Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I was startled to see the countdown on the wedding website today….86 days until the big event.  My stomach dropped a little as all of the details left to attend to came rushing into my head.  I know that somehow, everything always gets done, but at this point, the various items on my to-do list seem to be taking on a life of their own and marching towards me like some sort of demented Fantasia Broom Army of responsibilities.

We have met with the florist and are feeling confident that the aesthetic details will be handled beautifully and with a fun sense of style.   I keep finding myself thanking the powers that be that all the vendors we are working with are professional, pleasant and not at all interested in forcing their own visions down our throats.

Back in the day when I was the events manager at a lovely old Inn in Illinois, I would meet with the brides and their assorted family members who had a vested interest in how the wedding details were being handled on a daily basis.  I think that I was more of a negotiator and peacekeeper than event coordinator, because invariably, there would be passive/aggressive power struggles, petulant tears and tightly clenched jaws as the bride and her mother (or mother-in-law to be) battled tooth and nail to see their unique (and often completely opposite) visions come to life on the day of the wedding.  
Thankfully, Christina and I seem to be skipping this portion of the wedding preparations!

True story: on the morning of a large wedding reception which was due to take place at the Inn later in the day, a mother of the bride showed up unannounced in my office with curlers in her hair and 25 pounds of cooked shrimp in a huge red Igloo cooler.  We did not (willingly) serve shrimp at receptions in those days, but by God, she was determined that we would on her daughter’s wedding day!

This was a complete surprise to me, and after some scrambling around to see how we could accommodate this sudden shellfish invasion, I decided that we would charge her a “plate fee” per person to serve the shrimp, much like a cake cutting fee or wine corkage fee.  She readily agreed, relieved not to have to physically fight me for the right to serve that shrimp to her guests.
Apparently, I did not get clearance from the right person, because as we were setting out the home-cooked shrimp for the reception, the General Manager came by to see how our preparations were going and nearly fell over at the sight of this interloping shrimp piled high and wide across our largest serving platter.  Her eyes popped and she looked at me as though I was laying out the mangled carcasses of road kill on a pretty bed of lettuce.  I was roughly pulled aside and questioned about my motives for allowing outside food to enter our premises.   
I pointed out that these same people had also brought their own cake and wine, so why not shrimp?  This line of logic only infuriated her further and I was told that there would be consequences to my actions since she was absolutely convinced that I was somehow receiving a kick-back from this whole thing.  At $1 per plate service fee for 75 guests, I still can’t imagine how I would have been in it for the amount of money that I would have been able to skim off that particular event.
The reception was wonderful, the shrimp was consumed and enjoyed, and the family never knew of the drama that was simmering just below the surface.  On Monday, I was summoned to the office of the General Manager, and there she sat with the owners of the Inn and the head chef, all glaring at me.  Obviously, they had convened for a meeting before my arrival, and all that was left was for them to reprimand me for making this “sneaky deal” to bring in the shrimp without getting written approval from each of them, hand me my final paycheck and show me to the door.  My protests about the surprise addition on the morning of the event fell on deaf ears…. I was being unceremoniously relieved of my duties as Banquet Manager right there on the spot.

Years later, when all of the management had changed and one of the owners had passed away, I went back to work at that Inn as a server and learned through a bartender who had been working there for 20 years that after I had been fired, the head chef had been caught with his hand in the till, cooking the books, as it were, and receiving many kick-backs in various ways.  
This news explained what was really going on that day of the shrimp reception.  I was never offered an apology because all of those people were long gone, and frankly, I didn’t care by that point, but smiled when I saw that cold shrimp platters were now available for wedding receptions!

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