As discussed in my recent take down of Cracker Barrel, I made a point out of noting that I think I’ve been pretty passive in this space trying not to take the offensive behind the cloak of an anonymous blog (yes, I recognize the direct contradiction in that statement).  Today however I am going in a place that I have yet to go before.  I am touching on the personal of personals, the most private of privates, and by far the most sensitive of subjects, particularly amongst the female caucus.  I am speaking of weddings – and particularly the planning and coordination of said event of course. 

A couple of quick foot notes before we dive in.  I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur in this field as I’ve attended a wedding or two in my day.  For the past six years I’ve attended no less than four weddings a year and have peaked in the eight or nine range while working off the same calendar.  I’ve attended weddings solo and with The Wife, with family and friends, and as a groomsman as well as a crasher (damn straight).  In this time I have also thrown a wedding of my own – thus The Wife – and can speak from the planning perspective as well as that of the attendee.  In full disclosure, The Wife and I violated some of these rules as well so this is certainly not from the prospective of he who is without sin…  I will tell you right now that my next wedding is going to be off the hook and you’re all invited.

In all seriousness though, having been on all sides of these (ideally) once in a lifetime events, I’ve picked up some tips and pointers in my thirty years that I’d like to drop into the public consciousness and allow you to savor.  I’m going to put these ideas out there and if you don’t like them you can send them right back.  I also want to go on record right now that this is not pointed at any one wedding (past or future), nor particular friend of mine.  It’s more a collection of best practices gathered from all the events that I have attended.  

I feel justified in this as I’ve had numerous conversations with The Wife and various other wedding guests and have found some generally accepted rules to live by in the planning of your nuptials that most everyone I’ve spoken to seem to agree with.  With summer upon us and wedding season in full swing, I would encourage you, the reader, to look for these signs in the next wedding you attend and tell me if I’m wrong.  Also, should you be planning your own event or being kept in the loop by a friend currently in the process, feel free to pass them a link to www.chi-guy.com as a check out this crazy website someone sent me, can you believe he wrote this?  Hopefully they’ll take the hint and get the event back on course for the good of yourself and the rest of the guests. 

Without further ado…

Don’t assume that people will want to take a break or catch their breath between the ceremony and the reception.  There’s nothing more awkward than the trolley with the bridal party taking off from the church and those attendees not deemed worthy of the royal chariot having to figure out what to do with the next two plus hours of our lives before the reception begins.  We’re dressed, we don’t want to rest, we want to get the real reason we came to the event underway.  Go take your pictures, just open the bar and the rest of us peasants will entertain ourselves.

Don’t have the wedding and reception more than a 20 minute drive from one another (30 at worst).  This is not a scavenger hunt.  Think of your guests as cattle, you can bring them from the field into the barn once a day.

Do spring for a band.  This comes with a big asterisk as the music is the easiest way to knock the event into the next tax bracket.  With that said it’s a fact that people like live music.  If the band is good, all the better.  If the band stinks, that works too, it gives everyone something to talk about.  In the name of live music, skimp on the food (cake included). No one will remember what they ate (good or bad) but what they’ll be talking about two years later is the band.

Don’t plan your wedding on a holiday weekend.  99% of the working population looks forward to getting a three day weekend.  That single extra day away from the office is a little slice of pie that only gets served ten times a year – and most employers only recognize pies cut into seven or eight wedges.  What they do not want is to be using that precious free time with another commitment that doesn’t involve playing golf, lounging by a pool, or sitting on a couch with a beer in their hand.  If they have to travel it’s even worse.  There are plenty of good non-holiday weekends for you to choose from.  Allow the good people who bring you gifts to enjoy their little sliver of vacation with their families at home or at a destination of their choosing.

