My big wedding reception is over, and I'm wearing a silver-esque titanium band on one of the fingers of my left hand. We hiked out to a waterfall for our wedding ceremony in the middle of the woods with around 30 friends and relatives. Then we took a lot of photos, with and without various folks and hiked back to the parking lot, then onward to the reception which had a much larger guest list.
I love lists, so here is my list of various random thoughts about my wedding and reception.
Guest Count: Life is about the lessons you learn. And this time I learned a lesson that I should have already learned from my friends, the conference organizers. You will get some no-show guests. And you will have extra food! Our original invite list was 128 people, give or take. We told the caterer to expect 100 people, at the time expecting 96 people. That was mistake number one.
We wanted to be clear in case the four "unknowns" made an appearance. That was foolish on our part. The final number of attendees was 93. We paid for seven extra meals, threw out a lot of food, and are still eating leftovers. We could have paid for 85 meals and have had plenty.
The Pre-Event Consultation: Our photographer gave us a free event consultation. It was just a PDF form that we filled out and e-mailed back to her. It was basically, a refresher course on the information we had already discussed. That was an absolutely brilliant idea.
I wish we had done that with the caterer, and the friend who was going to let in the caterer. I have a lot of nitpicky complaints about the day. For example, we could have countered the "you didn't get enough water" with "there are 7 unopened cases in the basement." Someone, unknowingly, went out to buy more water [and cups]. We didn't find out until much later.
The people you expect to be there for you won't always be the ones who actually help out: Some folks certainly went above and beyond their call of duty. One of T's sister's best friends orchestrated our "great house de-cluttering" and watched the house to let in the caterer while we were off "doing stuff". One of my brother's friends let us borrow his big camping coolers, and he wasn't even a wedding guest. At last minute, I had my friend Tim drive me to the ceremony. And he ended up acting limo driver for T and I on the way home.
On the other hand, we had to field a lot of complaints about hiking to a waterfall in the middle of the woods for a ceremony. God forbid we ask an American to walk somewhere. The amount of times people told us "You can't do that" during the planning process was just insane. We can, and we did!
Get it in writing: You'd think that me, of all people, would have known this. Our caterer painted a fantastic picture of how the event could work within the constraints of our property. After all is said and done that is probably why she got the job. Unfortunately, a lot of things we talked about were not explicitly stated in the final contract; and therefore never occurred. A few things that were explicitly stated in the contract got ignored. My family strongly suggested I write a letter to the caterer before blogging it, but things are so nitpicky I decided against it. Here are a few examples or my complaints:
- Extras: We bought lemons, lime, lemonade, and iced tea based on her suggestion that we create a drink station so people can grab stuff "on their own." She was going to bring water pictures and make it all look pretty. The drinks were to balance out the bar which would have water and soda delivered by a bartender. It was not explicitly stated in the contract and I didn't ask because there was no cost associated with it. All this extra drink went untouched.
- Casual Dress: The caterer has a bunch of different outfits that they wear for different events. For our casual outdoor August event, they were supposed to be in Hawaiian shirts and shorts. Yet, when we showed up they were all formal in black and white. I hate formal. I feel bad for the employees who were not in their more comfortable / appropriate clothes. Who would have thought that I'd have to enforce a dress code in a contract? I guess next time I know.
- Tables: The caterer was contractually supposed to provide banquet tables for the bar and buffet. But, instead they used some of ours, which were earmarked for other purposes. Since our tables were not long enough, they brought the antique card table I inherited from my grandmother to extend the buffet. I didn't realize that until much later. The table has slight sentimental value and I do not bring it outside.
Schedule: We were having a big open house for seven hours and wanted food service for most of that time. I had proposed a six hour schedule, which the caterer pushed back to five hours. However, we were not on the same page here. I wanted five hours of food service. She wanted five hours on-site, which means about two hours of food service.
Due to the open house nature of the event, there was supposed to be carry over between food and desert. I was fine if people who showed up six hours into the event didn't have hot food served to them. But folks who showed up two hours in should have been. No, the food service stopped after about an hour. Desert was only a half hour after that. I estimate that 10% of our guests showed up after food service stopped. I'm embarrassed by the quality of service I offered to my guests. It bugs me.
- Where is my Stuff?: While I am quite happy with all the assistance we got cleaning up our house, I think a few people took it too far. We are still finding stuff to be missing or put in the wrong shelves. The one major missing pieces is the cookbooks that were kept on the kitchen nook shelf. Where did they end up to?
I could go on and on about nitpicky things. But, overall I think everyone has a list of nitpicky things to say about their wedding party, right? That is the thing that stories are made of.
The fact is, I got to spend some quality time with ninety three close friends and family. And it was not a two hour whirlwind that most couples are forced through.
I plan to do another post on the business of weddings that takes a clear look at the financial numbers, along with some theorizing on the whole "gift grab" nature of weddings.
We'll probably try another big party again for our 10th anniversary. When that comes around, remind to to find and read this post. I'm sure I'll have forgotten all the mistakes we made this time. And at that point, we'll be independently wealthy with our own island and the guest list will be 1,000 people, amplifying our mistakes tenfold.