Cambrian: Slice of Life

It's wedding season: Don't get stressed — it's almost party time

Cambrian columnist Kathe Tanner decorating a wedding cake for a local couple in August 2003.
Cambrian columnist Kathe Tanner decorating a wedding cake for a local couple in August 2003. Courtesy

As we slide toward summer, I’m reminded that for years this was our super-hectic season.

Never mind Thanksgiving. Forget about Christmas and Valentine’s Day. For a bakery owner/caterer/cake decorator, holiday periods didn’t hold a candle to early spring and summer — otherwise known as wedding season.

Sure, people get married all year long, but spring is hustle time for people in wedding-related industries. Toss graduation season into the mix, and you have a recipe for bakery chaos.

We, of course, had our share of self-involved, demanding, unreasonable "bridezillas" who couldn’t stick to a decision for longer than it takes to sneeze.

Fortunately, the vast majority of brides, grooms and their parents that we dealt with were lovely people.

Wedding couples are entitled to be majorly stressed out. A wedding, even a small one, can be so much pressure. We had several couples who, as they got wrapped up in the planning process, wound up throwing in the towel, running away and eloping. Sadly, a few gave up on the whole relationship.

As providers, we had our own stressors.

When the power went out, I decorated wedding cakes at 4 a.m. by the light of vehicle headlights shining through the bakery windows.

Owners of a wedding venue had assured us their oven was plenty big enough for our sheet pans (18 by 24 inches). When we arrived to do the catering that day, we found an apartment-sized range with a smoky oven that hadn’t been cleaned since a recent, very greasy wild-boar dinner.

Dang! My caterer’s kit didn’t have Easy Off in it! My bad.

One couple delivered our wedding cake themselves … by plane to New York.

We did an early wedding delivery at the tippy top of San Simeon Creek Road (the cake was 12 feet long and 8 inches wide), and another delivery — on the same day! — beyond the multi-locked gates of Running Deer Ranch, with nobody there to unlock them for us. The road we were on was separated from the wedding site by an extraordinarily deep gully, and there was no bridge across. (That pre-Duff Goldman cake was a 3-foot-tall replica of a medieval stone tower on the property.)

Fun, fun.

As wedding professionals, we did have many wonderful times, including at an outdoor reception for an Italian groom and Japanese bride, both first generation with very large, traditional families who didn’t speak each others’ languages — or much English.

The couple wanted a loving, inclusive, meet-and-greet reception on the lawn, so the dinner’s seating cards were carefully laid out in a mix-’em-up, his-her-his-her-his-her arrangement. By the end of the night, it was one big, joyous, happy family …. even after the winery’s sprinklers came on a little early.

Another cool couple had a huge wedding at the Monday Club in San Luis Obispo, with a horse-drawn carriage, big band, six-course, table-served meal, elaborate flowers and décor and our elaborate cake with a different flavor for each tier.

As we hustled to finish organizing things about 45 minutes before the ceremony, a man and woman in matching running suits and athletic shoes wandered in and strolled casually around the room. They watched the admittedly hectic-looking goings on, chatted and smiled confidently, and then disappeared arm-in-arm.

Husband Richard’s jaw dropped when I told him, “That was the bride and groom!”

That’s how to do a wedding, folks.

Recently, a Facebook friend who was getting married soon was stressing about this detail and that possibility.

My answer was the same chapter and verse we gave all our bridal couples: “The important part of your day is between the two of you and the officiant who will marry you. Period. The rest of it is just a party. An important party, but just a party.

“As long as the two of you, your folks, the food provider and whoever is coordinating the event all stay cool and calm, keep smiling and don’t blab about glitches, nobody else will realize that something didn’t go quite the way you planned. And for heaven’s sake, don’t post the schedule or the menu!

“So, kids, get married. Enjoy the party. Visit with your friends and family. Let the good times roll, and then get on with your new lives.

“Now, breathe. Relax. And smile. It’s almost party time.”

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