Roots-Trees-Forest

That’s a mantra I heard from a speaker at our last conference. The talk was about leadership. So simple and clear. A good leader has to see the roots, the trees and the forest. Got it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Something about the idea bothered me.
It’s a perfect concept for leadership. Don’t be stuck in the weeds. Don’t get bogged down by the minutiae.
Except that for events it’s all wrong. An event is all about the roots. The dirt. The seed. You start at the top and then you deconstruct.
You focus on every little detail.
Minutiae is my life.
You know that expression “stuck in the weeds”? I’m living in the weeds. So for all you future event planners out there – here’s the truth – Events is weeds, roots and dirt. You’ll be in it. All the time. Knee deep.
I should be a motivational speaker.
I get very reflective on 5 hour flights to the West Coast.
Here’s what I saw outside my window while writing this. Forget the roots – I’m up in the clouds. Oh the irony.

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Ernie Banks Moment

Next week is the first big conference at my new job. And since we are the event and conference group, it’s my team that runs it all. We get the credit or the blame – whichever way it goes. Most of the team is seasoned and has done multi day events before, but it’s the first time at the event for the new CEO. So everyone is nervous. We had our first big walk through yesterday and it went amazingly well. The team is buttoned up and ready – but they are still panicked that they’ll miss something. So I shared my favorite “I think I missed something” story (have I already shared this? If yes, sorry, go surf the internet and come back tomorrow).
Years ago I was doing my first big event in a new job, for two very – ahem – challenging bosses. The event was an interview with Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks. The event was in mid-February in downtown Chicago. Already fun right? For months I stressed about the venue, the weather, the staging, and whether anyone would actually show up to this thing. Did I mention it was crazy expensive? It was. I found the right interviewer for Ernie. I made sure we were taping it so we could use it again for something – look at me being cost effective! No stone was left uncovered!
Cut to the morning of the event.
I had flown in with one of my bosses the night before and had a nice, passive aggressive dinner where she reminded me how important it was that I don’t mess up.
Gulp. Yummy.
The next day, I woke up at 5am – even though we weren’t setting up until 1pm – in a cold, hard sweat with one thought:
I never invited Ernie Banks to the Ernie Banks event!!!!!!!!! Omg!!! WTF??!!
I had visions of how it would go down.
Instead of facing the humiliation, I would just head to the airport and go home.
There were other jobs, I thought.
How could I have forgotten to invite him?
But of course I did.
Ernie was all set to go.
But I was so freaked that I actually called his house at 6:30…I forced myself not to call at 5:30. His housekeeper picked up and I pretended to be his car service and asked,” is a 6pm pick-up ok for Ernie tonight?” She said he was all set and hung up.
Real story.
Please note that this didn’t happen in my first few years as a planner. I was a so-called professional at that point.
Every planner has an Ernie Banks story, it’s part of the job.
Moral of the story – you invited Ernie Banks. Everything is ok.

The Lunch Table

This picture is circa 2000.
I had just gotten a job at a Fortune 500 in NYC. After two years of being at home with my baby, I was back at work as an event planner and loving it. Technically I wasn’t a planner until a year later – in the beginning I was an admin.
An admin to an insane, crazy, brilliant woman who ran our group. The woman who gave me a 45 minute lecture on using colored folders instead of beige folders (the colors distracted her as she walked by my cube). The woman who called me from the Tarmac while boarding a flight to tell me she doesn’t like prop planes and why hadn’t I known that and I better fix it ASAP (I couldn’t because there were only prop planes flying to this part of Colorado. I had offered to book her a car the day before when I warned her about this but she hadn’t been listening, something about researching the perfect toilet – no joke).
But all those moments that would have driven me to quit turned into funny stories we shared. Funny war stories at the lunch table.
We worked really really hard. Almost 24/7. Weekends. Holidays. For no money. It was rough.
But every day, we had lunch together – the whole group. There are a few ladies missing from this pic but this was the core group. We also had a Swiss National and a Brit.
We bitched, we ranted, we raved, but most of all – we laughed.
This restaurant lunch was a rarity. Almost all lunches were either in the cafeteria or at a table on our floor.
No one from other groups ever joined – probably because they weren’t invited. This was anti-networking. This was cocooning.
The majority of the lunch was used to make fun of each other. And there was plenty of material. Marriages, weirdo eating habits, childhood traumas – all ripe for the picking. We left our egos in our cube. Belly laughter ensued.
Then we’d go back to working our asses off.
There were weddings, babies, break-ups, promotions, and more.
The crazy boss lady left. And shockingly, in hindsight, I would miss her. Aside from the batshit crazy episodes, I learned a lot from her. And from all those ladies.
It was and continues to be the best job I ever had.

(not sure why I have glasses on? contact lense malfunction that morning?)

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Do as I say, Not as I do.

I got a call this morning from an oldie but goodie pal who is finally tying the knot with her longtime beloved.  I met her at my very first job out of school. I think my major responsibilities were getting scones and coffee for our CEO, but I digress.

