John: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here with Norman Lemcke of the Essex Room, a venue for weddings and other events in Essex, Massachusetts. Today, we’re talking about stories from the bridal room. Welcome, Norman.
Norman: Hi, John. Thanks for having me.
Purpose of the Bridal Room
John: Sure. So, Norman, at the Essex Room, you have a room that’s called the bridal room, which is a separate room that’s off of the main hall where you have all your functions. What’s the purpose of that room?
Norman: The purpose of the bridal room is to offer a bride a separate space where she can get ready, she can see her family, just have her own private space from the rest of the crowd. So, it’s nice for her to have that. And also, it’s nice after the ceremony for the couple and the bridal party to gather afterwards.
John: So, if you’re having a ceremony right there at the Essex Room, which sometimes you have them outside on the lawn, and other times you might even have it inside if the weather doesn’t cooperate, or things like that, the bride and her bridal party might be getting ready and dressed in that bridal room. And then, you’re also, potentially, using it after the ceremony for them to kind of get ready for the party.
Norman: Right. It’s her room for the day, for the entire time that they’re at the Essex Room. The room is pristine before a wedding, and then you should see it, it’s like a tornado hit it when the bride… I mean, they have all their bags, they have radios, they bring their Bluetooth speakers. It’s wild. Then you have people bringing gifts, which they put in there. It’s amazing.
How to Make the Bridal Room Entertaining
John: So, what are some of the things that maybe a couple could do to make the bridesmaids time in that bridal room more fun and entertaining? You mentioned bringing in some music and things like that. That’s always fun. What else do you see people doing?
Norman: They usually just hang out and they’ll sneak in a bottle of champagne, sometimes. It’s usually just kind of fluttering around the bride, waiting. If she’s having her hair done or makeup done, they’re having their hair and makeup done. It’s really pre-wedding. It’s really about getting ready. It’s just a lot of chatter, and talking, and laughing. You have people coming in and out. So, there’s really not any kind of planned to do. A lot of selfies. A lot of selfies.
Bridal Room Stories
John: Historically, at the Essex Room, you’ve been involved in a lot of different things, just kind of helping out in the kitchen and outside of the kitchen, helping with the bride or the groom, etc. What are some of the things that you’ve seen in terms of that bridal room, and some of the stories that you have?
Norman: Well, some of them probably aren’t fit for a podcast, but I remember my first wedding that I did at the Essex Room. It was a large wedding party and they were taking pictures. And they all had gone out the night before, I assume, after the rehearsal dinner. And the bridesmaid, or I should say, the maid of honor, was still drunk…
John: Oh, no.
Norman: … the day of the wedding. She was basically removed from her post as maid of honor. I mean, this is the bride’s sister. And she was removed from her post because she was drunk.
John: Like, “You can’t handle the duties today”…
Norman: Oh yeah, she was –
John: … “we’re going to make somebody else the maid of honor.”
Norman: Yeah. She fell down.
John: Oh my gosh.
Norman: She fell down. And so, I would spend probably 10 minutes putting Band-Aids on her shins…
Norman: …for the photographer, and I said, “Don’t worry, it’s all photoshopped. It’ll work out.” But that was pretty funny. I mean, not funny, but amusing. I’ve had brides who have had tantrums.
John: You get a little bit of that “Bridezilla” kind of story that you hear about?
Norman: Yeah, a little bit. I mean, the nerves are running high…
John: Yeah, sure.
Norman: … for brides. Even though our wedding planners take care of everything, it’s the day of their wedding and they get crazy. So, I mean, I’ve helped brides with their bustles. That’s probably the main thing that I can’t do are the bustles. Now, if you, because you wouldn’t know, but I do, because I’ve had the experience, after the ceremony and before introductions, the bride bustles her dress, which is when you bring the train and hook it on, basically, her bustle…her butt.
John: It kind of gets tied up so that it’s not dragging behind.
Norman: Exactly. So, it’s more reception friendly.
Norman: And so, the bustles come with these little tiny, not hooks, but little tiny, tiny buttons, kind of about the size men have on their collars, maybe even smaller…
Norman: … then little cloth loops. And there are probably, sometimes, a dozen of them, and you have to put, obviously, the loop on a corresponding button. It’s ridiculous, and then you have…
John: And that’s going right across your backside, basically?
