordinarily run events) seldom work. They just end up being a mash of different people’s egos and desires to exercise power. Already, I knew that the bride’s family wanted tight controls on the bar tab, while the groom’s family (being mostly cops) wanted to drink. A lot.

Continue reading Yay. Weddings.

The End of Weddings

I just changed my profile picture on Facebook. Because it’s nearly one year on from our wedding and I figured the bridal photo was starting to look a little crazy.

Is there a rule for that? How long do you hang onto a wedding picture as your public profile? It’s one party in the course of your whole life. And I don’t look like that every day.

What I replaced it with was a picture of me with a silly expression and no make-up. My husband liked it. Quite a few other friends also apparently liked it. And it drew comments from a couple of old friends who fit the category of: guys-who-once-tried-to-be-more-than-friends-with-me-and-ever-since-have-made-me-a-bit-uncomfortable-so-I-avoid-them. Maybe they liked it more than the wedding picture. They weren’t invited to our wedding, although I have other guy-friends who were. It is hard to maintain a friendship with someone when you’re wondering if they ever really enjoyed hanging out with you, or if they were just filling in time with the hope of it moving onto something more. Some people are totally fine with being friends and some people push boundaries inappropriately.

However, my consciousness about hanging onto wedding photos reminded me of this video, which I saw earlier this week:

Continue reading The End of Weddings