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Eat, drink and be married

Wedding stinger: RJ Ledesma with Paolo Ledesma and 3rd Avenue

My voice sounds like a second-rate, trying-hard version of Christian Bale’s gravelly voice in Batman.  My calves feel like they’ve been shoved through a meat grinder after standing on my acutely flat feet for several hours. My facial muscles feel like they’ve been permanently Botoxed into an ear-to-ear grin.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way during the holiday season. 

You see, my three female readers, aside from writing this column of national irreverence, I have another job that goes into hyperdrive once Gary V’s version of Pasko Na, Sinta Ko plays on an infinite loop over the radio.

No, I’m not a Santa Claus mascot. I’m not a relief volunteer. I’m not a Dasmariñas Village security guard. 

I’m a wedding reception host. Yes, sort of like Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer. Minus the singing. And the mullet. 

I really enjoy hosting wedding receptions. It gives me an opportunity to meet new friends, to make people laugh and to be part of the first day of a couple’s solemnized incarceration to each other. I have also learned, after years of consulting with soon-to-be prison mates, that a potent combination of hormones, cheesy Christmas songs and toxic amounts of lechon in the bloodstream lead many a bachelor to propose (and eventually get married) to their girlfriends during the holiday season.

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Given this, here is my little gift to soon-to-be prison mates: Some choice advice to make the reception a memorable experience for both the newlyweds and the wedding guests:

Remember that the wedding reception is also about honoring your guests. Your guests are honoring the newly incarcerated by taking time out from their schedules (and sometimes flying in from different parts of the globe) to witness your special day. But just keep in mind that your wedding guests will also be spending half a day to even a whole day to celebrate your union. Thus, it would be prudent to value the gift of their presence by keeping the reception program long enough to be memorable but short enough to be appreciated.

For me, a good rule of thumb would be to keep the whole reception — from the grand entrance of the sponsors (if you choose to have them enter the ballroom, you can also choose to acknowledge them at an early part of the program) up to the couples’ “thank you” speech — to under 2.5 hours. You can save the dance instructors, the rockeoke band and the fire-eating circus performers for the post-reception party.

Try to keep the gap between the wedding ceremony and reception as short as possible. Similar to my previous point, your guests will be spending half a day to a day with both of you on your wedding day. Try to make it as convenient as possible for your guests by having the reception right after the ceremony (and choose venues that are close to one another). If this is not possible, then provide some form of entertainment (photo booths, strings, pre-nuptial slideshow photos) while guests are waiting to file into the reception venue. Or just serve a lot of alcohol. Your guests will end up entertaining themselves.

Be in control of your wedding reception program. Sometimes a well-meaning friend or a relative kindly insists that they do an impromptu song number or dance number “in honor of the couple” (and, to that end, they sometimes bring their own CD, band members and makeup artist). However, their performance is not part of the reception program that you crafted with the organizer.

Although the decision to allow this “special number” lies ultimately with the prison mates, I suggest that you gently turn down the performance for several reasons: 1) an “unexpected performance” might draw away the attention from the focus of the evening — the newlyweds; 2) it may derail the “flow” of the wedding reception program; 3) it might lead other guests to ask if they can deliver their own impromptu performances (which could inadvertently turn the wedding reception into a “talent show” or “karaoke night.” Trust me, I’ve seen it happen). Consequently, these additions to the program will make the program longer than it should reasonably be (remember, we’re trying to keep the program around two hours). If a friend or relative approaches you with this request, there are several options you can take: refer them to your wedding planner so he/she can diplomatically yet firmly turn them down, ask them if they are willing to perform during the post-reception party (if there is one) or ask them to upload the performance on YouTube (so you can show your appreciation by giving them a digital thumbs up). 

