Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mother of the Bride, or Hostess of the Occasion?

So what is the BIGGEST regret I have of the day?  Here it is -- I think I forgot about my main role of being the Bride's Mother, and got a bit too focused on being The Hostess of the Occasion. (A dichotomy I had not really thought about before -- both roles are important, but if your ceremony and reception are in two different locations like ours was, for a while at least, you cannot be BOTH!)

And the weird thing is, we had hired Denise as the day-of wedding coordinator whose job was to help things go smoothly. But I don't blame it on her.  Things DID go smoothly...just without me in a lot of cases.  She definitely took up the slack and did what she needed to do, when I wasn't around.  The question boiled down to -- when did I need to be around, and when didn't I?

The main culprit was lack of planning and communication -- Denise and I and the Bride should have ironed out ahead of time who would be doing what, and who would take on what roles. In hindsight, I wish I had sent the coordinator over to the reception to be Hostess of the Occasion - and I should have stayed with my daughter!

I was being pulled in a lot of different directions --(wife, mother, hostess, caregiver to elderly relatives).  My elderly father-in-law, incapacitated by a stroke in recent years, had stayed behind with us to be in the family photos, so getting him transported to the reception as quickly as possible and comfortably settled in with family members weighed heavily on our minds. But mainly, if truth be told, I was anxious to get back to the reception venue to make sure things were going smoothly.

So, because we bailed out almost immediately after the family photos were taken, I missed out on helping to get the train of my daughter's gown bustled; it did not occur to me that the bustle would best be done BEFORE she and the bridal party got into the limo for the ride back to the reception. (For some silly reason I always envisioned that task being done at the reception venue.) It also did not occur to me that someone needed to make sure the limo arrived and all the bridal party were safely deposited within it for the ride over to the reception.
The coordinator bustling the dress.
Wedding Coordinator Denise Harlan poses with the Bridal Party

So, as you can see, guess who was NOT in the bustling photos? And who was in the photos of the bridal party lining up to get into the limo?  Not me.  The Mother of the Bride was missing in action, as far as the photographic history goes.  Oh well...I have to comfort myself with believing that I was exactly where I needed to be, and try not to feel too guilty for "abandoning" my daughter! With our coordinator Denise, she was in capable hands, after all.

My husband and I took some wrong turns going back to the hotel; I ended up having to put on my navigator hat to help us find our way there.  So ironically by the time we arrived at the reception site, we were too late to be of much use there either.  Our guests had been enjoying their appetizers and punch in the pre-function area, had figured out their table assignments, and were just starting to get seated in the ballroom.  I escorted my father-in law into the building and turned his care over to family members, while my husband parked the car.  By that time, the hotel staff had already started disassembling the appetizer spread in the foyer.  The guests had pretty much consumed all the munchies. (I never saw, much less got to taste, any of them!)

Donning the feather headpiece!
When the bridal party arrived at the hotel and my daughter was ready to change into the trendy feathered hair accessory I had made for her, it could not be found--it was locked in our car! Instead of leaving it with the bride or the wedding coordinator, I had absent-mindedly brought it back with me when I returned with my husband to the reception venue.

I was finally sitting down at our family table, after having been on my feet for hours, drinking my much-needed glass of iced tea, when one of the wedding coordinator's assistants notified me that the headpiece was missing in action. I had to literally run out to the parking lot (in my long taffeta dress) and run back in with the headpiece. I was so rattled, that once again, my brain refused to fire on all cylinders.  I suppose the wife and Hostess of the Occasion roles called to me, and I felt compelled to get right back into the reception room to join my husband and my guests, leaving the coordinator to clip the hairpiece on my daughter's lovely brown curls... So, guess who landed in the pictures of such? Again, not me.

I learned an important lesson.  The wedding planning needs to include that interval between the ceremony and reception.  Think out and communicate your plan of action to all parties concerned, especially if the ceremony and reception are in two different locations.  What are the logistics?  Who will be where, doing what, and who will ride with who? 

We had thought out our plan clearly for the bridal party.  We hired a limo expressly for the reason of transporting them quickly all together from the ceremony to the reception.  For the rest of us, I guess I figured we would just "go with the flow".  Big mistake.  I learned that the pressure of the moment fogs your thinking.  A pre-planned logistical map of the entire day is needed not only for the bridal party, but for the MOB, FOB, and the elderly relatives and young children involved with the wedding too. 

