Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Moxie Bride and the Fine Art of Guest Maintenance

This past weekend, I had a great conversation with one of my favorite wedding bloggers,  Renee, the Moxie Bride (www.thatbridesgotmoxie.com). Renee is an actress, singer and entrepreneur in Los Angeles, who is, well, planning her wedding 3,000 miles away in Philadelphia. And that's where things get  interesting. Here's a transcript:
Liz: Thank you so much for agreeing to talk with me. Renee and I have met a couple of times before. The first was during my #AskLiz twitter chat last month, with @brokeassbride.  You had a question about - well, (laughing), maybe you should explain it.

Renee: We’re getting married at the Down Town Club, which is right in the heart of downtown Philly. It’s a historic building, and they have all these sort of quirky rules? One of which is that no one is allowed to be barefoot or in their stocking feet, ever. Not even children. So, at our wedding, if someone decides to take off their shoes, the staff will tell them to put them back on! So, my question to you was, how do I tell people this, should I put it on the invitation? (Laughs) It’s not going on the invitation, we’re going to take your advice and put it on the website. But I was thinking we need to get something for people to put on their feet, because you know, you want to dance and you take off your shoes. Have you ever heard of that before?
Liz: No, I haven’t. And that's actually one of the reasons I love this gig so much. Someone comes up with something like this, and it’s like, oh, yeah, something else to think about! (Laughs) Generally, when I get a question like that, it’s because the venue is near the beach or on the beach, and it took a minute to realize that this was actually inside the venue!
Renee: It’s a ballroom! A high-ceiling gorgeous ballroom, and no one can be barefoot. I don’t know how it’s going to go down. I’m just waiting for someone to tell one of my aunts that she has to put her shoes back on and watch the Brooklyn unleash, “what are you talking to me about my shoes??” I’m just waiting for something to go down that’s not at all fun.(Laughs)
Liz: Are you going to have a videographer? Because, you know, you’ll get to capture THAT moment!
Renee: That was another question I was going to ask you. We don’t really have it in our budget to have a videographer, but we have a kick-ass wedding photographer.  We’re kind of on the fence. So, we’ve been looking other options such as Story Mix Media, and Wedit, where they give you a bunch of little video cameras and you give them to your guests, and then they edit them. What’s great is that we have a lot of friends in film and TV world who are professional camera people, so I think the quality would be good. I just don’t know anyone in real life who’s used them.
Liz: Neither do I, right now. I was impressed with how it works, though,and the price point. There's not a lot of room for disappointment. But, I think if you can’t fit videography into your budget, that it’s not going to be a problem committing your aunt’s freak-out to memory!
Renee: (Laughs) And that’s how I feel about most things, too.  I just sort of hope to be present that day, and not need to have a photo or video of every single thing. Although, people tell me that I’m not going to remember my day at all.
Liz: You probably will. But it does go by kind of fast. I tell all of my brides to just take a moment every once in a while during the wedding, and enjoy it. Look around, and think, “wow, this is so cool.” You’re surrounded by all the Pretty, and your family and friends and everything. And that’s what I do at each of my weddings, just bask for a couple of minutes. “Yeah, it happened! Look how happy everyone is!”
Renee and I met for the second time at Camp Mighty a few weeks ago. And everyone was talking, and Renee said, hey, I was the girl with the weird shoe question. And I was thrilled because I really wanted to know how that turned out! But, there are always things like that at a wedding that you can’t completely control. I get these type of questions all the time. Like the question I answered on The Broke-Ass Bride last week, where a bride was worried that guests were going to bring gifts to her wedding, and she didn’t want them to. And, you know, people are going to bring gifts. You can do the best you can, but someone is not going to get the memo, or not care about the memo, and bring gifts. Or babies are going to cry in the back of the room. You can’t get people to turn off their cell phones. Or even RSVP when they're supposed to. It’s human nature. So, you can only do the best you can and roll with it. But back to you! So, you’re from the east coast, how long have you been in L.A.?
Renee: 11 years. Like forever. Longer than I lived anyplace else, even when I was growing up! I was born in Brooklyn, move to Long Island in high school, went to Chicago for college, and then moved back to New York for a few years, and then moved to L.A. I was 25 and I thought, if I’m going to leave, if I’m going to live anyplace else, then I should do it right now, before I settled down. Let’s just go. I don’t recommend doing it that way!
