Monday, July 18, 2016

How To Plan A Wedding . . .

Beautiful Gifts made by Grandmother of the Groom

The big day finally comes!  Your child announces she is engaged. After opening some champagne, going out to dinner and celebrating . . . it’s time to plan a wedding. I’ve learned a few things over this past year and maybe I can actually blog it and save some you a few headaches.

The very first thing the couple has to do is pick a date.  That date is important because it tells you how much time you have to get everything done. My daughter picked a date that was less than 12 months away, but assured me she would be organized and take care of everything. She even bought a “planner” to keep track of it all. Tip: Don’t believe your child when she says she will take care of everything, it ain’t happening.

I told the newly engaged couple that my husband and I would pay for the wedding and they should do whatever makes them happy.  They didn’t waste too much time picking a venue. My daughter liked the second one they saw, The Bay Ridge Manor in Brooklyn, and was satisfied she was getting a five star venue at a reasonable cost.  My husband and I accompanied them when it was time to place the deposit. First major accomplishment!

My daughter and her fiancĂ© spoke with the photographer recommended by the venue. They like him, he has great reviews, they book him and we (the parents) provide the deposit.  The photographer, who has been to dozens of weddings, recommends the company that provides the DJ and Master of Ceremonies. The couple checks them out and likes what they see and hear. We write a check for the deposit. We are getting very good at writing checks.

Time to shop for the gown in early December. We find one that’s perfect. I leave the deposit. One snafu comes up, they are all booked for alterations until after her wedding and we are on our own to find a seamstress.  When the gown arrives, about four months later, guess who has to find the seamstress . . . if you said me, you would be correct. I found a great experienced seamstress in my neighborhood and booked our first appointment.

The holidays put a little cramp in the planning. In fact, they really slow down the momentum and we have to pick things up again. We go shopping for the Mother of the Bride gown before we are hit with a major snow storm. My daughter also looks at the “Save the Date” cards online and orders some. I end up writing out all the envelopes for her because she never listened to me in grade school when I told her that her handwriting was atrocious.

Who is going to officiate at the wedding? All this planning and expense will be for nothing if we do not have an officiant. My daughter finds a priest online who is highly recommended.  He comes from New Jersey. Excuse me if this makes me a bit nervous. 

In the meantime I keep asking about the limousines. My daughter isn’t interested in limousines, she says the 10 of us can take Uber cabs to the photo site in July, in hot and humid weather, through the congested streets of Brooklyn, in her gown with the very long train. No problem, the photographer says we can.  So ultimately, I had to find the limo company myself, visit with the owner and of course pay for the service.  Here’s a tip. Listen to your gut, find a five start company. Companies with five stars will do their best, they do not want their ratings affected by a bad review as they generate a lot of their business without any real publicity.  

Who is going to do our hair and make up? My daughter has no clue and apparently this was not one of the things she was going to take care of either. One day I was at my salon talking about my dilemma when the hair stylist said she would come to the hotel that morning and do our hair and bring her make up person too. I asked her if she was serious because I had only been going there less than 6 months. She said she was. That was a huge load off my mind. 

Oh, we need some flowers too. My daughter knows nothing about flowers. All she knows is she wants a baby’s breath bouquet. She asks me to visit the florist with her and of course I happily comply. We meet with the florist, also recommended by the venue, and have a discussion. He is very helpful. The venue does provide very small centerpieces for the tables in their package, but we upgrade them to a nice size. I order two large floral arrangements for the wedding ceremony, along with corsages and boutonnieres. The florist suggests a runner and some bows for the seats. When we are done with the package, I pay for it and we leave.

There are so many more details to take care of including: engagement pictures, invitations, the bridal shower, the bachelor party, the cake topper, pictures of grandparents for a frame in memory of them, the card box, the favors for both the shower and wedding, new shoes, jewelry, new suits for the father and groom, new handbags, booking the hotel for two nights, hair pieces, hair and make up trials etc etc.  Every time you think you are done, think again.

My daughter asked me if I wanted to walk her down the aisle with her father. Of course I said yes and I was happy she asked me. She also wanted to know if I wanted to make a speech. I thought about it. As usual I like having the “last word.” After loving her and raising her for 29 years I felt I had something to say and so I said I would make a speech . . . and a memory.