Now I see why David Tutera and most high-dollar wedding planners prefer that the ceremony and reception are in the same location. The logistics are just easier!  When they are in two different locations, the question becomes who will be staying with and assisting the bride and bridal party after the wedding, and who will be going to oversee the reception?  In my experience, if it is important for you to have those memories of being with your daughter during all the important moments of the wedding day, stay with the Bride, if at all possible. 

The best laid plans may fall through, however. A MOB must expect to be pulled like taffy in multiple directions.  She will face the decision on which role she needs to be playing many times during the events of her daughter's wedding day -- "Mother of the Bride, or Hostess of the Occasion?"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Behind the Scenes on Wedding Day - Part III. "The Reception"

And so we came to the reception...much of which is honestly a blur in my mind. And no, there was no alcohol served!  I vaguely remember we ate lunch.  I remember visiting with some of our guests.  There were the traditional wedding activities.  I remember the young people (and occasionally the old people) dancing.  I've been told the appetizers were good and there was a nice ice cream sundae bar.  I will have to take people's word for this--I never laid eyes on either the appetizer spread or the sundae bar and there is not much of a photographic history of them, either.  I remember bubbles, and cupcakes and cakeballs - and they were just as we had hoped and planned for.

Something I do recall, and not too proudly, is what I have come to call "The Great Divide."  The bride and groom had organized what appeared to be (on paper) a wonderful seating chart, and the way they worked it out was that all the bride's family and friends were at tables on one side of the dance floor, and the groom's family and friends were on the opposite side.  On paper this makes sense...the two groups on each side of the room had at least something in common...they knew or were related to the bride or the groom, and perhaps had crossed paths before and were at least acquainted.  But the way things turned out, no one seemed very willing to cross over that dancefloor line very much at all to mix and mingle (including me).

My husband and I did try very hard to visit briefly with everyone on "our" side of the room, but we never got over to mingle much with the groom's friends and family, or vice versa. In hindsight, I should have at least made sure that some of our closest relatives (my sister, nephews, my in-laws, etc.) met the groom's immediate family. In that area, I felt like I failed as the Hostess of the Occasion.  

Then there was the generational "Great Divide" as well.  We did not have a receiving line at the ceremony or the reception, mostly because we felt it would take up too much time.  The couple had very limited availability at the reception because they needed to allow time to drive 5 to 6 hours to Galveston, where their honeymoon cruise ship was departing the next day.  I noticed that between the traditional reception activities (first dance, father/daughter and mother son dance, bouquet and garter toss, cake cutting, last dance, etc.) the bride and groom spent what was left of the afternoon visiting with their college-aged friends and hitting the dancefloor periodically.  They were not able to "work the room" to visit much with the older guests who remained at the tables.  Understandably so...the main object was for them to let their hair down and relax a little!  And I have to admit, I spent most of my time visiting with relatives and friends closer to my own age as well.

In hindsight, I'm thinking a receiving line is not such a bad idea -- that way everyone at least gets to greet the bride, groom, and immediate families if they so choose!

Putting on my Hostess of the Occasion hat again, I had to run a bit of interference, because the wedding coordinator and the DJ were not seeing eye-to-eye on the order of events. The DJ, Johnny Bradshaw of Central Texas Talent, had an awesome "radio" speaking voice and made a good master of ceremonies. But, I think he was disappointed that because it was so early in the afternoon, and alcohol was limited to those few guests who had purchased and brought drinks in from the hotel bar, there was not much action on the dancefloor until the reception was almost over.  He actually made a comment to the crowd about this, something to the effect of, "I'm not sure what to do with a sober crowd!"  This met with mixed reactions, to put it mildly.

He also felt the Wedding Coordinator let the toasts and activities take up too much time, when actually she was just adjusting to the wishes and schedule of the bride and groom. The Coordinator got a bit defensive, but I assured her that I knew and agreed exactly where she was coming from.  But, I also assured the DJ that everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time, so he shouldn't fret so much about the lack of dancing! 

