Archive for October, 2009

Uh – Does Your BAND Know What To Wear?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Here’s the scenario: You are hosting a formal gala. Your band arrives to set up their equipment. You assume that they are wearing their T-shirts and jeans for load-in purposes only. But – when the event begins – you realize: that’s how they’re gonna dress at your party!

Most bands dress casually for club dates, then bring their tuxes to weddings and other formal occasions. But for you to simply assume that they will upgrade their wardrobe at your party could be a big mistake. You need to make your expectations known, including them in your contract.

Willie

Other vendors, too, may have wardrobe malfunctions. Many video and photo crews show up in tux (or at least coat and tie), while some have adopted the all-black Johnny Cash/Emo/Ninja look that is popular today. Occasionally, however, they come to your classy event wearing something less-than-classy.

If it’s your party and you are okay with your vendors being casual, then that is your prerogative. However, if you have a dress code in mind, a phone call is in order.

In fact, checking in with each of your vendors is a good idea, even when their contracts call for a certain style of dress. Mistakes happen. (Indeed, my band once showed up in tuxes for what turned out to be a Country/Western party. It wasn’t a huge problem – we were just an exceptionally well-dressed bunch of boot-scooters. But if the situation had been reversed – and we’d shown up in sequins and cowboy boots for a tea dance – our hostess might have been a lot less forgiving.

So here’s a chance to help your party and ease your mind at the same time. Pick up the phone…

A Class Reunion – With Class

Monday, October 26th, 2009

The folks who show up at class reunions have one really big thing in common: either they, or their dates, attended the same school at the same time.

Other than that, however, they may have shared very little – even when they were in school. Some were no doubt very social, while others may have been more focused on studies or sports. Consequently, it’s hard to plan a single event that appeals to everyone attending.

Saturday, I brought the music to a reunion whose planners came as close as humanly possible to having something for each attendee. How? Well, they made it look as easy as A – B – C.

A. The event was held in the ballroom of a country club. Just outside the ballroom, separated only by glass doors, was the bar area. Those who were more interested in talking than in the entertainment could still be within sight of the main room, yet able to visit at much more conversational levels. This room was decorated with posters made of enlarged photos from school annuals. (Even I enjoyed browsing there, and it wasn’t even my school.)

B. During the dinner hour, we were instructed to keep our music level low, so that guests who hadn’t seen each other in decades could catch up on each others’ lives. Between courses, committee members made a few special announcements, thanked volunteers, and awarded gifts to certain class members (like those who came the farthest to attend.) The dance floor was used as the gathering place for a class photo at this time.

C. At the conclusion of the dinner, the band and I put on a brief show, geared to the songs and events of their graduation year. In this way, dancers and non-dancers alike had entertainment, planned especially for them. Afterward, we became a dance band, taking requests from the attendees.

At that point, the party goers had the option of dancing, visiting with one another in the ballroom, or going to the relative quiet of the bar area – to look at school memorabilia or continue chatting.

As nearly as I could tell, a good time was had by all. And that’s the hallmark of a successful event.

Fund Raisers: Treat Your Donors Like GOLD

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Successful fund-raising events combine treating guests to a good time with bringing in a lot of money for a worthy cause. Any gathering which fails in either of these criteria cannot be deemed a success.

To that end, two elements of most fund raisers are the Live and Silent Auctions. Both of these depend on the goodwill of two constituencies – the buyers and the donors. As mentioned above, buyers must have fun, and must feel like they are appreciated.

Donors, however, also deserve royal treatment. Without them, there would be no items for the buyers to bid on, and the beneficiaries of the charities involved would suffer. Unfortunately, donors aren’t always afforded the consideration they deserve.

And by “consideration,” I don’t mean money. Most entertainers I know are happy to donate their talents for worthy causes, and don’t expect money in return. What they do have a right to anticipate is that the good folks at the charity offices will bend over backwards to be accommodating. (I for one would be less than thrilled to find that the charity was allowing the folks who bought my “freebie” to cash it in on a Saturday in December, for example.)

That hasn’t happened. But I did have an incident recently where a charity paired my services with a barbecue dinner at a ranch well outside our metropolitan area. This added hours to the total amount of time I was donating. The trouble was – I had never been asked, nor had I agreed to, this “extra” donation.

It kind of reminded me of the old joke in which a judge tells the defendant, “I sentence you to 20 years in prison – what do you think of that?” And the defendant replies, “I think you are being very liberal with my time, that’s what!”

I thought that the charity was being kind of liberal with mine, too, and that I deserved the courtesy of an advance call. Common courtesy to those who donate their time, talents, goods, and services should be automatic.

Let’s face it – there are lots of worthy causes, each vying for the same donors. If your favorite charity becomes a little casual about showing their appreciation, sooner or later donations will go down.

