Archive for September, 2009

Watching The Clock At Your Party

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Having a tentative schedule of the events at your party is a good thing. Being slavishly locked in to that schedule is – unfortunately – not so good.

In the first place, your guests have their own timetables. And they may be very different from yours.

If you have a cocktail hour outside the ballroom, just getting the guests in the door may take twice as long as you budgeted. (Some hosts even resort to “crowd herders,” to shepherd guests into the ballroom in a timely fashion.)

However, other invitees – older ones especially – may already be in the room and at their seats when the dinner chimes sound.

Invocations, words of welcome, and toasts are also notoriously variable in length. A 30-second prayer that was scheduled to last for 2 minutes doesn’t do much damage to your schedule. But Uncle Harry’s “toast” that turns into a stand-up comedy routine can leave your banquet staff wondering whether to serve now – on schedule – or to let the soup get cold, waiting for Harry to shut up and sit down.

Also, parties rarely end exactly as predicted. Brides and grooms, stressed from too many intense days in a row, may run out of energy an hour before their planned departure. Other galas may practically scream for overtime. In either case, sticking to what you thought was appropriate timing ignores the real-world needs of your event.

Your catering staff, music supplier, and other vendors do need to have an approximate idea of the flow of the evening. But – as party professionals – they already know that your well-thought-out agenda is just a guideline, and is not chiseled in stone.

Time management is an important part of any successful event. But savvy event planners take into account that a few minutes more here or a few minutes less there, as needed, are the difference between a good party – and a great one.

Why Every Bride Should Depart In Her Wedding Gown

Monday, September 28th, 2009

The momentum and flow of otherwise perfect wedding receptions come to a screeching halt, every time the bride disappears to change into her travel ensemble.


First of all, because the bride is the center of the wedding reception universe. She is Cinderella, Homecoming Queen, and Belle of the Ball, rolled into one. She is the reason for the whole party. (The groom would probably be just as happy to have departed right after the ceremony.)

Secondly, the bride never leaves alone to change clothes – she takes every other key female with her. Without Mom and the bridesmaids to keep the guests happy and engaged, the dance floor empties, the party spirit wilts, and guests start standing around, looking at their watches.

Which brings up reason number three: Tanner’s Law of Wardrobe Replacement dictates that the more “helpers” a bride has to assist her in changing clothes, the longer it takes. From the moment she leaves the reception with her entourage, until she returns, can often approach 30 minutes. No wonder the party dies.

For all these reasons, I favor brides staging the Great Escape in their wedding best. Depart in your limo in a shower of rose petals, rice, or bubbles. Savor every last moment in your gown. After all, it’s probably the most expensive dress you’ve ever worn. And you’re only planning to wear it once. So skip the costume change.

Believe me – your guests will thank you!

When Ya Gotta Go…

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Yesterday, Iran’s president spoke at the United Nations. As he began, the entire UK delegation walked out. No, they didn’t need a potty break. It was an act of protest against an oppressive regime. And no one present missed the message.

Today, I spoke at a luncheon. Mid-way through my presentation, two ladies walked out. As it happened, this was not a protest. Instead, it was… a doctor’s appointment.

In the real world of public speaking, these things happen. Cell phones ring. (And occasionally – someone in the audience actually answers the call.) Talkative types continue their conversations, oblivious both to the speaker and to those around them. Waiters and busboys in the kitchen assume incorrectly that – with the kitchen door closed – we can’t hear them. Teens and 20-somethings text non-stop, like demented court stenographers (except that I’m pretty sure they aren’t writing down anything I say.

And sometimes, a person who would never dream of being rude simply feels an urgent call of nature. They exit because – when ya’ gotta go, ya’ gotta go.

All of these interruptions are distracting for the person speaking. But few such situations are improved by the speaker calling attention to them. For this reason, as long as people leave the room (or text) quietly, I try to hold the focus of the rest of the audience, because I understand that these are only momentary distractions.

However, in the case of ongoing noisy rudeness, I’ve learned (the hard way) that it is much better to let an audience of their peers correct the bad actors, than for me to do it directly.

