Monday, April 6, 2015

An Overflowing Easter Basket

I haven't figured out if there is an actual correlation between holidays and wedding traffic.  Christmas is busy, New year's Eve not.  Halloween is a crap shoot.  Easter Eve Eve Day, at least this year, was quite busy.  I needed a runner by 11 AM: 4 licenses on the desk → 4 weddings done → still 4 licenses on the desk.  I served 2 very large crowds and and thee were couples arriving as I left.

Advice for Parents: if you want your child's wedding to go well, let your child plan that wedding and be a happy guest. Don't order everyone around and especially don't stand next to the couple during the ceremony glaring at the officiant. That just looks creepy.

On the other end of the family spectrum were the uncontrolled children.  I can handle one toddler who tears around the wedding room yelling.  I'm even OK with two in a row.  There were three separate couples with runaways youngsters, one of whom punched his father the groom in the stomach during the vows.  Luckily, tiny fists don't hurt that much.

There were a few folks from "away", including a bride who'd flown 23 hours the day before just to get to the Bay Area in time for her wedding and a guest dropping in from Dubai to server as the only witness for her friends.  That's dedication.

Fashion report
So much purple!  It took until the second couple with a purple theme for me to make the connection to Easter. One bride wore a white dress with purple lipstick and purple flowers in her bouquet. Most of the large crowd wore a shade of purple, including grape, lilac, and lavender.

The award for best gear of the day goes to the bride with the blue top and orange skirt whose groom wore an orange shirt and blue jeans.  Her bodice had a design of origami cranes forming and flying away - very clever!

By The Numbers
Ceremonies: 14
Formal wear: 9
"As long as I will": 1
Misbehaving child wearing dapper-looking three-piece suit: 1

Friday, April 3, 2015

Hope Springs Eternal

Samuel Johnson called second marriages "the triumph of hope over experience", and I think were he to join me for a week of weddings, he'd double down on that. This past week saw several return Marriage Factory customers, including one couple who'd had 5 previous swings and misses between them. If there's one thing marriage teaches, it's that everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes the marriage is that mistake.

It would seem that being married before affects the chances of success, but luckily, my personal experience belies that. My mother stayed married to my stepfather from 1981 until she passed away. I have relatives and friends in very happy second or even third marriages. I am married to someone who has been married once before. We have been married almost 15 years, so it seems to have taken. Since America is the land of reinvention, why shouldn't that apply to weddings?

Fashion report
It was all about tiger print this week, with one bride in tiger-print heels and another in a tiger-print blouse.  The winner was my final couple, with guests dressed in flowing multicolored saris and the bride in a black gown with gold detailing and beads.

By the numbers
Ceremonies: 10
Formal wear: 8
Couple who had a large crowd at their confidential wedding: 1

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring Has Sprung!

Original post: March 24, 2015

Despite several people telling me different, Friday was not the first day of spring.  It was the day before the first day of spring.  That did not stop all manner of folk from deciding to ring in the new season with a new spouse.

The Marriage Factory was busier for me than it's been since Valentine's Day.  More importantly, I got to train a new clerk/marriage commissioner.  I've trained a few in the 6+ years I've been doing weddings, and it's great to watch someone learn how to guide the couple to the best possible experience.  That includes understanding how to control a crowd, knowing the ins and outs of the paperwork, and above all, spreading what joy we have on their special day.  Mostly it's about making sure the names are spelled right, trying to keep the kids quiet, and repeating the vows until the bride & groom hear them.

This week was no different in those respects: a nervous bride who rocked back and forth from "I (your name here)" through "I now pronounce you", a license that had to be reprinted twice for the same mistake, and various children tearing around the room.

When the new clerk was ready for her first wedding, I let her take the lead.  She did a great job, especially since she knew the couple.  It was a surprise to both her and them.  They are having a large ceremony later this month in which the clerk's former beau is a groomsman.  She handled what could have been a very awkward situation with far more aplomb than I might have, sending them on their way with a great souvenir picture to show their soon-to-be bridal party.

