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Friday, January 28, 2011

Can I bring a friend?

This week’s blog topic comes from one of “my girls” (better known as a bride that I am working with or have worked with in the past) who is getting married in March. Her invitations went out earlier in the month, and ever since then she has had people texting her, emailing her and facebooking her to ask about bringing additional guests, children or, in some cases, asking outright for an invitation. Most people think this blog, as with any etiquette book or article, is directed to the person hosting the party, receiving the gift or standing at the forefront of the topic being discussed. I have found that in a lot of cases, the etiquette lesson needs to be for the general public attending said event or giving said gift, as is the case here.
When preparing a guest list, many people think about the overall budget as it relates to the price per head for food and alcohol as well as the total capacity that the room can hold before they can even get into their “wish list” of the number they would like to have in attendance. Then the short list is made, which usually includes relatives, close friends and co-workers. This is just for the bride, not including her parents who will surely have the biggest portion of the guest list if they are paying. Once the bride and her parents have their short list, the groom and his parents chime in with their relatives, close friends and possibly their co-workers. By that time, the list has inevitably grown too much to consider it the short list and becomes the long list which starts getting cut.
When I got married, my husband worked in an office of about 50 people – 50 people plus a guest for each of them is already 100 guests. To put it in an even better perspective, the price per head for food and alcohol usually starts at $60/head (and this is a conservative price). 100 guests (50 of which we did not even know) times $60/head is $6,000. Because of this equation, we cut his co-workers first! Unfortunately, along with co-workers that you do not work with directly on a daily basis, this is where the college friends that you have not seen or spoken to in 10 years fall off. Also, often times people go through and take off the “and guest” if there is a potential guest that is not married, engaged or in a serious relationship. After that, you have the famous decision of whether or not children will be invited, but that is a topic for a different blog so I will not go into that.
My point is, there are a lot of things and people to consider when getting down to the final guest list. Not that anyone owes an explanation to the people who did not make it onto the final guest list or to the people that did not get an “and guest,” but I’m being courteous as obviously some of the general public is unaware of what goes into the guest list process. I do think that these same people need to know that whatever is stated on the front and inner envelope of your invitation is who the bride has invited. If your children are invited, it will say “and Family” and then, most of the time, on the inner envelope, each child’s name is listed (or “and Family” will be printed again). If that is not on the envelope, there has been no mistake! Do not call to check with the bride “just to make sure!”
As far as the etiquette goes for the people who choose to believe that technology has given them the opportunity to ease into a rude situation (that they would never put themselves in if they had to deal with the awkwardness of asking such inappropriate things face to face), allow me to clarify this for you – it does not matter if it comes via text, facebook, mail carrier, stork or telegram – inviting yourself to something that you were not invited to is rude and furthermore, asking to bring a friend is grounds for you to be kicked off of the guest list. Be understanding to the circumstances of the host and know that if they had the privilege of inviting an unlimited number of guests, you, your children, your hook up from the night before and more than likely the bartender from the bachelorette party would be on the list – but in real life, that is just not the case.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Budget Blunders

After the first of the year, many newspapers and wedding magazines will put out a “master wedding issue” to kick off the New Year and help with planning advice for those brides who just got engaged over the holiday. Besides the “planning guide,” which is an overall time line of how the planning process should flow, (this is definitely a topic for a different blog) the other most obnoxious and off-base guide they provide is the budget guide.
Let me preface by saying that I do not believe in “master guides” if you are using them as your sole method of planning. None of these books or online tools will really help you plan if you are the type of person who #1. Knows nothing about weddings, how to plan them or where to start or #2. Does not have the organizational skills to keep up with the contracts, details and especially budget. With that being said the budget part of the planning is often the most important part for brides planning their dream wedding, especially in a world where more of the financial obligation is falling on the couples themselves. As a matter of fact, the radio show “Wedding Talk” – channel 690 AM WIST talk radio Saturday mornings from 10am – 11am - will be speaking about budgeting on their show tomorrow and yours truly will be doing a guest spot giving advice and helpful hints (major SHOUT OUT)!
It is my belief that you cannot look at the money you have to spend and decide from that alone what percentage of the budget should be spent on each vendor. You cannot base your decisions off of a chart that has no ranking of what items are most important in the full scheme of your wedding and a chart that has no regard to the culture of your wedding, the number of guests, etc. Most of these guides do not allow for extras such as favors, photo booths, dessert bars, candy bars, coffee bars or any of the other personal touches that so many couples are bringing to the event these days. Not to mention the fact that most of the guides do not take into consideration that some receptions are sit down dinners and other (like most New Orleans receptions) are buffet style. The price difference in those two choices alone will make a huge difference in your budget. My point is, there is no real formula on what percentage of your budget should go to flowers and what percentage should go to food, etc. In reality, if it is important to you, spend money on it (within your means). If it is not important, do not waste your budget.
New Orleans is one of the top places to get married in the U.S. so a good bit of the weddings that happen in the city host couples and guests who are not from here. These guests come here for the culture of our city, of course, but they also want a piece of what we do best which is eat and drink. So in a place like New Orleans, where the food is like no other, why would you take money from that part of your budget and put it towards napkins?
My suggestion is to look at each vendor separately. What part will they play in the overall concept of your wedding? What have you always imagined and what will be most memorable? Whatever the answer, put your money into those things and tighten the strings on the other things. Get more creative with the things that you do not want to blow your budget on like picking a venue that does not need linens, flowers, chair covers, etc. to make it what you want - And no matter what, stop letting a piece of paper produced for the masses tell you where to spend your hard earned money!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reaching For Roles

