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June 2006
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August 2006

Wedding Guest Myths

We all know proper wedding etiquette, right? Possibly not. MSN published 5 wedding guest myths. I've attended (and been involved in) numerous weddings and agree that these are commonly held beliefs. Here they are:

Myth 1: You can't wear black.
This is like saying you can only wear all black at a funeral.

Myth 2: The bride is your point person for all wedding-related questions.
Bridezilla got her name from this myth. Give her a break.

Myth 3: Shopping from the registry is impersonal.
True that giving the couple something you know they won't return has merit, but if you know the couple well enough, you can also find something lovely and fitting for their needs and tastes outside of the box.

Myth 4: An invitation means you can bring a date.
This is fairly serious as brides and grooms have budgeted for a certain quantity of food and drinks, and space. It's polite to respect their wishes to only invite you (even though you may want to bop them over the head for leaving you dateless).

Myth 5: The couple is responsible for your accommodations.
This can sometimes include the wedding party as well, so be particularly clear in understanding what is and is not being paid for.


The Passion of World Cup 2006

By guest blogger John George

Oh, the tension.  It's a four year cycle, and I've been riding it since it was at the low point in 2002, just after the US lost to Germany in the quarters. 

It's hard for most Americans to understand the tension that builds as the World Cup approaches.  Soccer is a European thing. It's a South American thing. It's even an African thing. It's far from being baseball, hot dogs, apple pie or Chevrolet. Back in 2005, while 99.9% of the country was watching the AL beat the NL for the tenth time running in the All-Star game, I was with a dozen soccer buddies and chewing my nails.  Would the US get a result in Costa Rica (even a tie would be good) and actually qualify for the tournament?

But it's not just tension. It's passion. Being a soccer fan is something that permeates your entire being. Supporting the national team goes without thinking. And after the great run by the US in 2002, I just couldn’t suppress the idea of going to Germany for the 2006 tournament. So I scored some tickets, made plans with my roomie to visit a friend in Geneva and booked an expensive flight. 

I arrived a week into the tournament and a day before the US/Italy game in Kaiserlautern. Changing trains and cramming into to progressively more crowded cars – fun times. The last leg was standing room only, but it was nothing like the bedlam of the stadium.

Kaiserlautern was teeming. It took us 40 minutes to fight the crowds, get around the stadium, through the gates and to our seats. Then we had 90 minutes of standing and yelling with 50,000 fans. I've been to a lot of US games, probably 15, but I've never been surrounded by so many US fans. It was intoxicating (and it wasn't just the effects of the rosé!) The cheers were all new to me, but, you know, it's all pretty easy.  Clap ten times in a simple pattern then yell "U.S."  Repeat repeatedly. Whistle when Italian players fall down (which was often). Do the wave when the game gets slow. Our section was nearly silent when Italy scored, and I felt the stands move when the US got a tally.  Huge cheers when an Italian got thrown out. Then booing at the ref when each of two US players got a red card. The last 20 minutes were pandemonium and the tension peaked. If they US could hold on for a tie–a valuable tie–they could still become world champions.  And they did hold on.  That 1-1 tie gave the US the slimmest hope that they could advance to the knock-out round where anything can happen.

That hope dissipated before I got my voice back.  The US lost to Ghana five days later in Nurnberg – another raucous event– and was eliminated from the World Cup. The tension was gone. I could just enjoy soccer for the next two weeks and tour Switzerland and environs without all that pesky worry about how the US will do in the next game. I could just enjoy the tournament in bars and pick a new team to support as the last one was eliminated–which was often as I generally root for the underdog.

With the Cup now over, the four year ebb and flow of tension is rising again. Qualifiers start next year. And so does the nail biting. I'm already starting to wonder how South Africa will compare in 2010.

John's lifelong passion for soccer is equalled only by is passion for outdoor recreation that doesn't require a lot of expensive gear, catching bands while they still play in small venues, and consuming cold pilsner (or rose'). He still plays recreationally when his knees allow.


