Archive for May, 2009
Okay, I will admit, the title was just a tease to get others to read this. In reality, almost all of the wedding planners I have had the pleasure of working for/with have been just that, a pleasure.
There is a joke among many DJ’s, the worst words to hear at a reception is, “Hello, I am the wedding planner.” I usually smile, and point out that I have only had great experiences.
I have heard multiple horror stories, none of which have come close to experiences I have had.
Recently, I had all of the awful experiences combined into one wedding. I have decided to post this, not to bash wedding planners, for one “bad apple” certainly should not take away from all of the great planners that are out there. I am writing this to give the multiple examples of what can happen with a bad planner, and to let potential brides know of some potential issues.
For this story, I am going to use the name of “Betty” for the planner. Though the name is fictitious, the stories are real, and sadly, all occurred at the same wedding.
When Betty arrived at the reception, she was to have the wedding party line up for the introductions, among several other things. When I approached her for the line up, she handed me a program from the wedding, with the numbers written by most bridesmaids, and numbers written my most groomsmen. I was instructed to use this list for the introductions. When asked about the missing numbers, her reply was, “Oh, I don’t remember.” Not a big deal, easily overcome.
Betty was busy working with the bride to get her dressed ready for the walk in. I told her I would be happy to get everyone lined up. She told me not to do it, she would take care of it. At which point, she yelled, everyone get in line in the same order as we did at the church. For those that have not been part of this “inner circle” of a wedding party during the time between the ceremony and reception, it is a very happy time for everyone involved. Of course there are congratulatory remarks the fun ribbing about finally being “hitched” I assure you, very few people know in what order they walked down an aisle at the church a mere 30 minutes prior! This is not insult. My point is simply, everyone there is there because they are close friends and/or family. Their only interest is in the well being, and the celebration of this marriage, not who was directly in front of them during the ceremony!
I finally decided to go against here wishes and line everyone up. I did so, and we were ready for the grand introductions. Or so I thought. I told Betty we were ready to go, she informed me they would come to the ballroom in a couple of minutes. I asked about what the delay might be and if there was anything I could do to help. She politely told me no. I proceeded to the ballroom. Five minutes later I went back to see about the delay. Still no wedding party. Two minutes later, no wedding party. One minute later, we are ready to go. Later in the evening, I asked one of the members of the party about the delay. He replied he had no clue, they just stood there and talked while Betty was reading through some notes and talking with the bride. In fairness to Betty, there may have been some issue of which I was unaware, but when put in the context of everything else that will happen the rest of the evening, I don’t believe that to be the case.
Right after the introductions was the first dance, followed by the daughter father dance, and then the mother son dance. When I am not working with a planner, or when I am working with a good planner, each of the “players” are ready to go. When I announced it was time for the dance with the bride’s father, to my great surprise, the father was not near the dance floor, and appeared a bit surprised by the announcement. The same was true for the dance with the mother. That is nothing compared to what happened DURING the mother son dance. I glanced over to see Betty motioning for me to come to her. I will let you in on a secret about these “special dances.” I never leave, nor should any DJ leave, the system during these type of dances. I have another copy of the song playing at the same exact time as the one that is being heard. I do this in case an error, such as skipping or player malfunction occurs, I can quickly switch to the other version. Sure, it will sound “funny,” but it is better than completely ruining the dance. I shook my head no, and she came to me. She told me to make an announcement about opening the buffet line. I asked if the blessing should come first. (I knew the answer, for I had the schedule) She had no clue about it and said “Sure.” I asked her to get the father of the bride ready (he was on the schedule to do it)
Betty insisted she be the one to release tables. Why she wanted to do this, knowing the staff at the facility does this often, and well, made me curious, but I assumed she knew what to do. Needless to say, the buffet line was a disaster, for the line was too long because Betty basically was letting 2X the number of tables go, at twice the rate, then should have been for the size and selection on the buffet tables.
Now it is time for the toasts. There were two best men, a maid of honor, and a matron of honor. As the scheduled time approached, I asked Betty if she was going to get everyone ready an up front. She told me to just announce it, and everyone would come to the proper place. Awful. I refuse to act in such a manner. When it is time to toast the President of the United States, does the master of ceremonies just get on the microphone and tell people to get in place? Does the Queen of England sit around and wait? Nor should a bride. I instructed her to get the four toasters, I would get the bride and groom. I told Betty where the people should stand. She agreed. However she placed them directly in front of my table. Why is this a problem you might ask? Every picture of the toasts will have a picture of either me, or my sound system in it. I did my best to angle myself out of the picture, but there was only so much I could do, for I had to stay to control the volume, since this also placed them directly in front of the speakers. I don’t assume that Betty, or wedding planner, should know every aspect of my job. However, she agreed to place them where I suggested. Had she said she would prefer to put them in front of me, I would have pointed out why this is not a good idea.
