The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.
- Robert Burns
Everyone knows that sometimes what looks great on paper may not always translate well into real life. Try telling that to bright-eyed wedding clients who come to us presenting nearly sacred wedding notebooks and journals stuffed to overflowing with swatches, clippings, itineraries and lists. Organized blueprints for their big days forged in childhood princess bride imagination and sprinkled with the dream dust of wedding fantasies. These visions are often formed with little or no regard for mundane logistics like how exactly a 10 piece band will pop out of thin air in the 15 minute slot they’ve allotted or how the DJ is supposed to entertain from their non-existent spot in the floor plan (“Oh! Yeah…I guess we should save some space for the DJ!”).
Who can blame them really? They don’t plan events every day. We do. They’re coming to us with a broad, thematic vision. As entertainment consultants, a big part of our job is to translate our clients’ grand visions for their events into an entertaining structure that will work best in real life – from moment to moment. We need to make our client’s aware of the reality of certain moments within a reception and adapt their vision to make sure we still achieve the fantasy they’ve been dreaming about. We need to help them visualize the reality of moments.
For example, what does the client envision happening right after the Grand Entrance? If they tell you they’d like to do something like cut the cake or go directly into toasts, encourage them to think again. The reality of the moment at the end of Grand Entrance introductions is that it is a loud, exciting, dramatic moment. Guests are encouraged to “rise and welcome for the first time…”. The bride and groom have the full attention of all the guests at that moment. It’s a dramatic level of attention that will very likely never be matched at any other point of the night. To follow that moment with a smaller, more quiet moment like cutting the cake or one in which guests are just encouraged to be seated is very anti-climactic – an emotional let-down. Instead, this is a great opportunity to build on that exciting moment. The newlyweds could sweep onto the dance floor and – as the music swells into their favorite song – create a lump-in-the-throat inducing first dance moment. I know caterers want to get the cake cut and plated as soon as possible but the opportunity to create back to back exciting, theatrical moments featuring music, romance and drama is worth a 3 minute delay in cutting pastry.
What about the”after-dinner” moment? Planning something momentous then? The reality of that moment is that no matter what time the itinerary says dinner is over, the guests decide that all by themselves. No one finishes eating at exactly the same time. There is usually a restless energy that starts about a half-hour after dinner is served. People start to drift. They go to the bar. They go outside for a smoke. They’re visiting different tables. Periodic announcements letting guests know what’s coming up can help build anticipation and establish a sense of organization. But you’re never going to get the full attention of every guest again by this point in the night. So this might not be the best time for the most important elements of the night like a first dance or toasts. But you still need some kind of attraction to draw the attention back to the dance floor for open dancing. The Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dances are great elements for this. It’s OK if not every guest is in the room for these dances, but they will create enough interest to prime the dance floor for open dancing.
These are just two examples of important moments whose unique characteristics should be conveyed to clients. Of course, the clients are the boss. Whatever things they want to do whenever they want to do them is what will happen. But there are so many different opportunities to help clients realize the reality of moments. It’s our responsibility to do that. When we do, it can inform so many things about their event – even the venue. Clients may find that the place they thought would be great for their reception may not be. If a venue’s room layout or dinner service guidelines clash with the reality of moments, it can be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Futile at best. A clumsy reception with awkward moments at worst. Nothing makes me as crazy as venues that refuse to bend how or when certain things happen. “Because this is the way we have always done it” is the same to me as “Because we have no interest in being creative to make amazing entertaining moments….mashed potatoes above all else!”.
Every vendor wants the event to run smoothly. That means all vendors should take each other’s needs into consideration. It should never be kitchen vs. DJ. But I’ve said it a million times – receptions are entertainment events. That means we shouldn’t miss opportunities to produce great moments, even if that means salads get dropped a few minutes earlier or later. If we all work together, then the reality of every moment of the reception will be a great one.
And our “best laid schemes” will create amazing events!