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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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

An Opinion is worth 80 IQ Points – Alan Kay

Alan Kay is a visionary – a genius some would say.  You should google him.  He wasn’t talking about event planning when he wrote the quote – but  it works.  Although, I can relate things that Buddha and Oprah have said back to event planning too, just so you know.

To be a good planner, you have to put yourself out there.  You cannot go-with-the-flow.  You need to figure out what the choices are and then either know which direction is best for the situation – or take a gamble and go with your gut.

There is no such thing as a passive, indifferent planner.  Do you have to be neurotic and Type A? Nope – but it helps.  You know that JLo movie with that greasy Matthew McConnaheyhey?  That was a terrible movie, although if it’s on tv I’m compelled to watch it.  Anyway – the scenes with her running around like a looney with a headset?  Bogus.  Unless you are in a seriously stressful situation (there is no bride for the groom to wed, hurricanes, etc.) – calm yourself down.

Back to the quote….if you think events are the thing for you  – test yourself.  When you are with a group of people deciding what to order for dinner, what movie to see, what president to vote on – do you speak?  Are you compelled to let your thoughts out?  If the answer is no – congrats.  You are a polite, normal citizen of the world.  But if your answer is yes, and you’ve already researched the restaurant, read movie reviews and have no problem defending your choices – welcome to the insanity.

Bridezillas? Not so much

When my son was born, I took a break from the corporate event world and planned weddings for 3 years.  I had a blast.  In my head I was Colin Cowie or Preston Bailey – in reality I was probably just a short, Indian bossy girl running around in black, but whatever.

I’ve done small, inexpensive gatherings and large scale multi-day marriages that have reached the half million dollar mark.  I’ve done gothic weddings where the bridal party wore metal chains (the bride wore military boots) and traditional weddings with a 2-hour mass prior to the vows.  Not one of these gals – not one – was difficult.  I’m not sure where they find those women on that show with that name but I think it’s all bogus.

I loved planning weddings, still do.  But I love going to weddings too.  I’m a pretty glass half-full kinda gal – always have been.  But weddings are the ultimate optimistic venture.  A full day devoted to the hope that these two people were meant to be together.  We know the reality, we know a ton of marriages won’t make it.  It’s one of the only “suspension of disbelief” ceremonies we still have.  We go.  We cry.  We laugh.  We eat cake.  We buy in.

Those gals on bridezillas?  Those are bitchy women who got married. The wedding had nothing to do with it.  I bet they are also wifezillas, sisterzillas, friendzillas, etc.

I feel protective of that day and all those who are brave enough to take the gamble.

Full disclosure – I eloped on a lake in East Hampton.  But we can talk about that some other time.

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