Now we come to the time for the cake cutting. For the most part this went without problem, except for the theme of the night, just do it, and everyone will show up. I was the one that had to inform the staff it was time so they could be ready to serve the cake.
After the cake cutting, it was time for the celebration. I opened the dance set with “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry. I played a song after that, which currently eludes me. Betty then came to me and said we needed to really get the crowd going and should play some upbeat music. I pointed out I was playing upbeat music, and that most people were still getting cake, but there were some dancing. She said I should play a song “like Brickhouse.” I asked, “How about, ‘Brickhouse?'” She said I had already played that song. I corrected her, to which she replied, it was the song before this one. I corrected her again and told her the proper name of the song I played. She asked if I was sure. I assured her, I know music, it is sort of my job. She asked what I was going to play next, I replied, “Kiss” by Prince. She said she did not know that song, therefore, it won’t work. I can point out that most everyone knows the song, but of course, there are some who may not know it. If in fact, by her own admission, she did not know it, how, may I ask, does she know it “won’t work.” I gave her my headphones to listen to the song, and she said that might be okay.
Let me point out the problems with her actions here. I know the wedding planner is often the voice of the bride. I know the bride might tell the wedding planner to tell me to play a certain song or type of music. When this occurs, I react exactly as though the bride has given me an instruction directly. However, this was not the case. Betty was trying to do my job. I do not pretend to be a florist, or a wedding planner. Though I have an opinion on the works of other professions, I would never presume I know more than do they. Betty, or any other guest, telling me what to play is unacceptable. Betty has just as much right to request a song as does anyone else. I always try to play as many requests as possible, but sometimes a request would be better played later in the evening, or might not be appropriate because of instructions from the couple, or because of other reasons.
Now we are about ready to do the bouquet toss. Mind you, we are going to do it about 12 minutes before the scheduled time, for what reason, I have no idea. The dance floor was full, people were having a great time, and it was not late. But Betty came to me and said to do the garter and bouquet toss after this song. As I pointed out earlier, before I would ever be ready to do something at a reception, I would make sure everyone is ready. In this case, my checklist would be, Maid of Honor, the tossing bouquet, the parents of the bride, the photographer, and of course, the bride. I look up and saw only the bride, and the maid of honor. I asked Betty if she had told the photographer. She again recommended the “redneck” procedure of just announcing it, they will come. This is where I lost it. I tossed my microphone down on the table, much harder than I should have, and ran off to get the photographers. I told them we were about to do the tosses, and they asked, “When?” In about 20 seconds was the answer. So I ran back to my area, photographers running right behind me. I get all of the single ladies on the dance floor, I have the bride ready to go. The photographers, and video crew are all ready to go. The bride is standing in the middle of the dance floor, empty handed, no bouquet. Absolutely in-excusable. Why would Betty not know where the bouquet is, more importantly, why would she want to start the bouquet toss ceremony without the bouquet ready! It was at this moment I decided I would not be a part of any more wedding where this “coordinator” was to be working, unless me, Betty, and the bride all met together to assign proper roles and responsibilities.
Now the evening is winding down. The reception, in my opinion, could have been much better. With Betty dictating song choices based on what SHE liked, and what SHE thought would be best, it was hard for me to get a ‘groove’ flowing on the dance floor. The staff at the venue even pointed out, as I was packing up later, that the reception ended much earlier than they usually do when I am the DJ. I explained that my hands were really tied, and there was not much I could do. They said, “Betty?” They too, had problems with her.
If Betty was new, I could understand, if this was her first, or even 10th wedding reception, I could understand. We all have a learning curve. Sadly, Betty seemed to be calm and cool the whole time. Betty really believed she did an excellent job, and I could tell, this is how she operates at receptions.
When you decide to hire me, one of the first questions I ask is if you have a wedding planner. I do this, because I add it to your file so I know who to call for some basic questions, after all, you are paying them to handle the basic details of your wedding. If I discover you have hired Betty, I will either refer you to another DJ, or require the three of us meet face to face. I felt very bad for the bride of this wedding. In the end, she had a great time, however, I know how much better of a time she could have had. I really felt bad for her.
Finally, please note, I have worked with dozens of planners over the years. This is the first, and so far, only, problem I have had with a planner. I know everyone makes mistakes, but the reason these mistakes were so unforgivable, they almost all revolved around simple preparation. Write out the wedding party names, get the people involved ready before starting a portion of the reception. To me, lack of preparation is a serious problem. I make mistakes, but not many! In this reception, I started the wrong version of the song for the bouquet toss, I had the incorrect microphone turned on for a portion of the reception. However, because of my preparation, the mistakes I made were minimized, and corrected within seconds.
I hope this helps all brides out there. Just remember, when hiring a planner, or any “front” person, such as a caterer, or even DJ, make sure they know what role, how big or small it is going to be, and what responsibilities they have.
Thanks for reading!