Fashion report
The day started with a bang: a beautiful black dress with beaded backing and a silver headpiece. There were several suits and a traditional cotton wedding dress and shirt.

By the numbers
Ceremonies: 14
Formal wear: 9
Toddlers in pin-stripe suits with ties: sadly, only 1

Changes To The Wedding Room

Original post: March 16, 2015

The decor of the Wedding Room is novel for a county office: wood paneling, dark wood benches and flower stands, and 2 large tapestries in earth tones with metallic appliques. The tapestries are hung at right angles, creating a natural place for couples to stand.  On special occasions and holidays, the clerks hang decorations.
photos courtesy Miss Janet

A few years ago, in preparation for one of the super busy days (11/11/11 or some such), the clerks wanted to make the room more festive, so a few bought a garden arch and festooned it with shiny fabric, Christmas lights, and plastic flowers.  While a little unsteady at first, it was a thing of beauty - an inspiration to commissioners and guests alike.  Each Friday, at least one or two couples said something like "Wow!  I had no idea it would be so lovely!"
For Valentine's Day, there were usually 2 more arches, each in its own meeting room-turned-wedding room.  Those arches stayed up for a few weeks after the holiday, just in case we got really busy.

Imagine my shock when I brought my first couple up last week and the arch was gone.  While the room was interesting by itself when I started at the Marriage Factory, I'd gotten used to the arch.  Without it, the room was, well, dull, like a Christmas tree without ornaments.  There's nothing wrong with a pine tree, until it's been a Christmas tree and then isn't one.

The clerks shared my dismay, for they had not been warned about the arch's removal.  Why destroy a feature that was obviously a big plus for workers and guests alike, especially something that those same workers had invested time and craft in creating?

The answer came later that day, and was as satisfactory as possible: the existing arches were cleared out to make room for sturdier, nicer arches.  One problem with the arches we had before is that they would wobble when children pulled on them, as children bored with a wedding are wont to do.  The new ones should render that issue moot.

I took this week off, so I'm hoping the new arches are in place to dazzle me upon my return.  They have quite a bit of charm to live up to.

Fashion report
A Tibetan wedding dress like this, a pink skirt with sparkly pink shoes, and a peach chiffon off-the-shoulder dress.

By the numbers (2 weeks)
Ceremonies: 13 (5 & 8)
Formal wear: 10 (3 & 7)
Crowd over 25: 1
13-day-old baby with a knit strawberry hat: 1

Bring Your Friends!

Original post: March 4, 2015

As an amateur social scientist, I theorize that the size of a wedding party in no way correlates to the success of the marriage.  My wife & I were married in front of 4 people.  My cousin was married in front of almost 100 people. I'm still married.  She is not.  Kim & Kanye are still together.  Scatter-plot that all you want.  I bet nothing lines up.

Admittedly, my sample, though voluminous, is skewed.  Our wedding room holds only 40 people, and most couples don't even know we have a wedding room.  The number of times I've heard, "Oh, this is so nice!  We had no idea the room would be so cute!" as we enter testifies to that.  Still, enough know or have squadrons of friends to offer at least some anecdotal data as to the effect of a crowd on the wedding itself.

Large groups present a wrangling challenge that the couple-plus-single-witness model does not. Getting all those folks into one elevator (or even several), herding them into the wedding room, getting all cell phones silenced, and making sure the couple stays the focus of attention - it all takes work.  The payoff is the eruption of applause when the ceremony concludes and the couple are actually married.  That release of energy is captivating.

So bring as many friends as you want!  We can pack people in, and there's plenty of seating space.  Just make sure your guests have met beforehand, as those benches can get pretty tight.

Fashion report
Today was all about coral: coral shoes and camisole vs. a coral blazer for one couple, and a coral strapless dress with brand new high heels (we lent a pair of scissors to cut off the tag).  The last bride wore a teal blouse with a peplum, and matching teal shoes.  Guess it's Southwestern palette day.

