Drafted Into The Catering Army

by admin on December 8, 2009

I recently attended my cousin’s wedding, and while I love him dearly, I must unfortunately commit him and his new wife to an eternity in Etiquette Hell for utter tackiness.

I did not meet the Bride until the  day of their wedding, and unfortunately for her, the first few impressions I got of her leading up to the big day were not flattering. The first thing I ever heard about her was how she rudely snapped at my mother during another family member’s wedding. It was a destination wedding and I was unable to attend, so I only have my mother’s word to go on here. But Mom isn’t one to exaggerate or overreact, so I have no reason to doubt her.

Then there were the invitations, which were lovely—except for the enclosed cards indicating where the Bride & Groom were registered. I’ll give them both the benefit of the doubt here and assume that this little faux pas was out of ignorance and not greed. Honestly, the only way I knew this was a no-no is because I’m currently planning my own wedding and brushing up on my etiquette.

Next came the bridal shower which I’m told went well. Again, I wasn’t able to attend, but I bought something nice from their registry and sent it along with my mother. I’m told the Bride liked the gift, but sadly I can’t know that for sure since, as far as I know, no Thank You note was ever sent.

But the real straw that broke the camel’s back came about two weeks before the wedding. I get a call from my mother who, with a heavy sigh, says that my aunt (her sister and the MOG) asked her if she, my sister, and myself would help serve food at the reception. This was not a small wedding, nor was it informal or a pitch-in. This was a semi-formal affair for 150-200 guests with a buffet of Mexican food. Why on Earth they did not consider hiring a caterer or wait staff is beyond me. And the fact that they thought it was perfectly okay to recruit relatives to serve the meal is insulting. My mom was particularly hurt by this; she absolutely dotes on her nephews including the Groom. She was so hurt that he could not treat her with more respect or consideration. But my mom, like me, is a bit of a walking doormat, and it took some encouragement to get her to call my aunt back and politely refuse. My sister on the other hand has quite a strong spine and had no problem saying ‘no’. Luckily my aunt was understanding and didn’t make any bones about it. As for me, I decided to take one for the team and compensated by not buying a wedding gift. My gift to them was my time and energy.

Cut to the wedding: The ceremony site is a 30 minute drive from the reception site and the bridal party did pictures in between, so it was a good hour and a half before the Bride and Groom showed up at the reception. Then it was time to man the buffet. All-in-all, they had recruited five of us: myself, two of my second-cousins, and a couple family friends. We stood behind the table as all 150-200 guests made their way down the line. We took turns refilling serving dishes and cleaning up messes. We of course were the last to eat, and luckily there was still some food left. My cousins and I sat down at the same table to eat together (as everyone else had already finished and was up mingling). We sat and I watched as the Bride and Groom made their rounds to each guest. I waited and I watched. At some point, I just started glaring at both their backs, mentally willing them to turn around and thank the three of us for our help. Instead, they both passed right by us without a glance, a hello, and without a Thank You.

The Bride did eventually thank me briefly, but only when I went up to her at the end of the night to say congratulations and tell her I was leaving. I still think a nice note would at the very least be in order, but alas the wedding was a month ago and I’m not holding my breath. I’ll just chalk this up as an example of what NOT to do during my nuptials.   1124-09

Ohh hoo!  One of my pet peeves!  I have an abundance of horror stories of my own on the subject of recruiting family and friends to execute a wedding the parents or bridal couple cannot afford.   Despite giving people the equivalent of hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars worth of labor, on occasion there seems to be this temptation to treat me like a hired employee that can be ordered about, spoken to dismissively and disrespectfully.  After one such event years ago where the MOB spoke to me rudely, I concluded that if this were to occur again, my calm reply would be, “The privilege of speaking to me in this manner costs $700.00.”

It gets worse when family and friends get recruited to serve because the line between being family/friends and employee gets blurred.  Are family and close friends beloved guests or are they viewed as potential workhorses to pull off a wedding too extravagant for the budget?

Over the years I’ve become more astute in who I choose to give my gifts of labor and I have not had any recurrences of this kind of rude behavior in years.  Quite the opposite, the recipients of my labor gifts are very appreciative.  Choose carefully to whom you give your gifts of time and energy.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexis December 15, 2009 at 12:12 pm

I would have been happy to help them locate the phone number of the mearest temp agency. Otherwise, I’d have quoted an hourly wage, to be paid in advance, and I certainly wouldn’t have bothered with a gift, as I was not a guest, but an employee. The nerve of some people!


Missy January 8, 2010 at 7:57 pm

I was once at a Tex-mex themed buffet wedding where they didn’t have any staff – free or not. Can I just say that rice and beans and shredded lettuce are *not* things that should be scooped by 200 people without someone to give that spot a regular wipe-down?

I felt bad for the clean-up crew because I knew they were being paid by guilt.


Virg February 12, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I’ve been emergency-recruited in one friend’s wedding, but that was to stand in as an usher when one of the groomsmen didn’t arrive (we found out later that one of the people he was driving to the wedding suffered a medical emergency in the car and they diverted to the nearest hospital, so he was excused), and the bride and groom were both falling over themselves thanking me. I certainly didn’t hold that against them, because it was an emergency, which is my point. I don’t think that recruiting help from the guests is polite at all, but I’d allow for an exception in the case of an emergency, and with exhibitions of thankfulness. In the example above, if I was put to the task of helping serve food because the catering staff failed to show, and the HC were both very grateful, I’d be more inclined to let it slide.



Marge April 13, 2010 at 9:33 am

Myfriend was a bridesmaid in a wedding. Unbeknownst to any of the bridesmaids who had had a long day of getting ready, photos, the ceremony, etc without a chance to sit down and/or eat, the bride informed them that it was “traditional” for the bridesmaids to serve the food at the reception as well (they were not told this until the reception). Let me tell you – my poor friend was exhausted, hungry and pretty angry by the time the reception was over. I told her she should have told the bride “too bad” at that point.


Jumble Girl October 19, 2010 at 1:13 am

I recently did the music at a friend’s wedding and I was really looking forward to it. To the strains of Dancing Queen the crowd hit the floor and then unfortunately my friend’s Aunt hit the floor literally. Tripped over her own feet and landed with a thud. And that was the end of my DJing experience. The Aunt was fine just a bit shaken up. But my friends still thanked me profusely for my time and effort in putting together the music list for them and I received a beautiful photo of them dancing to the slow songs I played beforehand. So although they didn’t get a lot of DJing out of me, they were exceedingly gracious and acknowledged what I had done. And that is how you thank friends/family for their time!


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