Finally, here’s what you need to know. Even before your daughter gets engaged you should be online gathering vendors with five star reviews so you have a good starting point. It pays to do your homework. Visit the and other wedding sites for vendors who already have reviews. Do not believe your daughter when she says she will take care of everything. Even if she buys a huge planner and waves it around. She is going to get tired and overwhelmed, especially if she has a full time job and only has the weekends to work on it. Do not remind her you told her a year is not enough time to plan a wedding. You have to keep her calm, make sure she knows you have her back. If the Master of Ceremonies gets fired a week before the wedding, and they want to replace him, and she is a nervous wreck, tell her it’s no problem. Sometimes things work out for the best. The main thing is that she gets married and gets out of town!  If six people drop off the guest list as soon as she gets back from making the final payment at the venue and she is upset, tell her not to worry about it. What’s done is done. Whether they come or not it’s not a big deal at this point, there are worse things. Don’t forget she still has to do last minute laundry and packing for the honeymoon. She is out buying special gifts she wants to give to those who did a lot to make her day special. She is probably doing a lot more than you are aware of. Remind her to get her rest and eat well. You not only want her day to go perfectly, you want her to be able to enjoy it and the honeymoon. 

The wedding was perfect. My daughter and son in-law are in Hawaii right now. I hope they are making memories to last a lifetime and that they live happily ever after.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Take the "Best" Out of Best Western

The closest hotel to the venue where my daughter's wedding was held was the "Gregory" Best Western Hotel. It was just a few blocks away. Due to the convenience and proximity, my daughter reserved a suite of rooms for us and out of town guests. When we saw it last year it was being "renovated." I use the term loosely because after our stay there I can only imagine what it looked like before remodeling. The pictures online are deceiving.  Over the years we have stayed at many different hotels and I have to say this was by far the worst. I would rather pitch a tent on an New York City street than to ever book a room at this hotel (and anyone who knows me knows that I hate camping).

Here's the story.  When my daughter sent out her "Save the Dates" about four moths ago, I called and booked two rooms immediately for her and for us, making sure they were in close proximity since my two daughters and I needed to have out hair and makeup done first thing in the morning.  No problem they said. The week of the wedding I called to reconfirm the rooms and make sure they noted we wanted our rooms together. No problem, it was noted.  They told us they had valet parking available for a nominal fee. That was great because it's a very congested area.

On July 8th we arrive after 3 PM check in time and our rooms are not ready. They are scrambling around trying to figure out how to get us the two rooms we requested that were next to one another. Already I am pissed off. I need to unload all our clothes for the weekend and organize everything before we went to the "Welcome Dinner" that the parents of the groom graciously hosted for out of town guests. We finally get our rooms, but there is a nice big sign on the front desk saying their parking lot is full, sorry for the inconvenience. Seriously? So my husband brings the car to a municipal lot while we try to figure out what to do. Long story short, he ended up taking it out and finding a spot on the street.

We go up to our rooms and I should have taken pictures because I could have spared you 1,000 words.  I have never been to a hotel room that does not have bedspreads on the beds. No bedspreads and really no blankets either for that matter. Instead that had two thick "sheets" and a piece of material about 2 feet wide and 6 feet long laying across the bottom of the bed. What the hell that is good for I don't know. One of the beds was about 12 inches away from he closet, blocking me from putting all our garment bags in there. The bathroom had little space to maneuver around or to place your toiletries. The dresser was dusty. There were three lousy pillows on each bed instead of four. The pillows left a lot to be desired, just like everything else.  So now we are off to a great start.

The next morning we are busy getting ready for the wedding as best we can. We had no choice but to make due. The maid caught us going back and forth out of the room around 10 AM and she wanted to  clean the room. I told her it can't be now because the bride is getting ready.  By 1 PM we all leave to take the limousine to the photoshoot destination. On our way out my husband spots the maid and tells her the room will be free now if she wants to clean it.  I couldn't understand every word she said, but it was clear to all of us that she didn't want to or intend to clean our room. She was very annoyed. (Can you believe it?  I still can't, but this blog is going to their corporate headquarters as soon as I post it.) So, I politely tell her it's fine, she doesn't have to clean the room, but would she please leave us three clean towels. She calmed down and agreed to do that. And she did.

