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.

weight lifted

So I’ve been keeping a secret for the past few weeks. It’s been a monkey on my back – in a positive, happy kinda way.

After 7 years with a company I thought I’d spend the rest of my life at – I resigned. The 5 weeks before my resignation were a whirlwind. I wasn’t job hunting – even though I wasn’t happy. All I did was join LinkedIn – and in the words of Sheldon Cooper – !bazinga!… someone reached out.  Things moved quickly and I was offered a really cool job.

As with all we do in my little unit – we talked/obsessed/freaked it out. Can we do it? Do I give up the holy grail of working from home for a long commute? Can we do it? Are we crazy? Yep.Yes.Yep. And of course we are.

We decided to jump in head first – as is our habit.

The saddest part in all this excitement and happiness is my team. It’s been a long, funny, hard, frustrating ride – and I’ll miss every moment of it. Well…not every moment. But I’ll miss them.

So in a couple of weeks – right before the holidays – I’ll start my new adventure.

It feels good to talk about it. To not hide it. It makes it feel real (because I’m a true product of the times and things don’t feel real until they are on social media. There. I said it).

Phew. That felt good to get out. Wish me luck. I’m stepping in. Going for it.

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Babes With Books (BWB)

Last night I hosted the monthly meeting of a book club I joined this past year. I know I’ve told you about it before (This ain’t no Oprah’s Book Club ). Did I mention the name of our club? BWB. Oh roll your eyes all you want, it’s cute.

Each month the host of the meeting also picks the book we all read. For October, it was my turn. I picked, “Where’d You Go, Bernedette?”

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Have you read it? Did you love it like I loved it? Here’s the Amazon blurb:  Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

It’s funny. It’s quirky. It’s heartbreaking. My three favorite things to be. I adored Bernadette. She and I would be fast friends. Who doesn’t love a woman that outsources her daily life? Here’s some of my favorite quotes from the book,

Your mission statement says Galer Street is based on global “connectitude.” You people don’t just think outside the box, you think outside the dictionary!

…And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s ON YOU to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.

…I’d say I never considered myself a great architect. I’m more of a creative problem solver with good taste and a soft spot for logistical nightmares.

I’m seriously adding the last line into my resume, “I don’t consider myself an event planner. I’m more of a creative problem solver with good taste and a soft spot for logistical nightmares”.  You should steal it too.

In the book, Bernadette gets derailed from something she was passionate about, and it almost destroys her. Without being overly dramatic, I can say that I totally relate. I’ve moved further and further away from everything I loved about event planning.

It’s natural, I guess, to become a bit more cynical as you progress in your career. But it’s been a bummer. I spend more time on conference calls debating headcount than I do debating flower or menu choices. Actually I spend zero time on the latter. I blame the corporate environment! I blame the economy! I blame the man! Just kidding. There’s no man to blame. It’s marketing after all. It’s an island full of amazon women who look normal on the outside, but inside – they’re trained mercenaries trying to outdo one another.  Just kidding again. That’s the island Wonder Woman is from.

What I’m trying to say is… I love event planning and I miss my old event planning self. Where’d you go?

So in honor of Bernedette – I pulled out all the stops to last night’s meeting.

Individual appetizers were served in a ridiculous but awesome tray/cup contraption. There were enough chips and dips to make an 80′s housewife proud. There was even a cheese platter with cutesy little ceramic signs and decorative table coverings. Decorative table coverings!! Who’s got time for that? Not me. But I did it anyway. And it made me so happy. (If you are wondering how I had all this stuff – a good friend who knows the buried planner inside me gifted them to me last Christmas)

Here’s a picture of the lovely ladies. This was taken about a minute before we pulled up twerking videos on YouTube and one of these BWBs, not sayin’ who, got up and tried the move. Take that Diana Prince.

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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.

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.

Dear New Event Planner,

Hi.  It’s me.  The old event planner.  I thought we could have a chat. I know you’re excited, you’re finally out of school and ready to be the next Colin Cowie or Mindy Weiss.  I totally relate.  Event planning is the job of my dreams – I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  Corporate, private, personal, big, small – love’em all.  So here’s my two cents on some starter advice (ignore at will):

  • Instead of taking a seminar or getting a “planning” certificate – get a job.  Anything that has anything to do with events.  That’s right, become a cater waiter.  It’ll show you what it takes to organize a group of servers.  It’ll teach you about the kitchen and all the back of house staff needed to make an event tick.  You know that gig being an admin in a catering company? Take it.  Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see an event contract, called a BEO (Banquet Event Order), or handle an angry customer.  Hotel reception desk? Sounds like a plan.  Event planning is a service industry.  Even an entry-level sales job is better than a damn certificate – trust me.
  • What’s “Back of House” (BOH).  It’s everything.  Know it. Love it.  It’s the circulation, the heartbeat, the lifeline, to an event.  Good BOH, good event.
  • Buy a suit (you know I prefer black but whatever floats your boat will do).  Whether you are working a wedding, a cocktail party on the beach, or a black tie gala – do not dress for the event.  You, my friend, are not invited, you are working it.  It’s important to look like it. What if you end up being overdressed at a casual party, you ask? Don’t worry about it.  There is no such thing as overdressed – in fact – aim for it.
  • You do not have to be a control freak to be a good planner – but it really really helps.
  • You know that old saying – PrePlanning Prevents Piss Poor Performance?  I hate that saying. Mainly because I don’t believe you need bodily functions to drive a point home, but I digress.  But you know what makes me really pissy?  It’s true!  The job is called “planner”, not “piece-it-together-onsiter”  Know the venue, know the players.  Don’t just hire a photographer/musician based on a cool website. Meet them.  In 5 minutes you’ll know if that person can be someone you can work with or, more importantly, recommend.
  • Don’t say no to a potential job – even for free.  Your cousin wants help planning a sweet 16? Done.  Your neighbor needs someone to help her find a reception hall? That would be you.  The only way to get good at planning is to plan, a lot.  Google can only do so much people.
  • Learn to be assertive and have uncomfortable conversations when needed.  You are the advocate for the event.  If you don’t do it (tell the kitchen to speed it up, tell the photographer to calm down, tell valet to wear a blazer, etc) no one will.  You know what helps with this? A job.

I know it doesn’t seem like it – but this is a love letter. I really do heart you.

xoxome

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