Monday, September 24, 2007

Halloween Horror Stories

Once a year, around Halloween, I give myself permission to tell wedding-related horror stories that we've actually witnessed. These experiences always underscore the need to be well-advised when selecting wedding professionals, and to hire a professional. And it must be said that these are exceptions. Most of the people we know are extremely dedicated to giving good products and services to their brides. Many professionals give up family-time on weekends, work long hours, and give more than was asked or paid for.

Problem: Warning Sign #1. The makeup artist was 45 minutes late for the trial. But, in about an hour, she did a nice job, took a Polaroid and said that she would do the same hair and makeup on the wedding day. On the wedding day, the same makeup artist took 4 hours to do the hair and makeup of the bride (a warning sign if ever there was one).

At the end of the marathon session, the bride had dark circles ringing her eyes like a raccoon, and her hair that looked like rattails rather than ringlets. When she timidly asked the makeup person about it, the person exploded, "I'm an artist and I say it looks just fine. I have a more important bride to get to, so just get over yourself."

The makeup person had guaranteed there would be no other clients on the day. The bride had paid over $1000 for the privilege of being spoken to in such a disrespectful manner, and then was cursed out in a foreign language. The bride cried for an hour, then locked herself in the bathroom saying, "The wedding is off." It took compassion, resourcefulness and 3 hours to get the wedding back on track.

Solution: Bride re-did makeup and hair herself with some items from our emergency kit. The emergency kit contains 107 items. We rarely go to a wedding where at least one item isn't needed.

Problem: Ran out of food after 70% of the guests were fed. There was no Plan B.
Solution: No solution. People were hungry...and irritable.

Problem: The assistant photographer had holes in his pockets and lost several rolls of film. I picked up several rolls throughout the day and returned them to him, but he kept putting them in his holey pockets. As a result, large sections of the wedding day were missing.

Problem: Wait. It gets worse. The same bride and groom had paid for 2 senior photographers. After the ceremony, the prime photographer left, saying she had broken her camera. But she never returned. The assistant photographer left holding the bag (Mr. Holey-Pants) was mad as hell for the rest of the day - and didn't try to hide it.

When the bride respectfully requested a refund for the part of the wedding that was not covered due to the photographer's negligence and for services that were not rendered because there was only one photographer for most of the day, the prime photographer threatened to burn each and every negative if the bride brought the subject up again.

Solution: The bride opted not to take photographer to court, as she found the whole subject so distressing. She said over and over, "Thank heavens I had a great videographer, or I'd have nothing at all."

Problem: Lest you think we have it in for photographers (we don't - we love working with 99.99% of them). Here's a story that skewers both photographers and videographers.

Before filming a wedding at a cathedral for the first time, we sought permission and were able to observe a wedding at the cathedral the week before. Although we attend every rehearsal, this was a particularly complex ceremony at a particularly restrictive church. Boy did we get an eyeful.

The photo/video company had sent out two bozo's. They had safari vests on with the name and phone number of the photo/video company emblazoned on the back. I would not have been surprised if the name pulsed on and off like a marquee.

The church strictly forbids cameras in the center aisle. That's exactly where one of the video cameras was stationed. On a 6' tall tripod. On wheels. So the holy host of tripod/camera was rolled up and down the aisle continuously, with one creaky wheel. Once the tower arrived at the front of the aisle where it could block the maximum number of guests' views the bozo snapped down the brake, whipped out a still camera and started clicking away like the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun accompanied by a blinding flash every time.

But then there was a lull in the action as the clown spied the altar flowers which were in his way. So, in the middle of the holiest part of the ceremony, he clomped up the stairs to the altar and while almost tipping the arrangement oer, moved them out of the way so that all subsequent pictures were no longer symmetrical.

Solution: What can you say?

Problem: Friend of a friend said she'd make the cake. It never arrived.

Solution: Director of Catering scrambled and got a suitable cake on 4 hours' notice.

Problem: Friend said she'd make the invitations and have them addressed by 6 weeks before the wedding. The bride and groom arrived back from a trip to find nothing had been done.

Solution: We called up our favorite stationer, and asked that she keep her shop open late, and to give a 24-hour turnaround to this desperate couple. The stationer stayed until 9 PM (closing hour was 6 PM) and delivered the perfectly addressed invitations within 4 days.

Problem: Flowers were delivered after the first 3 bridesmaids went down the aisle. Then the altar flowers went down the aisle, then the remaining bridesmaids, flower girls and bride.

Solution: What can you say? It becomes part of the memories of the day.

Event Planner
Problem: Arrived late, poured herself a mimosa, put her feet up and sipped that mimosa and 4 more. Was worse than having no event planner because people were waiting for her to give directions and cues which never came. Also, with an hour to go until the reception was to start, escort cards had not been put out and decor had not been put up.

Solution: All the event professionals scrambled to do the tasks the wedding planner should have been doing, for the sake of the bride. This took time away from what we all should have been doing, but was necessary for the wedding to go on. The wedding was not as smooth as it could have been, but this was invisible to the guests and not very noticeable to the bride.

