Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What I Loved about the Wedding of William and Catherine

You loved the royal wedding? But it was - it was - it was - expensive!

Yeah, but you know what? Given the expectations, it had to be. But the look itself can be mimicked on a budget, almost any budget, and that is what I loved about the wedding.

Stunningly beautiful yet simply designed dress? Take your pick of thrift, discount, outlet, or department stores.

Tousled greenery behind the alter? Whether greenery is bought, borrowed, grown, or a combination - time and coordination will be bigger issues here than money. After all, very few of us will need the large arrangements seen in Westminster Abbey.

Trees down the aisle? Get ready for a trip to the nursery!

The future (now current) Duchess of Cambridge also did her own hair and makeup. What a seriously classy example to others she is.

I also love that the couple personalized their ceremony, but in ways that would not be offensive to their guests. They had a hand in writing the prayer, and Prince William had a best man - not traditional for a royal wedding. Traditionally, he would have had an older, married mentor stand beside him; instead, he had his brother.

Giving Outbrain a Try

Outbrain is a service that adds reading recommendations to blog posts. I'm hoping it will drive traffic to the blog by adding links to some of my posts to others' blogs.

We'll see how it works out.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Exciting News?

A (fairly) local floral and event planning company is hiring event coordinator/operators and would like me to come in for an interview.

I would love the opportunity to learn the business, because one day I would like to open a small wedding and reception venue designed to be both attractive and affordable to all couples.

The company is willing to train, so I think the biggest issues I'll face in getting the job will be some previously planned commitments (two weeks' worth) right at the height of wedding season.

I was originally also worried that my outspoken support of the use of faux flowers (this is a floral and event planning company, after all) would be a problem, but I see from the company website that the business also specializes in silk flower arrangements. Yes! An events company that meets its customers' needs instead of trying to convince its customers to need limited offerings. That is something I can get excited about!

Update (04/09/11): What a load of garbage that was! Essentially, the woman was looking for someone to do all the work of organizing and coordinating a trade show for no base pay, only commission. And, she was unwilling to invest anything. Even the caterer and the venue were expected to donate their services for the free advertising. Her justification? "Why would I pay someone to sit there and make phone calls?" (Um, because they'd be making phone calls for you?)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Faux Flowers Tacky? Says Who (and Why Do Their Opinions Matter)?

Browse a number of wedding forums and it quickly becomes apparent that one topic that just will not go away is the question of whether artificial flowers are tacky. The consensus is capricious.

We know the arguments each way, so I won't rehash them here. What I'd like to address instead is the spirit behind those impassioned arguments. It's the same spirit found behind arguments about the best band, the best cola, and the best fusion restaurant, and it's ridiculous.

Other people don't have to share your tastes.

Again, other people don't have to share your tastes. And you don't have to share theirs.

At some point in school (when I attended, it was the second grade), we learned the difference between opinion and fact. How soon we forget that difference. More importantly, how soon we forget that when it comes to matters of taste, other people's opinions just don't matter.

And neither do ours.

When do opinions matter? When can stupid opinions actually lead to harm? When those opinions allow us to justify cruelty to others. We might find certain political moves morally reprehensible. We might flinch at certain religious rhetoric. And we might find ourselves belittling those who disagree with us in matters of politics, religion, or - flowers.

When opinions matter, we feel morally compelled to share them. Well, many people do. I do. And I don't think there is anything wrong with that; in fact, I believe sharing important opinions and the reasons we hold them is vitally important. One of my strongly held opinions is that attaching negative labels to things that are simply not to our taste is just mean. Using a bad name doesn't cease to be name calling just because the name is attached to a person's expression of self rather than a person's whole self.

Tacky is a word I reserve for things that are inconsiderate, things that reflect bad manners. By that definition, artificial flowers are not tacky. I certainly can't make anyone agree with my definition, and I can't make anyone stop using the word to belittle the stylistic choices of others. But I feel compelled to try.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Featured Blog Entry on Shine

An updated version of "The Lie of Wedding 'Averages'" (the 01/07/10 entry) was chosen as an "Editor's Pick" on the Shine Love & Sex page yesterday.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Celebrity Planner, a TV Show, and a Conflict of Interest?

