Tuesday, August 31, 2010

39 days until the wedding!

Another hurdle has been successfully jumped!  Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I was able to browse hundreds of dresses before settling on two appropriate choices from Nordstrom.  I tried both of them on for Christina and she chose her favorite….a lovely black dress with a beaded bodice and flowing below-the-knee length skirt….perfect for the mother of the bride who does not wish to make a bold fashion statement or call attention to her figure (such as it is). 
 There are no feathers, ribbons, bows or frothy lace.  
It is not dowdy or matronly.
It’s just right!

Speaking of dresses, here’s another true story from my days as an event coordinator:
 I had been working with a bride and her mother for months, making sure that all of the preparations for the wedding ceremony and reception were in place.  During our many meetings, I noticed that as the wedding day drew closer, the mother of the bride was becoming increasingly emotional and agitated, picking fights with her daughter about flower arrangements, seating charts and what the sunlight would look like in the photographs if the ceremony went too long.  The list of her worries seemed to be growing by the day, and as was typical for my job description, I was more of a peace-keeper/negotiator/calming voice of reason than an event planner.

I kept a careful eye on the bride, who seemed to be doing a lot of eye-rolling and biting back of her comments as her mother went over her checklist of concerns at each meeting.  It was apparent that this bride was in the passenger seat of her own wedding, and mother was steering the bus in frustrating little circles all over the map.

Little did I know the true dynamics behind all of this drama…..but I was about to receive a startling education on some of the stark and unpleasant realities of human nature.

 It was the afternoon of the wedding and the guests began arriving at the Inn for the ceremony which was to take place outdoors in the garden by the river.  Some family members trickled in, the groom and his best man arrived and as the time of the wedding grew closer, I began to wonder where the bride and her mother were.  Just as I was beginning to become truly concerned about staying on schedule, I saw a woman approaching in a very low-cut white lace dress and hat with a short veil.  From a distance, I assumed it was the bride, but as she got closer, I saw with horror that it was her mother, smiling sweetly, greeting guests and pulling the groom by the hand to meet relatives from Kansas.

As I watched, it became apparent that mother had a real thing for the groom.  She was flirting and giggling, clutching tightly onto his arm as she tried to totter around the garden in her too-high heels that were sinking into the soft grass.

 After observing this spectacle for a few minutes, I went to the lobby to see if the bride was there, waiting for the ceremony to begin.  Indeed she was, standing silently in her lovely dress (also white lace) and short veil with a pinched look on her face that confirmed everything I suspected…..she had not known beforehand what her mother was going to wear or that she was going to do her level best to out-shine her daughter on her wedding day.  No wonder those pre-wedding planning sessions had been such an uphill climb….mother was determined to have this event be all about HER….and since she was without a husband at this point in her life, her daughter’s fiancée would do quite nicely, thank you very much.

The ceremony proceeded as the bride and groom agreed to be wedlocked in holy matrimony, and all the while, mother was dabbing tears from her eyes with her gaze riveted on the handsome groom, nodding as the minister was delivering his words of loving wisdom and silently mouthing the words “I do” along with her daughter as she spoke her vows.  From where I stood on the sideline, I could see this entire disturbing scenario unfolding and grew increasingly uncomfortable at the thought of what was going to happen at the reception as the champagne flowed and decorum was tossed aside like yesterday’s underwear.

 Because it was a small wedding, the seating arrangement for dinner was informal.  Mother had somehow convinced her daughter that she should sit on the other side of the groom during the meal…..and to the casual observer, it would have appeared that this young man just married two women in nearly identical dresses, except for the fact that mother had chosen to show off her ample bosom with an inappropriately plunging neckline.

The liquor flowed freely and mother rapidly switched gears from champagne to wine to shots of tequila, barely touching her meal.  The bride was doing her best to ignore her mother who was tickling the groom’s neck with a long-stemmed rose and making what appeared to be naughty comments into his ear when nobody was looking. 

The problem was that EVERYONE was looking. 

 The relatives from Kansas tried to distract mother by pulling her off of the groom and offering her cups of hot coffee.  The groom’s father (who had been consuming far too many martinis) decided to get into the act by doing his rendition of dirty dancing with the bride’s mother while his own wife took long walks outside “to get some fresh air”. 
It was quite unsettling to observe these goings-on, but I was marginally comforted by the fact that this ugly spectacle would have to move to another venue NOT overseen by me at 10:00 p.m. when the Inn closed for the night.

