Behind the Scenes

Something Borrowed

There are, of course, many differences between planning a conference, convention, or meeting for an organization and a wedding reception for around 200 guests for your child.

And I have to give credit to my daughter Megan, who planned most of her wedding — while balancing an often-grueling schedule as a third-year medical student — with her fiancé. I saw my role as pitching in when asked and as needed, and that seems to have worked. The wedding was last month, and it was lovely.

As I’ve said before, I write about what planners do for a living; I don’t actually do it. Plus, my emotional investment was high. That’s not to say that planners don’t put a good deal of themselves into each event, but their challenge is how to inject emotion into their participants’ experience, not how to excise it from the planning process.

And while weddings are intrinsically meaningful, every event has a purpose that you need to make manifest for participants. So I felt I joined your ranks, if only briefly, and here’s what I learned.

› There are so many details to keep track of when planning an event that it must be easy to lose touch with the real reason you’re bringing everyone together. I kept reminding myself that the focus should be on the marriage, not on the wedding. Trappings can become just that.

› Even so, worry and a huge sense of responsibility seem to come with the territory.
As we got closer to the big day, I got used to waking up in the middle of the night with anxious thoughts about the menu and seating arrangements.

› You probably remember the first time you improvised in a pinch. When we arrived at the church with everyone waiting for us, we realized that I had left behind the pillow that Megan had chosen with such care for her five-year-old cousin, who was excitedly waiting to fulfill his role as ring bearer. Kelly, my younger daughter and the maid of honor, had packed a small silk bag just in case she needed it. She snatched it out of the car trunk, stuffed it with tissues, and transformed it into something resembling a pillow for him to carry.

› You must spend a lot of time online seeking inspiration and resources. For me, Pinterest was a godsend. We scoured it for everything from table-centerpiece ideas to finding the song that finally resonated with my husband for his father-of-the-bride dance.

› The right speaker makes a world of difference. Our celebrant, Father Ashley, was our parish priest who saw Megan grow up. He is a talented orator with a keen intellect, who wove stories about her and our family — and learned details about the groom and his family — to make the church homily and reception toast personal and meaningful for us and everyone else.

Which is the best you could hope for, at any event.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.