By the numbers
Ceremonies: 11
Formal wear: 6
Weddings with more than one official photographer: 1

Never Work With Children Or Animals

Original post: February 23, 2015

Children at weddings are always a risk.  I've written before about how variable their behavior is. No child under the age of 7 will be interested in a wedding for more than 3 minutes.  There's nothing to capture the attention - just grown-ups talking a lot, including a strange one who might be in a robe. The happiness of their parents/relatives/relative's friends carries no weight.

If you do want a child present at your wedding, bring something to distract him.  Infants are sometimes not aware enough to fuss more than a few minutes.  iPads and handheld video games usually do the trick for the over-5 set. The sour spot between those two generates the most tantrums, bench-climbing, and room-wandering.  The latter two are the most distracting for the adults, especially the officiant.  A child tearing down a window blind or falling on a hard wood bench and cracking his skull open is not the happy wedding-day memory most couples want to keep, so have someone in tow to wrangle the little ones.

Sometimes, even the fussiest baby gets a pass.  This week, a couple brought in their toddler, who fussed for the entire ceremony, so I just spoke louder (inadvertently learning that the wedding room has a great natural echo). The couple were good-natured and apologetic, but that's not why I couldn't be cross.  The boy was dressed to the nines in black trousers, a white shirt, and suspenders.  Baby suspenders!  Who knew such a thing existed?  I was so delighted by the way they'd dressed him - like a 1920s newspaperman at work - that I couldn't be cross.  Let that be a lesson.  Always dress for the job you want, even if you're pre-verbal.

Fashion report
Beautiful green dress with a matching (but not samey) emerald necklace and earrings, a midnight blue dress with a silver neck piece - not a necklace, more Cleopatra-like in shape and sparkly copper/silver heels, another silver lace dress - that seems like it would be a dark look for midday, but some people can pull it off.

By the numbers
Ceremonies: 10
Formal wear: 6
Formal wear, toddler class: 1
Adorable couple over 70: 1

Día De San Valentín

Original post: February 18, 2015

Valentine's Day is a busy day for weddings at the Marriage Factory, as you might imagine.  It's not a madhouse, like 8/8/08 or 11/11/11, but a lot of folks put a lot of stock in calendar-based romance.  So many did this year that the Hall of Records opened on a Saturday just to marry those romantic souls, even taking appointments.

When a couple gets married at the Hall of Records, they can choose to have the ceremony in one of several non-English languages, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Spanish among them. Four years of high school Spanish classes, and a little help from a couple of fluent friends, qualify me as a bilingual marriage commissioner.  I can conduct weddings en Español.  The English to Spanish ratio on an average Friday is 4:1, mas o menos.

There were 5 commissioners on hand Saturday, more than enough to handle the traffic.  Since I was the only Spanish speaker, I got all the Spanish-language weddings.  That kept me very busy. The groups ranged from 3-person walk-ins to full houses chanting "Beso! Beso!" when the ceremony was finished.

One challenge with Spanish weddings is that I know the ceremony very well, but I'm not good at free-style conversation.  I can say "Please silence your phones." or "Do you have rings?" but trouble arises with something complicated like "You have to go downstairs and ask the clerk for your legal certificate, which might take 10-15 minutes before it's ready."  Luckily, at least one person in every group spoke or understood enough English that I could communicate the next steps after the ceremony, and I struggled my way through it a couple times in Spanish, just for good measure.

We opened at 9 and got everyone done by 2, which was a credit mostly to the wonderful clerks who got folks registered, including a bunch of walk-ins, fixed typos, and made sure licenses got recorded properly.  They even got us donuts and pizza!

Fashion report
Lots of beautiful dresses and suits, of course.  Why get married on Valentine's Day if you're not going to do it right?

By the numbers
Total ceremonies: 40
Ceremonies conducted by me: 15
Spanish ceremonies: 14
Formal wear: 12
Donuts eaten: 2