My family has the "extended basic" cable package. We TV is not one of the channels we get, so I don't see We TV's wedding shows unless they become available on On Demand. One show I'd never seen before last week was My Fair Wedding, starring celebrity wedding planner David Tutera.

The basic premise is this: Some hapless bride with questionable taste needs help pulling her wedding together. Three weeks before the wedding, Mr. Tutera is given carte blanche to plan a wedding that will reflect the spirit of the bride's deepest wedding desires. The wedding the bride ends up with is far more beautiful and lavish than anything she could have designed or afforded, and she and her groom are thrilled with it.

I have to admit, David Tutera does gorgeous work. And he seems really nice to the brides he works with.

I think his wedding philosophy, however, is a bit misguided. Well, more than a bit; I think it's unhealthy and unkind.

David Tutera hates fake flowers (though he's not above having faux landscapes painted to mimic a vineyard window view), and even fresh flowers are unacceptable if purchased from a grocery store. The idea of a medieval joust, thrown out in jest by a bride, made him shudder.

Now, my problem is not with his taste (I've already implied that it's excellent), but with his seemingly narrow vision of what weddings should have and be. The colors (not too bright, by the way) and the centerpieces can vary from one couple to the next, but his weddings follow the same template: closely (if not exactly) matching bridesmaids glide down the aisle followed by a glamorous bride. Dinner and dancing in a lavishly decorated space follow.

It's fine for David Tutera to prefer what he prefers. It's quite another matter entirely for him to label something wrong simply because it is not what he prefers. He has quite a public platform and quite a bit of influence, after all. Many people believe whatever he tells them to believe. (Don't believe me? Check out Yahoo! Answers Weddings and read the responses to almost any question about nontraditional wedding elements.) Therein lies the problem: just because David Tutera calls certain ideas and products tacky doesn't make them so.

Why are fireworks displays acceptable, but jousting tournaments unacceptable? Are they not both simply forms of entertainment? Does Mr. Tutera really believe we should mold our entertainment preferences to his? And don't think his choices are concerned with guests' comfort; more than once he's told a bride the wedding day was about her.

Most couples will never be able to afford the kind of wedding David Tutera plans. Fine linens, professionally designed floral arrangements, and stunning cakes cost a lot of money, more money than many couples have. Certainly more money than most couples should be spending; how many times have we heard about the financial stress of couples planning their weddings, stress which becomes generalized and diminishes the joy the partners take in each other? The wedding trappings a couple can afford are not tacky simply because they are not the wedding trappings David Tutera likes.

Should Tutera really continue to convince couples that their best efforts aren't good enough? That their very interests mark them as inferior? Does he need to encourage the spread of these ideas through society, thereby encouraging wedding guests to mentally grade the expressions of love and commitment to which they've been invited?

No. Of course not. So why is David Tutera so comfortable with perpetuating the unhealthy societal attitudes so many hold about weddings?

Well, I cannot speak to Mr. Tutera's deepest thoughts. But I can say that the adage follow the money has served many in good stead throughout the years when they've needed to assign weight to the opinions of others.

David Tutera's own website reveals that he is a paid speaker. And although the website no longer says he has been hired by wedding magazine publishers, his talent bio on the All American Talent and Celebrity Network website does. Wedding magazines make a great deal of money from the sale of advertisements. The companies that advertise in wedding magazines tend to be bridal wear designers and retailers, floral designers, jewelers, and the like. To direct people away from their services by suggesting that it's perfectly acceptable for couples to engage in budget shopping and do-it-yourself projects might make them unhappy; unhappy advertisers sometimes decide to spend their advertising dollars elsewhere.