The last time I spoke to her was a few years back, when I wasn’t working full-time and had decided to start a wedding planning business.  And because I’m an awful person, I haven’t reached out to her since.  Although she hasn’t reached out to me either, so technically our joint awfulness cancels itself out. Right?

She called me this morning because she wanted to go over pricing for her caterer, but our conversation quickly went to every single detail of her plans.  That’s how I roll. I need to be fully immersed. No toe dipping for me.

As we chatted she asked me the question that all the brides ask, “what was your wedding like?”.

What was my wedding like? It was grand. It was great. It was…a non-wedding.

We eloped. On a lake. In the sun. Without most of our friends and family.

Here’s the long story short – or the short story long:

We got engaged on a cold, rainy February night in NYC (very romantic night involving fighting, crying and celebrating).  I’m not sure if it was because I was in my early twenties and insane or because I was in my early twenties and genius – but I wasn’t stressed about the wedding planning at all.  I was super chill actually. Then my mother called and said it would be great to have a Hindu ceremony. Then my mother-in-law called and said it would be so nice if we could do a quick trip to the church after that ceremony to get blessed by the priest. So then I got stressed. I avoided thinking/planning/discussing the wedding for a few months. Then my boss, the one I fed scones and coffee to, told me they had to fire 2 people from the office and I’d have to cover for them all summer and wouldn’t be able to take too much time off. Then I freaked. Then I melted.  It was mid-May. It was Saturday afternoon. We hatched a plan. We would elope. Run away. To Eastern Long Island.

We didn’t handle the elopement in the best way. There aren’t any elopement planning books. It sounds easy, but it’s tricky.  Ok, it’s easy if you actually just go off and elope. We f’d it up.

We had some family there. Some not. We took tons of photos and even a video, thanks to a talented uncle that lived in the town by the lake. We went out to dinner that night with all the relatives that lived in the town. In hindsight, a bit confusing for the relatives who didn’t live in that town and who weren’t invited to dinner. We gave our parents a heads-up, they were totally fine and understanding. The rest of the family? Not so much.  It wasn’t an elopement really. It was a small wedding where we chose not to include my parents, his parents, our other sisters (his older sister was there as a witness), aunts, uncles,cousins and close friends. It was ugly.

It’s been 17 years and we still hear about it. On a positive note – we’re still married. There’s that.

So! If you want to chat about your wedding plans? I’m your gal. If you want to talk about how to elope? Google it.

here’s us on that special, messed up, beautiful, ill-conceived, completely imperfect perfect day…

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Conference Call Via Kitchen

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This used to be my office.  I started this job 6 years ago doing the normal working commute. Out the door early, kids at daycare, work all day, pick-up kids at daycare, work at home some more, sleep, repeat. Then, in 2008, when the financial world took a hit, my company was bought by a bigger company. Loads of people lost their jobs. The event world stopped in its tracks.  There was a 4 month period of time when we pulled back on everything we were doing,  Almost all events stopped. It was scary and unnerving but thankfully we came out of it. The slow climb back for events in the corporate world finally settled about 2 years ago. In the meantime we got to know this big, bad, machine-like company we were now a part of.

A company this size has its challenges to say the least. Everything is automated. Conference calls are a plague. There’s always someone, somewhere in the company doing exactly what you’re doing (sometimes better). It’s annoying.

But then, amidst the cluttered meetings and impersonal employee environment it shines through. A big, fat, encouraged, living, breathing work-at-home policy. Thousands of people working from home.

Almost my entire working career has been within the financial world. Let me tell you something. There is LITERALLY no other company doing this. None. Zip. That I know of and can get a job at anyway (trust me I’ve tried).  So I took the leap and became a stay-at-home-worker or a work-at-home-stayer. Whatever.

Does it solve everything? No. See my post on Monday.

But it has helped a ton. My kids aren’t little anymore, they are at school all day and even when they come home at night they are pretty self-sufficient. And in the event world – there really is no 9-5 work day. It’s usually nights, weekends, holidays etc. Which is fine, that’s what I’ve signed-up for. But I’m an early riser. Some days I’m more productive from 6am-9am then I am all day. Other days I need to work on Sunday nights so I have some time to ease into my week.

It works for me. It works for my family (although I think they wouldn’t mind me being gone a little more than I am, let’s be honest).

I do miss my work family – and we do try to get together as much as possible in human form.

But if this is the future of business – sign me up! That office above is empty now…errr…or it will be once I remove all my crap that I still haven’t gotten around to.

Now excuse me while I do a conference call, wash the dishes and work on a power point. In that order.

 

 

 

 

NYC

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I’m in New York at an event conference. Over a hundred planners trapped on the top floor – you could see the Type A personality cloud from New Jersey!

This was our view…not bad huh?

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Work

So the blog is called wife – mother – eventplanner. I’ve had some emails from my tens of readers asking about the end of that blog name. Why don’t I talk about it more? Can they have more details about the job? I’m a planner how? Can I explain? Yes. No. Maybe.

Although…technically am I really even an event planner anymore?  I’ve done the party/wedding planning – but that is not what I do anymore. I manage an event team in a big fat machine. I’m not exactly sure how much actual planning I do.  My fantastic, terrific team really carries that load.