Liz: Why?
Renee: It was all very capricious. “I’m moving to Los Angeles! Next month!” And everyone was like, “what??” Yeah. But that’s how I am, a little bit.
Liz:  But, now you’re getting married in Philadelphia. How did that happen?
Renee: My fiancé was born in Philadelphia, raised in New Jersey. Our entire family is east coast – New York, Conneticut, Staten Island, New Jersey, Long Island. And when we were dating, and talking about getting married, I’d planned this entire wedding at Union Station, in downtown L.A. “This is what we’re doing.” But then you meet your significant others' family, and you realize that there are some elderly people who aren’t psyched to get on a plane to go to Los Angeles. And that’s not really fair. So we realized that it would be easier for us to go to them. Well, easier for them! The wedding we’re having is actually the third incarnation of the wedding I’d planned. I thought, okay, we’ll just do it in the summer time, at a winery in New Jersey, under a tent, and it will be fantastic. But when I officially started planning in April and called venues, it was like, “Sorry, we don’t have anything until 2014.” What? I was shocked. You have to be kidding me. And, of course, they had the odd Thursday or Friday date, but that wasn’t going to work for our people. Okay, then, what’s the third idea? (Laughs)
And, you know, I’m a city gal, and Bob the Builder is a city guy, so what we’re ending up having makes sense. It’s a really urban city wedding in a traditional ballroom, with amazing city views. You know, we’re not really winery under a tent people. So, we’re ending up with the wedding we should be having.
Liz: So, even through all the three incarnations, what were the three most important things to you, for your wedding? What was it that you had to have?
Renee: We had to have the ceremony and reception in the same place, because we both hate that dreaded travel gap. We wanted a place that easy to get to with public transportation, since we have friends coming from Manhattan that don’t have cars. And, this was actually turned into a weird one because it was so hard to find in Philadelphia, we wanted to find a reception room that also had a dance floor in the same room. This was a no-brainer for me, because that's what every wedding I'd ever been to looked like. Fut there were so many places where they were like, “well, you eat here, and then you go dance over there.” There was a yacht, where you eat on the main floor , and then you go upstairs to dance.  I didn’t expect that to be a sticking point, but it actually was! Because - and I’m going to get a lot of flack for this - but I think that if you’re hosting a wedding, or just a party, a girls night at your house, that it’s important to be a good, gracious host.
Liz: What do you mean by that?
Renee: I just think that your guests should always be comfortable, and not be concerned about “where do I go, what should I do?” The best events that I’ve been to have been where I don’t have to think about any of that. You sit down and there’s a ceremony, and then you get up and there’s cocktails and food. It just flows smoothly. What I’m seeing, especially on wedding blogs, and all the things that get thrown on you when you’re a bride, they talk about making it your day, your day, your day. Well, first of all, it’s our day, myself and my fiancé, and you’re throwing it for other people, too, so you have to take that into consideration. And these venues would say, “Oh, it’s fine, people will eat down here and then go upstairs,” but we have a 90-year old woman coming, and I’m not going to ask her to go up and down a stair case on a boat.
Liz: Yeah, I’ve found that the more people you add to a situation, the more confusing it can become. You said you’re having 200 guests?
Renee: (Sigh) Yeah.
Liz:  (Laughs) Yeah.
Renee: We’re inviting 200 people. We’re both Italian and we have big families! And it’s a destination wedding for most of them, even though the travel time is short. I don’t know how many people will end up attending, but we’re inviting 200.
Liz: When you’re dealing with a lot of people, things can just get confusing. It’s a huge crowd of people who are all trying to do the same thing, and go to the same place at the same time. And you’ve got a limited number of space and resources  to figure out how to direct everyone. It’s a bad analogy, but it’s like trying to maneuver in a mosh pit.
Renee: Yeah, it is kind of like that.
Liz: So, at my weddings, my assistant and I always stake out the transition points. So, when people walk out, and they inevitably ask what’s next, we can just say, “You go that way.”
Renee: Exactly!
Liz: And, have someone at the place card tables. When you’ve got 200 people trying to reach for the same thing, they can’t find what they need as quickly.  I ask my couples to print out a list of all their guests by last name – always by last name – and by table number. So, if a guest can’t find their name on the table right away, we can look it up really quickly. Make it as simple as possible. But, yeah, when you tell them, “We’re going to go upstairs and go dancing,” that’s 200 people that all have to get up the stairs.