Mommy Bloggers Strike Back

Guy Kawasaki, popular biz blogger (among other things), posted a list of mommy bloggers who blog as way to vent or rave about the experience of motherhood. Blogging also gives editorially bent moms an outlet for keeping their writing skills sharp. Pen caps off to you, ladies!

As the blogosphere grows, there are an increasing number of subjects covered, including countless travel blogs (Gadling is one of my favorites). Mommy bloggers are one of many groups, and I salute them. I can't fathom raising children and doing anything else with the teensy amounts of spare time available (before the school years) but to stare blankly into space and breathe as deeply as humanly possible.

Guy Kawasaki clearly commends mommy bloggers as well. My favorite quote of his entire post:

Note: There is a contingent of readers of my blog who do not like when I write about blogs/blogging/bloggers. I’d guess there’s also a contingent who do not like when I write about non-business, non-tech, non-male subjects. To these readers, I say in advance: "You can never support a mom, much less a mommy blogger, too much, so deal with it."

Love it! And I figured all you mommy readers might as well.


A Carnival of Travel Is Born

TripHub is pleased to call for submissions to the inaugural "carnival of travel" coming July 21, 2006. What's a carnival? Cotton candy aside, it is a collection of blog articles on a related topic. In this case: travel. It's a way to show off your work, for anyone who's ever written a travel blog article.

There are a plethora of travel blogs in the blogosphere; too many wonderful articles to create a "best of breed." The carnival of travel is a way of creating a list of the best of the best, submitted by you, the travel bloggers. There are already many other carnivals out there, from the carnival of family life to the carnival of personal finance.

Simply submit your best travel blog article on the carnival page (select "carnival of travel" in the drop-down if it isn't already selected). Any post that that gives you a genuine sense of accomplishment. Humorous. Inspiring. Adventurous. Scary. Stories travelers can relate to. Insights or musings that entertain or make us ponder. Tips we need to know before we travel again. Anything goes.

Have kids, but still determined to take that summer vacation? We want to hear stories, tips, rants, raves. What's beautiful about traveling as a family? What makes you pull your hair out?

Wax poetic. Give us the nitty gritty of traveling across borders and boundaries. Share the wonders of traveling and open our eyes to the experience of seeing natural, cultural, and artistic beauty around the world. Whether you've traveled with friends, relatives, immediate family, or even trekked with yourself as your guide, all perspectives have merit.

Details:
• Article submitted must be your own writing.
• Subject matter must be about travel.
• Format can include blog articles with prose, poetry, bullet points, tips, anecdotes, photos (keep it clean), etc.
• Reminder: You'll need to submit the permalink URL of your blog article when you submit the article using the blogcarnival.com submission form (which also has other fields such as article title, author name, etc.)
• Deadline is 7/20/06, sometime in the morning before Noon, Pacific Time
• Once I receive submissions via the submission form, I'll compile the list and publish it.
• Inaugural carnival of travel scheduled to go live Friday, 7/21/06

The goal is to continue to publish carnivals (collections of travel blog articles) regularly. In the future, upcoming editions will include such topics as adventure travel, family travel and other travel. For the inaugural carnival of travel edition, any subject in travel goes! It's a new endeavor to collaborate on travel musings and writings and share travel experiences. Thanks for participating.

Any questions?


Mini Getaways for Girls

After my recent girls getaway post, I discovered some helpful tips for women who need to get together, but can't travel (whether for budgetary reasons, weather, work, or other mishaps). That shouldn't prevent women from planning outings closer to home, perhaps as a way to discuss longer-term vacations together.

GirlTrip.org has 10 mini girls getaway tips when you're squeezed on time, but still need a time out. Here are my 3 favorites:

  • Mental Health Day
    If everyone's working hard then take a day for hardly working.  Notify all the ladies that you're taking a collective mental health day.  Meet up at the spa, the beach or the best shopping strip in your area and enjoy a day out of the office together.

What a delicious way to spend a day! Mental health days should be more normal for a country built on hard work and two-week long vacations per year (what's up with that?).

  • Friend Spread
    If your friends aren't all as close with each other as you are to them, then bring them together.  Plan a night out with all your gal pals who don't know each other well and get everyone acquainted!

