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Wedding Planning, “Godfather”-style

By December 27, 2013No Comments

There is a rule in our household – whenever Jaws, the first three Star Wars movies, or Godfather 1 and 2 are on TV, we turn it on and leave it running. There is something timeless about each of these stories – and some great lines that stick with you, that are suitable to so many situations. (“There is a great disturbance in the Force”…”We’re gonna need a bigger boat” – etc.) Nora Ephron wisely tied in several Godfather lines into her rom-com classic, You’ve Got Mail.

AMC ran Godfather 1 and 2 marathons for both Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas, and darnit, they pulled me back IN! So much in Francis Ford Coppola’s rich telling of Mario Puzo’s book (which is a good – if pulpy – read) seemed to apply to wedding planning.

Cocktail Hour at Castle Green. Not quite the same era, but there's something about the sumptuous red accents and wood details that remind me of setpieces from the Godfather.

1. It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business. Weddings are full of heart, emotion; the agreements and transactions involved – with everyone from your venue manager to your photographer – are business. Try not to get wrapped up in the emotional aspect and let your stress wreck the booking and negotiation process, as well as the planning period overall. Hard-bargaining with a videographer for your Saturday night wedding in peak season will lower your credibility and negotiation power with them; try a different tactic. When communicating with vendors leading up to the wedding day, keep your tone pleasant, evenhanded, and reasonable. It will make for an ideal working relationship.

2. Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer. That might sound dramatic, but when your engagement is announced, there may be some feisty friends or relatives that come out of the woodwork and bring their baggage with them. I’m not saying they are enemies – but they may be meddlesome at the least, disruptive at the worst. Stay neutral, receive their commentary or opinions with a smile and a nod, and change the subject. If they are known as party-wreckers, chat with a mutual friend or relative and see if they can ‘keep an eye’ on said guest at the wedding, or have a kind but frank talk with them using evidence (dates even, if possible!) of times where they caused a ruckus at past events. Staying calm throughout all interactions – even walking away if you need to, before losing your cool – will save you stress during the pressure-packed lead-up to wedding planning.

On the business side, wedding pros often have to work with a new round of vendors for nearly every single wedding. Each has their own quirks, routines, and sometimes, there’s a vendor or two that maybe promised more than they can deliver or do not hit deadlines. (Sorry, it’s the truth.) Yet, being diplomatic, patient, and working together in the best interest of the client is what’s important. By the end of the night, all that matters is everyone – particularly the bride and groom – is happy – not who happens to be the better professional.

Another vintage space, with plenty of dark corners for talks with the capo...Cicada. Photo by Elizabeth Etienne /

3. Find a good consigliere. As Michael explains to his girlfriend Kay at the beginning of the movie, a consigliere is a counselor, advisor, to the family. The Godfather’s consigliere is Tom Hagen, who was taken in by the family as a kid. Now grown up and a lawyer, he has the unique position of being familial, but not actually family, thus he can act objectively (for the most part) on their behalf – rarely losing his cool (as eldest son, Sonny, would). Note he was the only one who could tell Don Vito that his son had to be shipped off to Sicily after killing a rival.

I have often started to describe what i do as a bit of a consigliere to potential clients, but realized by the time I explained what it was to them, it wasn’t a very succinct way to describe wedding planners. Still, in a sense, the comparison does fit. We are caring, we look out for our clients as if they are family; but ultimately, we are professional and will let clients know what the right options are, even if it’s not necessarily what they want to hear. We hardly ever say “no,” and if we do, we make sure to tell the clients why, in great detail, and after exploring all other options.

At the least, we recommend hiring a day of consultant, but it’s also important to have a neutral, funny, wise friend with no emotional agenda, to be your right-hand-person.

4. Don’t forget the cannoli. Any unique dessert – from cupcakes, to mini pies, to cooked-on-site donuts – delight guests and accentuate a traditional wedding cake. Clemenza’s wife had her priorities straight before he left to take care of (ahem…) Paulie.

5. Style/design notes: At the beginning of the first movie, it’s Godfather Don Corleone’s daughter’s wedding. As he takes meeting after meeting in his study (cue Luca Brasa…), outside is a boisterous wedding that many designers and brides work hard to replicate on blog after blog – that perfect, antique, vintage, homespun wedding. String lights, handmade tablecloths, lucious platters of Italian wedding cookies. (Wouldn’t it be nice to also have that silk bag being loaded up with cash gifts??) My favorite touch: The very 1940s boutonniere of white carnations on all the gentlemen. Once touted as having a comeback during the Great Recession, I still feel they are under-used. There are types of carnations that are lusher, more full, than others.

Always-charming string lights, seen here at a Terranea rehearsal dinner. Photo by

And check out that cake! I actually miss the crazy-over-the-top tiered cake…. I also love that the guests drink wine out of short chimney style tumblers, not wine glasses. While perhaps wine purists would fret (sorry, guys, Reidels don’t necessarily enhance the wine-tasting experience), this is an authentic touch that I’d love to see replicated at truly rustic weddings.