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Last Minute Labor

Two years ago I was invited to the wedding of an old friend. The BTB and I had been close friends through high school and still caught up when she was in town. The wedding was over a public holiday weekend and I travelled to the wedding town with my DF and planned to stay for a few days and have a mini-break while attending the wedding.

When I arrived in the town where the wedding was to be held I contacted the bride to see how she was and to offer any help in the days leading up to the wedding. I thought that perhaps there were some errands that needed to be run. The bride replied that she has everything under control but invited myself and DF to join her and her girlfriend ( to go shopping as they were looking at a few last minute items for the bride. DF and I thought this would be fun and also a chance to collect a gift from her registry. DF and I arrived in town a few hours early in order to purchase the gift prior to meeting with the BTB.

On the eve of the wedding we were invited to have dinner with the bride at her apartment. Dinner was a takeaway that DF and I collected, again this was no issue as we hardly expected the BTB to cook on her wedding eve. The BTB made her own cake and I busied myself doing the dishes while we chatted. Overall it was quite uncomfortable and DF and I left after a short period of time. DF and I again offered to help if anything was needed as everyone appeared to be at breaking point. I felt sorry for the BTB as she seemed to be under a lot of pressure.

On the day of the wedding we were allocated some tasks and this is where I believe the etiquette breach occurred.

The ceremony was held in a public garden and the BTB and GTB wanted some seats brought down for the older guests.

It was decided that myself, DF and ODF (who lived locally) would drive to the BTB and GTB apartment and collect these chairs and then carry them through the garden into position. I was dressed for a wedding in dress and heels and was expected to stumble through the garden with the chairs. The ceremony location was not too far from the road but it was at the bottom of a steep grassy hill.

As we were waiting around for the ceremony, GTB asked myself and DF if we could serve drinks to other guests. I thought that this was inappropriate but I found it difficult to refuse. The preparation for the drinks service was lacking, including bottled water that required a bottle opener yet one had not been brought. The guests were quite rude to us and one gentleman commented that we should have been more prepared. There were also complaints about the lack of range. By this point I was very upset and did not appreciate the other guests assuming that I was wait staff.

The ceremony was pleasant and my temper cooled as we watched the vows.

After the ceremony I went to the small bar set up to pour myself, DF and ODF a drink. Another guest saw this and told me that I should be circulating and pouring drinks for the other quests. We were then asked to carry the chairs up the hill back to the cars and drive back to the Bride and Groom’s apartment and unload the chairs. I was very upset by this point and commented that they should have organised labour rather than expecting guests and family to provide this service.

By the time we had driven to the apartment, unloaded the chairs, driven to the wedding reception and tried desperately to find a parking space, the reception was in full swing. There was barely any food available, an understaffed bar and no entertainment to speak of. The Bride didn’t seem to mingle with her guests and the communication was mainly from the bride’s mother. While I understood that it was always going to be a low key budget affair, I think that the Bride and Groom showed disrespect to their guests. Some people had travelled great distances at large expense and they simply did not receive any hospitality. I left after the first dance, too upset to seek out the bride to catch up. Almost a year later we received a thank you card – with an apology that they had been “misplaced”.

You learned a lesson here.  Never offer help, in your case twice, to a bride at the last minute unless you are prepared to be drafted into doing all manner of tasks.  Some brides are competent enough at planning to note little details but most don’t realize all those little details til the very end and by then, they are overworked and overstressed.    They will jump on any offer of assistance like a starving flea to a dog.

Brides, avoid the last minute abuse of one’s guests by creating what I call “responsibility cards” for your family and attendants who have been alerted well in advance for the need to coordinate efforts.  A responsibility card is simply a 3X5 or 5X7 card with a person’s name on it and a list of little jobs they have been assigned to do.  For example, the maid of honor has the task of making sure the room the attendants’ used to dress is cleaned up and all personal items removed, including the bride’s wedding dress, after the wedding.   As you plan the wedding, you add notes to each card which are then given to attendants and family a week before the wedding.  Who is taking the gifts from the reception to your house?  Who is responsible to make sure rental items get returned?  Who is paying the officiant and vendors?  For the bride in this story, who is taking the chairs back to your apartment?  Who is serving the pre-ceremony beverages?

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Ashley April 20, 2010, 8:08 am

    Thank you for the responsibility card idea! I’m getting married a little over a month from now, and I know there are still plenty of outstandng details and tasks that have yet to be assigned. I think having personalized cards for everyone in the bridal party would save quite a few headaches. Thanks again for the suggestion!