Renee: Yes, that’s what I was thinking! And, it’s a yacht, and there are two staircases. It was lovely, but there’s no way. And, we have children coming, and it’s all open, you know how boats are. There’s a little gate that corrals the side. And I thought, some kid is going to swing on it like monkey bars and then we’re going to be done.
Liz: (Laughing). Okay, that’s probably not funny, even though it sounds funny.
Renee: You're right, it’s not funny. I am so sorry, parents with children. That is why we’re not having our wedding on a boat. We’re doing you a favor.
Liz: (Laughing) People with no children. Anyone who would be offended anywhere. Renee and I are joking.
Renee: And on my blog, I’m like this, I’m so offensive, too. I’m sorry, general public.
Liz: That’s okay, why be boring. Boring is so, you know…boring.
Renee: Exactly.
Liz: But also, speaking of a general public announcement, if there are brides out there who are thinking, “Oh, my God, my wedding IS on a yacht,  or everyone does have to go upstairs,” or you’ve in another situation that is fraught with challenges. There are a couple of things you can do about it. Like I said, I appoint one my assistants to direct people. So, if you don’t have a wedding planner, or help, just go through your venue, and figure out where that type of assistance needs to be.
Renee: Everyone has a bossy friend, one who likes being in charge of things. Just ask him or her to be that person for a certain amount of time during the day. It makes sense.
Liz: And, place cards. Place cards, place cards. Alphabetized list, have someone behind the table to help send guests on their way. It makes it a lot less stressful for everyone.
Renee: That’s a great idea, like a cruise director for the wedding.
Liz: Exactly. And, they don’t have to be there for the whole time, maybe just through the last half of the cocktail hour. Because I agree that, the wedding is all about you, it is your wedding. But part of having the wedding you want is creating a situation where your guests are comfortable. You want to walk into the room knowing that everything is taken care of, and everyone is having a good time. You’re not going to have a good time if you think you’re guests aren’t having a good time.
But again, there are some things that you can’t control, like your aunt taking off her shoes when she’s not supposed to. You can’t really do anything about that!
Renee: Well, I’ll tell you what, since you wanted an update on that. My wedding venue was just recently sold. I found out about it on the internet. I'm going to blog about that [she did]. I kind of freaked out. It’s a whole new company, so I don’t know if they’re going to keep the same quirky rules. I don’t know if we’re going to need the shoes, we might be able to have a shoeless wedding. So bizarre. But, we also weren’t allowed to hang anything on the walls, people couldn’t order more than one drink at a time from the bar. Oh, and there had to be a baby sitter for the children, which I totally understand.
Liz: Oh yeah, that’s a good idea, especially since you’re going to have a lot of kids, right?
Renee: Yeah, there are going to be 10 -20 children on the wedding, so they need someone to watch them. I don't know what they're watching them for, exactly. Make sure they’re not scribbling on the walls, or something. “Don’t touch the fancy drapes!”
Liz: What strikes me about that rule is that, you know, if you tell people that they can’t do something, then it makes certain people want to do it more! Like, it would never have occurred to them to take off their shoes in the first place but now that they can’t, they really want to. That’s going to be interesting, I can’t wait to read that recap!
Renee: The other thing, too is, I’ve lived in L.A. for 11 years, and I don’t think I’ve worn a pair of pantyhose since. It’s L.A., no one wears pantyhose. But back east, everyone wears pantyhose, my mother wears them in the summertime, I think! So, everyone was saying, “just get some flip flops,” but I can’t because –
Liz: Everyone’s wearing pantyhose.
Renee: Exactly. I know my family, none of them are wearing flip-flops!
Liz: So, when are you getting married?
Renee: October 12, 2013. It’s Columbus Day weekend. We wanted a longer weekend, because of the travel. We wanted to give everyone a buffer day, in case they wanted to stay in Philadelphia an extra day, look around
Liz: Yeah, people are definitely going to be wearing pantyhose in October!
Renee: For sure. 

Stay tuned for part two of our interview on Thursday, when Renee and I discuss how she ultimately found her venue, and her keys to managing long-distance planning. 
See you at the end of the aisle, 

Liz Coopersmith
Silver Charm Events
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