Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Atop the tight-rope looking down . . .

One of the biggest challenges of life is balance. Being your own boss means you need to be self motivated, being your own boss in retail means you need to be just a little bit insane. Insane self motivated people have a really really hard time with the concept of balance.
Retail means never taking a day off. At least until you can afford to pay someone to cover that day. Retail means never hiding in your office, no matter how crappy the day has gone or how miserable you feel. You must always great that customer with a smile and no hint of the misery of the previous couple of hours, or the fact your allergy medication isn’t working, or that mother nature is making you wish you could call in sick and curl up in a little ball with a heating pad and a book and not get up until tomorrow.
You say “Good morning! How can I help you?” and a big, genuine smile, as if that person stepping into your store has brought total joy to your day. Because it has. Without that person, without each and every customer who steps in, even just to browse, you don’t have a business. Happy browsers eventually become happy customers. Who tell others who then also become happy customers. I have never understood retail sales clerks who treat customers as if they are interrupting their day. It’s just plain bad business.
But, this isn’t a rant about bad customer service, THAT is another post entirely. This is a ramble about the challenge of managing a retail business, a home, a family, a marriage and your own sanity.
So, for myself I have an amazing, supportive, hardworking husband who also happens to be in sales. So he has his business to manage, his client’s needs and his volunteer schedule to put in our pot ‘o craziness. We have one child young enough to need a babysitter or parent around when he isn’t in school, and others young enough that things like meals and transportation are still the role of the parents. And they have their sports, friends, school events and such we need to consider. I have retail store hours to keep and of course then there is house work, meals, a beautiful big yard needing spring clean up at the moment, my volunteer items, our church commitments and our extended family. Some time for friends and a social life sure would be nice. And somewhere in there we also need to make time for our marriage. Is it any wonder that one last minute change, one star out of alignment, one thing that just isn’t working can really mess up the works? How do we keep that pot from boiling over?
In all honesty, I don’t know. I just know we have to. So we keep a menu so kids get fed even when we don’t have time to eat what we cook. We keep a sense of who is responsible for what so that we can pretend no one feels like they have to do everything, even though I know each of us do sometimes. We keep the need to reconnect with each other on our priority list because we know at the end of it, without our marriage and family the rest of it means nothing. And we work to keep our sense of humour. Because you just have to be able to laugh at yourself and how hard we work to not have to ‘work’ for someone else.

Monday, April 18, 2011

To formal or not to formal, that is the question.

I was talking to a bride recently who was feeling a little lost about the type of wedding she wanted. Formal, traditional, informal, modern. The variety of choices and things that are affected by the level of formality was a little overwhelming.

Now, really, in this day and age anything goes. If you are a totally relaxed person and don’t care if your wedding has a major mixture of styles, then go for it! But, if you are a bit of a control freak, like I am, some things need to just look right. Meaning a formal wedding needs a formal wedding party. And that all starts with the gown.

I will jump in here and say these suggestions are just that. Suggestions that reflect my opinion and I might be totally off my rocker.

If you want a casual, relaxed look to your wedding, go with a simple flowing gown. A beautiful ‘destination’ gown like this gown by Mon Cheri fits the bill perfectly:

This is also a wedding style option for the bride who wants a short gown. Check out Jordan Fashion’s Little White dress.

Bridesmaid gowns would be shorter and the men would be in suits without a tie or dress pants and vest with no jacket.

For the princess bride, the cathedral wedding bride, the bride who’s dream gown involves mile long trains, lots of detail work and fabrics like satin. Like this stunning style from ADK

A formal groom wears a Tuxedo and bridesmaids are in floor length or midcalf length gowns. For a groom who wants to wear tails, formal is the only way to go. Now, you might like to know there is a difference in men’s wear for ‘daytime formal’ and ‘evening formal’. Evening formal is a standard tux with a vest and tie and also includes bow ties or tails. Daytime formal is where those beautiful, oh so British, ‘morning suits’ come in.  What is a morning suit? Prince William will demonstrate:

Somewhere in between/semiformal:
The great thing about the modern wedding is you can do a little bit of mix’n match without throwing things all wonky. For example, a bride in a gown with a sweep train instead of a long train, but heavy on the beading or fabric style. Back to Mon Cheri again, where the sweep train and stunning detail work on this gown really put it a notch above an informal gown:

Bridesmaids would generally wear cocktail or tea length gowns and the groom would not be in tails but your standard tux will look fine here, as would a nice a suit.

Now, like I said, these are my opinion only. And it’s YOUR wedding so you need to do what you want. Some ideas of combinations that work well are:
-          Sweep train with a cathedral veil is totally formal.
-          A satin gown without a train and no veil, semiformal or even informal depending on how everyone else is dressed.

If you are looking for totally unique, check out this link!

Although, I have to admit, I think these couples may have gone too far.

But really, anything really can go. It’s your wedding and in the end you’re the one that needs to be happy with your photos. 
Happy planning!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Save your tantrums for what really matters to you . . .

It's been done before, but I thought you might appreciate some things I've learned about pulling together a major event like a wedding. In order of priority, here's what you need to know:

1. The basics - Who, What, When, Where
Obviously these are huge. Knowing these things answers pretty much all your questions that will come after. For example:
A wedding:
- bride and groom
- getting married
- next august
- home town church

Now how many battles are answered if you focus on these 4 simple facts? Who are the important people to be there? The bride and groom and someone who can marry them. That's it. Great Uncle Chester or Mom's best friend's cousin from Topeka are not necessary for this event to happen.

2. The budget.
How much do you want to spend? I mean really WANT and can AFFORD to spend. Do you want to be paying for this event for the next 10 years? Do you have money saved? Will Great Uncle Chester be paying for it (which would obviously change the answer to the question above)? Are you borrowing on credit cards and skimming next months rent and groceries? Some serious thought and hard core lines have to be drawn on this point before you go any further.

3. What are your top 3?
By this I mean, what would you be utterly heartbroken not to have happen?  This works for a wedding, a graduate, a birthday party, a retirement party or a funeral. For one bride the top three may be the gown, her flowers and her best friend. For another her number one thing may be having her family there to celebrate with her and having a big party. For a third bride it could the rings and a tropical beach. You see how this, combined with items 1 and 2 will do your planning for you? Your top 3 are where you spend you time, your money and your tantrums umm. . . emotional energy.

Many an event is derailed by third parties wanting to 'help'. Pick your top three. Keep iron grip control of those top three. Everything else is gravy. Cheap out on the invites if your dress is where you want to spend your money. Let tone deaf Aunt Mary play the piano and save your music money for the live band you have always dreamed of having at the reception. Let your colour blind brother in law help decorate and spend the money on your dream cake instead. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter. What matters are your top three. By focusing on these and remembering this you will save yourself a lot of stress.

At the end of the day you and your mate will be married. Isn't that what really matters?