Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thoughts About Hosting

On Friday night, Matt and I hosted another Heights Time Bank potluck. I made a homemade cake, heated up some tamales from Whole Foods, and provided a bottle of pomegranate soda.

I had a grand time! I met new people, and forged a stronger relationship with a new member who I met the week before. One of her Time Bank services is to call the cable company and [actually, I better not completely incriminate myself and my new friend so publicly]. Anyway, I went over to her house for the aforementioned censored service last week, ate a delicious homecooked meal, and watched TV with her and her sister.

At the Time Bank potluck, we chatted, ate yummy food, and played Apples to Apples. As I cleaned up at the end of the night, I noticed that the ice bucket was completely empty. I laughed and thought to myself, "I'm a terrible hostess!"

And then I started wondering. What if being a terrible hostess is what helps me enjoy myself so much? What if not giving a darn about the ice bucket helped me stay fully present and focused on having fun? Am I on to something? Is this a potential piece of advice for people who are getting ready to host their own weddings?

I'm perpetually wondering about ways to help people completely immerse themselves in their own weddings and experience the moment deeply and authentically. I am saddened when I hear people say that their weddings just "flew by" and they were forced to live them through the photographs after the fact.

One thing came to mind: Don't try to be The World's Best Hostess. In my mind, The World's Best Hostess always puts other people's needs first. She is constantly monitoring the situation to make sure people are enjoying themselves and that the chip bowl is full. Even when things are going right, she tries to anticipate what could possibly go wrong so that she can help avert disaster. She's never fully in the moment because she's assessing and orchestrating the moment.

If you bring this mindset to your wedding (which is natural, since you've most likely been planning the party for months and months!), you're potentially less likely to fully experience the profoundness of the moment.

Matt and I tried to put systems in place to keep ourselves from having to be the hosts at our own wedding. We didn't have the money (or the desire) for a "day of" coordinator, so we decided to divvy up a bunch of different jobs to our friends and family. Because each job was so small and we spent time typing up specific directions, people didn't have to bother us with questions while they were trying to do their jobs.

We also put detailed information on our wedsite about what was happening and when. That way, everyone was the keeper of the agenda, not just us. We recreated the agenda on a giant piece of chart paper and posted it in a centralized location, so everyone could reference it as necessary.

Finally, we hired the innkeepers for six hours during the reception. They set everything up, heated up all the food, and cleaned up mostly everything. We also communicated a very detailed agenda to them, so they were very clear about what to do and when.

I think our strategies helped us more fully experience our wedding. Don't get me wrong: there were certainly times when I decided to refill the chip bowl and snuck down into the basement for refills, but it's really because I wanted a moment to sink into the silence and think to myself, "This is really happening!"

What are your thoughts about the paradox of hosting and ways to fully experience your wedding?

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Sarah said...

I guess it's also possible to be both. My fiance and I host monthly-ish movie nights, where we provide soda and movie popcorn and we all watch a movie. Sometimes people bring stuff, sometimes not. Usually I make the popcorn after people have started to arrive, but I'm always talking to someone, too. I guess I feel like if you invite folks over to your house, you want to make sure that everything is taken care of to the best of your ability. That being said, a host hovering over the chip bowl to make sure it's full isn't really being a host in the full sense of the word (interacting with his/her guests) but fixating. Maybe what I'm saying is that my definition of host is more broad:)

That being said-- the ice bucket being empty... MEH! :) Sounds like everyone had a great time.

We are doing our own wedding, and I love love love the idea of typing tasks out. We'll have to do that.

A Los Angeles Love said...

I think this is why I definitely want to farm out tasks to friends and possibly even hire an acquaintance (who I know through working events) as a day-of-coordinator. I already know I'll feel compelled to check on everyone else's needs, but I know I'll be happiest if I wake up that morning and let go.

michele @ a surprise wedding said...

You're so wise, Sara.

The first year that Eric and I lived together, we threw a big holiday party and invited 25 friends to our teeny tiny apartment. I went WAY overboard, spending far too much money and making a truly ridiculous amount of food, much of which had to be cooked immediately before serving.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Not only did I spend the entire night in the kitchen, missing out on all the FUN, at the end of the night I found that VERY LITTLE of the food even got eaten. Not because people didn't eat it, but because I just plain made way too much of it.

I learned that lesson well and these days, our annual holiday party involves a couple cheap, easy, make ahead (or even BUY ahead) appetizers, chocolate fondue, and booze.

Oh, and A LOT of fun for everyone - including me.

Jaime said...

Ah, you just helped me make peace with the wedding we had a few weeks ago :)

It was DIY all the way, and perhaps I didn't delegate the food tasks and decorating tasks quite enough, and then I just let go and enjoyed myself once the party got started. Looking back I'm a bit horrified that half the decorations didn't go up, and I have no idea how the food ended up on the table because I certainly didn't do it, and the cookie buffet ran dry because no one knew where the extras were... in many ways the reception was a total wreck, but we had FUN and we got to spend SO much time with our guests - so I guess by some standards, we did it all right!

Autumn said...

Sara, I think you hit the nail on the head. You'll miss out on your own wedding fun if you try to play hostess, so you need to HAND IT OFF. It can be to a friend, relative, venue employee, whatever. I think this is easier in a "traditional" type wedding because it will be in a venue that handles lots of weddings and someone will be on hand to make sure things go smoothly, but it can work in a DIY type wedding also. We had our wedding at a state park that handles lots of meetings and groups, so we had a great catering coordinator, but she wasn't a wedding planner/ day of coordinator by any stretch, so I asked friends to help with small wedding tasks (set up the cupcakes, hand out programs, serve wine for the first 30 min. of cocktail hour when everyone storms the bar...). And my stepmom really stepped up (this was not even planned) when it was pouring rain and we had to figure out how to move everything inside to our rain location, and I really just needed to get dressed, relax, and go be in photos.

You just need to find that person or people, make sure you're on the same page, and then let it go. AND (this was crucial to my enjoying my own wedding day) you have to be ok with things not being exactly as you planned, and not let them affect your joy on the day. I could list 10 things that went wrong, but none of them really bothered me because I made a conscious effort not to let them. I had a smile on my face and joy in my heart, and I bet no one knew about any of the "wrong" things because so many other things were right (great music, good food, people mingling and dancing, me enjoying the party with my new husband!).

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