Tutera's professional interests go beyond keeping publishers happy, however. He himself owns Stem, a floral and gift company with locations in the Plaza and the Trump Taj Mahal. He and the fashion house Faviana also produce a line of wedding dresses, David Tutera by Faviana.

I don't know about you, but I refuse to let the face of an industry trying to take my money grade the purchases I make.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Alcohol Issues

Spend a significant amount of time reading wedding-planning forums and you'll soon see that the two biggest wedding-related alcohol questions appear to be, "Do we have to serve alcohol?" and "Can we have a cash bar?"

The answer to the first question is a resounding "No!" Alcohol-free receptions are actually quite common in certain parts of the United States. For instance, many couples still hold their receptions in church fellowship halls, and because many religious organizations frown on imbibing, alcohol is often not even allowed at such receptions. But what if alcohol is commonly served at receptions in your culture? Simply put, so what? If you don't want alcohol at your wedding reception, you don't have to have it. Maybe there are some guests or members of the wedding party who are alcoholics, or maybe you just can't afford to spring for alcohol. Your reasons don't really matter. You are inviting your loved ones to share your joy, and you are providing them food, (nonalcoholic) drink, and good company, at the very least. Anyone who is going to judge you because you're unwilling to provide alcohol is not worth your worry. And anyone who can't go a few hours without a drink has a problem.

The answer to the second question is far more complicated. Traditional etiquette - and by etiquette I mean societal standards of basic politeness, not ideas about what weddings are supposed to entail - says that you do not invite a guest to a party and then make that guest pay for the refreshment offered. I agree with this wholeheartedly.

However, many argue that as long as sodas, water, punch, or other drink options are available, the hosts have done their duty to provide liquid refreshment. I see the logic in this argument, but the practice of having a cash bar continues to make me uncomfortable. I'd really prefer to pay for anything my guests might consume at my party.

The crux of the whole dilemma is that in some cases, guests might prefer a cash bar to no bar at all. If this is the situation you're faced with, are you shortchanging your guests if you don't offer a cash bar? When my husband and I were planning our reception, we considered taking all of our guests out to a restaurant after our ceremony. However, I felt obligated to pay for their drinks if we did so, and I was fearful that the final bill would be more than we could afford. I could not commit to a restaurant reception for this reason, and wondered if we should simply have an alcohol-free reception. My husband was certain that our guests would be happy to pick up their own drink tabs if it meant they could decide for themselves whether or not to indulge. In the end, we simply compromised by having a nice meal with punch and cake in the park and inviting everyone back to our home for drinks that we provided.

Some couples compromise by offering a limited open bar that becomes a cash bar after a certain period of time, and other couples offer a limited number of drink tickets, or vouchers for free drinks, to guests. Neither of these compromises really answers the question of the appropriateness of a cash bar, however, because in both cases a cash bar still exists.

Other couples offer a limited open bar that simply closes after an hour or two. Some couples serve wine and beer only, or signature cocktails only, or some combination, and do not provide a full bar at all. Both of these solutions do completely address the issue, and for larger weddings, they work well. However, for a small, restaurant reception like the one my husband and I considered, they would be impractical. How can you tell a guest that you will pay for a glass of wine but not a whiskey sour? How can you tactfully say that you will pay for only two drinks when you don't have those cute little drink ticket envelopes at preset place settings?

So, can you have a cash bar? I'd love to be able to give you a definitive answer, but I can't. If you want to serve alcohol, the right answer is the one that is right for you and right for your guests. I firmly believe that you should always avoid doing what is rude, but what is rude is often a matter of perspective. How cash bars are viewed is often a matter of family tradition, regional tradition, and cultural tradition.

I can almost guarantee that even if the majority of your guests are happy with your decisions concerning alcohol at your wedding, not every guest will be. That's okay; you can only do the best you can to be thoughtful and kind. Hopefully, you are able to invite only those who love you and support you to your wedding, and they will also be thoughtful and kind - too thoughtful and kind to let a difference of perspective color their opinion of you or your wedding.