Wedding Planning Chilean Style

Oh Chile.

You are many great things but I have to say, the least of all is efficient. Chilean people are many great things, the least of all, is responsive (especially when they should be!)

Take for example the vendors I’m TRYING to work with (because I can’t actually say I AM working with them) to get my wedding even slightly organized. Let me preface this with stating that the wedding industry in Chile is in diapers when compared to that of the U.S. Things that are a standard option in my world (i.e wedding coordinators or “day of” coordinators) are an anomaly here. Forget about the ideology of “anything goes” and personalization for one’s wedding. Out the window here! Weddings and wedding options are like pre-packaged services that remind me of the houses in the movie “Edward Scissorhands.”

See this? …. In my world this = Yawn.

But this is exactly how I can best describe the options brides and grooms have for planning a wedding. Everything from the dress to the flowers to the decorations in general are whittled down to Option A, B, C or the “fancy” D (which is never all that fancy or different anyway!) So if there’s a bride like me, for example, who grew up elsewhere, who saw different kinds of weddings and receptions where it’s ALL ABOUT personalization, you come to this town and think “color me bland” and then break down and cry.

…After the meltdown, you realize that you just have to get creative and above all else, you have to CHASE.THESE.VENDORS.DOWN. We chose our wedding venue because of the space, the food and the amazing wine. We’re all about feeding our peeps great food and having them drink amazing Chilean wine. However, the decorations offered at our venue are, at best, so boring you want to gouge your eyes out. See an example of another wedding at this same venue (note: ACTUAL event picture follows:)

I hope I didn’t lose you in the blandness. Now, for those of you out there who are OK with this, I think that’s awesome. It’s awesome because YOU are ok with it. But G and I are outside-box thinkers, at least for Chilean standards, and this is definitely not ok with us. So we decided to search for companies who could take the decorative ambiance switch and turn it up about 20 notches.

We found one which we noticed had done pretty good work, both creative and fun, as far as we could tell. So we went to their office and explained our general ideas to them. They then showed us an array of events they had done in the past year, and when all was said and done, we agreed that they would send us a proposal within the week. One week passed, then two. I called. Had to remind the lady of who I was… then I was told we would get the proposal within 48 hours. One day passed, two, three – until another week passed. We emailed. Another day passed. THEN we got an email with a lame excuse (of course), saying they’d get us something “as soon as possible.” Pray tell, what does that EVEN mean in Chilean standards? This email was followed by the actual proposal, all of 30 minutes later mind you, but it was obvious that they had merely removed one couple’s name in the document and replaced it with ours. It was so bad that I actually had to create a power point presentation, detailing each area of the venue, with example pictures of the kind of decorations we want and send it back to them asking “Can you do any of this? Can we meet this week? Does X day work for you?.” What happened? NO RESPONSE. Three days passed and I had to call and believe it or not, I had to REMIND the lady of WHEN my wedding was taking place and when I told her April 17th, she replied with “Oh dear, yes well we’ve got to start working on this.”
#@#*&!%#!!! YA THINK?!!!!

I won’t keep detailing what a nightmare this has been but let me just say that the coordinator at the venue itself has had a similar attitude… don’t get me started on how much information he’s promised us and we still haven’t received! Just yesterday I had to email him again, reminding him of the info he promised to get us, telling him we’d be on holiday on x,y,z days and that following that, I’d be in the States on other days and that PS – after that, it was February. As I’m writing this blog, the coordinator finally responded to my email with this (and I’m only SLIGHTLY paraphrasing here):

“Dear A & G,
A thousand apologies for not responding sooner but the truth is that I’ve had to travel a lot and I simply haven’t had enough time on my hands. I have a series of outstanding emails I need to respond to and I promise, without fail, I will get you the information promised to you by end of day.”

And on that note, let’s talk wedding invitation vendor: those designing and printing our wedding invitations. The same company who informed us that they are on vacation the ENTIRE MONTH OF FEBRUARY. The same ones who we keep and keep and keep chasing to get us the proofs ASAP so that we can have our invites so that WE CAN SEND THEM OUT IN FEBRUARY given that the response deadline is March 1st!

And um… did I mention that we’ve paid all these vendors a pretty hefty deposit?

