Wedding crashers -- 10/07/08

Wedding crashers...

I mentioned recently that one of the things we have to do when working as attendants at Kinney Bungalow or at Narragansett Towers is to keep out wedding crashers. (Yeah, just like in Wedding Crashers.) Bonnie asked for more details, so I thought I would babble on a bit about that topic...

It's relatively easy at Kinney Bungalow because it is on a relatively rural section of highway, so you don't have people wandering around on foot. It is located on Sunset Farm, an actual working farm (the town leases the land and the early 1860s vintage farm house to a farmer and his family) with a farm stand where you can buy fruits and vegetables. So sometimes we do get people who stop to buy a dozen ears of corn and who then wander over to ask "What is this building?" We sometimes have to explain that we can't give them a tour of the building because it is being used but I can't think of any instances of an actual wedding crasher.

Things are different at The Towers. It is in the middle of town. There is a popular restaurant (The Coast Guard House) right next to it and several more bars and restaurants within a few blocks plus some hotels and motels, etc. and, on a summer weekend, there are so many people in town that every parking lot and every legal on street parking space in town seems to be filled (along with a number of spots clearly labelled No Parking). So... hot summer night... people wandering around... and as they walk by this big stone building arching across the street they can hear a DJ playing dance music -- or, even better, a live band playing. Some people innocently do come in the door to ask how can they get to that cool nightclub upstairs that is hanging over the street. Mostly, however, they are aware of it as a popular wedding venue and they want to get up there to score a drink or two, maybe some food, and do some dancing. I think the movie has encouraged this kind of thing.

Nancy handles them very well.

They come in the front door and say something like "We're here for the wedding" or "Oh, wow! We are so late!".

Nancy just looks at them (remember, she is a middle school math teacher -- she knows how to give a stern look) and asks "What are the names of the bride and groom?"

The crashers get a startled look on their face. Usually they are a couple who have already had a drink or two (or many more) and the potential for being asked this question seems not to have occurred to them.

"Good night." Nancy says as she shows them to the door.

We also have to watch the backdoor. The caterer for the evening usually has a truck or two parked there and sometimes even a propane grill or two. Also, wedding guests sometimes congregate there to smoke. One night a young guy, probably mid late twenties, who had obviously been drinking elsewhere before he had wandered by, began chatting up one of the bridesmaids who was busy filling her lungs with nicotine. When she finished her cigarette and came back into the building, he came with her and they started up the stairs deep in conversation.

"Excuse me, sir." I called up the stairs. "I'm afraid this is a private event, invitation only."

He quickly turned and came back down the stairs and headed out into the night. The bridesmaid had assumed he was a wedding guest that she didn't know. After all, weddings bring together the bride's family, the groom's family, and various friends of the bride and/or the groom. You can't expect to know everyone.

Some of the stories can be quite inventive. One couple showed up and said they were from a local radio station (one that had sponsored some concerts at the Towers) and needed to pick up some equipment that had been left upstairs. Another couple tried to convince me that they were journalist who had come to do a story about the band.

Usually it is easy to spot potential wedding crashers because they are dressed far too casually for a wedding. Oh, okay, these days I'm afraid it is not uncommon for there to be a few guys who really aren't dressed properly, but if they were real wedding guests their female companion would be dressed up and wearing heels and makeup and jewelry, so it is a sure sign if she is not dressed up.

However, we did have one wedding that was very casual. It was a couple who had married quietly in a private ceremony (with just their parents and their children attending). They invited friends and family to come to a party at the Towers -- told them they were having a party to celebrate five years together (or something like that... anyway, some kind of good cover story) and said dress was extremely casual, shorts and t-shirts were fine. The guests only found out that they were married when they arrived upstairs at the party.

They had given us a list of all expected guests and we checked off names as each guest arrived. That was when Nancy almost kept the father of the bride from getting in. His name did not appear on the alphabetical list and Nancy was quite insistent that nobody was getting in who was not on the list -- but then she found his name hand-written in the margin. It seems that when the bride typed the list she was thinking of the people who had been invited and only after she had finished did she realize she had left him off the list because, of course, they hadn't needed to send him an invitation. She was embarrassed but he thought it was funny. Those lists did come in handy, however, because we had major numbers of wedding crashers trying to get in to that party -- their band had seven musicians/singers and the bride and groom had hired a guy who usually does sound systems for arena concerts to set up the sound for their party. The live music seemed to reach out all over town and draw potential crashers. And since none of the guests were dressed up, there were no visual clues. (The bride was very excited when she found out that we had had to turn away a number of crashers -- she had loved the movie and thought it was so cool to have them trying to get into her wedding reception.)

