Sunday, March 30, 2008

Guest counts, Seating charts, and other Painful Wedding Things

Here at Aberdeen Manor, we believe strongly in the power of the seating chart. There are a number of reasons that we feel that some sort of seating assignments are essential. First of all, guests like to know that they have a place reserved for them. If you don't assign tables, they will all sit down and not move, and your cocktail hour will consist of everyone sitting at tables holding their places. Boring! The biggest thing I see is that if you don't have assigned seating, the people who you want to have close in the best seats, don't get there, because they are usually the last to arrive at the reception. Yes, we can put "reserved" signs on a couple tables, but then, who sits at those tables and how do they know they are supposed to? Another issue we see is that when you have someone attend who didn't send back their RSVP, we have no way to know where there might be empty seats. These folks who didn't send back their RSVP, if they get there earlier, get a seat, and your good guests who sent back their little cards, are seatless.

Some sort of seating assignment is absolutely essential. Guests want to know that they have a place reserved for them that they can land. They are much more comfortable and sociable if they are sure that they have a seat that they don't have to stand guard over. So how is this most easily accomplished? Well, first of all, both families need to be on the same page about when guests need to reply (this is usually stated on the response card) and once that date has passed, someone needs to start calling people who haven't responded to find out if they are coming or not. The goal is to get a good, solid final count as soon as possible after the cut off date. I say someone, because the bride and groom and their parents are NOT the people to do it. This is what you have attendants and best friends for! If the bride calls, she will be thrown into a 45 minute discussion of the wedding plans, honeymoon destination, yada yada yada. No, you want someone who doesn't know these people to call. They will be able to do the entire list in the time that it would take the bride to make one or two calls.
So what to say? "Hi, this is Mary Jo, I'm calling for Heather Jones and Sean Smith. They were concerned because their wedding is fast approaching and they hadn't heard back from you yet. They wondered if maybe you hadn't received your invitation. Oh, you did receive it? Wonderful! Will you be able to attend? And how many of you will there be? Three? Great! Thanks so much, we'll see you at the wedding. Buhbye!
It's always nice to give them a little "out", and frankly, there is always the possibility that for some reason they didn't receive their invitation. There's no need to scold them for not responding, it's just important to find out whether they will be there or not.
Unfortunately, guests will string you along until the day of the wedding if you don't put your foot down and require that they give you a yes or a no. It seems that the people that are the ones that string you along are usually the ones that don't think they will be able to make it, but there's a little chance that they might. You need to pin them down and get either a yes or no from them, no more wishy washy, you have to give a count, and you need to know if they can come or not. Don't let them squeak out with a "maybe I can make it, I'll let you know in a couple days". You need to get a YES or a NO from them right then and there. Honestly, if you have sent your invitations out six to eight weeks before the wedding like most couples do, they have had plenty of time to figure out whether they can come to the wedding or not. Nine times out of ten, they will be able to give you an answer if you press them. Granted, there are circumstances where people just don't know. They are waiting to see if Great Aunt Tillie will be able to travel, or their daughter is supposed to deliver imminently but they don't know exactly when. Unfortunately, sometimes they just need to call it and make a decision. I'll warn you, most of the guests that are on the fence will end up being no's. Now, do you want to pay for the meal and bar for people who end up not coming? Of course not! And we don't want you to have to pay for people that don't end up coming either. So work hard at getting definitive answers from guests once the deadline has passed.
Once you have a good solid number you can begin to assign tables. You don't have to assign individual seats, just the table. Even before you get your final number you can start dividing the guests who have already responded that they are coming, into groups of 8. The easiest way I find to do this is to put the names on the place cards, without the table number, as they respond, and then just make little stacks. Once you have your final number and everyone is divided into little stacks of 8 (or 7 or 9 if necessary, or even 10 if you are having over about 250) then you can go back and write the actual table numbers on the cards. Once you give us a number we can make up a room diagram for you that shows where all the tables will be located, and their numbers.
Some of you that have been in our shop lately may have noticed the seating scroll that we have. It's a beautiful piece to add to your reception, and the best thing about it, is that it comes with a computer program to do your seating assignments that makes short work of the whole thing. You email the list to them through the program and your seating chart comes back to us a couple days before the wedding, ready to go on the scroll stand! Pretty slick!
However you accomplish this, you'll be glad you put the effort into it. It's probably one of the crumbiest jobs of planning your wedding, but it's also one of the most essential and important. Your guests will appreciate knowing that they have a place, and we at Aberdeen will be able to set your tables exactly to your room diagram so that you don't have a lot of extra seats that make it appear that lots of guests are missing. It will be appreciated all around. So bite the bullet, and get going on those table assignments! :)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Moms, Brides, Friends,

You know, I really love my job. I love all the people that I get to meet and work with. I love the people that work at Aberdeen. I don't even mind the long hours and the crazy weekends. I don't love the sore feet, but I guess that's another post. There's only one thing that I really hate about my job, and that's the fact that I come to love so many of our brides, grooms and moms and dads, and once the wedding is over, they are off and gone. There have been so many people that Jim and I both have really enjoyed talking with and getting to know. It's always hard when the wedding ends, and they leave, back to their every day lives. (Sigh)

I have often compared it to being an obstetrician. We are there to help couples through a life changing transition in their lives. Just as the obstetrician helps them make the transition from being a couple to being a family, we are there for them as they make the transition from being single to being a married couple.