I lost count of how many times mother mischievously clinked her own glass with a spoon and then kissed the groom….not quite on the lips, but close enough.  The bride wore the disenchanted look of someone who knew she would never win the war but was expected to show up for battle, anyway. 

I was never really sure how the groom felt about all of this attention from his new mother-in-law, but I can tell you that he didn’t seem to be resisting her advances very strongly.  There was much gossip and whispering amongst the guests about this frightening show of affection, but no one ever stepped forward to put a stop to it.

I don’t know what became of these people.  Mother’s credit card went through, and the event was successfully paid for that night, so I had no need to follow up after the wedding.  To this day, I am an adamant supporter of the rule that the ONLY one who is allowed to wear white to a wedding is the bride!

Monday, August 23, 2010

47 days until the wedding!
Christina’s bridal shower was last Saturday, and for those of us in attendance, it was a lovely event.  The location was perfect, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, the food was delicious and Christina received some really nice gifts.  What a joy it was to see her in “bride” mode; so happily in love and excited to begin her new life with Charlie.

And now, with pleasantries aside…. on to my rant about the breakdown of polite civilization, common sense and courteous consideration.
Abbreviation usually included in invitations to request the invitee to let the host know if he or she would be attending. From the French term, 'Répondez si'l vous plaît’: please reply.

After sending out the shower invitations, it became quite clear to me that people no longer seem to know or care about the concept of the r.s.v.p.   Since I did not have the luxury of being able to spend an hour on the telephone, calling all of the people to whom I sent invitations, I had no idea of how many to expect at the shower.  Thankfully, we had far too much of everything, but it would have been embarrassing had it gone the other way and we were in short supply.
How little effort it would have taken to call and leave a message, or to drop me a brief e-mail stating their intentions!  This was a real wake-up call for me regarding the wedding invitations which are going out in a week…..it appears as though I am going to have to hound, pester and chase people down to send back their response cards so that we know how many to expect for dinner.
This does not sound like a happy afternoon activity to me….so much so that I am considering making the response cards into something akin to the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes enticement:  “You MAY have already won a fabulous prize!  Send in your response card to find out!”  And then to Photoshop images of luxury cars, mansions and diamond necklaces all over the envelope.

It might get the point across.

On a lighter note, Christina’s shower was a gathering of people who love her and are wishing her well.  We played some shower games, laughed and enjoyed the afternoon.

The last bridal shower I put on was back in 1989 for a friend from work. She had mentioned to me at some point that she had been to a shower where a male stripper had shown up, surprising and delighting the crowd of wanton females with his scandalous show.  I took this as a hint that she would be amenable to having the same sort of entertainment at her shower, so I went right to the yellow pages (no Google search back in those days) and began calling around for quotes on male strippers as though I was getting my three estimates for re-siding the house or a new exhaust system for the car.
The day of the shower arrived and the guests began showing up at the proper time.  We had a good turn-out, the bride was happy and all was proceeding beautifully.   There were a few surprise guests who did not think that they would be able to attend the shower, but made travel arrangements at the last minute and turned up without consulting or alerting me.  Specifically, the groom’s 87 year old great-grandmother, a spinster aunt from Des Moines and her older sister, the Catholic nun.

As we were all sitting around watching the bride open her gifts of blenders, toasters and bed linens, panic was beginning to grow in my mind as I envisioned the stripper gyrating and grinding his goods in the faces of frail little Great-Grandma and the quietly demure nun wearing a very large crucifix around her neck.  I considered sneaking off to phone the stripper company and cancelling the whole deal, but just as I pondered the ramifications of this option, he arrived 40 minutes early, dressed as a police officer and knocking forcefully on the front door.

A hush fell over the women in the room, and I went to the door with my heart pounding.  The stripper (dressed in a realistic-looking police uniform, complete with handcuffs and a gigantic flashlight which was later revealed to be a loudly vibrating sex toy) announced from the doorway in a booming voice that he needed to see Mary (the bride) immediately.  Since this was a surprise strip show, the only person in the room who knew what was happening was me.  I looked around at the stunned faces of Mary’s friends and relatives and immediately regretted this half-baked decision to provide filthy and salacious entertainment for her bridal shower.

