To Intro or Not to Intro, That is the Question… of the week?

For the last few years there has been a trend away from doing the big long introduction line at the start of wedding receptions. You know, the part where the band leader announces all of the bridal party, parents of the bride and groom, flower girls, ring bearers, third grade teachers etc. People have begun to ask me if they really need to do all of that. I say, if you have to ask, then probably not.


It’s one of those things that people do, because it’s tradition, but this is your wedding and it can be as traditional as you want it to be. If you need help deciding, here’s some pros and cons.
Cons:
  • The introductions can take a long time. That’s up to an extra 20 minutes between you and your first course!
  • You have to get your entire bridal party lined up all over again. At this point they’ve probably had a couple of drinks, which makes them less like the responsible adults that you trusted to stand by your side on this most important day of your life, and more like unruly 6th graders… I’ve heard.
  • No one remembers the order they were placed in for the ceremony.
  • The bouquet bridge!
  • There is no champagne in the staging area…
Pros:
  • Photo-ops a plenty.
  • One more opportunity for everyone to see how masterfully you’ve outfitted your posse for the event.
  • You won’t be totally alone out there when the first dance starts.
  • You get a chance to show off your musical taste with another custom song selection.
  • It’s a chance to break the ice and infuse a little fun into the room before the first dance.
Like I said, if you have questions about whether or not to do it, you may want to skip, just make sure you run it by your parents first, especially if they are footing the bill!

Wedding Myth #2: Tuxedos are classier than suits.

Not if it has to be back to the store by 11am the next day it’s not. One of the biggest problems with the tuxedo is that somewhere along the line someone decided it was something that should be available for rent. Someone came up with this idea that women should buy a new dress for every different occasion, but if a man needs dress up, to look sharp – he should do it in someone else’s pants. What’s the deal with that?

It’s not 1987. If you want to wear a tux, buy one. You have a better chance of wearing it again than the bridesmaids do. Just make sure the level of formality of your dress matches the level of formality of your event.

Yesterday I was discussing the tux rental issue with my husband. He told me that his disgust at the thought of a rented tux goes all the way back to his fifteenth year. He had been invited to the Quinceanera of an extremely cute classmate with whom he was smitten, until… She told him he needed to go to a specific tux rental shop and rent a specific maroon tuxedo, so that he could match the other escorts at the event. That did it, there was no way he was going to that party.

That being said, if you envision a full blown black tie event for your wedding, you’ll want to state it in the invitation. You’ll need to write “black tie”. If you write “black tie optional” most men will opt… out.


Say What You Need to Say: Then Give the Microphone Back!

In my seventeen years of weddings I’ve seen a lot of great speeches. They’ve run the gamut from tear-jerkers to pants-wetters and everything in between. This July a best man wrote his own blues tune and did a whole number (with props) while the band accompanied him. In August, I played a wedding where the best man was a stand-up comedian, I was laughing so hard I was crying by the time I had to get back up on the stage.

Unfortunately for every great speech I’ve witnessed there have been twice as many complete flops. I’ve seen drunk speeches, whispered speeches, mean speeches and embarrassing-beyond-the-realm-of-funny-speeches. You don’t have to have the oratory skills of Barack Obama to bring home a great wedding speech. You can do it, whether you’re the best man, the maid of honor, the bride, the groom or mom and dad.

You can be as straightforward and to the point as you want. If you have more experience talking in front of a large group, you can really wow the crowd with jokes, anecdotes, props and songs. Either way, knowing your limits is important.

Amy

Here are some tips for giving a great speech or toast:

  1. Don’t get drunk! I mean it. It’s not funny, it’s just sad.
  2. Speak directly into the microphone. This may seem like a no-brainer, but most people have no clue how to use a mic. You can’t hold it like a news correspondent. They have the added benefit of a lavalier mic. Check out the way they point it at the interviewee. They tilt it towards the person’s mouth. That’s what you should do, to yourself.
  3. If you’re worried about what to say, short and to the point usually gets it done.
  4. Personal stories are great, but make sure they make sense and are universally relatable.
  5. Stop saying um… um, ok?
  6. Don’t get drunk!
  7. If you plan on using props, keep them simple. Ask if you can stash them on the stage or bandstand before you have to get up. Oh, and don’t use the giant roll of paper trick. It’s way overdone. Not funny anymore.
  8. If you’re too shy to speak, ask to be let off the hook. Seriously, it’s not mandatory. I’ve seen people shake with fear up there. I’m sure everyone would rather you be comfortable than terrified, there’s always someone else in the crowd that could do it.
  9. Stand still. Try not to sway, shift or walk around too much. It makes people seasick, and it takes away from what you’re saying.
  10. Only open with a joke if it’s funny, and I mean funny when you’re sober.
  11. Don’t get drunk! Seriously, I didn’t write this three times by accident.
  12. Don’t over rehearse. If you speak from the heart it is usually best. Unless there’s a song involved, then – rehearse.
  13. Don’t curse. If you’re following tips 1, 6 & 10 you probably won’t, but really now, cursing is f***ed up.
  14. Bring your champagne with you if you intend to ask everyone to raise a glass. It looks weird if you’re the only one without one.
  15. Don’t run away with the microphone. When you’re done, turn around and hand it back to the person that gave it to you. We hate having to chase people.