I've read that there are three momentous occasions in one's life--birth, marriage and death. Marriage is the only one you can really plan for! It's no wonder that everyone puts so much time, effort and money into their wedding. It really IS a "Once in a Lifetime Day". Wow! The pressure!! One chance, one day, no redo's, no second shot, no chance to do it better the next time, the next year. It's no wonder that everyone involved gets themselves worked into knots over it. My theory has always been that the biggest causes of stress are not knowing for sure if you have people hired who are going to do a good job for you and not being sure that you have addressed each and every little detail that you want to include.

Maybe that's why so many brides and moms tell me that all their friends are asking them why they aren't all stressed out about the wedding. Between our Favorites List, which gives our clients lots of options for wonderful, dependable vendors, and our Event Sheets, which we go over in detail a few weeks before the wedding to address all the little details of the wedding and reception, what is there left to be stressed about? It always seems like the brides that we see the most of, are the ones that are the most relaxed about the whole thing. They know that everything is under control, and that we are there for them.

I can't even begin to describe the deep soul satisfying satisfaction that comes to us when we know that we have made this once in a lifetime day as perfect and fabulous as it could possibly be. It makes the long hours seem short and the sore aching feet seem light. It is what makes us want to come back week after week and do it over and over again. And those moms and brides, grooms and dads that leave us and go off to their lives again? That's ok too, because I know that I'll run into them at the grocery store, or the basketball game, or any of the many places I seem to see former clients, and when I do they will have big smiles and happy memories. And we will all briefly reminisce about their big day, and they will walk away feeling all warm and fuzzy about how great their day was, and I will watch them go and feel equally warm and fuzzy knowing that I did the very best that I could do for them and that it all paid off.

Yep, I REALLY LOVE my job!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

First Dance Night Photos

As promised, here are some photos of the party, courtesy of Mark Lindemer from Transaudio.

As you can see, our couples had a great time learning some steps to use in their first dance at their receptions. It will be so much fun to see how the "real thing" turns out! The photographers love to have a few "moves" to catch on film (or digital) so be sure you let your photographer and videographer know that you are planning to "kick it up a notch"! You don't have to do an entire choreographed routine. Just a twirl here and there, and a few things like that, particularly a dip at the end, will add so much fun to your dance. And when the crowd claps and cheers you on, you will enjoy your dance even more. So practice those moves in your living room to your special song. Don't forget to use the shoes you'll be dancing in, and keep in mind that you'll have a long dress and that can add a whole new dimension to dancing! Very few wedding gowns have a "reverse"!
Keep in mind that if you have Transaudio as your DJ for your reception, you can go to their office in Crown Point for your own personal dance lesson with Susan, set to your music. It's a great opportunity to really polish your skills and get comfortable with your moves.
I'm looking forward to seeing some amazing First Dances in the coming year!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Start'em Young!

My Granddaughter, Mary Grace, who is 2 going on about 15, was sitting at my daughter's computer the other day pounding on the keyboard. "What are you doing?" Amy said.

"I'm blogging" Mary Grace said in a very serious tone.

What a turkey!!! To say that I adore this child beyond all reason is a gross understatement!

She and her little sister Claire are the absolute shining stars of my life. Grandchildren are the world's best kept secret, what a joy. There isn't all the baggage of parenting them, all you have to do is love them. I just love love love my baby girls. All of you that are having a bad day being a mom? Believe me, it's so worth it, because someday these crazy children you are raising will bring you grandchildren! Score!!!!!
Amy has a delightful blog which is admittedly probably more interesting to me because I'm her mom, but she really has some useful and insightful things to say, particularly in regard to mothering and having two children under two. I love her sense of humor. She has great promise as the next Irma Bombeck.

First Dance Night!

Wow! What a fun evening! I hope that all of our couples and their parents had as much fun as I did! We should be able to post some photos from the party here in the next couple of days. Thanks to everyone that made it happen--all of our wonderful vendors, my fabulous staff, and most of all, of course, all of you that attended.
I want you all to know that we didn't forget about the door prizes! What happened was this. I hadn't planned on going over to the chapel, but several folks at the party asked if they could see it, so after the dance lesson we went to see the chapel. While we were over there, people started leaving, which was understandable in the whole scheme of things, but needless to say, when I got back to the ballroom, half the folks had left! So we decided to do the drawing and call the winners and let them know what their prize is. I promise, it will all be on the up and up, and we will let the winners know this coming week.
As I mentioned at the party, the doorprizes/bingo sheet thing was a thought that hit me the night before, and we really didn't have a lot of time to work the bugs out. It worked really well though, and I think we will probably do it again in November. The difference is that we'll have a few months to think about it this time!
Thanks for coming to First Dance Night! I hope that you had as much fun as I did. Our next First Dance Night will be November 30th (this is the Sunday after Thanksgiving) and we are thinking it will probably be a little earlier in the evening, maybe 4 to 7? If you have an opinion on the time, please feel free to comment, I would appreciate your input!