(Not) Planning a Wedding
(or, The Landslide)
(or, You Get What You Pay For)
It's been said that "he who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer."
There are times in life when normal, intelligent folks are impelled to seek the
help of a professional because matters of significant amounts of money and/or
property are at stake, perhaps even one's own freedom.
When children are entangled with the law, due to accident or purposeful act,
few parents can be found who fail not only to post bond but subsequently seek the best
legal advice they can get, regardless of cost. A child's arrest is a significant
milestone in the timeline of family life. It happens to bad kids, but also to
good kids (e.g., getting arrested for participating in a demonstration to advance a cause they
believe to be important).
Why, then, when the children get married, (another milestone in the timeline
of family life) do some parents figure that they can skip the "expensive" professional and coordinate the whole affair themselves?
Sure, dad, you might be Director of Finance for your company. Mom might've
attended dozens of weddings in her lifetime. That doesn't mean you qualify to be
a Wedding Planner.
The father of the bride was having his fourth Tanqueray and Tonic. The
frequency with which he blurted out "Nothing's too good for my little
girl" in a given five-minute period was a function of how many cocktails he'd
consumed. Meanwhile, daddy's little girl sat there, trying her very best to
ignore the embarassing outbursts.
The only thing daddy said more frequently than "Nothing's too good for my
little girl" was "so tell me what that's gonna cost." Curiouser and
The caterer they were speaking with sighed and nodded very slightly as
daddy's little girl rolled her eyes. It'd so far been a one-and-a-half-hour
meeting, and from the looks of things, it wasn't going to end soon.
After much tasting, (and much drinking on dad's part) a menu was hammered
out. The planning sheet was then duly created (it would later become their
"Who're you using for your party planner?" asked the caterer as he filled
out the client information section of the planning document.
"We were hoping to use you," the bride-to-be finally spoke.
"Alright. I'll need a retainer of three hundred dollars. You'll also be
charged for my time in the event you make significant changes to the plans we've
drawn up this evening. My compensation, however, is not commission-based, so
rest assured that getting the best value for you is my primary concern. There
is, of course, the conflict of interest dilemma because my company will be providing food.
Should you be concerned about that, I can also shop around and get estimates
from other area caterers for the same fare, by way of giving you reassurance
that you're in no way being overcharged."
"We'll get back to you!" Dad interrupted harshly.
The Telephone Call
The bride telephoned the caterer. "We've decided to use you for our
wedding. Er, the food part. We've been looking on the Internet at several
vendors for party rentals, and also for per-diem servers. We think we've
got a handle on the whole thing."
"So what do you want me to do, just deliver the food to the site?"
"Yes. Can you also provide us with beer and wine?"
"That will involve a one-day beer and wine sale permit pursuant to state
liquor laws, but the permit fee's only $75 and I can return any unopened bottles
for credit, so you won't be stuck with all sorts of stuff lying around the
"Good. By the way, we're not going to do the toast with champagne. I love
plum wine and would like enough to be ordered for the toast."
"Okay, I'll get to work on it. Just one thing, even if you don't use me to
plan your party, I strongly recommend that you seek the services of a party
planner of some sort. The details of these things can get very, very complex. A
party planner's services also provide peace of mind at a time when you'll
naturally be a bit nervous..."
"We'll be fine. My fiancé and I can deal with it."
THEM: We don't want any mushrooms in any of the food.
THEM: Can you make sure that we have plenty of vegetarian sushi for one of the bridesmaids.
THEM: We've decided to use a different rental company than the one you recommended. They're more
competitive if you rent the tent as well as the dishes from them.
CATERER: My people can provide a tent and dishes as well. You didn't tell me you wanted a tent.
I also understand you won't be using the waitstaff company I'd recommended. Will
you be using family?
THEM: We've found someone from the area to provide waiters and waitresses.
Don't worry, we'll be fine.
THEM: You won't need to bring any wine or beer, my cousin's got that covered. But please
don't bother with the permit, just provide the plum wine for the toast.
A dry run was made the day before merely so the site could be inspected for
sources of water, power and the like. A light rain fell; but the forecast for
the following day was optimistic.