Years ago, when people asked what I did – it was so cool to explain. I plan private events for ultra high net worth clients for a highly regarded firm..ohhhh. Sounds fancy. Then I’d talk about buying out Le Cirque in NYC or working with Kenny Loggins or Greg Norman….more oohs and ahhs. I’d talk about coming up with amazing room designs and invites and creative menus.  Even I was jealous of my job.

Now, when people ask what I do,  I just tell them my title. Which is nice. I never tell them the name of the company – because the firm that I joined, the one that I was proud of, was gobbled up by another company – ’08 was fun.  When I call this company The Machine – I’m not being sassy. Trust me, they’d think it was a compliment.  A machine means efficiency, progress, everything in its proper place and order.

I never talk about what I do – because what do I do? I spend all my time on calls or meetings – banging the drum, telling people how smart and capable we all are, providing air cover from the vultures so my team can actually do the work (or trying to).  I also have uncomfortable conversations. I’m really good at that. You need to tell a vendor they suck? I’m your gal. Your speaker is throwing a tantrum and not doing what you need? I’m on it. Once in a while I have an idea for something creative, which I pass on to my team because if left in my arms – the idea would die a slow, ignored death.

This post is whiny. Sorry. It sounds full of uptown problems and post bail-out bitching. There are still amazing things I get to do – and places I get to travel.  But technically my blog should be called wife-mother-defensive air traffic controller and official bad cop.

Please note that the below picture has nothing to do with this post…just a picture that makes me happy.

http://video.nytimes.com/video/2012/07/27/fashion/100000001686092/a-flash-mob-proposal-at-bryant-park.html?ref=style

Have you watched this video? I just did. It’s a typical Friday night – trolling the New York Times wedding section with a glass of wine.  Good times.

I cried when I saw this video, and smiled, and felt warm all over. Then I realized the warmth was from the growing anger in my soul. A flash mob proposal? Really? The Cartier ring isn’t enough? Flying her family in isn’t enough? A flash mob and full instrumental band? Come on!

Full disclosure: my proposal was slightly different. Full of rain, fighting and an army backpack. And I loved every minute of the train wreck that it truly was.

This? This is magical. This is over the top and completely romantic. This is…not what the rest of their marriage will be like.

Maybe I’m wrong. But what’s next? Will Santa officiate the wedding? Will their first child walk on water? How can the poor guy possibly keep this going. And what about all the other poor guys out there? Is this what they need to do?

I know I sound bitter and jealous – and I am – but this is impossible to live up to.

Good luck to those crazy kids. I look forward to their YouTube wedding on Mars.

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California Dreamin’

One of the best parts about being an event planner is the travel. One of the worst parts is also the travel.

Can you tell my flight, the one I left my family behind for, the one that WAS going to get me to the hotel in time for a civilized dinner, the one that I had been upgraded for, that one – is delayed. 2 hours. No reason givin. Just ’cause.

What’s a gal to do….

I know! Crappy food and booze should solve all my problems.

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That’s an organically red chip. Really.

To Theme Wedding or Not To Theme Wedding….

Wedding themes are tempting.  And delightful.  Fall weddings, Beach weddings, love them all.  Hints of burnt orange in October, bright fun linens for a casual, ocean side wedding – beautiful.

But many times, a good theme can go bad.  Beach themes shouldn’t mean starfish and seashells everywhere, February weddings don’t need to be covered in gooey hearts,  and unless you’re on a farm – don’t have haystacks at your reception please.

By the way – I’m not judging – remember, I’m the bird lady of bucks county.  I have to fight hard to keep the theme gods in check.

One of my first theme-y weddings was for an amazing, young Brooklyn, NY couple.  She wanted to bring her Asian background into the mix – incorporate the color red into the day.  Not a deep, sexy blue red.  We needed the bright, orange ethic red (I’m Indian, I know red).

It would have been so easy to go down Chinese Lantern lane  – but we didn’t.  We held back.  Actually I held back, and the bride let me.  The great thing about being a planner is you can direct, and redirect, and distract.  Could I have gone with beautiful porcelain chop sticks and red linens throughout the room? Yes, but that’s not what she wanted.  She just didn’t know it yet.  She wanted to include her rich background and heritage, while still being modern and youthful.  This was the gal who never once talked about her wedding dress – she just went out and bought one (stunning). She was understated and sweet – that was the real theme of the wedding.

So we decided on a pop of color when people first walked into the reception – a bold announcement of joy. The escort card table was amazing.  1,000 red carnations made into a bed on a white slab of marble.  Two of these tables welcomed guests into the reception.  It would be the only place they’d see this much red together!

 

I didn’t know if these good people wanted their names all over the internet – to the tens of people who read my blog – so I blurred the card.  That red blossom paper was used on the escort cards, table numbers and menus (and invites!) .

Here’s the inside of the reception hall – the only pops of red were the flower clusters.

  

Moral of the wedding – go with theme lite.  Unless your theme is birds.  Then go buck wild.

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