The stripper/cop entered the living room.  I caught a glimpse of his badge which read:
“Officer P. Ness”.  Had the situation been more comfortable, I probably would have laughed out loud, but now was not the time for lighthearted mirth.  Mary sheepishly raised her hand to identify herself and “Officer P. Ness” said that there was the matter of 37 unpaid parking tickets he needed to address with her.  I saw the look on Mary’s face change as the realization of who this really was began to dawn on her.  Slowly, others in the room recognized that this was not a regulation police officer’s house call and nervous tittering, giggling and murmuring began to fill the room as the officer asked Mary to stand up so that he could put the handcuffs on her.

Precisely on cue, the stripper’s assistant entered through the front door with an enormous boom box and hit the “play” button.  Dance music began blasting in the living room, and the show began.  Mary sat, handcuffed and blushing as the stripper started removing his uniform and wiggling his various body parts in her face.  The spinster aunt was out of her chair, clapping and cheering.  The nun left the room and did not return until the mayhem had subsided.  Great-grandma remained seated, expressionless, and without comment, but obviously quite interested in what would happen next as each article of his clothing came off.

Many of the guests willingly dug into purses and wallets for dollar bills to stuff into the stripper’s g-string.  One woman hurriedly scribbled her name and phone number on a scrap of paper and folded it into a five dollar bill which he took from her hand with his butt cheeks.  The music thumped, most of the guests hooted, hollered and laughed, and the bride seemed to enjoy herself once she relaxed into it.
Eventually, the show ended and the stripper graciously thanked us all.  He asked me if he could use the bathroom to change clothes, and I showed him the way, assuming that he was going to put on street clothing and leave the house once I paid him for his services.  To my surprise, he emerged from the bathroom about five minutes later wearing a blue velour robe and black socks.  He went to the buffet table in the dining room, took a plate and began helping himself to sandwiches and carrot sticks as though this was perfectly acceptable behavior and part of every strip show in which he exposed his private man parts to a room full of strangers. 
I watched in confused dismay as he mingled with the guests, chatted up the ladies and found a comfortable seat for himself on the couch next to the spinster aunt who had many questions she wanted to ask about his chosen profession and marital status.

After about an hour, he excused himself to the bathroom once again, this time, emerging in his street clothes and shoes, much to my immense relief.  I wrote the check and put some cookies in a doggie bag at his request.  Then he bid a happy farewell to the shower guests and was gone.  

I learned later that strippers are not usually invited to bridal showers, but were the mainstays at bachelorette parties….the meat and potatoes (so to speak) of that event.  Thankfully, I did not feel compelled to hire one for my daughter’s bridal shower…..and I’m positive that she is relieved that I saved her the embarrassment!

Monday, August 9, 2010

I have discovered (with the assistance of my 1950s bridal etiquette book) that I have committed a horrendous and no doubt unforgivable breach of protocol where Christina’s upcoming bridal shower is concerned.  From the book (and I quote with chagrin):

Showers are favorite pre-wedding events.  They may be strictly feminine affairs or include both the bride and groom for an evening get-together.  There’s only one rule to remember.  Lest it look like panhandling for more presents above and beyond wedding gifts, the immediate families of the bride and groom NEVER give a shower.  Friends, cousins, and sisters-in-law are all acceptable shower-givers.

Oh, dear.

Should have looked into this a little more thoroughly before blithely sending out the shower invitations last weekend…..
The advice continues:

There is the tried and true kitchen shower with gifts ranging from a sumptuous pressure cooker to a simple but necessary package of spices amusingly wrapped.  Then there are paper showers with wonderful possibilities….cartons of cigarettes, a subscription to a pet magazine, monogrammed cocktail napkins….perhaps even a check.  Whatever the shower theme, it is a wise hostess who sees to it there is a large container to carry home the “loot”.

Okay….so let me get this straight.  As the mother of the bride, I am not supposed to panhandle, but it’s fine—and even expected—that anyone else in the family can?  What exactly is the difference if the bride gets the same gifts at the end of the day?  I suppose that it "just looks bad" (as my own mother used to say with a haughty sniff while sitting atop her high horse).
Well, I’m in it up to my waist now, so if someone feels insulted that I planned my own daughter’s bridal shower, they can write a scathing letter to whoever is manning the helm at the Dear Abby offices and readers across the nation can have a magnificent field day berating my lack of ethical good sense.

 Perhaps (in a cosmically synchronistic turn of events) my own mother might read the column and (not knowing it was about me) clip it from the newspaper to send to me as a disdainful reminder of what “just looks bad” in our society.

If so, it will make for nice kindling the next time I light the grill…..

Sunday, August 8, 2010

62 days until the wedding!