Following these steps, planning ahead and staying focussed will help you master almost any speeching situation. Remember, everyone is on your side – and once you’re through it, you can go have a drink… but don’t get drunk!



Me! A Guest Blogger!!

So. My friend Kara writes the great food blog, An Hour in the Kitchen. Last week she asked if I would write about my not-so-secret zucchini fetish. I couldn’t help but oblige. I love to cook, and the thought of writing a recipe was just too appealing. So below, please enjoy “The Wedding Singer’s Guide to Zucchini” it’s topical, what with the summer being upon us (finally). Also, a great way to feed out-of-town guests the night before the big day!


The Wedding Singer’s Guide to Zucchini

Two summers ago I planted my first garden. It was at my father-in-law’s house in the country, at which I was spending half of every week. The space had been dormant for a few years, so my husband and I decided to revive it. We planted the usual suspects, as we had been instructed by my husband’s dad. It was a great summer for growing that year and yields were high. (I still have jars of canned peppers). Perhaps the most prolific of the garden plants was the zucchini. Before I grew my own veggies, I liked zucchini. Occasionally… in a stir fry or as an accompaniment to grilled salmon, but since that summer the thought of going without homegrown sweet delicious zucchini is horrifying.

The first giant zucchini was really an accident. One day I looked in the garden and saw some lovely little babies sprouting from the plant. I decided to let them get a little bit bigger, and a day or two later… I had raised behemoth squash.

 

First harvest from 2007 garden.

First harvest from 2007 garden.

I couldn’t have been more proud of my accomplishment, although I think the cat had some issues with it!

Zuc bigger than cat!

 

El Zucchini Grande

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then came the advice, and inevitably the criticism. Some people said my giant zucchini wouldn’t taste as sweet as it’s normal sized counterparts. They said the skin would be too tough, they said I had gone too far! I wouldn’t listen.

My grandmother told me to make zucchini bread. Still others said soup was the way to go, but I remembered seeing a recipe for mediterranean stuffed squash (using, of course puny, normal sized zucchini) and I recalled the tale of a similar zucchini that had been pulled from that same garden about ten years earlier. It had been stuffed as well, with a curried rice. I thought, “why does my glorious giant zucchini have to be relegated to side dish status? It is a wondrous and beautiful fruit!” So, I started stuffing. I made the first one with seafood – crabmeat and shrimp, then I made a vegetarian stuffed zucchini with golden raisins, couscous and almonds. Then I moved on to the meat. I made an Italian stuffed zucchini with ground veal, bread crumbs, tomatoes (also from the garden), pine nuts and, of course… cheese! It’s that one I’ll share with you now, because it stands out in my memory as one of my greatest squash stuffing achievements.

Let me start by saying this has not been the greatest garden year here in the Northeast, but I’ve already managed this…

First harvest 2009.IMG_3351
 

… and tonight. One of those bad boys is getting stuffed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Style Zucchini “Boat”

1 giant zucchini (if you’re the type that’s not into giant squash, you can always make the stuffing and stuff it into many small zucchini)

1-1 1/4 lbs. ground veal (can substitute ground beef, turkey, etc.)

4-5 plum tomatoes, peeled & crushed

2 cups baby portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped

1 medium onion, chopped into approx. 1/4 inch pieces

3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

4 Tbsp. fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 pinch thyme leaves

1 pinch oregano

2oz. pine nuts

3-4 cloves garlic, chopped (depends on how garlicky you like it)

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup red wine (give or take… or drink)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Approx. 3/4 cup bread crumbs

salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the ends off of the zucchini and slice it lengthwise down the middle. With a large spoon, dig out the seeds from the center of the squash.

 


 

hollowed out zuc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This should create a channel suitable for stuffing. Salt and pepper the zucchini, put into a giant roasting pan and set aside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a large skillet, brown veal lightly on a medium/high heat. Remove veal from pan and preserve juices from browning. Add about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to the pan and reduce heat to medium. Add garlic and onion and saute for 4-5 minutes or until onions are lightly browned. Add chopped IMG_3362mushrooms and continue to saute for 2 minutes. As you saute, add in your herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, parsley) a little at a time, reserving approximately 1 Tbsp of parsley for later. Add in crushed tomatoes, stir to mix. Cook mixture with tomatoes for about three minutes. Add in red wine and raise heat to cook off some of the liquid. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes. Add in 1/2 cup of grated cheese (save the rest for later) and return the veal to the pan and stir together with veggies. Salt and pepper mixture to taste. Add 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs a little at a time while stirring mixture. You want the bread crumbs to absorb much of the liquid, you may need a little more than 1/2 cup, you may need a little less. When the pan juices are mostly absorbed (nothing pooling in the bottom of the pan) remove pan from heat. Add in the pine nuts and stir to mix.