Overall, I have to say the reception went well and we got good feedback from guests.  As I mentioned we had the fun traditional wedding activities, including an "anniversary dance" which got some of the older couples out on the dance floor.  The groomsmen even spontaneously did the Jewish thing of lifting the groom up in a chair. We did the "Chicken-Dance" and the guests loved it -- (a polka nod to the groom's family who are from New Braunfels - the German Hill Country of Texas.) Thanks to my dear husband, the slideshow worked. The bubble favors, cupcakes, cakeballs, and ice cream sundae bar were all hits. Judging by the leftover cupcakes, everyone was well-fed, and when the DJ started to play some good dance music like "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga, the guests finally started dancing, and the young people especially seemed to be having a good time.

All too soon, the afternoon was over and the bride and groom had their last dance, the guests opened the bubble tube favors to fill the air with cascading bubbles, and the happy couple departed in the white limo. It's comforting to know that in the long run, no one knew about or noticed the mishaps that were happening, and everyone really seemed to enjoy the day, from the feedback we heard. Especially the bride and groom! (The ones that count the most!) 

Here is a Memory Board from the reception:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Behind the Scenes on Wedding Day - Part II. "Wardrobe Malfunction"

By the time I got back pre-ceremony to the bride in the church ladies' room, after getting called out to the foyer to speak with the FOB, the bridesmaids had finished corseting her dress (very tightly!), and photos had been taken in that unsightly backdrop.  Guess who wasn't in them?  Me.  Of course, what did the Bride forget to do before getting that heavy dress on?  Umm...you guessed it.  Hello! -- remember bodily functions come before getting the gown on!  I think one of the bridesmaids helped her with that piece of detail.

Our wedding coordinator seemed to be a bit rattled whenever I would run into her -- she had heard about the snafu at the reception site with the big screen not being set up by the hotel staff. I think at this point, she was not even telling me half of the issues that were going on, just to keep me from worrying about them. (This is why you pay to have wedding coordinators!) I found out only after the wedding, that one of the groomsmen had a shaving accident that morning, and had bled on the collar of his shirt, so that was something else she had to deal with at the last minute, besides getting the guys a dressing room together in the first place (other than the common Men's Room.)   For some reason that was something that had not been worked out with the church beforehand.  Until she contained them in a room, we had the groom, groomsmen and ushers wandering about freely in the building, and that would not do.

Well, back to the bride...! After finally donning her dress and veil, and remembering to put on her jewelry at the last minute, (yes, I had forgotten all about it, too...) she was sitting in a chair, looking very pale and literally struggling to breathe!  It was very warm in the room and my daughter did have a few pre-wedding jitters, I think.  But the main causes of her discomfort were that she was laced so tightly into her gown, and also evidently her longline bustier had shrunk.  I had washed it after the hot, sweaty outdoor Bridal Portrait shoot on one of the warmest, muggiest spring days in Waco, and she had not had the opportunity to try it on again since then.

I had noticed the undergarment was harder than it had ever been to get it hooked up on her that morning, and I really doubted she had put on much if any weight, either, so I knew something had to be up with it.  I had washed it in cold water and did NOT put it in the dryer--just hung it to dry, so I do not understand why it shrunk.  Chalk it up to trying to save some bucks by buying it at David's Bridal, I guess.
Me, the Bride, and our Wedding
Coordinator, Denise Harlan

The wedding coordinator and I were not sure what was going on or how to help her, and talked to her about just relaxing and breathing. She seemed to be feeling so unwell that the photographer did not take many shots of her before the wedding.  (Not even posing with her parents before the ceremony as he did with the groom, or even some last minute shots alone with the MOB, much to my disappointment. The only good picture we got of her and me beforehand was taken by the wedding coordinator's daughter, and the wedding coordinator was also in the picture.)

Well, now it was really Showtime... and I wrote several months ago how things went, overall, with both the ceremony and reception. Remarkably true to our vision, I would say.  The ceremony honored the couple's Christian outlook on marriage and family, was personal, and featured some beautiful music. My daughter was physically uncomfortable through the whole wedding ceremony, through no fault of her own, but seemed to perk up a bit upon seeing her groom, and she hung in there during the ceremony and during the obligatory family photo session afterwards.

Looking back, one thing I definitely would change is that we should have had at least the ceremony videotaped. Your First Daughter's Wedding is a mighty important occasion. Not to mention, our younger daughter sang beautifully twice, and she doesn't sing in front of us often.  Also, my elderly mother was not able to attend, and I think she would have loved to have the opportunity to view a tape of the events of her first grand-daughter's wedding day!