I will say this: if ever a person I know is getting married and reaches out to ask me to do them a favor, anything from helping to put stamps on invitations to translating their wedding ceremony into French, I will be so jazzed to help. And while it might be a logical conclusion to assume that everyone else in the world is in a similar mind-frame, I realized during wedding planning that I doubt the kindness of others. Asking someone to do me a favor is so, so hard for me... and so when it came time to reign in the finances of our wedding and reach out to our talented friends and family, the task did not come anxiety-free.
When I looked at the guest list, it was amazing how many talents we could assemble under one tent. Do you know how amazing your friends and family are? They are fascinating people with fascinating things to say to each other... and in many cases, they are really good at something that you are not so good at.
Here are some people who made our day special, not only because of the time and effort they spent on an aspect of our wedding, but because when I looked around the tent that night, I could feel the presence of their effort. The whole thing throbbed with good will. And that was a very auspicious way to begin our lives together, indeed.
My friend Evelyn is a cellist and offered her services as a gift to us. We paid the other three members of her quartet to come and provide beautiful music during our ceremony. Again, it wasn't so much about having pretty music in the background... the connection to Evelyn and knowing that there was someone behind the music who loved us, well that really made it special.
Anyone who has planned a wedding has had a heart attack at the price of florists. WHERE DO THEY COME UP WITH THOSE PRICES? We decided to buy a bunch of cut flowers from Stew Leonard's (a big grocery market) the day before the wedding and arrange them in collected jam jars for the centers of the tables the morning of the wedding. (This is as close to Martha Stewart as I get.)
The problem remained, however, who would be available to arrange said flowers. My family and I would be getting ready and my bridesmaids were otherwise engaged. Cue two friends from Muhlenberg, Leigh and Courtney, who volunteered to drive to my parents' house, pick up the flowers and the jars, bring the whole deal to the venue and assemble jars of flowers for the tables. Apparently they also did this with some college music blasting in the background and I couldn't believe how amazing these came out. With no flower arranging experience, the centerpieces looked styled and matched the locale perfectly.
The Sound System & Emcee
My friend Becky married a sweet guy named Alan, who does sound engineering for a number of television shows. When we decided to skip a band and make an iTunes playlist ourselves, we realized we needed a couple of huge speakers.
Enter sound engineer Alan. Alan and Becky drove up speakers and a microphone from Brooklyn, set them up in the tent the afternoon of the wedding and monitored the whole thing all night. I felt the most guilty about their contribution for some reason, as if it was a major, major imposition on them. But they were so game and the iTunes playlist sounded perfect coming out of that tent.
At the same time we knew that we'd need someone to do a few announcements throughout the evening. (This is another thing you lose when you avoid hiring a band...) So I reached again for a high school friend, Jay, who is outgoing and a great speaker. Jay did an awesome job announcing the wedding party as we entered, inviting guests to serve themselves at the buffet and reminding people that the shuttle bus was leaving for the hotel at the end of the evening. Such a key role and we were so happy to have a friendly face filling it!
My mother has talked about wedding cake for my entire life. Oh, how she loves wedding cake! Real wedding cake! No one really knows what she's talking about (for what is real wedding cake anyway?), but from the moment we got engaged, I knew she would be on a countdown to enjoying a slice.
Except. I didn't really need a wedding cake. I love cake as much as the next guy, but not for a stupid amount of money. Plus I'd been to a bunch of weddings and knew that half the people never eat the cake anyway... they're too wasted on the dance floor to sit around and wait for dessert.
I considered ordering my Mom a personalized wedding cake just for her, ordering brownies and cookies for the rest of us. But then I remembered that my Aunt JoAnn is an award-winning baker. Score!
JoAnn not only baked sheet cakes to feed all of the guests (vanilla, chocolate and pumpkin!) but she also made exactly what I told her we did not need: a fancy tiered masterpiece. My uncle, a carpenter, build shelves into a cooler so they could drive the cake from Pennsylvania to New York. We were so appreciative... and it was a damn good cake in the end! (My Mom was happy.)
Hooray for talented people in our lives! And hooray for thoughtfulness. These guests (among many others) made our wedding feel generous in spirit. Thank you!