 

Spoon the veal mixture into the zucchini (depending on the size of your zucchini, you may have some extra mixture – but I usually just cram it in there.

IMG_3365

 

 

 

 

Sprinkle remaining bread crumbs, then remaining parmesan, then remaining parsley on top of your stuffed zucchini. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover roasting pan with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. IMG_3367

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may want to turn the oven up to broil for the last 3 minutes or so to brown the top. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve by slicing crosswise. Serves 6-8, depending on your zucchini size.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


So there it is. Does the skin get thicker as the zucchini gets bigger? Yes. But it allows you to trap all the delicious stuffed goodness in there and it softens up pretty well when you bake the squash. And the flesh? Tender, sweet, meaty and delicious. What started out as a happy accident has become a summer tradition in my house. The only drag is all that baking with no A/C, but like they say, if you can’t stand the heat…

 


IMG_3369

 

 

 

 

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Busted: Wedding Myths

Wedding Myth #1: You can totally wear that again!

No, you can’t. Sorry, unless you’re one of those Project Runway kids the chances of you “cutting it short” and “dying it black” are very slim. So what you’re left with is that dress you bought to be in your friend’s wedding. You will most likely shove it in the back of your closet and forget about it. If you’re like me you’re too sentimental to ditch it, but wearing it again poses a problem. You have no occasion, except maybe – another wedding.

I’m not saying all bridesmaid’s dresses are ugly (that’s a myth too) but they are bridesmaid’s dresses, and they look like it. I’ve seen a lot of it. You figure it’s a nice enough dress, you can sneak another wearing out of it, but you’re really not fooling anyone. You will look like you’re at the wrong wedding, like somewhere down the hall they’re trying to find you to line up for entrances…Liz Wedding Hijinks


I’ve Still Got Thriller Stuck in my Head.

On Saturday some friends of mine threw a party for which I did the unthinkable… I DJ’d, well, MP3J’d. I have to admit, it was really fun. My husband and I brought two laptops, the sound system for our band and some crazy disco lights we were given by a past client to a friend’s barn, which was transformed into a rustic, but posh, dance hall. I got an opportunity to dance, which I never get to do, but I still sang every song (as loud as I could) along with the tracks. It was an amazing moment for everyone to cut loose and forget about things for a night.

Coming just two days after the sudden death of a man who could best be described as a legend in his own time, this party gave me a chance to pay tribute to Michael Jackson, whose music has been influential throughout my life. I haven’t gotten enough of an opportunity to play MJ’s hits live in the past few years. Although, I think that will be changing. Three of my upcoming event clients have asked for tribute sets to the King of Pop at their parties. I’m sad that it took his death for people to rediscover his contribution to the soundtrack of all of our lives, but at the same time thrilled to honor Michael Jackson’s music in any way I can. In the next few weeks and months the events surrounding Michael Jackson’s death will be scrutinized and publicized. Society will, no doubt, be as fascinated by MJ in death as we were in life.

That being said, I’m not going to talk about MJ as a tragic figure. I’m not going to talk about plastic surgery or odd behavior or accusations. I’m not going to postulate on the cause of his death. I’m just going to post my Michael Jackson tribute playlist and let the discussion about his life be one about his music.

I trimmed my list down to one solid hour of the songs that meant the most to me and, of course, kept the dance floor packed – for decades.

  1. ThrillerThriller, 1982
  2. I Want You BackDiana Ross Presents The Jackson 5, 1969
  3. Don’t Stop ’til You Get EnoughOff the Wall, 1979
  4. Billie JeanThriller, 1982
  5. Black or WhiteDangerous, 1991
  6. ABCABC (The Jackson 5), 1970
  7. Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)Destiny (The Jacksons), 1979
  8. Wanna be Startin’ Somethin’Thriller, 1982
  9. Beat ItThriller, 1982
  10. The Way You Make Me FeelBad, 1987
  11. The Love You SaveABC (The Jackson 5), 1970
  12. Rock With YouOff the Wall, 1979
  13. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)Thriller, 1982
  14. Off the WallOff the Wall, 1979
  15. Who’s Lovin’ YouDiana Ross Presents The Jackson 5, 1969

We interspersed this playlist throughout the night in three song sets.

I can think of some tracks to add, what about you?