I go to a "Professional Wedding Guild" luncheon...
I'm not much of a joiner, in general, but lately I've been running around town doing whatever I can think of to drum up more wedding gigs for my bands. As I've said before, I really love playing at weddings: we make people happy - well, they're in a good mood already and I like that! - everybody looks pretty, the air is charged with optimism...
Today I disguised myself as a "professional" (that means I didn't wear shorts and flipflops) and went to the Franklin hotel, a new ritzy spot in downtown Chapel Hill, and went into the fancy marble lobby and asked the guy behind the desk for a parking pass, but he told me grandly, "we are not towing today," so I plucked up my courage, went on up to the third floor, and signed in to the Professional Wedding Guild luncheon.
I hadn't really known what to expect, but I'd burned a few copies of my wedding music sampler cds and had my cheapo business cards and my camera.
The lady who owns the "Perfect Wedding" franchise in this area, Gail Galloway, was friendly and kind, as were just about all the people I met.
The nicest, most relaxed group: the officiants. I liked them all.
The group I would call most tense: the venue people, folks from various fancy hotels, clearly in competition with each other for the big bucks. This area has a high saturation of high-end hotels, and perhaps in the current economy not enough brides have five figures to spend on a venue... The venue folks seemed worried...
The photographers were a bit supercilious when I asked them (on behalf of my engaged daughter) if they would shoot a wedding and then just hand over an unedited cd of the images. No, they said, we must control our images, our reputations are at stake.
It reminded me of the days when the photographer came one day a year to my elementary school, and we were supposed to be all gussied up and we got shoved one by one in front of the camera, and then later we got these folders with sample pictures that said PROOF on them in big letters in case our parents tried to steal the pictures.
I guess I don't understand this business model, you pay the photographer but the photographer owns the pictures he/she takes?
The "Guild" meets every month or so, at different venues, which is a way for the hotels to strut their stuff. The head of catering at the Franklin introduced to us the Franklin's master chef and said "He's a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America."
He'd put balsamic vinegar on our ice cream and strawberries and (somewhat stale) cake, thereby rendering them inedible. So much for haute cuisine.
Being mother of a bride, a former (fanatically do-it-yourself) bride myself, AND a wedding vendor, I feel a little uneasy about the food chain quality of this business. I think of what we do, playing for people who are in a supercharged emotional mood, as being something very special - but "the biz" aspect commodifies music, which to me is so much more than that...
Brides, young and anxious and in potential possession of huge pots of money to disburse to various strangers they will probably never work with again, are on the one hand the bosses; on the other hand, they're a little like bait fish getting chased round the pond by people with items and services to sell.
Further up the food chain: wedding planners, who can recommend - or not recommend - vendors, who can contract us and sell our services to the brides (with a surcharge added).
Above even the wedding planners: owners of the various advertising channels and franchises. They can collect large fees from us cake-bakers and gew-gaw makers etc, so we can tout our wares in display ads in their magazines and on their websites, or pay big bucks to sit in booths at their Bridal Shows and fish for brides.