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.

Sigh.

 

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…

The Ordeal

The second wedding was better than the first. The second couple were clearly in love and everyone had a good time.

The first wedding was weirdly tense from the start. Someone tried to deliberately flood the bathroom by packing paper towels in the sink and leaving the faucet on full. Then the evening ended with the barman cutting off the groom (because he was drunk), and then the groom yelled at the bride like it was her fault, and she burst into tears. I really hope she’s okay.

That couple seemed like a very odd fit – he never came to a meeting throughout the whole planning process, and she looked right through everybody like she was completely distracted. She seemed to have no idea what she wanted, and take no real joy in the whole event. Even when they gave their vows, he read it out like a boring shopping list… but they already had two kids together… And after how the night finished, I can’t help but think his invisibility and her distraction was a sign of something more sinister.

You do see some very revealing things when you work at weddings (and I don’t mean just having to shove your hand down the bride’s cleavage so that you can pin together her dress at the last moment, or having to hold her dress while she pees, or having to stick and ice pack in her underwear so she doesn’t pass out in the heat of summer… all which I’ve done). Brides in tears. Grooms in tears. Grooms who are more interested in the Best Man. Brides who get ugly drunk. Very controlling parents. Weird photo montages from their childhoods. The cute, young, Christian couples who run off at 8:30 because they’re so desperate to finally have sex. People having sex in the toilets. People having sex in the photobooth (by the way, the camera is digital, so we get to download everything…)… Most of the time, it’s just working with a couple of people who are under a lot of stress, and who don’t have the foggiest idea what they need to do, but they’re also trying to pretend that they’re enjoying it. Your hope is that eventually they do get to enjoy it, but it’s often a long road getting there.

I’ve noticed the new trend for more relaxed (and cheaper) weddings, and I really think there’s something to be said for that. All you need to do is let go of this weird societal pressure where you feel like all of your friends and family are judging you. And how many people really want to invite judgey people to their wedding anyway? Our own wedding was pretty much just photos and dinner at a restaurant with friends. It makes it more of a party and less of an ordeal. I didn’t even have centerpieces.

Meh. Centerpieces. No one seriously gives that much of a fuck about Mason jars and birchbark. Really it should just be about enjoying one another’s company.

 

 

Sewing

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.

Paper

It’s our first wedding anniversary, but of course (since it’s a Saturday in wedding season) I had to work. And Husband had to work too. Last night I made him swear that he wasn’t doing anything special to surprise me, because I’d just feel bad if I came home after 13 hours at work and I hadn’t had time to do anything for him. Instead I came home to a smile and a cuddle, which is more than enough.

There’s an old wedding tradition that you’re supposed to keep part of your wedding cake and eat it together on your first anniversary… which probably worked better when people used fruit cake, but nobody does that anymore. In any case, our wedding cake was made of cheese, so we probably could have kept it for a year but it would have tasted very different. So instead I bought home a couple of the left over bits of cake from tonight’s wedding, just so Husband and I could sit together and open our wedding time capsule, read the messages from our friends, and eat somebody else’s cake.

Big romantic gestures are nice and they have their place, but tonight I’m just so happy to come home to my loving husband and a pair of warm arms. It’s the best wedding anniversary I’ve ever had.

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.

Foresight

My Saturday has once again turned into the cold hours of Sunday morning. The weather has improved markedly, but it’s also brought in that open-sky chill of early Spring.

As (slightly) predicted, the wedding was an exercise in psychic ability. I failed in some areas, and ended up irritating the couple with too many questions. But hey, they didn’t choose a MC or event coordinator, so who else am I meant to ask? It started right at the very beginning and only got worse from there.

I trotted out to meet the bride as she primped outside the venue, preparing for her walk down the aisle.

Me – “Hi there! I’m Kiki. I have the songs that your groomsman dropped off for the ceremony and I just need to know which song you want played when.”

Her – “Oh just play them all for the ceremony.”

Me – [trying not to frown] “Ok, sure. I just wanted to know what order they’re in, and which song you want with which part of the ceremony.”

Her – “Just in the order that they’re in.”

Me – [still struggling, because she’s talking to me like I’m an idiot] “Ok. So is this the one that you want when your bridesmaid’s walk down the aisle? And are you walking down the aisle to the same song? And is this one for when you sign the register? And this one for the announcement and walk back up the aisle? What about these two? Do we just keep playing them after that point or are they for later on? Like for your first dance?”

Her – “You should know when music is played! Don’t you do this all the time?”

Me – “Oohkay… [what we normally do is get the songs listed according to which one fits with what part of the event – so asking these questions is normal, it just usually happens weeks earlier] I’m just making sure that we get it right, since you’ve gone to the effort of picking them specially for this event.”