Sunday morning we prepare to check out and believe me I could not wait to get out of there. My brother in law left the wedding early so we left a couple of favors for him at the desk with his name and room number on them. He was out sight-seeing that morning and told us he was staying an extra night. When my husband hands over the favors the desk person tells him his brother checked out. My husband told them no, he was out this morning but was coming back for another night. Then he called my brother in law to tell him he should call and straighten this out. My brother in law came back to find he had been checked out. You can imagine he was disgusted so he told them he was leaving and made sure they weren't going to charge him for two nights. They said no. Well guess what? They charged him for two nights and, when he called, they told him it would take 24 hours to get the extra charge removed.  Nice.

I am going to make sure everyone I know hears about my experience. I would never stay at this hotel again or any other Best Western for that matter. I do not have one good thing to say about it except it was close to my daughter's venue.

P.S. If you think I'm exaggerating here are some other reviews and by the way one star is being generous.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Mother of the Bride Speech . . .

The big day of my older daughter's wedding has come and gone this past Saturday, July 9th 2016. A whole year of planning all came together and part of that included my Mother of the Bride speech. I had planned a nine minute speech, but my sweet daughter was less than pleased to hear it was going to run so long and ask me to cut it by a half or a third.  What could I do? Whatever baby wants, baby gets. I went back to the drawing board and cut out a chunk of what I considered to be the best parts. I was still left with a pretty great little speech from the heart and, as I promised I would, I am publishing the entire speech on my blog right after the wedding. So here is the unedited version, the parts in italics were edited out.

Mother of the Bride Speech

"I'd like to thank everyone for coming to celebrate this very special day in Melissa and Matthew's new life as husband and wife. I especially want to thank those of you who traveled from other states to be here today to share in our joy and in the happiest day of their lives."

(Edited Portion)

When Melissa asked me if I wanted to make a speech, I thought about for a minute and said yes. After all, when will I ever get a another chance to practice my stand up comedy on a captive audience? So many stories and so little time.

What can I tell you about Melissa? She loves to sleep. She got me into trouble with the nurse the first day she was born. The nurse brought her to me for her feeding and told me to wake her up by opening the blankets and tickling her feet. I did that . . . for 45 minutes . . . without success. Her eyes were sealed tight. The nurse came back and saw the bottle was still full and scolded me for not asking for help and throwing her all off schedule. My first day as a mom and I was already a failure. But Melissa slept through it so it's like it never happened.

Melissa is beautiful and always has been. I took her to a 70 year old pediatrician when she was just five days old. After examining her and reassuring me she was a healthy baby, he turned to me and said, "You know something, she is really cute. I've seen thousands of babies over the years and trust me I know." I couldn't argue with him. She was perfect in my eyes.

Melissa is very smart, sometimes too smart. We knew early on she was going to keep us on our toes. At two years old I took her Christmas shopping for a pocket calendar for my brother. As we stood in Hallmark, in front of their collection, Melissa, who came up to my knee at the time, looked up at me and said, "Let's get him a sophisticated one." I soon got used to her precocious outbursts when at dinner time she would interject herself into our conversations with expressions like "in my opinion" or "as a matter of fact." At five, since she was too young for college, we took her for an IQ test for the gifted program in our school district. At the end of the test, the gray haired psychologist came out and told me he couldn't give me her score, but she did very, very well. That was no surprise to me. But, as we walked to the car, Melissa informed me she got one question wrong. I asked, "How do you know, and which one was it?" She said, "He asked me what does "antique" mean, and I didn't want to hurt his feelings and say "old." I said, "Why? Because he has gray hair?" And she nodded. I think she should have gotten extra credit for that.

Melissa is compassionate and caring. When she was seven years old I decided to get new curtains for the living room and dining room. After 11 years I needed a change. Melissa walked in to see them hanging on the windows and I could see she disapproved. "Why did you get new curtains," she asked, "the old ones were perfectly fine." "I know, but I wanted some new ones." Then she said, "What about all the homeless people? We have a home and we had good curtains. They have nothing. You could have given that money to them." "I could have" I answered, "but if you are so worried about the homeless and you already have lots of toys, how about we donate the money from your Christmas presents this year to the homeless." She looked at me in silence. One of the few times I have made her speechless.

