Thursday, May 31, 2007

In which I calm a nervous bride and her nervous son

I had an opportunity to do great things this afternoon. Bob and I are playing a wedding Saturday for a very anxious bride. She's a little older than I am; I've known her for a few years. She describes herself as a "detail person," which means she's been sending scores of emails and making scores of telephone calls to us - and probably to all her other wedding service people - for weeks/months.

Her son, in his late twenties, is singing two songs during the service: Kate Wolf's "Give Yourself to Love" and Paul Stookey's "Wedding Song." He's a good musician but his mom has been worrying about his "performance," so she booked me to coach him for two hours this afternoon and two hours tomorrow morning.

He sent me mp3s of himself singing the songs and playing the piano, and I thought they were fine. So I emailed him back and asked sweetly: "Do you really feel you need four hours of coaching on these two songs, or is that your mother's neurosis speaking?"

I went over there today and discovered: like mother, like son. Not only have he and his mother worried each other into a little frenzy, but he has, for some reason, gathered a circle of friends and a girlfriend who are evidently as anxious and critical as he is! So they've been criticizing him, and he was a nervous wreck.

Most people think I'm a nervous wreck, so it was so much fun to be the Zen one today. This is how I coached him:
  • You sound great
  • It's all good
  • Remember to breathe
  • English is, in fact, your native language, so enjoy what you're communicating
  • If you're happy, the guests will be happy; if you're anxious and self-critical, the guests will be unhappy.
  • Remember to breathe
  • It's all good
  • You sound great
This was amazingly successful! Although he still had to break out in spasms of self-doubt and criticism from time to time, he calmed down and started to look a bit less miserable. The bride had requested that I sing these songs in harmony with him, so I did, but mainly I modeled peaceful breathing, sitting right next to him.

While we were doing this, an older man and his grandson arrived. The grandson was carrying a gigantic grandfather clock with a big white ribbon on it. My first thought: "How hideous." They brought it into the bride's hallway, which it filled up pretty completely, and admired it there against the wall. Well, actually blocking a painting, because there was no blank wall space.

The bride and her intended and the son and I came out to look at it. The older man explained how to wind it up, and how she must remember to oil it once a year. He told her it would chime every hour. "Every hour 24 hours a day? Can we turn the chime off at night?" "No, but you can stop the clock."

Pictures were taken and the clockbearers said goodbye. The bride told her groom: "It will have to live at your place." (They live in two different cities and are going to commute and live in both houses.)

Then the son and I sang the two songs for the bride and groom and then he asked me: "Can I still come by tomorrow for one more coaching session?" He's kinda sweet so I said yes.

Then I told him he needs to find some new friends! Maybe Type B type friends, who would be supportive rather than critical, and then I reminded the bride that she needs to be happy and relaxed (she told me she hasn't slept for a week) and nothing else matters. The flowers, the food, the weather - they don't really matter! If she's happy and relaxed, people will have a good time, and if she's tense and miserable, they won't.

And then I left, mighty satisfied.


At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter is getting married tomorrow (FWIW, she graduated from Duke in 2003) - I'm printing this out and taking it to her. Hope the ceremony and your performance both go well!


At 3:48 PM, Blogger kenju said...

All of my brides need your advice!!


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