An immense and jubilant rush of gratitude came over me as we jumped the major hurdle in the preparations:  Christina found her wedding gown!  Here’s how it all played out last week~

After many anxious moments spent remembering previous shopping excursions gone awry, we decided that we would shake off the stink of the past and put our best feet forward last Friday as we drove down to the David’s Bridal shop in Oxnard.  This place is about 2 hours south of us, so we had plenty of time to set good intentions for a successful shopping adventure.  We stopped for lunch (high protein/zero sugar) and then walked in the door at our appointment time of one o’clock. 

To our right were racks upon racks of wedding gowns in every imaginable shade of white, each ensconced in a long plastic bag.  Daunting to say the least. 
 As Christina gave her information to the “concierge” at the front desk, I looked upon this sea of tulle, satin, beaded silk and taffeta and wondered where we would begin (a quick guesstimate put the option count at close to 300) .  The helpful woman who took Christina’s information explained the procedure for how to search for a gown, and that then someone would go find it in her size in the back storeroom (which must have had the square footage of an airplane hanger if each of these dresses on the sales floor came in a variety of sizes!).  She handed Christina a catalog, and immediately, Christina identified the dress she had seen in a magazine months ago.

So we began combing the racks for that gown as well as a few others just so that she could see how she looked in several different styles.  She chose three, including the one she picked out in the catalog, and went in to the dressing room.

Now that we had found our way out of the overwhelming field of puffy white confections (which, I must admit, all began to look the same after about 10 minutes), I could get a good look at this store.  It was sadly apparent that the last time a decorator’s vision had touched this place was in 1986.  Peach colored walls surrounded us as we sank into well-worn turquoise green vinyl couches.  As we waited for Christina to get into the first gown, I had time to notice that this place had seen much better days.  Fraying carpet and black-scuffed walls spoke volumes about the fact that this was not much more than a utilitarian warehouse, as opposed to a luxury bridal salon.  The Denny’s of the bridal gown shopping experience, if you will.
But of course, that was just my cynical eye taking inventory as we waited for Christina.

Eventually, she emerged in one of the gowns which showed way too much cleavage and looked “scandalous”, according to the sales girl.  Back into the dressing room (which, interestingly, was no larger than a regular dressing room at a department store), appearing a few minutes later in a lovely dress that we all exclaimed over.  But it wasn't until the sales girl put the veil on Christina’s head that it really hit me…… my little girl is a beautiful, grown up woman, about to be a bride.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my emotions have been running rampant recently, and it takes very little prompting to nudge me into tears and blotchy hives.  With this in mind, I had packed a fist full of tissues into my purse, ready to mop up the tearful tsunami when I saw Christina in her gown.  Interestingly, now that it would be perfectly appropriate for me to cry, I had no tears at all!  I was once again in Business Mode, devoid of emotion as I calculated in my mind how many alterations this dress would need, what kind of veil would look best and if the style suited her.
On to the final gown (which was the one she’d fallen in love with initially).  The moment she stepped out of the dressing room, we all knew that this was The One.  It fit her almost perfectly, had no pretentious train to futz with, was comfortable and light and she looked absolutely stunning in it.  The smile on her face was all I needed to see…..three dresses and 40 minutes into the process and we had scored a winner!  It does not get much better than that.
Our chipper little sales girl tried her level best to sell us on a $160 veil and a $50 hair ornament, but since I am wise to the ways of the crafting/sewing world, I immediately knew that we could construct both of these simple items for under $40.  
While the gown was reasonably priced (on sale for $399!!), the add-ons were ridiculously over-priced and I instantly recognized the psychological strategy making itself glaringly evident.  Once you got the dress on, you would be so overwhelmed with misty-eyed romantic emotions that you would do anything to complete the look, including paying $160 for $20 worth of veil tulle sewn onto a little plastic comb!
In under an hour, we had a gown and the appropriate undergarments as well as a plan for what length of veil would look best.  I could tell that our once-warm and accommodating sales girl had cooled considerably as I refused to pay top dollar for all the “accessories” she felt were absolutely necessary for Christina to complete her “look”.  I stuck to my guns and wrote the check with a look on my face which clearly told her that this was NOT my first rodeo, thank-you-very-much.  The up-selling was apparent to the very end when an “heirloom-quality” garment bag was offered for an extra $20.  I did a covert eye roll, opted for the free plastic bag and breathed a sigh of relief as we carried the gown triumphantly to the car.

A fabulous success!