Melissa also wanted to help save the rain forest, adopt a gorilla, send blankets to animal shelters, and other humanitarian causes. When she was in college, a professor made her aware of a website that lends money to people in third world countries so they can start a business and repay the interest free loan. The repaid money then goes back to the donor or can be used again to help others. Melissa came right home and sent $100 of her money to the site. When she got her first job she signed up to sponsor a child a third world country for $25 a month. I told her it was a big commitment and she was just getting her own life started. She answered it's not that much money, it's the price of going to a movie. I want to make a difference. And she has made a difference . . . in the world and every day of our lives. 


(Continued unedited)

As a mother, when they place that beautiful little baby in your arms for the first time, you want the very best for them. You live your life to make them happy, to protect and teach them, to nurture them and keep them healthy. And, you worry about them. One minute they are with you 24/7 and the next they are starting school and going off on their own. And, as the years pass, and they grow up, you pray they will find the right person to share their lives with. One day, while Melissa was still in college, I was in her room and said to her, "you know Melissa, I'm worried about you and your future. Where are you going to find a nice decent guy in this world?" She looked up at me and said, "I don't know, I worry about that too."  We had raised a beautiful, thoughtful, loving and intelligent daughter, but where was she going to find her "soul mate." And it couldn't just be any man. Like everything else that we wanted for her, we wanted her to have the best. Someone who would love and protect her and make her happy, just as we had done all these years. Was there a man who would win Melissa's heart and be good enough for our daughter?

Then, in the fall of 2009, Melissa came to me and started talking about a guy named Matt that she had met at work. She started telling me a little about him. He had also gone to Hofstra, but he was a year older than her. As she spoke about him I could see she really liked him. Mothers know these things. And from what she told me I already knew Matt was kind, sensitive, genuinely nice and had strong family values. The gleam in her eyes and slight blush of her cheeks told me more than anything she could possibly say. And, over the seven years they have been together, I could see that Matt made Melissa happy, which, by the way, isn't an easy thing to do. I know he respects her, loves her and takes care of her. The gleam in her eyes is always there and I knew in my heart she had found her perfect match. Matthew is a man who is everything a mother could want for her daughter, a man who her father and I happily entrust with Melissa's future. And I want to thank Matt's parents, Gina and Jim, for raising such a wonderful man; and Jim for showing him how to be a loving husband and father. We love Matt and are proud to have him as our son. Today, Melissa has gained two brothers in Josh and Zach. Matt has gained a sister in Lauren. Melissa and Matt have not only joined their lives in marriage, but they have also joined their two families together today and forever.

Now here's a little marriage advice that "they" say I should include in my speech. Matt pay attention, since Melissa isn't known for taking my advice. A marriage is not 50/50, it's 100/100. You bring all that you are and all you have to give into it every day. Rely on each other's strengths, compromise on things when you can, help, support and encourage each other. You are building a new life and your new family unit starts today. Always remember the things about each other that made you fall in love. Always be honest with one another. Trust is as important as love. No relationship can last without it. Make memories together. Talk to and listen to each other, and that means making actual eye contact . . . shut the television, turn off the phone and put away the laptop and all other electronic devices that create distractions and take precious time away from each other.  And, one day, when you are ready to have children of your own (and I hope you do or I'll have done all this crocheting for nothing) I know you will both be great parents and raise your beautiful children with the love and values you have both experienced growing up. I pray your children will bring you as much joy and pride as you have brought us. 
So let me end with a little toast: Melissa and Matthew, this day has been a long time coming. You both deserve every happiness in life and so I wish you a very long, prosperous and healthy happily ever after. 
The end.

P.S. I am very happy to say that many of the guests loved my speech and my daughter, Melissa, who was pretty stressed and trying to hold back her tears for the sake of her make-up, told me that this was the first time she cried all day. I wanted to have a special moment to tell Matthew and Melissa how much they are loved and I guess I did a good job . . . if I say so myself.

Now that I reread both the edited and unedited versions I think I am happy I cut it down.  As is often the case, my daughter was right.  I wandered down memory lane, took a detour and got a little lost in the nostalgia while I was trying to find my way to a loving and memorable speech. The shortened speech I finally delivered was as perfect as everything else that took place in the wedding.