Keep the audio video presentations (AVPs) of your “romance” short and sweet. Everybody loves a good story that ends in a fairytale wedding (which is basically the formula for How I Met Your Mother). And the stylized video re-telling of your love story will keep your guests breathing out a collective “Aaaaawwww” as they see both of you transition from friends to fiancées. Since not all of the guests are aware of your romantic journey, they will want to see snippets of how both of you got together, fell in love, got engaged and eventually ended up solemnizing your incarceration — whether it be via a slideshow of pictures, a series of interviews, a short film or an interpretative dance number. But I don’t think the guests want to catch a whole two-hour wedding special (unless you were Ryan and Judai). So I strongly recommend that you keep your love story AVP between five to eight minutes.

Remind all those who will be delivering messages to kindly prepare their toasts in advance. Everybody looks forward to the toasts of the best man/men, maid/matron of honor (and sometimes by special request, a ninong or ninang, or si yaya). Since all these speakers (should have been) informed well ahead of time that they will be delivering their messages, the best way to honor the prison mates and the guests is by preparing for the toasts. I strongly encourage the speakers to draft a few notes or bullet points of what they wish to say (and, if they can, try to avoid Googling “wedding advice quotes” so that their messages can sparkle with originality and heart). If possible, try to keep the speech within two to three minutes so that they can hold the attention span of the audience. (A five-minute speech is pushing it. If they go beyond eight minutes, you can ask the wedding planner to hire a sniper to take out the speaker.) I get worried sometimes when a speaker comes up to the podium and says “I don’t know what to say” or “I’ll speak from the heart” because those speeches can be as unpredictable as our gas prices.

Hold on to your newly-minted spouse’s hand like it was surgically attached to you during the reception. When you go table-hopping to do picture taking, when you approach the stage for your dance, or when you greet friends, always remember to firmly and gently hold the hand of your spouse wherever you go (except if you have to go to the restroom). The wedding is a celebration of your union, and holding each other’s hand is a simple yet beautiful way of showing it off. (You can hold on to her other beautiful body parts during the honeymoon.)

Don’t forget to thank the most important person in your life. Aside from saying “thank you” to your guests, your guests from near and from very, very far, your entourage, your sponsors and both sets of parents during the thank you speech, please do not forget to thank the most important person in the room — no, not your yaya, you fool; your spouse. Since the groom traditionally delivers the “thank you” speech (although either prison mate can deliver the speech, there’s no protocol here as far as I am concerned), here are three lines that will keep his wife smiling for the rest of the evening (and for the honeymoon as well, ahihihihihi): “Thank you for saying yes to me”; “You look beautiful tonight”; and “You’re the boss.”

Have fun. There are things that will happen during the wedding reception that are beyond anybody’s control. An al fresco wedding reception can be ruined by rain or a massive traffic jam from the church to the reception or a failed coup d’état. But you know what? It happens and it has happened. Take comfort in the fact that you prepared your darndest for your special day. If anything happens that you didn’t expect, then it just made your wedding day a bit more memorable. Laugh it off. Grab a drink. Dance. Enjoy the company of those nearest and dearest to you. And who knows? By the time the night is over, you might just get lucky. And it better be with your spouse.

Try to get an experienced wedding coordinator and a capable wedding host (yes, this is as subtle a plugging as I can make). Some couples would like to get their relatives and/or close friends to serve as wedding coordinators and/or hosts. There’s absolutely nothing with that, especially if your coordinators and hosts have had experience in this regard. However, if you get newbies taking on either or both roles, then in the unfortunate circumstance that something goes apocalyptically wrong during the reception, the prison mates will find it very difficult to get all “wrath of God” on their friends/relatives who did what (they thought) was the best that they could do for the reception given their own abilities. With battle-hardened coordinators and hosts, they know exactly the idiosyncrasies of a wedding reception program and are able to anticipate any “hiccups” that occur during the reception — even the impromptu singing, fire-eating, or failed rebellion ones.

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For comments, suggestions or more wedding advice, please buy a copy of my book “I Do Or I Die: RJ’s Guide to Getting Married” and “Other Manmade Disasters” in National Book Store or Powerbooks as I exceeded my credit card limits for Christmas. Please visit www.rjledesma.com, e-mail ledesma.rj@gmail.com or follow @rjled on Twitter/@rjled610 on Instagram.

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