    • admin April 20, 2010, 8:53 am

      The responsibility cards, when used, reduce chaos and misunderstandings. Everyone knows what they are to do that day and the bride sleeps easier knowing every nagging detail has been delegated to someone. About a month before the wedding is when I counsel my brides to start carrying around a stack of cards with people’s names on them and writing down on specific cards who is taking care of what during the wedding day and after the festivities are over. The best use I’ve ever seen of responsibility cards was the double wedding I wrote of in the Ehell wedding blog. Family, friends who had volunteered their energies ahead of time and attendants promptly went about their duties, referring to their cards at times, and it went flawlessly. The alternative is many people swamping the bride, her mother, the coordinator with many last minute questions that could have been addressed days earlier.

  • Jess April 20, 2010, 9:44 am

    In my family, if I gave out these cards I’d find them strewn on the church lawn, with everyone ignoring their tasks and telling me to “just chill out; stuff’ll get done…” ! Does this mean that I have justification to elope? Please?? 🙂

  • phoenix April 20, 2010, 9:50 am

    Can we also suggest a polite phrase for spontaneously employed guests to use to deflect other guests, such as those complaining about the beverage service? Even if someone is fine with helping, it always burns my biscuits when a guest berates someone who is volunteering to help. Something along the lines of “I’m sorry, there’s not much I can do to change things as I’m only an invited guest and not catering staff”?

  • TylerBelle April 20, 2010, 9:51 am

    If were me, maybe not during the wedding festivities, but afterward when I’ve had a chance to think about things, I wouldn’t be too put out with the HC for I’d feel at least partially to blame for getting myself into the service of wedding to-dos. The couple shouldn’t have taken advantage here, and may not have even realized they were going that far, but perhaps unwittingly the storyteller did leave the door open to be placed in the position she found herself in. Though it makes me wonder had the offers of help not been made, how would things have gotten done? Overall what would have irritated me in the most is the snarky treatment and the bossing around by fellow guests.

    Cards written with assigned tasks sound like that would alleviate a lot of chaos and frustration of who’s doing what, when, where, etc.

  • Amazed April 20, 2010, 10:22 am

    It never ceases to amaze me how many how many EHell stories follow this pattern. “She asked me to do this. I did it. She asked me to do that. I did it, but my resentment grew. Then she had the nerve to ask me to to something else. I did it, but was getting angry. Next, we saw that no one had decorated, so we decorated. No one had taken out the trash, so we took out the trash. There was no one to watch the baby, so we watched the baby. No one to carry the gifts, so we carried the gifts. And so on and so on.”

    Whatever happened to saying “No”? “I’m sorry, but I am not suitably dressed for carrying chairs down a steep grassy hill. I’m afraid you’ll have to ask someone else.”

  • Snewt April 20, 2010, 2:53 pm

    I would add that it is a good idea to include a few phone numbers on the responsibility cards. When I was in a friend’s wedding, she handed out an index card with the day’s schedule (and our “job” for the day) on the front. All of the wedding party’s cell phone #’s were on the back. Not only did we know exactly what the HC needed/ wanted us to do, but we could also call other bridal party members with any questions without going directly to the HC for every little detail. The pastor saw one of the cards and he said that he wished that all bridal partys were as organized as my friends were!

  • ED April 20, 2010, 3:43 pm

    While I really feel for the letter writer, I don’t understand why she didn’t just decline that level of assistance. For the chair issue, assuming DF and ODF were willing I would have told the bride that I’d be unable to assist witht he moving of chairs as I was not dressed appropriately for the task, but that DF and ODF could help.

    As far as pouring drinks for everyone at the reception, when told I needed to circulate to pour drinks I would have said, “Oh I’m sorry, I’m a guest not the wait staff, you can grab drinks for yourselves over there.”

    No one can take advantage of you unless you allow them to.

  • Annie April 20, 2010, 7:17 pm

    I agree with Amazed. It’s just ridiculous that this person felt unable to say NO. Doesn’t EHell constantly remind us that no is a complete sentence? Offering help is great, *only if you truly want to do it*. Don’t do it and whinge on an internet site how your help was abused but you said or did *nothing* at the relevant time.

  • PrincessSimmi April 21, 2010, 9:23 pm

    I’ve taken to quoting “No is a complete sentence” every time someone in the office seems hesitant about agreeing to something. Either grow some backbone or stop complaining when people take advantage.

  • Hanna April 22, 2010, 4:17 pm

    It’s pretty simple. Don’t offer help, and then whine about it when your help is asked for…

  • Chilly April 23, 2010, 3:18 am

    This awkward situation could have been avoided with a little more clear communication. The responsibility cards are a great idea. I’ve been in both situations (disorganised bride and helpful guest mistaken for staff). If you offer help, you should be clear about how much you’re prepared to do.

  • LovleAnjel May 3, 2010, 10:00 am

    I like the idea of responsibility cards. For my wedding I made a spreadsheet of the tasks and the people I wanted to do them, then double-assigned most things to make sure they got done (and made a separate “timeline” for good measure). The process of putting it together also formalized everything in my head, so if people walked up and said, “do you want us to do x now?” I knew exactly what x entailed and what needed to happen before & after.

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