Her – [pointing, and really annoyed now] “This is for when I walk up the aisle. This is for when we sign the register. I don’t care about the rest.”

Me – “Ok, got it… You know that this second one is a video, right? So there’s a long pause and talking in the middle, which will come out of the speakers. Did you want me to find the music version of that one on Spotify?”

Her – “Just play the songs!”

Me – “Righto.”

See, there are really good reasons why you don’t have this conversation with a bride right before the ceremony – but when you get handed the music on someone’s phone 10 minutes before the ceremony, and there’s nobody else who seems to have the faintest idea what’s going on, you just want to make sure that you don’t fuck it up. But it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation. If I didn’t play the right song at the right time, she’d me mad and write a big long email about how I ruined their ceremony and their lives. But in asking her what she wanted, I had to annoy her at a stressful moment… and will no doubt get a big long email about how I ruined their ceremony and their lives. These are the terrible double-binds of dealing with weddings – especially weddings as uncommunicative as this one.

Yay, brides!

She also asked for ketchup to go with her eye fillet… and her song playlist was on some app called Playtube. So I really don’t care how much she wants to criticise me after that point, because “Playtube”. It provided us with a whole evening of giggles as we tried to figure out what kind of sex toy that described.

Heh heh. Playtube.

 

 

Wedding Music

It’s been a while since I closed a wedding. Most of the time my wedding shifts are 10am-11pm or so. If I have to stay until the bar and venue closes, that usually tacks on another 90 minutes. And it’s a painful 90 minutes when you’ve literally been on your feet since breakfast.

However, our barman had to go home early after slicing his hand pretty badly. He was polishing a glass and it broke, cutting his finger right down to the tendons. So he went to A&E for stitches and I stuck around and cleaned up his blood. All over the floor. On the fridge. On the sink. In the glasswasher. Be an Event Manager, they said. It’s fun and glamorous, they said.

Plus the couple’s first dance was to Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran, which I’m sure is a lovely moment for them but which has been used by virtually every couple for the past two years. I’ve heard that song enough times that it makes me want to drive a spike through my brain. You’re all very nice people, but using mason jars and sawn wood and Ed Sheeran does not make you an original bride.

Now that I’m home and finally sitting down, my bad knee has decided to swell up and throb (it’s become unaccustomed to weddings over the winter). We should find out how our barman is tomorrow.

The drive home called for another kind of wedding music. Our wedding music. About clinging to one another despite adversity…

It’s still romantic.

 

 

A bit of advice to the bride who might cancel the wedding because her family aren’t coming

I’ve written about it before, but most of the people around me still don’t know that Rob’s family didn’t come to our wedding. I’d had a really good (and close) relationship with his sisters for years… but one day they just decided that they didn’t like me and that was that.

Perhaps it was the knowledge of the upcoming wedding, and all of the implications of the permanency of our relationship. He was not looking for anyone else. I would always be around.

Or perhaps it was just the fraught nature of their own lives at the time. They were going through hard times. We were doing everything we could to be supportive, but it was no secret that our own lives were not nearly as hard.

Either way, I was cut off, and he was halfway cut off by association. It was heartbreaking and painful for both Rob and I, but I think that was always their intention.

So I get it. Unfortunately, I do. They weren’t willing to share in something joyful, and they were hoping that their unwillingness would make it less joyful for us too. If you think about it, it’s a pretty spiteful thing to do.

However. If you invite someone outside to come and witness a particularly gorgeous, glorious sunset, and they reply with “Nah. What is it with you and sunsets? I don’t like sunsets!”, their response doesn’t take anything away from the beauty of that sunset. The sunset continues to be equally beautiful even if no one is around to see it. You can choose to let them get to you – you can stay inside and close your eyes to it and feel like something is wrong with you – you can choose to let their negativity affect your experience of that sunset. Or you can accept that it is their loss and go out to watch the sunset anyway. Your life needn’t be smaller just because they want to curse all the joys of the world.

The love that you and your husband have today is beautiful. It’s truly what makes life worth living. When you have a wedding, all you’re really doing is sharing a glimpse of that beauty with others. It’s not about impressing people, or submitting to other people’s wishes – it’s just about inviting them to see something lovely. And just like the sunset, that loveliness continues to exist even when no one is around. It’s part of your gift to the world. Yes it hurts if some people aren’t willing to receive it, but that doesn’t make it any less of a gift.

If other people choose not to accept the beautiful thing you’re giving them – if they rail against the goodness that life has to offer – then that’s their choice and their loss. It doesn’t make your love any less beautiful.