I love this idea. I can't tell you how often I've gone to the movie with my "movie friend" or walking with my "walking friend" or dished on guys with my "gossip boy-crazy friend" or philosophized about the state of the world and the inter-relatedness of chaos and order with my "deep friend" and I've drunk like a fish with my "party friend." Nice to gather them every so often to find the surprising similarities.

  • We'll Always Have Coffee
    When all else fails and you just can't squeeze in a date with the ladies, find a quck thirty minutes for a cup of java or a smoothie.  It just enough time to do some quick catching up while getting out of the house or away from the office for a breather.

Everything's better with coffee. I couldn't agree more.


Great Girls Getaways

Men are hunters. Women are gatherers. This is who we are by nature (just ask Rob Becker in his Defending the Caveman comedy act). Women have long been highly social beings, capable of multi-tasking (something that mystifies men to this day) and nurturing. Doesn't it then seem natural that we'd also want to travel together? We can talk freely, giggle openly, be our silly girly (or rugged, not-so-girly) selves together. We accept each other for who we are, emotionally supportive and all.

Part of the fun for me in going on a girls getaway is the gossip. I don't mean the bad gossip. I mean the good gossip. The dish. The latest. How my friends are doing and how they feel about their jobs, relationships, life, hobbies, etc. And while I also enjoy vacationing with guys, girls (only) getaways have their merit. Girls can be 100% unabashed girls.

Here are some special types:

1. Dude Ranch - The men are gone, but the dudes aren't. What better way to reconnect with the girl friends than by riding horses just like you know you all did in your dreams. Make it even more fun with cowboy hats to match - they'll shade the sun, you'll look about as country chic as can be, and you can knock your man over with a nod of your cowboy hat head and a wink when you return.

2. Spa Haven - As cliché as "girls getaway to the spa" is becoming, I say turn that word into an acronym for each girl who fully deserves the pampering. CLICHE is Caress Lovingly: I Can Have Everything. Make this your motto. There are countless services and an increasing number of spas recognizing the girls getaway trend as a way to offer discounts, special accommodation, etc. Work it. Call or book well in advance and shop around until you find the atmosphere, cost, and spa services just right for your group.

3. Theater - There are three premier places to see sophisticated, highly elaborate shows. Take Manhattan by storm on a theater extravaganza and walk down Broadway cherry-picking your shows (better yet, plan well in advance to ensure you get a good seat to Spamelot or other shows). London is another world-famous theatre-going city. The theatre district is a bustling, gentrified area with restaurants, bars, and a bevy of classic plays as well as long-running popular shows such as Phantom of the Opera. Las Vegas seems to be Cirque du Soleil central with Mystere, O, Zumanity, as well as other shows and concerts.

4. Shopping Spree - Take the ladies to outlets that make wallets squeal with delight (or at least the girls clutching them). There are plenty of outlets in major metropolitan areas, usually just a quick road trip out of town. Or go glitzy on New York City's Fifth Avenue, Los Angeles' Rodeo Drive, at Chicago's Marshall Field's department store, along London's streets, inside Las Vegas resort casinos shoppies, and nearly anywhere else. Do a theme and take your friends antique shopping, or to flea markets in the Big Apple, Washington, DC, or Sunday markets in other cities such as Seattle or San Francisco.

5. Outdoor Adventure - Take a vote and decide on which outdoor sport suits your crew best. Whether toting firewood from car to campsite is recreation enough or white water rafting is desired, find the activities you love but have little time for, and plan a weekend escape from everything - work, men, bills, cars, cities. Live in the elements by biking, kayaking, canoeing, or parasailing. Rent a cottage or house by a lake or water body and spend all your free time swimming. Whatever the group energy level, a girl trip like this inevitably brings friends closer together, leaving great stories to tell for those who couldn't make it (ahem, or weren't invited). When the boys aren't around, there's less tension about looking good or not screwing up. Especially if bathing suits are involved.

I've adored traveling with my friends for get-togethers over the years. I raise my glass to any girl planning a getaway with friends. May traveling with girl friends bring you great joy, a wee bit of luck, no hangovers, and many reasons to continue staying in touch. What other types of girls getaways are out there?