If I take someone to task from the podium, I am assuming the role of parent or teacher of an unruly child – and that’s not my function. But – when I simply stop speaking, glance at the offending persons, then open my hands at mid-chest in a gesture of “what?” – the audience almost inevitably does the heavy lifting for me. Choruses of SHHHH! fill the room. Once in a while, a stern Good Samaritan will even walk over to the blabbermouths, and they fill the disapproving parent/teacher role. Better them than me.

There may be no known cure for the rudeness disease, but there is one pretty effective treatment. It occurs every time I am introduced on stage by someone well-known to and well-liked by the audience – someone who brings the instincts of a Marine Drill Sergeant to the podium. When that beloved peer lays down the law in advance, telling the crowd that they will turn off their cell phones, and they will listen attentively in a way that brings honor to their group, it has a most beneficial result. Generally, folks who know they are being held to a higher standard of behavior rise to the occasion.

At least – until they gotta go.

Do We HAVE To Invite Them?

Monday, September 21st, 2009

For many brides and grooms, pruning the guest list is the first real test of their marriage.

Guest lists have a tendency to grow and grow, until the harsh realities of limited seating space and costs per guest require (for most of us) some judicious “editing.”

What makes this process especially painful is the moment when bride and groom must choose between someone they both truly love and want to have present, and someone who – by blood or other relationship – they feel obligated to invite.

At such times, the question is often asked: “Do we really have to invite them?

And the one word answer is “no.” If you are the bride, you control the guest list.

That’s the good news. The bad news is, you are are also responsible for the consequences and repercussions of your decision.

One solution some of my couples choose is the Destination Wedding, where only the bride, groom, best man, maid of honor, and immediate families go to what will become the honeymoon location for a small ceremony. Other ready-made excuses for an “immediate family only” ceremony are choosing a small “boutique” hotel for the venue, or even having their event in the home of a close friend or relative.

A series of receptions, one for friends from work and school, another for family members, can follow. These are usually much more low-key and informal than a typical wedding reception, and give everyone the opportunity to feel included.

But there is one other reason you may not wish to invite a particular person, and it has nothing to do with limiting the size of your guest list. It may be a person whose behavior at such events has all too often been a source of embarrassment, or who has in some egregious way offended you.

Again – you don’t have to invite them. Indeed, I just worked with a bride who declined to invite her own father (for reasons he understood perfectly well.) But if not inviting them only creates a larger set of new problems, one solution may be to first have a blunt discussion with the person in question, detailing your expectations and eliciting a promise of good behavior. Then – at the event itself – you may be able to prevail upon a close friend or family member to “bird-dog” the problem child, monitoring their actions and inter-actions through the evening. (I have also known brides who had good luck by assigning their potentially troublesome guest to a limited official role – like working the bride’s table, or making sure of the head count on the out-of-town guests’ bus. Trusting them, even in a small way, paid dividends.)

In the real world, all of your guests have “problem” friends and relatives, too. If someone misbehaves at your event, no one is going to blame you. They will assign guilt where it belongs – on the offender. (And they will empathize with the no-win position inviting them put you in.)

But, at your wedding, nobody has the right to ruin your night. If there is someone whose mere presence will do just that, you may feel free – to paraphrase that master of the malapropism, Sam Goldwyn – to “include them out.”

A Nearby Reception Site Makes One Less Problem For YOU

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Like most major cities, my town has some great downtown hotels and venues which are popular for wedding receptions. Unfortunately, they are a 30 to 45 minute drive from many of the suburban places of worship brides choose for their ceremonies.

In real terms, what this means is that guests from all over our metropolitan area must first trek out to the ‘burbs for the nuptials, then retrace their steps all the way back to the city center to be part of the reception. (And then afterwards, make yet another jaunt back home.)

Out-of-towners must bus from their host hotel to both sites, and then back again.

And time after time, I have seen that – the greater the distance between locations – the more chances there are for folks to get lost, delayed in traffic, or otherwise have their nerves frazzled.

For me, the solution is to keep the 3 key locations (ceremony site, reception site, and host hotel) as near to each other as possible.

If the ceremony site is crucial (a home church or college chapel, for instance), then I would suggest finding both a reception venue and host hotel nearby. And nothing is handier for your out-of-town guests than making their hotel and the reception site one and the same.

Conversely, if the reception site is most important, consider having the ceremony there as well.

Especially when one of your chos