So when it’s your turn on the charity committee, treat those paying customers nice. But – in every way you can – show just as much gratitude to your donors. Let them see how much you value them as an essential source of revenue.

Otherwise, you will eventually have a really small group of items to auction off.

Outdoor Parties – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Rain

Some folks (my wife, for one) have a very limited temperature comfort range. When the thermometer dips below 70 degrees, she hauls out the electric blanket. And if it goes above 80, she melts.

She’s not alone. I would even posit that most party goers dance less when the room temperature goes above 76 degrees, and leave earlier when it dips below 72. We are comfort-loving creatures, and temperature is a big part of what adds to (or detracts from) our sense of comfort.

This is yet another reason why I love parties inside big temperature-controlled ballrooms. Simply put, those events limit weather’s influence on an event to just the drive to and from the venue. Once inside, Mother Nature becomes a non-factor.

But twice in the past week, I’ve been the music provider at outdoor events. Mid-October is usually a fairly reliable time in my town to stage al fresco soirees (or “outdoor parties,” if you prefer.) But this particular autumn has been rather brisk, damp, and windy. And at both recent gatherings “brisk, damp, and windy” became Strikes 1, 2, and 3.

One was a misty evening affair, at which the buffet tables were indoors – and so were all the guests. No amount of urging from the hosts could get the crowd to come outside for the musical presentation honoring the night’s special guest. The other event was a barbecue luncheon held at a ranch outside town. Guests who parked along the long dirt and gravel driveway and trekked up to the ranch house patio, found their Gucci boots speckled with mud. Soon, their fashionable and expensive western ensembles were wrapped inside an assortment of un-fashionable – but warm – jackets and coats. It wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t a party that everyone will remember for all the right reasons, either.

As a party veteran, I have to admit that – Yes! – an outdoor event held in perfect weather is a wonderful thing. But realistically, how many perfect evenings are there, in any given year? (A local meteorologist once told me that – in our area – the answer to that question is “30″. 30 perfect nights a year.) That leaves about 335 nights annually that are either a little – or a lot – too cold, too hot, or too humid. It either has rained, or threatens to do so soon. Dust, flies, mosquitoes, smog, or wind are factors.

In other words, we have about a 1 in 12 chance of “perfect” weather.

Since that is the reality, I recommend that those considering outdoor events follow these 2 courses of action:
1. Make the event casual, and encourage guests to dress appropriately for the weather.
2. Have a tent, house, or other nearby structure to which the party can move on short notice (in case of severe weather.) Never invite more guests than you will safely fit into your back-up venue.

But my best advice is to simply remove weather as a consideration at all. Give yourself one less thing to worry about. Go indoors.

Crowd Pleasers (Songs That Get YOUR Group Dancing)

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Each bride who hires my band receives our Wedding Work Sheet. In addition to the names of the key players and a timeline for the event, it includes a section on Special Songs. These may be ethnic, regional, or school songs. Sometimes, they are just family favorites. But often – they are what elevates a pretty good reception to an unforgettable PAR-TAY.

And your music provider needs to know about them.

For example, Ohioans in general, and Ohio State alums in particular go ga-ga over “Hang On Sloopy,” a 1965 hit by the McCoys. When played as the dinner portion of the reception becomes dance time, it can fill the floor.

Many brides request disco songs like “I Will Survive” or “That’s The Way (Uh-huh, Uh-huh) I Like It”, which serve as a lure for all their sorority sisters – who seem to know every cheesy lyric – to come pouring onto the dance floor. (Other songs which also – for some reason – have this salubrious effect include “Build Me Up – Buttercup,” “Dancing Queen,” and Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love.”)

One bride even asked me to bring a limbo stick. Apparently, that brief fad of the early 60s has survived at her family’s parties, becoming something of an institution. Sure enough, when the band and I started playing Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock,” we had an instant crowd.

Unfortunately, some brides forget to advise their music providers that their guests will expect these musical moments. Recently, I was only able to accommodate a request for “O Canada” from the Canadian side of the family (about half the room) because my wife and son are such hockey fanatics that I had learned the tune.

(Note To Brides With Canadian Relatives: “O Canada” is not part of many U.S. band’s standard repertoire.)

And neither are all of the other above-named songs. So – if your friends, family, and guests have these or similar favorites – be sure to give your band or deejay a heads-up in advance.

After all, if there is one special song can take your reception to heavenly heights, it would be a shame for its absence to leave you in “limbo.”

A Reader Writes” “How Big Should I Make My Dance Floor?”

Monday, October 12th, 2009

I recently received this e-mail:

My friend in Texas is renting a tent for her daughter’s wedding reception. They are expecting 300 guests who are BIG dancers. Is there a certain formula for the amount of square feet required per person?

Dance

Here was my response:

Donna,

Dance floors are usually laid down in 3-foot squares. One 3X3 square is the minimum for one couple, dancing cheek to cheek.