I was thumbing through a bridal magazine the other day and noticed that they had an advice column, so I stopped to skim through the questions and answers. I have been finding myself doing that a lot lately and I have come to the conclusion that not everyone belongs giving advice, especially if you have no experience in the field that you are advising. You do not see me writing a blog about how the Saints played last week (tear), so if you are a sports writer, stick to sports and leave the etiquette questions to me!
At any rate, here’s a perfect example of what I am talking about. A reader wrote in to say that she and her fianc√© are blessed to have many people who are close to them, but they recently decided to have a small wedding party composed of just family. The reader went on to say that they would like to give some of their friends a special role in their big day, but if they are not standing at the altar with them, what are some other options.
This is actually a very common question and typically I suggest that you start with the “go to” positions - readers, gift bearers, Eucharistic ministers, greeters to hand out programs, ushers – anything pertaining to a Mass or a ceremony that will be more detailed than strictly exchanging vows. When these “go to” positions are not an option, the bride and groom must then decide if the roles they give their friends to get them involved in the wedding are actually going to make them feel involved or put out.
For instance, the response from the writer of this advice column suggested that the bride and groom consider having an older ring bearer. I am not sure what her idea of older is, but I am pretty sure this couple is not looking for a role filled by an 8 year old and I am almost positive that no 25 year old man is going to carry a pillow on his hand walking down the aisle in front of his fraternity brothers. She also suggested that they pick someone who’s fantastic at public speaking and have them emcee the reception. First of all, when was the last time you attended a New Orleans wedding and had someone emceeing the event? Secondly, would you want to be attending a best friend’s wedding and have to be responsible for keeping the party going all night instead of hanging out with the rest of your friends?
While I can see that thinking outside of the box is sometimes necessary to get all of your best friends and closest family included in your special day, making them pass champagne, serve your cake or emcee your wedding reception can make them feel belittled. It also takes them away from having time to celebrate with you, and the whole point is to have them with you, not to ask your best friends to do a job that your caterer or DJ should be doing.
My suggestion is to provide reserved seating at the ceremony for these special friends and/or family members, have corsages and boutonni√®res for each of them and even include them in the preparation of your day by having lunch or brunch with the entire group or have them in your hotel room for cocktails while you are getting your hair and make-up done. I had a bride in the exact same situation and had all of her closest girlfriends wear the same color and the groom’s closest friends wore the same tie. It was a great idea and the group of friends loved it (and so did the photographer!).
The bottom line is to think about it from your own perspective; wouldn’t you rather have your best friend come to you and say “I really want to include all of you in my wedding ceremony, but we decided to keep it small by only having our family so I’d like you to be with me on my wedding day for hair, make-up, lunch and cocktails as I prepare” or would you rather her say “I could not think of any other way to include you so I’d like you to be a 30 year old flower girl and throw petals at my feet just before I come down the aisle”? I do not know about you, but I’d rather the cocktails!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Anti-Social Status

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a writer doing an article for the Gambit about how the internet has affected wedding planning, the etiquette of weddings and the overall feel of such special events. Since I have not read her finished article (it comes out in the Gambit Wedding Issue on the 11th of this month – shout out!) I do not want to run the risk of writing something similar, but I do have to touch on a one topic in particular that we discussed!

This writer asked me about tweeting and updating face book while at the ceremony. I was a bit confused as I have not had any couples interested in their phones once the ceremony starts. As a matter of fact, I cannot think of a time that I’ve even seen a bride or a groom touch their phone during a ceremony or reception. I guess I should consider myself lucky as this writer had a different experience.

She told me of a couple who stopped in the middle of their ceremony, on the altar, to update their status on facebook to “married.” Maybe I am a bit old fashioned, but really guys? This is what our world has come to? To make this issue even worse, she also told me about a woman who blogs and started her own website all about wedding tweeting. I refuse to use this woman’s name as I feel that it would only promote her and that is the last thing I want to do.

At any rate, this woman recommends that the bride designate one person to be her “wedding tweeter” so that she does not have to worry about tweeting on your wedding day. Seriously, how about this for a recommendation – if you are on the altar thinking about tweeting or your facebook status, don’t get married!

I think this woman just single-handedly explained the reason for the estimated 41% divorce rate (and that rate is for first time marriages only). I guess my question is, where is the line between technological advancement and being just plain pathetic? No offense to those of you who think that tweeting during your wedding is “cute” and “trendy” but in my opinion, it’s tacky and a sign that you’ll be changing that status to “Separated” before you know it.

I am a believer that anything is possible for your wedding and that everything should be original and relate directly to the couple, but how is a silly social network relevant to you and your marriage, unless of course you work for facebook or twitter, and I doubt you do. This is just one example of how technology has taken the personal touch out of our otherwise very personal and intimate tasks/occasions, but there will be more blogs in the future to cover more of those issues. In the meantime, unless your last name or your groom’s last name is Zuckerberg or Dorsey, leave face book and twitter out of the ceremony. Better yet, keep your phone off of the guest list all together.