I think Nancy enjoys the wedding crashers, the cat-and-mouse game of blocking them from getting in. I think of them as being annoyances and I'd rather not be annoyed.

Two women, probably fresh from drinks somewhere else, attempted to claim they were guests at the wedding reception, just arriving a bit after the start of the party. Nancy did her usual request for the names of the newlyweds and then sent them on their way when they couldn't answer. I happened to be leaving through the back door at the time, intending to pass outside of the west tower, cross the street, and walk around the east tower, checking to make sure nobody was smoking on the balcony... and two women came past me as I was reaching the sidewalk. They asked me if that was the wedding of... and named a couple... I told them I didn't remember bridal couple's last names... did I know the first names... I told them... they said nope, not the couple they thought. As I was crossing the street I looked back over my shoulder and saw that they were on the walkway along side the building, going to the back. Yeah, their questions had raised my BS detector (yeah, okay, a bit late) and I quickly turned back and dashed in through the front door, intending to cut through the lobby and beat them to the back door. As I came through the lobby I could see Nancy at the back door. The two women told her the first names of the bride and groom and said that's whose wedding they were there for.

Nancy just looked at them and said "And what are their last names?"

They left.

One time Nancy had turned away a couple at the front door and then had a hunch that they might try to sneak in the back door. Her hunch was right, but by the time they reached the back door Nancy was already there, arms folded, blocking the door. I could hear the guy say to his girlfriend, "Damnit! She's everywhere!"

One time, however, not for a wedding but when we were having a fund-raising event for The Towers, something that we do once or twice a year, a Taste of the Towers, with music and hors d'oeuvres (furnished by the various catereres who, of course, want people to appreciate their fine foods and hire them to provide food for any parties or events they might plan) and wine and beer and dancing... So this particular night, almost three hours into a four hour event, these two guys come up to me as I am standing just outside of the front door wearing a tuxedo (because I dress up when I work a fund-raiser, want convey an aura of elegance) and they ask me about what is going on and then ask if they could go upstairs and out to the balcony that looks out at Narragansett Bay... and also looks down at the rooftop dining deck at the Coast Guard House.

I explain that it is a fund-raising event, admission by ticket only ($25 per person), and no, I cannot let him come upstairs and out onto the balcony. So very sorry, but no exceptions, etc. Actually, one guy is doing all the talking and the other is just along for the ride. The talker is one of these very sociable types you sometimes meet in business who could talk you to death... or at least until you sign for the deal... He explains that he and a group of friends had had dinner (apparently with before and during and after dinner drinks) and somehow he ended up making a bet with someone (loser to buy a round of drinks) that he could talk his way into the event (apparently they all actually thought it was a wedding reception) and in order to win, he and his buddy would have to appear on the balcony and have their friends see them waving.

I again explained that everyone upstairs had purchased $25 tickets and I could not let him just wander up there. He was hinting (without actually saying it) that he could slip me some money... and then, when he saw he was not getting anywhere, asked if he could buy a ticket. Sure, I told him. Most people had bought them in advance but some had bought their tickets in the lobby. However, I pointed out, we were almost three-quarters of the way through the evening. He didn't care; he just wanted to wave to win the bet.

Despite being almost convinced he was just a BS artist, I escorted him and his friend into the lobby, introduced him to the ladies at the ticket table (one of whom was Nancy) and he bought two $25 admission tickets. By this time I was rather fascinated by this character, so I then escorted them upstairs (okay, so also I didn't quite trust them not to cause a problem -- they really were quite drunk) and past the food tables and through the crowd of people dancing, and out onto the balcony -- where I introduced them to Kate, the Towers manager/coordinator, and to a couple of town officials, and then watched as he and his friend waved and waved at the Coast Guard House. Finally he pulled out his cell phone and called one of dinner companions and demanded that they look over at the Towers, and then he and his buddy began waving again. Then they cheered, high-fived each other, rejoiced at winning the bet... and then headed back inside.

I pointed out that there was still a decent supply of various gourmet hors d'oeuvres available... and some wine for wine-tasting... and some gift baskets for silent auction bidding... but they had accomplished their mission, they had been seen by their friends as they waved from the balcony, they had won the bet. (Mind you, just about the last thing these guys needed was another drink.) So escorted them back down to the lobby, accepted the business card that was thrust upon me, shook their hands, and said goodnight. They left the Towers and crossed the street to the Coast Guard House (as I watched to make sure they didn't step out in front of traffic).

So those were some of our wedding crasher stories...

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