The Entitled Generation: Ch-Ch-Changes in the wedding industry

Working as a server, chef, bartender, and wedding coordinator for the wedding industry since 1998, I have seen some startling changes in expectations from brides, grooms, and guests at wedding venues.
  Having worked in various capacities at two wedding venues in Southern California since 2001, I have seen weddings change from understated, modest, religious affairs to overblown pretentious Vegas style blowouts. Any attempt at treating a wedding as a sacred, special gathering with just the bride and groom’s closest family and friends has gone the way of champagne fountains and balloon arches (just to make a reference to popular wedding trends when I started in this industry 16 years ago). Back when I first started, it was rare for a bride and groom to have lived together before marriage and even more rare to have children before marriage. Of course it happened, but it occurred about 20% of the time. Starting within the last five years, courtships last on average 5 years and include living together. About half the couples I see walk down the aisle have children old enough to be the ring bearer and/or flower girl. Before any of you chastise me, I am not trying to put today’s couples down. I am merely making a point of what marriage means to today’s couples. Many couples in the past would date for no more than two years and plan a special, intimate wedding with just their closest family and friends to celebrate their new lives together. They would be moving into their new place together for the first time. This attitude gave weddings a sense of being sacred and a way to spirtually celebrate the union of two people very much in love.
…..Flash forward to 2013: I just listened to the groom make a speech that went like this, “Jennifer and I have been dating five years. I was hestitant to ask her to marry me at first. But I’m glad we got to this point.”
This is what I like to call a “might as well wedding.” This is not the first speech of this type that I’ve heard and it certainly won’t be the last. The groom figures he “might as well” ask his girlfriend of five years (I’ve seen some couples say it took 8-10 years) to marry him despite his reservations because he isn’t going to do any better, she’s already putting up with him so it’s convenient, and he’s likely getting pressure from his family to make it official, so he “might as well” put a ring on it. Couples in this situation don’t look at weddings the same way. They see their wedding as an excuse to plan an extravagant blowout. They not only want to invite their closest family and friends, but anyone and everyone who has known them as a couple for the last 5+ years they’ve been together. Believe me, after that many years together, that’s a lot of people. They want their wedding to cater to their every whim. It’s like the sweet 16 party they never had. It’s like that trip to Vegas they should have taken when they were single, but they never got around to it because they had been dating the person they are now marrying. They feel as though singles trips of this kind would make them appear unfaithful to their partner. Instead, they have nights in with their live in love instead of having an occasional “girls night” or “lads night” like couples have traditionally done before the decision to live together caused a change in opinion of what it meant to be faithful. They never had time to enjoy the single life because most couples I meet have been dating since high school and spent most of their twenties living together and/or having children. They didn’t get to party like young people should be doing at their age. As a result, they don’t quite understand the purpose of their wedding. They want to act like teenagers at their wedding. Everything must be EXACTLY the way they want or there will be hell to pay. The bartender MUST keep serving the guests shots even if the guests are noticeably intoxicated. Having worked as a bartender for various So Cal wedding venues since 2004, I have seen brides’ and grooms’ attitudes completely change. Brides used to come up to me and ask me not to over serve the guests because they didn’t want guests to get too drunk and behave inappropriately at their wedding. They didn’t want guests to disrespect the solemnity of the occasion. Many brides requested that shots be off limits. I cannot even remember the last time I was requested by the bride or groom not to serve shots or over serve guests in general. I think it was at least 2007. Now if I or my coworker decide to stop serving someone who is obviously intoxicated (it’s against the law to keep serving them, by the way. The bartender can be fined $1,000), I used to be able to calmly explain the liquor laws to the bride, groom, and family and they would actually calmly reply, “I understand. I’ll keep that guest away from the bar.” Within the past three years, brides and grooms have treated me as if I was challenging them and trying to ruin their “special day” by cutting certain guests off from the alcohol after noticeable intoxication. I would explain to them that I am following the law and I am the one that will be in trouble with the A.B.C. if I serve someone who’s drunk. I can even lose my job. Now I honestly fear my partner and I can be fired from our venue as bartenders simply because we have the judgment, training, and common sense discretion to not allow our wedding guests to do whatever they feel like just because they feel like it. Welcome to the entitled generation. Just last Saturday, the groom demanded to know my name as well as my Co bartender’s name because we had to cut off two over served guests from the bar. He was angry and said he was going to leave a review online. He didn’t care about his guests driving home drunk. He just wanted to ensure that my partner and I were going to hand out the booze like it was candy to whoever demanded it for a whole six and a half hour shift. This is not the first time in the last 3-5 years that guests were upset that my partner and I would make this kind of judgment call to ensure guests’ safety and to serve responsibly. We’ve been trained to adhere to all current California liquor laws but seriously SCREW US for having the complete and utter gall to expect the rules of our venue to be followed. We’re trying to ruin their wedding and they will leave a negative review online saying how much our venue screwed them over.
This sense of entitlement not unlike a kid at a candy store does not just apply to bartending but to serving and managing also. A DJ demanded to speak to my boss when I told him that the door behind his set- up station does not open. He didn’t care that we had rules at our venue. His preference was more important. That is the shift in entitlement nowadays. Brides, grooms, guests, and vendors are actually guests at our venue. Instead, they act as squatters who take total control over how they want their experience to be. They tell my staff what THEY want instead of listening to my staff go over the safety rules to ensure their maximum safety and enjoyment. The father of the bride walked over to the air conditioner and turned it up. A few years ago, he would have asked a staff member to do it. A bride was furious with my boss that her dinner was served 15 minutes behind schedule. My boss spent half an hour (literally) explaining to her that it was due to the fact that she and her wedding party requested that they be allowed another 15 minutes to get ready for the grand entrance. The entire blame was on the bride, but she wanted it to be our fault. She then left a negative review online saying “No one was willing to talk to me or help me when I had issues.” So for some reason my boss talking to her for half an hour did not count. It was an untruthful review but yelp put it up on the list of recommended reviews and chose to “filter out” the positive reviews from real customers of ours as “not recommended” because our small company can’t afford to pay yelp’s extortion fee of $20 a month for the whole year to rearrange the positive reviews on top under “reviews that are recommended.” The other venue I’ve worked for wants to boycott yelp due to these shady practices. They have the contracts to prove the satisfied customers whose reviews are “not recommended” are real just like my other venue will. Between the changing sense of entitlement of customers for the reason I described, and the internet’s ability to post slanderous, untruthful reviews as “recommended,” (one called my bartender a “crook” because the bride and groom chose to have a cash bar and she wouldn’t allow a guest to have a free drink just because he wanted one) I fear the wedding industry is not the same place I signed on to work 16 years ago. Now I am not saying every bride and groom, family, and guests in Southern California behave this way. In fact, when I work weddings through my family business independently, the bride, groom, family, and guests are gracious and very nice. They wouldn’t dream of making the same demands that I see them do at the venues I work for other companies. But knowing that some people feel they have the right to do this makes me worry for the future.
By writing this blog, I was hoping to spread some awareness of what it is like to be on the receiving end of this constant abuse from customers and the reasons why I think it exists. If anyone working in this industry would like to chime in, I welcome your feed back (be respectful and professional, please).