Problem: Seven chairs had wet seat cushions from being left out in the rain the night before. When asked to replace them, was told every chair was being used in every ballroom in the hotel.

Solution: Wedding coordinator stepped in and within 5 minutes, dry chair cushions had replaced wet cushions.

A Magic Moment

We went to a Celebration of Life yesterday afternoon. Our friend, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, decided he wanted to be with his many friends and family before it was too late. All of us who were there shared a magical afternoon. His brother read a letter from our friend because he no longer has enough breath to speak. I wanted to take notes, but thought it would be too rude. What I remember touched me and changed me. I know the lessons I will take away with me.

First, at every event we film, I want to relax and have more peace in my heart. Even if the schedules on a wedding day are so tight you couldn't squeeze a toothpick in, I promise myself that I can still feel a greater calm. I want to prepare just as hard beforehand, but let go and really let the flow of the event guide me in an intuitive, not an analytical way.

When I took ikebana lessons (Japanese flower arrangement), you could always tell when someone was creating their arrangement analytically or intuitively. There was a real difference in the spirit you felt looking at the final arrangement. I was able to make that intuitive leap after 1-2 years. But, I've held on to the analytical side of filming because I felt it was supremely important to capture everything that was going on, since you don't know in advance which of the moments will be a critical moment. I am encouraged to make the leap and elevate my work to another level.

Second, I want to tell my husband Chuck I am proud of him more often than I do. As Presdent of the Bay Area Professional Assocaition, Chuck presented our friend with a beautifully framed card and the signatures of all the current members. Chuck even tracked down some people who were members years ago, but not now, from as far away as Florida. He gave a brief but perfect speech. Chuck really, really, really dislikes public speaking, but he did it for his friend. I was so proud of him.

Third, as soon as this wedding season is over, I want to reconnect with the friends we have neglected for the last five years, since we've been in business. It's hard to imagine how much time is required to film and edit, and run a business. It is more than 2 full-time jobs for each of us. It is the same for all the dedicated professionals we know in the wedding industry - florists, photographers, coordinators, caterers, cake bakers. But, our friend had been a videographer for over a decade, and 150 of his good friends and family filled a restaurant on very short notice. By example, without preaching, he let us know what was really important.

Fourth, I want to learn more about people because they will amaze you. We knew our friend had been jailed and tortured by a foreign government for standing up for his basic human rights. But we didn't know that when he moved to this country to give his family a better life, he pumped gas and delivered pizzas, without complaint, until he could get his business going to support them. He was a skilled professional, but humbly accepted humble jobs for the sake of his family. I never knew this about him.

Our friend is a great example of making every moment count and being grateful for what you have.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pacemakers and Hair Cuts

I can't believe it's been a month since my last post. Since then, I've learned about something amazing. It takes less time to insert a pacemaker than to have my hair cut. That's right. What an amazing device. Mom needed one, so she breezed right in and out in less than 1/2 hour. Like the old fashioned barber shop: 4 chairs, no waiting. Only in this case, 4 operating theaters, no waiting. Medical Science. Amazing. Mom and I are already back to our Sunday morning walks at almost the same speed and distance. Way to go Mom!

A Perfect Wedding Gift

We're editing a beautiful ceremony that took place at the Julia Morgan Ballroom. As an aside, Linda Hylen is one of the most fabulous Directors of Special Events in the city. She makes every event go smoothly, and is unfailingly helpful, cheerful, positive, energetic, resourceful and NICE.

Oh, but I've gotten off the topic. We are editing one of the most beautiful ceremonies we've ever witnessed. The officiant spoke as though he was reciting a fragrant poem or verse. The 350 guests were transfixed when he addressed the bride and groom.

"This perfect event raises us all up
From where we find ourselves on normal days.
We see things and feel things differently.
Within the hearts of those present
Are stirrings of heightened awareness and deeper perspective.
At this moment we look with greater gratitude
At our own relationships.
It's a time of renewal, of greater hope,
Of resolution for the future.
In your reflection,
We see ourselves more clearly.
So we thank you for your wedding gifts to us."

The officiant put into words what Chuck and I sometimes feel at weddings, both when we are filming and when we are guests. Family and friends are being given an opportunity to 'touch the heavens' when they are in the presence of two people who are willing to sacrifice for each other, to commit to each other and promise to love each other. It feels like a gently guiding hand which compels 350 people to act and feel as one, in the same way that a flock of birds can swoop then soar with grace.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Anatomy of a Hora

We just finished editing a hora to end and horas. Our sweet bride Nissa and her handsome groom Tom and their 300 guests at the Julia Morgan Ballroom were out on the dance floor for 40 minutes dancing the horah and other exuberant dances. With three cameras, we captured 120 minutes of sheer joy. Here's the 3-minute PC version and here's the MAC version of the movie trailer that captures the joy. Joel Nelson was the band leader and MC. We've never seen a better entertainer who made sure 100s of guests flooded the dance floor and STAYED there!

It is so amazing when guests come together as though they share one mind with everyone else in the room. As graceful as a flock of swallows soaring in the sky, or a school of dolphins cutting through the water with their streamlined bodies. And no one wanted it to end! Only the dinner bell could interrupt the dancing.