Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not Your Typical College Job

In college, I worked part-time for a wedding consultant & event coordinator.  It was a lot of hard, stressful work, but I absolutely loved it.  Of all the jobs I’ve had, this might have been my favorite in terms of what I got to do—it was fulfilling to feel like I was even a tiny part of someone’s most special day.

Weddings were 18+ hour workdays—we would begin at dawn with production.  Production included setting up tables, placing linens and chairs, draping and pinning fabric, hanging lanterns or any number of other things, filling candle holders, and a million details surrounding these types of tasks.  It seems simple enough, but when you are decorating for a ceremony and a reception site for 250 guests, that’s a lot of freaking chairs to place—you’re setting up for two separate events.  250 people could mean 500 chairs.

One of my favorite Cake Tables that I helped decorate

The production portion of the day would typically take until mid-afternoon, and when we were finally satisfied with how everything looked and had completed our finishing touches and final tweaks to each site, we typically had about 15 minutes left to turn into beautiful, professional-looking onsite managers—changing out of sweats and into suits.  We would make our best attempt to freshen up wherever we were—a hotel, a church, an event center, a park outdoors, our car.  Summer proved especially difficult to undo a sweaty, red face and look composed and ready for anything.

We would be onsite for pre-ceremony photography and help however we were needed.  We would adjust gowns, fetch bottled water, fetch Kleenex, finalize details with vendors as they arrived—and I usually got assigned to babysitting the groom’s party, where my main task at-hand was to keep them from getting too smashed before the wedding began.

This actually is the ceremony set-up from my wedding--she is absolutely amazing!

We conducted weddings as if they were an elaborate symphony—timing was everything to make each component seen, heard, smelled, tasted and felt exactly as the bride wished and had always dreamed.  I mastered the art of wedding cake cutting, lighting 300 candles in 15 minutes, carrying 20 punch cups at a time—on my fingers, not in a box!  I felt like we were magic makers.

When these events concluded—often close to midnight, we had the pleasure of spending the final three hours of our day tearing down everything we had worked so hard to build.  At least deconstruction took far less time than production.  Cake had to be shaken out of linens, chair covers had to be removed, the candles that were still burning had to be blown out, and someone had to take those lanterns down from the 30 foot ceiling!  Oh, and who else was there to finish off that open champagne that was left behind?

Another from my wedding--our Sweetheart Table.  I admire her creativity and décor skills...

After a couple years of spending most weekends helping others enjoy themselves, I began getting burned out.  The main drawback of the business is that weddings and events typically take place during evenings, weekends and holidays—times when I prefer to do what I want, not what someone else wants.

Even though I have no desire to professionally work in wedding and event planning again, there are times when I miss the rush I would get as everything somehow fell into place, when only half an hour earlier we were sure we would run out of time.  I acquired so many skills—task prioritizing, time management, keeping my cool when I wanted to explode, being able to successfully talk someone else down who wanted to explode, winging it when plans A, B, and C fail—and still come out looking like a star.  The event planner and I are still close friends--I got married at her home and she even decorated and oversaw my wedding.  I couldn't have done it without her!

Cake Table from a Persian Wedding
There was a traditional knife dance when it was time to cut the cake!

A Few of My Most Memorable Times as an Assistant Event Planner

·         The first wedding I worked with the coordinator was in Fort Worth.  After tear-down we went to an old dive bar for a cocktail and I ordered a rum and coke, which the bartender handed to me.  I was 19.

·         A bride yelled at me after making a plate for her because I included beans with her barbeque.  I got in trouble for giving her a sampling of all of the food that she picked out for her dinner buffet.  I recently heard that she and her husband are getting divorced.

·         I danced with a groomsman at one of our event receptions, and then he asked me on a date.

·         I assisted with several events at one venue in particular—a gorgeous, huge plantation-style home with wrap-around porches, secluded on acres and acres of beautifully landscaped land out in the country.  The owners asked if I would live at their house/venue for a month while they went home to Europe on holiday.  I accepted, but that story is a blog post in itself…

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