Strike a Balance When Traveling

He's a last-minute person. She's a type A organizer. However do you go on trips together and still stay married (happily)?

Terry A., who works with TripHub after a 20-year career with Alaska Airlines (including part of her time at the group travel desk), reveals how TripHub helped her and her husband strike a balance in travel planning.

When it comes to planning friends and family get-togethers, I am a compulsive organizer and my husband is a "whatever" kind of guy. I want to know who, what, where, when, and how many are coming. He just wants to invite anyone who happens to show a slight interest. We've managed to enjoy life together for more than 25 years, but we've had our moments.

This summer I started using TripHub's collaboration tools for vacation planning. What a difference the site has made. We've survived two road trips already and have a very large camping trip with friends and family planned for just a few weeks away.

I've been able to coordinate travel plans, book hotels, correctly calculate numbers of guests and stay in touch with everyone all online! No more passing the word via (sometimes unreliable, though well-meaning) spouses or friends. No more wondering if we would end up with an extra person sleeping on our floor or squeezed in the middle seat of a vehicle. No more "I didn't know you were bringing your kids" on an adult activity weekend.

I can finally look forward to our trips together without all the stress. I'm quite relaxed about being the vacation planner in the family now.


Funerals: Poignant Family Gatherings

Family life is full of major and minor crises -- the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce -- and all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It's difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul.
--Thomas Moore

Even sad events such as illness or funerals can bring families closer together. I was recently reminded of this while attending a relative's funeral and visiting with extended family this past weekend. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Truly.

Once we all got the news, one family passed around itinerary info in one big email string so they all knew flight arrival info for coordination. My family used about 5 phone calls to coordinate. ("Are you going? Which flight? How much did it cost?") Who knows how many other families and friends did the same thing. I got to thinking that TripHub's group travel coordination tools would save time for families gathering under these circumstances. Maybe next time. Wait. I hope there isn't a next time... sigh.

Losing a loved one or going through any rough patch together makes us acutely aware of what's important in life and strengthens relationships.

Over the last several days, I carefully observed how extended family and friends kicked into high gear to help those most in need, ordering food, grocery shopping, playing waiter(ess), coordinating transportation, organizing church services, catering, telling story after story and listening intently as others shared theirs. Laughter and tears blended to reveal kindred spirits and compassion.

New bonds were created among old family connections. Cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, moms, dads, grandparents. Despite the circumstances, we were able to catch up, play a few games, distract people who needed distracting, hug those who needed more hugs than usual, and in general express what we forget to so often. I came away feeling uplifted.

I think the late French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin summed it up best when he said (or wrote): We are not humans having a spiritual experience. We are spirits, having a human experience.


4 Wedding Guest Strategies

Weddings rock. The sentimental journey of watching your friend or family member walk down the aisle is wonderful. The decorations, the picturesque setting (and sometimes dreamy destination), the flowers, the cake, the food coma, the dancing. It's all enough to send you into a dream state, forgetting a few key things you meant to accomplish.

1. Pick out the top 3 people you want to catch up with and find time to visit with them. It can be easy for the night to fly by without your having gotten a chance to visit with people you'd meant to be sure to visit with. Even if you visit with each person for 10 minutes, it makes a big difference. Catching up with old friends or relatives is half the reason for going to weddings in the first place.

2. Cake. I'm a sucker for a good wedding cake. Even though they are calorie rich, wedding cakes are usually culinary masterpieces, so it's easy to have a bigger piece than necessary (or multiple pieces). The wedding I just attended this past weekend had doughnuts instead of cake (a great budget alternative). If you're watching your weight and really want to be good, plan to have a small piece of cake and no more. By thinking about this ahead of time, you'll save yourself the guilt and bloated feeling (trust me, I can attest).