The tent was far too small for the twelve tables (to accommodate 95 guests) that were squeezed therein. An ugly blue tarpaulin hung on a ramshackle wooden skeleton formed the "deejay booth." The food staging area was covered by an equally ridiculous tarpaulin. Instead of the customary six-foot-long folding tables, the dining table from the homeowner's patio furniture had been set there.
The Day Arrives
The clouds opened up that morning and a downpour ensued that would perhaps cause even an atheist to convert and commence Ark-building immediately.
"I thought you'd never show up!" The mother of the bride failed to notice that she was early and the sushi truck was early, too. Perhaps what confused her was the fact that a dozen or so attendees hadn't bothered to go to the church, instead opting to show up at the reception site two hours early. Those guests were already busy helping to open the bar (and sampling, too; you know, just to make sure).
The tables, although crowded, were, however, absolutely beautiful.
The couple had ordered lovely off-white china with a gold circle around the outside. The flatware was high-quality stainless. Sure, the glassware left a little to be desired, but at least there was plenty of it. Lovely pastel cloths covered the tables, and contrasting napkins graced each place-setting. Much to the shock of the caterer, an enormous soup-plate sat upon the service plate at each setting.
"What would you like me to put in the bowls?" he asked of the lady in charge of the servers.
"The client only ordered a 'salad display,' suitable for about a third of the guests here. Perhaps we ought to walk around and dish it out to those who want it, rather than just handing out a tablespoon or so to every diner."
"Oh, no. If you have salad on the menu, you've gotta give 'em all salad." She donned plastic gloves, mixed the dressing and started dishing out hefty portions, which were then whisked to the tables by her staff. Her utter disregard of the instructions written on the carefully-crafted planner surprised the caterer. He was becoming keenly aware that he was surrounded by a group of some of the most hysterical people he'd encountered in his long experience in the business.
By now, the wineglasses on the bar (underneath yet another leaky tarpaulin) were filling with water and plant material from the trees nearby. The glasses hadn't been properly inverted, but instead were upright. And in that position they did what glasses do, accommodate whatever's poured (or falls) into them.
The guests did not wait for the sushi to be passed. Instead, the lone sushi chef was surrounded by a crowd that, but for their attire, could've been mistaken for the starving hordes vying for bags of rice at a UNICEF food-drop in a third-world country.
Mother of the groom: "Can't you see that half these people don't have salad?! I want them all to have salad!"
"What we have here is all of what your son and daughter-in-law instructed I order. I'm quite sorry but there's no more salad."
"I'm famous for my parties," the old woman continues. "I'm so upset I can hardly breathe. This is an embarrassment and a shame and I don't know how you can call yourself a caterer."
"I'm not a caterer. In fact, I was supposed to drop the food off and leave. Out of my concern for your satisfaction, I've decided to give the servers a hand."
An inspection of the boxes that the flatware had come in revealed them empty. Not a single serving spoon, tongs, nor other serving utensil was in sight. They'd not ordered them. The caterer discreetly opened his bottle of Ativan and took another pill, the third that day.
Looking on the bright side, the caterer that day met three servers who were the sweetest, most customer-dedicated and hard-working he'd met in a long time. They, like he, were completely soaked to the bone, owing to the fact that those in service had to walk the periphery of the tent, right where the run-off of rainwater was coming down. It was a little like a 65-degree shower. With one's clothes and shoes on.
"Did that bush just move or is it my imagination?" Sweet waitress number one pointed in the direction of the landscaping next to the house.
"Yep. It's moving." The caterer and the waitress watched, speechless, as an Azalea bush and several Petunia plants, surrounded by bright red cedar mulch, began making their way down the steep hill toward the tent. The tent, you see, had been situated in the spot on the property with the lowest elevation. The rain runoff from the hills surrounding the house had begun to pool on the dance floor. Later a relative would explain to anyone who'd listen that the mother of the groom (the homeowner) had had $2,800 worth of landscaping done just days before the event.