In the end though, I will say that not 100% of the vendors we’ve dealt with so far have been as irresponsible and UNRESPONSIVE as this. Our photographer has been amazing since day one, even reserving our wedding date before we paid her the deposit. In fact, her price includes an engagement session, actual wedding and a post-wedding session and she’s been the ultimate communicator since we met. We have our engagement session scheduled for next week and she’s been so amazingly helpful with questions G and I have had and just overall, she rocks our world. Not to mention her style of photography is EXACTLY what G and I have always thought of when we pictured our wedding shots. Grateful, grateful, grateful! And the cherry on top is that now she’s even managed to find us a potential “day-of” coordinator!! Oh sweet, little, chocolate covered photog!
Also, our band has literally rocked our world! They kept their appointment with us, came to our house, pulled out a contract and detailed from A to Z exactly what they need from us and what we can expect from them. They have been constant communictors as well, which trust me, is so important to us. Sound standard to you? Well, my experience has been that THIS type of business practice is a novelty in Chile.

What can I say? I’m frustrated. I’m scared that the laissez-faire attitude of most Chilean vendors will absolutely RUIN most of what G and I have worked so hard to accomplish and reach (hello? Those who know, remember the evil ex stories). What do they care? To them it’s standard and all about $$$. Well, you’d THINK it’s all about money but even THAT doesn’t seem to motivate most of them. Why are they even in this business if they don’t have the motivation to help couple’s plan their “dream” event?

But I’m not even asking for that miracle at this point. Right now, at this very moment, all I want is responsive, sympathetic vendors…the equivalent of just getting a hug and hearing the words “Everything will be ok.”

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Focus on 2010

There are five major tasks I have present in my mind for 2010 and I hope to embark, enjoy and excel at all five of them. (No pressure.) I’m not going to call them resolutions because I feel that I’ll just be setting myself up for failure (and nothing depresses me more than failure) but I’d like to consider them as chapters of 2010. What I write in each chapter will literally be relayed in my blog but will also write a chapter in my life that I hope I can call “satisfactory” in 12 more months. Mentioning it in my blog now will only help me in determining how I approached and conquered each area.

1) Wedding and marriage.

For the love of all that’s sacred and holy, I just hope I have time to enjoy and appreciate all the planning and all the money Gonzalo and I are currently putting into our wedding day. Sometimes I don’t fully get the scope of the fact that I’m planning all this for me – for us. In fact, I see that I still handle it in the most corporate of ways, as if planning something for a boss. Case in point, I capture all images/ideas/suggestions in power point presentations and review them with G slide by slide. Discuss. Or don’t since it’s kind of pathetic/weird but whatever, it’s efficient. I can’t imagine what it will look like or how I’ll feel that very day but I do hope that I have time to sit back, if even for a mere minute, and take it all in.
Wedding day aside, I do hope I’m good at the marriage part. I’m dabbling in it right now (some would call it living in sin, muahahaha) and here’s what I’ve noticed about my part in married life: 1) I like to cook 2) I really do run the house 3) I need to work on my listening skills 4) I need to let others form – and express – their opinions before I go blabbing mine about 5) More hugs needed! Warm fuzzies if you will. They just make all things better. 6) Need to make sure that we keep up the spontaneous date nights/days. So far, so good with that just need to make sure it keeps up.

2) Friendships
“Some of you I know; some of you I’m meeting for the first time.” (movie line, guess the movie and character). With that, I want to keep cementing the friendships that are forming now with people I’ve met in Chile BUT I’d also like to branch out and meet new people. Namely, I’d like to see about clicking with some Chileans. Weird concept, I know, given that it hasn’t been easy thus far. I blame my lack of outside activity (I work from home) but I’ll get to new opportunities for that in a bit. Or…wait. At least I’d like to blame my lack of outside activity and NOT think that I’m not clicking with Chileans because it’s me, not them.
With that, I can’t forget my peeps back home. Before I left CA I had an idea of who I would remain good friends with always … but those things change and some people are really “out of sight, out of mind.” That’s their M.O. and God love them for it. There are others who remain the same people and the same kind of friend as before. And there are yet others who charge ahead in the friendship arena and come out shining as a friend you never thought you’d have. I’ll reserve public op/eds on the three types of friends that evolve when one moves to another country but I will say that no matter what, I hope to be a good and present friend to all my peeps back home.