3. Say something meaningful to the bride and groom. How many weddings have we all been to where the same robotic comment comes tumbling out: The wedding was beautiful, You look gorgeous, You look handsome, I almost cried during your vows, Nice reception location. Oh, come on! These newlyweds have been preparing for this single day for at least a year (sometimes longer). Every detail was purchased and pre-conceived. Find something original about the food, cake, ceremony, dress or vows and comment on that.

4. Don't miss the dancing. There are too many societal rules that constrain us in our everyday lives. Be free on the dance floor and shake your groove thing. If you're self-conscious, just smile and no one will fault you for having a good time. If you look like a vertical fish out of water, who cares! Join one of the dance circles that inevitably forms and clap as others make spectacles of themselves so you realize you're not alone. If you're married or dating someone, you have no excuse. What better way to get in the mood than spinning each other around on the dance floor.


How to Plan a Stellar High School Reunion

By guest blogger Andrea Turk

It's official, you're old. You just received an email from a former classmate that it is time to start planning your next high school reunion. Once the shock wears off, the next question settles in. Where do we begin? Fortunately, I have assembled a to-do list that will help you organize a successful reunion (sorry, I can't do anything about your age).

Don't panic. Planning a high school reunion is a lot of work, but if you follow these simple steps, the process can be a lot of fun and virtually painless.

  1. Plan early for your reunion. Begin at least 9 months or more in advance. (Trust me, you will wish you had started a year ago!) Planning a reunion is a big production; make sure that you have ample time to complete all the important tasks.
  2. Enlist classmates to help. The more help you have, the less stressed you will be. Make sure that the committee is a diverse group from your class. You don't want the reunion to be focused on one group of people with one set of interests. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
  3. Budget wisely. When setting your ticket price include all the costs of the reunion, not just the meal. This includes the cost of entertainment, venue rental, tax, gratuity, postage, printing, decorations, Web site hosting, long-distance phone calls, etc. Be conservative when estimating attendance. You don't want to be stuck footing the bill because an item was omitted from your budget or fewer classmates attended than expected. Set up a bank account to deposit payments and pay bills.
  4. Pick a location and date early. Weekends fill up quickly with weddings and social events, so availability can be hard to find if you wait to book the event. Make sure to ask about deposits, caterers' food and beverage minimums and extra costs. Pick a menu with variety.
  5. Assemble and manage the guest list. Put a complete list of your classmates together using your commencement program, senior annual and information from previous reunions. This list should be in a database or spreadsheet that is easy to update and manage throughout the process. Include a method to track RSVPs, orders, payments, meal choice, etc.
  6. Start locating your classmates now. I cannot stress this enough. This is a huge, time-consuming process. You may have to call parents, siblings, old roommates, etc. to track them down. Use the Internet. Online phone books, alumni Web sites, and community Web sites are all beneficial.
  7. Create a fun, simple, and easy-to-read invitation. Make sure to list all the essential information (date/time, location, ticket price and attire). Also, include contact information of the committee member in charge of answering questions and responding to complaints. Don't forget to let your classmates know where to return the reservations and make their checks payable to. Include payment deadlines to encourage early registration.
  8. Get the word out early. People are busy during the summer months, so make sure your event is number one on their calendar and get the invitation out at least 4-6 months in advance.
  9. Make time for the "extras." The memorabilia displays, event program, name tags, memory books and table decorations are the things that people will remember years down the road. This will help make your reunion special, giving it character or charm (depending on theme, setting, decorations).
  10. Collect personal information on your classmates. You can compile it into a memory book for each alum to take home as a memento of the reunion.
  11. Remember, this is your reunion. Don't get so caught up in the details that you lose sight of what is really important. Reunions are about reconnecting with old friends, reminiscing about the good ol' days and looking forward to the future.

If all this prep work isn't up your alley, consider the alternative of hiring a professional reunion planner. Many companies provide reunion management services, handling all the behind-the-scenes details such as coordinating with vendors, locating your classmates and managing the database, paying bills, covering liability insurance for the event, staffing the event, and more. You can find a professional reunion planner at the National Association of Reunion Managers. Happy reunion planning!

Andrea Turk works with Reunions with Class, Inc., has been in reunion planning since 2001, and has helped more than 400 reunion committees organize successful reunions.