The entirety of the mulch, quaint little white picket fence effects, Azaleas, Petunias, and an evergreen or two ended up in what used to be the grass in front of the sushi bar.
Entrees were served quickly. The caterer ignored the rants of an older relative who insisted that "The gooks were our enemy. This is all damned gook food and I can't stomach any of it!"
The crowd was making its way up and down the hill to the bar area, and becoming quite properly lubricated. A cousin, making yet another trip to his car for his stash of hard liquor, fell on his behind and slid, in the mud, back to the tent, to the delight and applause of nearly all who caught a glimpse of his plight.
No coffee had been ordered from the caterer. It had been brewed in somebody's 20-cup "Party Perk." So it was time to go.
The two men who lifted the heavy sushi refrigerator ended up literally ankle-deep in mud and had to hand-off the refrigerator to two other fellows who'd somehow situated themselves on patches of terra firma.
The caterer plodded up the hill to his car. A splitting headache was causing him to see spots before his eyes. As he passed the long, flat front yard, where no water was pooling and the tent should've been set up anyway, an interesting thing happened. During the event, there was a gaggle of older women (hereinafter the "nasty ladies") who were speaking about the party in an extremely negative manner, and, of course, trying to place blame. Their volume of their voices raised intentionally every time he neared their table. Ethics dictated that the caterer keep his mouth shut about what was ordered and what was not, particularly to individuals not involved in making payment for his services. If they wanted to blame him, so be it.
The interesting thing that happened was that somehow, the nasty ladies had decided to ascend the hill, going after the caterer to get in just a few last verbal barbs. Although they were arm-in-arm, it wasn't enough to keep them balanced. Like a row of dominoes they fell upon one another, and together with the mulch, Azaleas, Petunias (and the evergreen) descended the hill in a very similar manner to the drunk cousin who'd gone down the hill earlier in the day.
READ A VERY GOOD BOOK: I DO: Planning your wedding with nothing but 'net by the lovely and creative Hatshepsut is now up for pre-order on Amazon.com! Go to her homenode for current information re: pre-order or "for sale now" 'cause I may not have updated this.
FOLLOW-UP NOTE: AS OF 6/16/2006, THE CATERER HAS NOT YET RECEIVED PAYMENT FROM THE CLIENT. EVERY OTHER PROVIDER OF SERVICES/EQUIPMENT HAD BEEN PAID IN FULL UPON DELIVERY. THE CATERER, NOT WANTING TO RUIN THE BRIDE'S DAY ANY FURTHER, HAD DECIDED TO MAIL THE BILL. A PHONE CALL WENT UN-RETURNED. THE BRIDE HAD CHANGED HER NAME AT WORK, AND THEREFORE HER EMAIL. AFTER SOME SLEUTHING, ENOUGH INFORMATION WAS GARNERED TO COMMENCE A LAWSUIT AGAINST THE CLIENT, WHICH WILL NOT ONLY GET THE CATERER PAID, BUT PAY HIS LEGAL FEES, AND ADDITIONAL CHARGES WHICH, HAD THEY PAID THE BILL, WOULD HAVE BEEN WAIVED. SAVE A PENNY, LOSE DOLLARS, GOES THE OLD ADAGE
UPDATE 5/6/07: JUST REVISITED THIS WRITEUP AFTER RECOMMENDING IT TO A NODER WHO'S GETTING MARRIED. HAPPY TO REPORT THAT THE ENTIRETY OF THE BILL WAS PAID SOME TIME AGO, 'CAUSE IT TURNS OUT AS BLUSTERY AND FEARLESS AS HE MAY HAVE SEEMED, THE FATHER OF THE BRIDE, IT TURNS OUT, IS AFRAID OF TWO THINGS: THE FIRST BEING SPENDING HIS MONEY, BUT THE SECOND, LAWYERS. HE REALLY GOT SCARED WHEN HE GOT THE COMPLAINT FROM SMALL CLAIMS. I TOLD HIM WHAT HE'D HAVE TO PAY TO GET THE SUIT DROPPED AND A RELEASE SENT TO HIM. HE PAID EVERY PENNY.