I was recently having an email conversation with GigMasters member and hypnotist Marc Bachrach. Marc had read my article on Huffington Post about inviting Elvis to your wedding and shared a piece that he and his friend magician Shawn McMaster (editor of the Mandala) wrote. As much as we like to talk about the importance of hiring professionals for your wedding, there's nothing like hearing a story of what happens when you don't to bring the point home. So here, in an edited version is Shawn and Marc's story. The original version appeared in The Mandala.
In September we were both performing at a huge Mardi Gras-themed wedding reception. The people who booked us really went all out. No expense was spared, and it showed. A variety of entertainers, including the singing group The Tokens (of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" fame) performed at this function. Shawn was scheduled to go on after The Tokens but was informed during their performance, that an Elvis impersonator who was scheduled for later in the show had another engagement that he had to get to. He was supposed to be on for 15 minutes.
He did 45. It was a nightmare, and he obviously started to lose the crowd.
The bride had a well documented stage fright. So much so that the actual wedding had been held in another city with only 6 people in attendance a month before. The hypnotist had been hired to include her in the performance and hypnotize her to unleash the world-class quality singing voice no one had heard for over 10 years because of this psychological condition. At that time her new husband, a Nashville country music star, would join her for a duet that would bring the house down and leave tears in everyone's eyes. Shawn's stand-up comedy/magic performance was slated to be my warm-up act, and would end with the bride being "flown" around the room, carried in Shawn's arms after he "stripped" down from his suit to the blue leotard hidden underneath -- the hysterical climax to a very funny routine.
Imagine, then, the bride's "delight" when "Elvis" brought her into the center of the room ALONE , put a microphone in her hand, and LEFT her there for 5 minutes to fend for herself.
Why, you ask? Because a few moments before he had realized in his meglomaniacal stupor that his next costume change was still outside in his car and he needed to retrieve it RIGHT THEN!
It was all the poor woman could do not to faint dead away as she trembled and suffered through waves of acute panic and embarrassment. Luckily, her husband, a rather glib and charismatic fellow, carried on while no music played and the crowd became as unfocused as Elvis.
True to the "runaway train" nature of this wedding, still another character in the massive cast of entertainers decided that she, too, would need to perform out of order and go on before our Magic and Hypnotism segment . Of course, "Mom" agreed to her demand, too. As this bizarre chanteuse warbled through some less-than professional sounding original material accompanied by her out-of-tune guitar, ANOTHER half-hour of "how much can this audience possibly tolerate?" passed by with the professional performers off in the corner agreeing that this WAS the worst planned and executed wedding reception any of us had ever been part of. As each excruciating moment ticked of with no end in sight, we entertained ourselves with whispered wisecracks, and shared fantasies of demanding "combat pay" afterwards.
Yes, you guessed right: "Mom" thought she could do ALL this herself: pull off a complex, entertainment-heavy 300 person reception without a wedding planner or coordinator. Four hours before, I had known pretty much where we were headed when I walked past the Mardi Gras Juggler I had hired to greet the guests ... and there was "Mom" -- on the verge of a nervous breakdown racing around the room ALONE with no help, putting decorations on tables and dealing with vendor crisis after vendor crisis, clearly having the least fun of anyone I've ever seen at a wedding reception.
Not the enthusiastic, vivacious, thoughtful woman I had met two months before. An exhausted, embattled, and besieged amateur who had completely lost control of the event long before the people walked through the door.
Well, to finish our story, "Elvis" left the building; the bizarre chanteuse assaulted any sensitivies, patience, and politeness the crowd had left in reserve; and 5 minutes before the magician was to take what was left of the "stage", the bride and groom had completely disappeared! Forget about the perfect set-up we had painstakingly orchestrated... no way to delay OUR part of the show until they were found! So, no bride and groom during the entire warm-up act! The bride finally was found in the bathroom vomiting, and returned shaken to the main room. Needless to say, I did not even consider involving her in the show at this point (the volunteers were already onstage and hypnotized, and she was far too fragile).
The crowd, which had been extraordinarily responsive, gracious, and involved 5 hours before, was completely fried by this point, and I performed the fastest, briefest version of my show humanly possible.
Obviously, the entire purpose for our entertainment (hypnotizing the bride out of her acute stage fright to recapture the joy of singing) was completely obliterated. The only saving grace was that "Mom" had enough sense (and overwhelming feeling of defeat) to realize that this outcome was completely her doing, and did not renege on the payment. As she numbly handed over our payment envelopes, I resisted the twisted urge to remind her of how many times I had gently encouraged her to consider getting a coordinator to help her. Just smiled, thanked her for the opportunity to be of service.
Thanks to Shawn and Marc for sharing this hilariously sad story. If you're looking for wedding professionals, find them on GigMasters.com -and if you have a story to share, let us know!