Norman: Basically. From side to side, basically. And so, you have to get in there. Sometimes, I’ve had to, like, crawl under the dress, because they can’t. It’s hard to see. I don’t really do the bustles as much, because brides now have someone who’s dedicated, one of their bridesmaids are dedicated to doing that. But the first question I ask is, “Okay, who knows how to do the bustle?” And they’re all like, “I know, I know.” And then, next thing I know it’s just like, “Where’s the loop? Where’s the button?” So, I mean, I’ve been up a lot of wedding bridal dresses, for various reasons, and they don’t care. And I can do that, because I just set them at ease and they know they don’t have to worry about it. And it’s fun. I mean, it’s fun.
John: They have a good laugh about it, mostly.
Norman: They do. I mean, I’ve walked in on brides that are full on naked, getting into their dress, and I’m just like, “Oops, sorry.” And they’re like, “Oh no, come on in.” I’m like, “Okay.” I mean, I’ve had to help brides… and a lot of this stuff is, I don’t know how any of this works. I mean, in the sense that they have double-sided tape to keep the dress on their bosom. And everything’s kind of taped up and in. I don’t know how it’s very comfortable for them. But another story was… Actually, this goes back even, I think, a year before. It was a winter wedding, and they did the rehearsal, and the groom and his groomsmen were loaded. It’s all about alcohol.
John: Seems to be a common theme. Yeah.
Norman: Exactly. And so, we went through the rehearsal and it was touch and go. I mean, might as well not have done it, because they couldn’t-
John: Couldn’t focus?
Norman: Couldn’t focus. So, the next day, obviously, is their wedding, and the groom and the groomsmen decided to go into the country woods, or whatever, and go hunting.
John: Oh my gosh.
Norman: And they came in and they were even more loaded than they were the night before. It was a nightmare.
John: And, obviously, they didn’t remember what they had gone over in the rehearsal…
Norman: Yeah. No. Of course, not.
John: … and even if they did, they could probably barely do it.
Norman: Most of them don’t remember it anyway.
Norman: They’re just so nervous and so on edge. But luckily there’s always someone there to line them up and send them to…
John: “You’re next, go!”
Norman: Yeah, exactly. Cue in music and stuff.
John: For the most part, it kind of runs itself, especially if you have somebody else there who’s able to just kind of get things going.
Norman: Right. I mean, we always have a wedding planner or two or three. I mean, we have a whole team that’s there from the ceremony through the end of the night. I mean, actually from when they first book, too, but the day of the wedding they’ll have two people on either side of the Essex Room who send people down. They cue the music. They have lists. I mean, it’s pretty well-organized.
John: Right. Somebody that the bride or the groom can always turn to if they have a question, “What’s coming up next? What do we do now?” There’s always somebody who can help.
Norman: There’s always someone right there who can help.
John: Right. Any other fun things that you’ve seen in the bridal room?
Norman: Well, I had a couple who wanted some alone time after the ceremony, and they, basically, put kind of a time limit on how much alone time they wanted. So, I had to stand at the door and make sure no one walked in.
John: “It’s been 20 minutes now”, you knock on the door.
Norman: Right, I didn’t ask. And so, I can only assume, but I’m sure that’s happened. So, it’s fun. I mean, it’s fun to see the wedding day from the bride’s perspective. Then I also do stuff with the groomsmen. The groomsmen are just… Men are just idiots when it comes to weddings. They can’t put on a boutonniere. They can’t tie a tie. They really can’t do anything like that.
John: So, you’re always helping with that?
Norman: Yeah. I do most of the boutonnieres because I’m pretty good at that.
John: Is there anything, with all your experience and the things that you’ve seen, things that you would recommend that a bride does to kind of make her day go more smoothly or things that you would recommend that they don’t do? Obviously, you mentioned the alcohol, so that might be one thing to try to avoid.
Norman: Yeah. That’s probably the top, number one thing on the list to not do.
John: Most of the bad stories that you’ve seen…
Norman: Yeah, most of the bad stories, I mean, they’re funny, but they’re not. You can avoid them.
John: The day of, that’s probably not so funny.
Norman: Right. I mean, I had one bride, just recently, a couple of months ago, who was outside smoking, and I was driving by. And she was so excited about getting married and being there that day and she was smoking and I drove by and she didn’t know who I was. She had no clue. And so, she’s wearing her little robe that matches all the other girls who are in your party. And then, she flashes me. What do you do with that? So, once I introduced myself, and she realized who I was and what my role was, it was pretty funny. It was pretty funny.
John: Because she realized that she was not only going to meet you, but be dealing with you on a regular basis.
Norman: Oh, yeah, we have become friends. I’ve become fast friends with some of these women.
Norman: It’s pretty funny.
John: All right. Those are great stories, Norman. Thanks, again, for speaking with me today.
Norman: Thanks for having me.
John: And for more information about the Essex Room, you can visit the Essex Room website at essexroom.com or call 978-768-7335.