Archive for the 'Weddings/Receptions' Category

For A Seamless Reception – Think “Circus”

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Barnum and Bailey would have made great wedding planners! And no, that’s not an insult to planners.

But think – part of what makes a visit to the circus so magical for kids is that the action never stops. While the center ring is being re-set for the lion tamer’s act, rings 1 and 3 are filled with acrobats. And – if all three rings are in various stages of taking down and setting up props – a parade of elephants and/or clowns winds around the perimeter. There is never a lull in the action.

Two different upcoming brides have expressed concern to me this week over the prospect of “dead time” causing bored guests to leave their receptions early. Both had been to recent events where the band’s hourly intermissions killed the momentum of the party. My answer to them, and to anyone planning a wedding, is: learn from P.T. Barnum.

Have music playing (at a lively tempo, but a reduced volume) as soon as the first guest arrives. Keep it going, right up until the moment when the host offers words of welcome and the blessing (if any) is delivered. Start the music back immediately following the blessing (even if it’s only Memorex.) Keep the band or deejay going through dinner (again – at an appropriate level) until the cutting of the cake and toasts to the bride and groom. During that official business (in the center ring) is a perfect time for your music provider to get a short break.

I call such mini-breaks “invisible intermissions.” Your musical vendors are able to have a cup of coffee and make a pit stop at regular intervals, but your guests never notice their absences (because they are focused on you.)

Most bands and deejays will be happy to work with you on creating a “seamless” event (for which you will want to be generous with them in return). With a little advance planning and teamwork, your guests will swear that the music never stopped. To which you’ll be able to reply, “They did – but I made sure you didn’t catch them doing it!”

If You’re Not Going To Dance – Don’t Have A Band!

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Often, only a few hours after pledging to stay together “for better or worse,” comes the first “worse” of the new marriage: the dance of the bride and groom. All alone on a huge dance floor, with every eye and camera lens focused on them, the wedding couple put on their fixed smiles and try to simply survive the next 2 minutes of pure hell. For many, it’s the hardest part of the whole nuptial experience and the one they are most glad to have behind them.

Sadly, it’s also one they were totally free to skip.

That’s right – if dancing in front of a gaggle of well-wishing gawkers is like having your heart cut out, then this is a self-induced cardiectomy. Simply put, you don’t have to do it, any more than the groom is required to go down on one knee when proposing, or the bride has to submit to being carried over the threshold. These customs and many more are part of a huge tapestry of regional, religious, and ethnic traditions that are observed by some couples – and totally ignored by others.

Just as you are free to write your own wedding vows, or to choose which clauses of an existing set to include, you get to pick which aspects of the reception best reflect who you are, and what makes you (un)comfortable.

So if you don’t wanna dance, at your wedding, you don’t gotta dance.

But understand, that – at your wedding – if you don’t dance, neither will anyone else. Dancing at weddings always follows the lead of the bride and groom. If you aren’t prepared to trip the light fantastic early and often to “prime the pump” on the old dance floor, then just don’t have a dance floor. Don’t have a band or deejay either. Both will only call attention to the fact that – like you – no one else is dancing. Instead, hire a pianist. Or better yet – a harp (the classiest solo instrument on earth, but not one that immediately causes guests to pack a dance floor.)

Having a solo musician makes for a quieter reception, facilitates conversation at normal – rather than shouted – levels, and usually costs a whole lot less than a band you’re not really going to benefit from, anyway. You can still proceed with all the other major events of the typical wedding gala: the champagne toast, cutting of the cake, big departure, etc. Without a band to remind folks that you didn’t dance, most of your guests won’t even notice.

But having a band (“for the guests”) won’t work. It will add needless noise, expense, and a gnawing sense that – because no one is dancing – that folks aren’t having fun. So, contrary to the swooshy shoe slogan, “Just DON’T Do It!” If your guests are such disco maniacs that they still have a need to boogie after your departure, they can always go club hopping later.

Face it – some “worses” in married life are unavoidable. But if dancing in public is sheer misery for you, this is one “worse” you can make “better” – instantly.

It’s YOUR Wedding – Not Your Vendors’!

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Let’s be real here: unless something amazingly unusual (like President Obama escorting the bride down the aisle) or really bad (like the cake giving all your guests food poisoning) happens at your wedding, do you really think any of your vendors (consultants, florists, decorators, music providers, etc.) are going to remember much about it – 10 or 20 years from now? When you consider that those same vendors will have worked hundreds of events since yours, it would be a very rare party professional indeed who would have anything more than a fleeting recollection of your ceremony and reception.