** The single exception to this is New Years Eve.  It is easily the most overrated holiday where people make plans because they’re supposed to make plans but they rarely live up to the hype.  Throwing your wedding on NYE gives the evening a purpose and provides everyone an excuse to dress up and celebrate.  Also the groom gets a free pass on remembering the anniversay going forward**

Do go with the sweetheart table for just the two of you lovebirds in the center of the room.  A head table means that there’s a bizarro reverse table out there of abandoned spouses and dates that kind of know each other but most likely only really have bonded through the spouse/date that is sitting up front.  This day is about the two of you.  Enjoy.  Let your bridal party do the same with their loved ones.  At your wedding you’re not going to be sitting and eating anyways, don’t trap your friends up there with you.  Even when the head table works and you and your friends all sit together and enjoy the evening, it most likely means you’ve created a fiefdom and are not socializing with the other X number of guests looking on you from afar.  Get out there, be social, they’re there to see you.

Do solicit the bride for ideas about how the bachelor party should be conducted.  Every now and again you’ll get one of these

** In all seriousness the bride should not be involved in this at all, that link is just too good to not pass on**

Don’t let your bridesmaids look like idiots unless you and your friends have that kind of sense of humor.  If the girls are “healthy”, don’t put them in strapless dresses.  Unless they’re colorblind, don’t incorporate neon.  You also have to know that despite what the bridesmaids say, they will never wear the dress again.  Keep the dresses cheap and simple for aside from the pictures on your mantel, they will be forgotten within six hours.

Don’t skimp on the alcohol.  Next to the band it’s the single most important thing.  The well scotch needs to be Dewars or better.  Polska Vodka will keep your guests sober and heading for the local establishment after the cake is served.

Do go out of your way to thank both sets of parents (assuming they’re in attendance).  This is a bigger day for them that most realize until you go through it (or so I’ve been told).

Don’t drop an empty baby carrier on the dance floor as a joke.  To you and your friends – hilarious.  The rest of the party – not so much.  Just trust me on this one.

Don’t do the whole garter belt thing.  It’s never not awkward.  The day I shell out $30-100,000 for a party, the last thing I want to see is some scumbag who just weaseled his way into my family feeling my daughter up in front of my relatives and business associates.  Even the whole throwing the bouqet thing is getting a little tired but I understand the tradition.  If you’re going that route make sure the single girls in the crowd are the type that like to get rowdy.

Don’t keep your guests trapped at their dinner table.  I’ve been to weddings where from sitting at your assigned table to getting up to dance, three hours have elapsed.  I’ve never seen the life sucked out of a party more.  Keep the guests involved and active.  Again, they’re not there for the food. 

Do keep your guests informed of the agenda and logistics.  The more you can keep them in the know of where things are at, when events start, where they can park, etc. the happier they will be.  Just because you know all the details of your big day doesn’t mean everyone else does.

Don’t try to plan every minute of the wedding experience.  It will not go 100% according to plan.  Things happen.  You will live to tell about it.  The more finitely things are planned the more little hiccups disrupt the schedule.  Be cool, calm, & collected.  The big three C’s.  Words to live by in general but particularly when you’re under the microscope on your big day.  When it starts raining everyone looks to the bride.  If she smiles and splashes in a puddle the tone of the party is set.  If she freaks out it’s going to be a long evening.

Do cut loose and have fun if you’re a guest.  This is the biggest party your friends are ever going to throw.  Be memorable.  Spectators are pussies.    

Don’t get too caught up in the details.  Flowers, place settings, invitations, save the dates, etc. all fall into the category of “Details.”  The Wife is the only person I’ve ever met that can tell me three years later whether friend X had gold or silver chargers at the place settings.  If you don’t know what a charger is then there’s a 89.63% chance you’re still single. 

**This is by far the most guy-centric item on this list.  I’m sure the female readers are up in arms over this tidbit and I’ve inevitably lost credibility in their eyes**

Do add a comment to this post or send me an email (chicagochiguy@gmail.com) with additional items I’ve missed.  Weddings are great, go all in and by all accounts and enjoy yourself whether you’re a host or attendee.  Enjoy wedding season everyone.