Tuesday, August 16, 2022

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Joe's Neighborhood

Wedding planners, marriage and pipe cleaners


Marriage is certainly a line in the sand. One day you’re single, and your foolish behavior goes unnoticed. The next day you’re married, and your partner is the first to tell you that shirt doesn’t go with those pants. I didn’t know that. Now I do. I’m married. My clothes mostly go together. Unless my wife is out of town.

I love the hot mess of marriage. Marriage is an institution wrapped in the rigorousness of deeply held religious beliefs and the casualness of a minister who is really a Las Vegas Elvis impersonator. Don’t you love that? The right to marry is fought tooth and nail all the way to the highest court in the land, while at the same time some lawyer is preparing prenuptial agreements in a small back room in downtown Des Moines, getting ready for the divorce. You have to love the law. Every silver cloud has a dark lining. One could even argue that gay marriage is all about the right to divorce. Just like everyone else. Equal protection under the Constitution, as long as I get the sofa.joes1

But all this presupposes something the Iowa Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court failed to talk about in their landmark decisions on gay marriage — yup, you guessed it. Where is Aunt Regina going to sit at the wedding reception? Or what about an open bar, given Uncle John’s propensities? And do we worry about the guests who are vegetarians or octogenarians or vegetarian octogenarians? Important wedding questions.  Ignored by everyone.

Well, not quite everyone.

“Trust me,” the classically blonde haired, blue-eyed woman says in a low soft voice, “I’ll take care of everything.”

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Ah, a wedding planner has entered the room. Please bow to the gods in thankfulness.

Maya Boettcher, with her assistant Lucy Solarz, lights up as she talks about weddings. As should you. Because things are in her hands. Things are under control. Things are going to go all right. Sit back and enjoy.

This is Maya’s seventh year of full-time wedding planning. And she’ll do anything you need from location, to food, to music, to flowers, to where to buy the dress. Even including bringing the Hawaiian Dance Team from Chicago to your reception. She shows me a picture of one of her recent weddings that reflects the grace and beauty surrounding that happy day.

This reminds me that I was not graceful or beautiful on my wedding day. My wedding was a shotgun wedding without the pregnancy. I needed to marry fast, before my soon-to-be wife discovered what a schmuck she was getting hitched to. So I married in the nick of time, two months after our first date. You could safely say I was a little difficult at my wedding. Surly and anxious, I even demanded we leave the reception less than an hour after it began.joes2

“There are two types of clients: difficult and not difficult.” Maya holds my gaze with some softness and much steel as she explains her philosophy of dealing with clients. “If they are difficult, we pretend that they’re not.”

Lord, what a concept. Deny a reality you don’t want for a reality you do. Perhaps not the best choice if you’re gambling at Prairie Meadows, but perfect for a wedding.

“I empathize with difficult clients. I have been in every situation that a client presents. I have been in their shoes somewhere along the line. People don’t know me, and they feel embarrassed about their drama. I don’t want them to feel that way. I want them to feel like they can be honest and comfortable and that we aren’t going to judge them.”

Her company is called Plum Event + Design. She does just about any event, but weddings are her meat and potatoes. She did eight in the last five weeks. And I mean WEDDINGS.

“Weddings have become such a thing. People used to get married and have punch and cake in the church basement. Now it’s $100,000 later, and then you’re married.”

My oh my. It reminds me of how I behaved so badly to the photographer at my own wedding 34 years ago. Yes, quite a jerk. Wouldn’t line up, wouldn’t smile, just generally uncooperative. He later told me I was the most difficult groom he’d ever worked with.

“I’ve had plenty of jerk grooms,” Maya assures me. “I stroke egos. ‘You look so handsome. Don’t you worry.’ I don’t have to swallow any kind of pride. Jerks are not just at weddings by the way. Every day you have to be nice to people and know that it’s not about you. You have to fix things.”

And brides?

“Message to upcoming bride: Trust me. Let it go. I have a therapist’s phone number. I have someone who can help you with those feelings. Don’t take it out on your significant other. Get married. Just think about what you’re really doing. That is the fun part.”

Maya is a pro. She’ll make everything as fun and as wild and as extravagant as you want, and then she’ll straighten the chairs around the tables.

“You want to cut the cake with a sword? Great.  I can handle that. For example, I can take a difficult father-in-law and give him a really important job and make him feel really special. Give him the spotlight that he feels he deserves in a way that is controlled by my team. And at the end of the day, everyone is happy.”

Wow. Really? A sword?

“My whole thing is just being nice to people. I know that is a cliché. But you have to be nice to people, no matter who they are. It might be the crazy girl who is hammered, making a pipe-cleaner tiara at the kids’ table. We still say to her, ‘We are so glad you had fun at the wedding.’ And really mean it.”

Goodness. Listen, but what are we supposed to make with the pipe cleaners? Maya just shakes her head, laughs and she and her assistant head out the door to prepare another wedding. The responsible people have definitely left the room. So, what do you think? Does this shirt go with these pants? CV

Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www.joesneighborhood.com.

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