3) Back to School
I submitted my application to return to school for a Masters in Marketing. If all goes according to plan, I should be starting classes in April of next year (yeah, as in the same month I get married.) By then, it will have been a full ten years since I graduated undergrad and that’s pushing it since I truly believe I checked out in 1999 and sort of skimmed through my last two quarters of college (a teacher once wrote “Senoritis?? Too bad” on a term paper that year. That’s how awesome I was!) My point here is that I hope I don’t freak out, I hope I learn to navigate the system well…and I hope the Spanish part of the studying doesn’t throw me off. I would like to avoid any kind of indication of “Senioritis” from a professor during my Masters study, if at all possible.
Who am I kidding? This is going to be one intimidating mess for me but I hope I persevere and come out with a good education. AND, it would be quite nice to come out with at least one, if not two, friends. I’ll be OUT THERE, in the Chilean system, learning from them about their ways (in marketing). Kind of “when in Rome” … so my hope is to grab on to some would-be friends in that process. Now that I think about it, I should be hoping I have something interesting to contribute in the study groups I’ll be in. No one wants to be the dumb one in study group.

4) Writing
A few days ago I was a lady who lunched (with some other fellow gringas) and one of them asked me what I had gone to undergrad for, meaning what did I study. I realized that back in the day all I wanted to be was a journalist. I even wrote for my high school newspaper and was editor of the “social” section. I went to Davis for a degree in Communications with the purpose of pursuing this journalistic goal … that of course didn’t pan out bc I took a different route during the dot com bubble. That office job led to another office job and before I knew it, journalism fizzled. Perhaps I would have been a kick ass journalist. Perhaps it’s my parallel life a la the indie movie Sliding Doors. Maybe I’d be living in New York, working as an international correspondent for CNN. Oh my…me likey that…Ok snap back to reality and obviously that’s not the route I took BUT what has stayed with me nonstop is the thing that motivated me from day one – writing. Skits for school, short stories, poems, diaries and now a blog – I simply can’t live my life without some part of it dedicated to writing. I do hope that in 2010 this writing becomes more focused. I have always dreamed of writing a story somewhat based on my family story, a mind-boggling one that is made for Lifetime television for women. When I read Isabel Allende’s “The House of the Spirits” I thought to myself “I know this family. Oh wait! This is like MY family and their story.” Except mine is less whimsical and more dramatic. Trust me it would make for some great poolside reading. Will I ever get to it? I don’t know. But I hope to always be on the writing path that may allow me to stumble upon this story that’s just waiting to be told.

5) Co-Baller

I actually coined this term the other day while I was lunching (the same lunch referenced above. Don’t think I spend my days lunching like a proper Southern woman. I don’t, though of course I wish I did!) The point I was making was that I too wanted to be a baller… meaning I hope to be very successful in my career so as to afford comforts that I didn’t have the majority of my life. I have dreams I’d like to see become reality and goals I’d like to achieve. Perhaps some of these dreams and goals would seem superficial and materialistic to some while to others, they will seem like basic goals anyone should be striving towards. When I was in the U.S. I felt like I was on a path to making that happen. I went to school, got good grades, went to college, did the internships, extra-curricular activities, got a job, focused, got promoted, focused more, got promoted again, etc. A masters degree was in the back of my mind but since I was already a director at my company, it wasn’t pressing. I knew the path, I knew the in’s and out’s of working in the U.S. and knew basically what I had to do in order to get ahead in the corporate world. Now I’m in a completely different country and though the basic how-to’s are probably the same, I’m in a completely different playing field, with completely different players. I see it as starting all over again (though perhaps not from the VERY bottom as I was back in the day, straight out of college). And so, in 2010, I hope to regain my footing on my way to being a co-baller (by “co” I mean alongside G because to me, he’s already a baller.) I hope I begin to understand what’s needed to get there in Chile and that I learn what it even LOOKS like in Chile. That way I can put my eye on the prize and just work towards it. I feel confident that I’ll achieve this, as I think going back to further my education will help immensely. Nothing like preparing yourself for battle, so to speak, on the same turf where one will be battling. I should come out much more aware and I hope to focus on that in 2010.

My focus list can’t be too long though or I might just call it a day and not get anything done. I’ll for sure dabble in trying to be healthy and being in prime physical condition but I won’t kid myself into thinking I’ll become one of those crazy, workout obsessed brides-to-be. That just ain’t me, baby. So let’s just say I have 5.5 things to focus on in 2010 and I’ll be back in about 364 days to review this post and see how far I’ve come. I’ll trust that I’ll have conquered the world by then as my plans for world domination are coming along nicely.

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