By Noah Parks
Our work at HMG+ revolves around large events that are often some of the most memorable and important ones of people’s lives. The food. The lights. The dancing. The family. It’s a mix of love, laughter, and tradition. I personally love tradition because it is the structure that brings people together. I also took all of this for granted. I assumed that the subsequent moving parts of weddings, birthdays, and big gatherings were preordained by a higher power. I REALLY didn’t appreciate the beauty of a well oiled machine that hummed around and inside those events, making it all happen. Those teams of people working together allowed me and my cousins to run under tables, have 7 Doctor Peppers, and eat 3 pieces of cake. That machine is part of the tradition and critical to a memorable event.
A wedding is steeped in tradition and needs the right team behind the scenes to make it memorable. My brother Jake and his fiance Kyra were no exception. They were engaged in November 2019 and determined to be married in May 2020! I heard bits and pieces about venues, vendors, rehearsal dinner reservations, and was fitted for my tuxedo. Everything was humming along nicely. There was a party bus from the church to the reception, which I thought could’ve been 86’d (see previous issue’s Hospitality Corner *wink emoji*). Despite being very young, they were on a collision course with success. Then destiny stepped in.
“It” happened. The virus came to America. This “novel” virus that had no cure and was deadly through aerosol droplets in every breath and lived on surfaces for three days! People needed to cease being indoors with our friends, coworkers, and even some family. Only a safe distance, a mask and hand sanitizing could afford us a human interaction. “It” was cancelling the wedding.
Or so I thought. Jake and Kyra did not cancel their wedding. They moved their date from May to July. They took precautions to the best of their ability to ensure they’d have a “normal” wedding. When I say ‘they’, I mean Kyra. I love my brother but Kyra made a lot of this happen. She also moved all of the vendors. Secured the reception and hotels for the new date. When JCPenny filed for bankruptcy, Kyra nailed down the supplier for our tuxedos and dealt directly with them to fulfill our order along the new timeline. I was very impressed with their positive attitude while the ashes of their dream wedding settled around them.
There was one final grudging task, deliver a warning about “it”: “Please follow proper procedures prior to and during the wedding, you wouldn’t want to get someone else’s loved ones sick. If you or someone you work or live with has been exposed to Covid-19 please DO NOT attend.” It was sent three weeks before the big day. It meant they lost ¾’s of their RSVP’s which meant cancelling their reception venue, their vendors and hotels. It meant masks and social distancing were part of the wedding party’s new “look”. “It” had cancelled their wedding again.
What was left was the pearl that forms out of wedding nightmares. Only the wedding party and immediate family attended a small service. That’s it. No big reception. No massive spread. No crowd so large that you forgot who came and who didn’t. Just the bare necessities. It was serene in its simplicity. It was the strength of tradition pushing everything in the right direction. It was not the machine I was used to humming along during their wedding. It was something HMG+ is all too familiar with: people coming together in the moment when we need each other most to do our best.
As a service professional myself, I learned a couple important lessons about what we can expect going forward. Plan for bigger amounts of small events. Massive events with hundreds of staff will likely be on hiatus for the near future. Instead of 1,000 people at one three-day conference, it may be 10 small events over a week. The other lesson is to trust tradition. At HMG+ there has been a tradition of putting a focus on service and building community for over a decade. Circumstances tested tradition at my brother’s wedding and tradition won. I know that we will do the same, no matter what comes next.