You, on the other hand, will remember everything – especially when your memories are aided by photos and video from the evening. Every future wedding you attend will only serve to reinforce (not blur) these recollections, as you compare what others do better, less well, or simply differently than you.

So who then, should be the ultimate decision-maker regarding your wedding? As you might guess, given the 2 paragraphs above, I vote for you. Vendors will never have the same emotional investment in your wedding that you do. And they will go on to other weddings the next day or following week. Your wedding is yours – forever.

So if any vendor tries to talk you into anything that busts your budget, or will add to the stress of an already-emotional day, you can and should exercise your power of the veto. It’s not “their” event – it’s yours. Any “statements” made there (by what you wear, where you choose as a venue, etc.) should reflect your tastes and bankroll, not the whims of a party professional seeking to advance their own agenda or career.

So sure – listen to their suggestions. And, especially when they draw on their years of experience to keep you from making what may be a costly (or needless) mistake, consider what they have to say. But ultimately, the real issue is whether they are the right vendors for you, not whether you are right for them. So you don’t ever have to do, say, or wear anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.

As long as you stay within your finances (and don’t break any laws), when it’s your wedding, your opinion trumps everybody.

Making A List, And Checking It Twice

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Despite its title, today’s entry has nothing to do with Santa Claus. It’s about wedding receptions, and – specifically – the first big moment of the reception: the introduction of the wedding party.

In some cases, only the bride and groom are announced. But often, everybody from the Flower Girl to the Grandparents of the Bride are introduced by name – and these are names you really want to hear pronounced correctly. If the emcee is your deejay or band leader, he or she may have never met your family. This means you will have to help them master any tricky names, through the list you provide. I recommend phonetic spelling, with accents capitalized. (My name would be DAY-vid TANN-ner, for example.) Your emcee won’t care how the name is really spelled, only how to say it properly.

E-mail the list to your emcee in advance. Have them read the names back to you over the phone. Correct any errors and have them read it again. Also, have Mom or Sis go through the list for any omitted names. (I once introduced an entire wedding party, except for the bride’s parents – whose names were not on my list, and who were standing out in the hall through half of the First Dance. Talk about your “Woops!” moment – the very unhappy Dad still had my check!)

Give a copy of this list to your wedding coordinator (or to whomever is helping you line up for your big entrance.) Be sure everyone is in line, in the same order as their names appear on the list.

A “Woops!” moment probably won’t ruin your entire reception. But a smooth and successful introduction goes a very long way to putting your guests in the right spirit and to lowering your stress level (at least a little.)

To that end, maybe you should check that list three times.

The Father-Of-The-Bride

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

A bride’s dad once told me that he only had 3 duties: 1. Show up, 2. Pay up, and 3. Shut up.

Now that’s a smart fellow!

Technically, he is also the nominal host of the wedding reception. But – if he knows what’s good for him – he won’t assume that such a title actually gives him any real authority.

He will know that, in the real world, the bride and her mom are the true key players. Most dads are relegated to providing emotional support (they tend to say “Yes, Dear” and “Whatever you think, Dear” a lot). They also are expected (under Provision 2 in the first paragraph) to dig deeply into what would have been their children’s inheritance, as the budget for the ceremony and reception approach – and often pass – the price of a medium-sized condominium. (Meanwhile, under Provision 3, they will have to also pretend not to notice that the king’s ransom they are spending (a.) comes with no guarantee – unlike the condo – and (b.) will be consumed by the wedding and reception at a rate – give or take – of $10,000 per hour.)

Because Dads adore their precious daughters so much, they are – as a rule – able to handle these jobs with remarkable aplomb. What really kills them is having to give their daughter’s hand in marriage to some scruffy (or altogether too slick) guy who will never in a million years deserve her.

And it is for handling this supreme sacrifice with a minimum of grouchiness and a maximum of grace, that old Dad deserves more kudos than he will ever get.

So brides, I know you’re busy. And I know you have a 1001 things on your minds. But – amid all that – be sure you remember that otherwise “forgotten” man of the nuptial process: your long-suffering (and usually – quietly suffering) Number One fan and first man in your life, your Dad.

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?


Here was my response:


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.)

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?

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!

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.”