But the subliminal message to guests is that a big dance floor equals an expectation that lots of people will dance. So the bigger she makes it, the more she signals her desire for people to use it. If she really has a dancing crowd, she should make every effort to have space for as many as possible.

At Jewish weddings, virtually everybody participates in the Hora (a traditional circle dance.) Greek, Polish, Czech, Italian, and German weddings also get everyone from grandparents to toddlers on the dance floor at once. If you’ve got polkas or tarantellas planned, you’ll need even more room.

The Texas 2-Step, Cotton Eyed Joe, and Schottische also utilize a lot of dance floor. So if she is planning to teach her out-of-state guests some authentic Texas dances, she should have more dance floor, rather than less.

I hope this helps. All the best, Dave Tanner

(I hope it helps you, too.)

Too Many Cooks Can Spoil The Broth – AND The Party

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

We celebrated our third annual surprise birthday party for my brother John last night.

(Okay – I’m pretty sure that the first one was a surprise. He doesn’t seem as shocked any more.)

It was a community effort, in that just about all the guests contributed something edible or potable (that’s food and drink, for you fans of plain English).

And therein lies both the strength and weakness of such a joint project. Usually, at “pot luck” gatherings, folks bring something they do well. This means each individual dish is excellent. It also lessens the work load on the hostess. All of these are good things.

Of course, it also means that – sometimes – you wind up with 2 very similar potato salads, but no desserts.

For our party, everybody coordinated their contributions with my wife Gina. In this way, there was no duplication. It turned out great.

Some hostesses, though, actually prefer the do-it-yourself style of party. An annual New Year’s Day event we attend is master-planned to the tiniest detail. It would be unthinkable (as well as most unappreciated) for us to bring a dish to such an event.

Communication is the key. “Can we bring anything?” is a great question to ask when phoning in your RSVP. If the hostess says “No,” that should pretty much end the discussion. But if she is open to a contribution, be specific. Your hostess should always know what’s coming in the door.

A few other hints:

If you have any picky eaters in your group (ie. toddlers or Uncle “Meat & Taters” Harry), volunteer to bring a dish they are guaranteed to enjoy – with the approval of your hostess.

If you have a special drink preference that might not be in everyone’s cabinet (from Diet Dr. Pepper to a specific brand of beer), offer to import it with you – if your hostess agrees.

See the common theme here? If the party is at someone else’s house, they get the final say-so. Oh – and never crowd a hostess in her own kitchen. In fact, saying “I’m available, if you’d like any help” is infinitely preferable to barging in and putting on an apron. No matter how well-intentioned you are, your “assistance” may not be appreciated, when you haven’t been asked to help.

For the good of the party (and for your continuing relationship with those putting it on), limit your inner control freak. Sometimes, your best contribution to a party is simply to be a gracious guest and enjoy yourself.

Worrying TOO Much Over Your Mixed Wedding

Monday, October 5th, 2009

When the bride and groom are of different faiths, you should bring a measure of sensitivity to the proceedings, so that neither side is offended.

To that end, couples can profitably spend some time thinking about what might give offense and how to avoid it.

A lot of this comes down to what not to do. Mormons shun caffeine, so you might want to avoid coffee and colas. The traditional “Here Comes The Bride” and recessional music at Protestant weddings both have Anti-Semitic connections, and ought to be avoided at ceremonies where one side of the family is Jewish. And at any wedding where only one side of the family is Christian, you might want to substitute “in Your name we pray.”

However – you can go so far overboard in tip-toeing around potential sensitivities that you rob your wedding and reception of all its individual flavor. And nowhere is this more true than in obsessive worrying about the cultural and folk traditions at receptions.

At Greek receptions, when the “Zorba” music starts, everybody dances. Shouts of “Opa!” fill the room, and the entire evening morphs into a scene from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” And I for one – your Heartland-White Bread-Methobapterian – wouldn’t have it any other way.

Similarly, Jewish receptions feature their own traditional circle dance, the Hora. Repeatedly, I’ve had to urge Jewish brides not to omit this wonderful element of the evening. In the first place, I’ve never known anyone who was offended by it. Secondly, it’s just a dance – not a call to conversion. And finally, all the Jewish guests would be disappointed (if not offended) by its absence.

So by all means, do be sensitive to the fact that there are differing – and deeply held – beliefs among those you care for enough to invite to your wedding. Consult with your cleric or a wedding professional who is experienced in the potential problems you may face. Make a good faith effort to address their concerns.

But then – chill out! It’s your wedding. It should reflect your personality, and who you are. And you are the sum of all those cultural, ethnic, and religious ingredients that have made you unique. They are what give you your spice. If you remove all the spice from any dish, it becomes hopelessly bland.

And you don’t want a bland wedding, do you?