In Events & Adventures, Staff Spotlights

Always Bring a Change of Underwear to a Wedding | Stephen Willson – Gracie’s Restaurant Manager


One of our chef’s catch phrases is, “It’s better to be looking at it than looking for it.” Be prepared for everything. A lack of preparation can prove to be a tough life lesson. That being said, always bring a clean change of underwear to a wedding.

I have been in the hospitality industry for many years. I have done all the jobs and worked all the different events. One thing must never be forgotten: someone’s wedding day is one of the most important days of their life. Therefore, the entire team whose job it is to make this day perfect, must do everything in their power to make sure all details are executed according to the grand vision, and every guests is taken care of. The show must go on no matter what.

In the days before this particular wedding, I spent a lot of time meeting with the service staff to make sure everyone knew exactly how this show was going to be run. Prep lists, time lines, floor plans, menus, and inventory sheets were checked and double checked.

I spoke to the staff in great detail about personal items they should bring in order to be prepared for any situation. The staff was encouraged to bring head lamps, bug spray, a change of clothes, a towel, water, snacks, extra phone batteries, wine keys, table crumbs, sunscreen, a change of shoes, metal collar stays, rain gear, Tide pens, a sewing kit, first aid things, and numerous other items.. Servers joked about it sounding more like a camping trip than a wedding. Said wedding would take place outside in the middle of August. The staff would be working outside, in the middle of a field in North Kingstown for roughly 13 hours. What would you bring?

When it comes to weddings, anything less than perfection is an epic fail. All of the details were in place. Chef arrived at 6am to start the long process of spit roasting a whole Berkshire pig. The service staff arrived at noon to make sure every plate, glass, and piece of gold plated flatware was polished. We ironed tablecloths with a cordless iron plugged into someone’s car cigarette outlet. Custom napkins needed to be folded. Chairs needed to be wiped down. There was a lot of work that needed to be done.

A life sized, ornamental tree towered up into the center of the large tented dining room. It would be lit up in the evening to provide ambience for the wedding guests. As we were setting up, someone mistakenly bumped the tree which then toppled down onto one of the servers. The tree had to be lifted up off her in order for her to free herself. If a tree falls on a server in the middle of a field, does it make a sound? It most certainly does.

Guests arrived to a picture perfect scene. Hors d’oeuvres were passed, cocktails flowed, music played, perfection was achieved.

When it comes to executing the perfect outdoor event, the sky is literally the limit. That night, the sky had it’s own intentions which in no way involved the bride’s vision of a perfect day. Sometime between the first and second course, the heavens opened up and it began to pour down rain. It rained and it rained and it rained. The show must go on.

In a matter of minutes, the entire staff was soaked. There were two bars, both of which were outside of the tent with no cover. The rain may have watered down the cocktails a bit but it definitely didn’t dampen spirits or keep the bartenders from slinging cocktails all night. This was no delicate drizzle of rain, a light mist, if you will. This was the kind of storm that only comes in the middle of summer. This was the kind of storm that turns roads into rivers and fields into lakes. It lasted for hours. The show must go on.

We were all completely soaked but couldn’t let the weather compromise our standards. Someone was assigned to escort guests from the dining tent to the restrooms under the cover of an umbrella and the illumination of a camping lantern. I was dressed in a three piece suit, soaked, obviously, with a head lamp hanging from my neck, muddy shoes on my feet, and my phone in a ziplock bag in my back pocket. It was my job to make sure the service staff kept the guests comfortable and completely taken care of. I would walk from one bar to the other, making sure the bartenders had everything they needed to continue serving delicious cocktails to the guests..

We ran out of ice twice and had to send someone to the nearest gas station to buy all the ice they had. The second ice run was more challenging than the first since the nearest gas station was already completely out of ice. All the while, guests enjoyed dinner, dancing, cocktails, and a perfectly cooked spit-roasted whole Blackbird Farm pig.

Alcohol has a magical way of making people forget about their problems. By the time dinner was over, guests were mingling outside in the rain, dancing in the rain, sliding in the rain, and even smoking cigars in the rain. It was an epic wedding and the notion that less than perfect weather would put a damper on things was simply unacceptable.

When it was over, the service staff escorted the guests, under the cover of umbrellas, to the edge of the field. Here they waited while one of two rain gear clad valets pulled the cars around.

Clean up involved removing all trash from the farm. Soaking wet bags of trash had to be loaded into rental vans and carted away. Two hundred rented chairs and 25 folding tables had to be stacked, neatly, under the tent. Glassware, plates, and that infamous gold plated flatware had to be rinsed and placed back into the racks in which they were delivered. The field had to be policed for trash as well as any rogue golden forks or spoons that may have fallen on the ground. Finally, it stopped raining.

Everything was packed, stacked, and ready to go. There were certainly staff members, the same staff members that snickered at my suggestion to bring a second pair of clothes, complaining about a very wet and uncomfortable ride home.

I walked to my car which was parked on the far side of the field. My little head lamp lit the way as I sloshed through the swampy field, wet and tired. I stripped down naked right then and there. Naked, under the dim light of the moon, I took out my trusty dry towel, which I packed just in case, and dried off. There was a slight cool summer breeze which was fabulously refreshing. Then, I rummaged around in my car for that trusty clean, dry pair of underwear.

The simplest things in life often bring the greatest pleasures. Wearing nothing but my dry underwear and a clean, dry t-shirt, I drove home feeling proud of what we accomplished and delighted to have one more outrageous hospitality story in my repertoire.

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