Real-life wedding crashers can count on a chilly reception
by Bella English, Boston Globe Staff
August 6, 2005
Brides and grooms, beware. If there's a stranger at your wedding, he may not be a distant relative of your in-laws' best friend's son, and he won't be toting a gift. Chances are he's a wedding crasher, that specimen of human leech popularized in the current hit movie of the same name. He may not look like Owen Wilson or Vince Vaughn, and he may not be there to score with the bridesmaids. In fact, he may even be a she.
Wedding crashers, who often operate in pairs, are there for the free ride: the hors d'oeuvres, the open bar, the dinner, the band. According to Boston-area wedding planners and caterers, the wedding crasher is ubiquitous. He may blend in smoothly with the crowd, or, as at a recent fancy reception, she may stick out like a mozzarella stick. (Rule No. 55 from the ''Wedding Crashers" website: ''If pressed, tell people you're related to Uncle John. Everyone has an Uncle John.")
''Most people are embarrassed, so they want to blend in," says Bryan Rafanelli, a leading event planner in Boston. ''If it's black tie, they should be in black tie. But this one woman had a pashmina wrapped around her sun dress, trying to hide it." The wedding and reception were held at the Fairmont Copley Plaza; hotels are prime haunts for wedding crashers.
''Ultimately what happens is there's a beautiful wedding and people in the hotel hear about it and want to see it," Rafanelli says. ''It could be a hotel guest, or it could be guests attending another wedding. When the movie came out, I said, 'Oh no, this is going to get worse.' " He adds, laughing: ''If I were in a fraternity right now, I'd be wedding crashing."
Rafanelli, whose clients often spend more than $1,000 a head, has heard every excuse in the book when he confronts crashers. ''I just wanted to see what the ballroom looks like." ''I heard Claudia Schiffer was in the room." (Rule No. 9: ''Whatever it takes to get in, get in.") And, ''I'm here to listen to the band." That last one is the classic excuse, and in many cases it happens to be true. Bands will sometimes tell prospective clients they're playing a gig Saturday night, come hear us. That practice, needless to say, is frowned upon by wedding planners and their clients.
''Certainly we have a rule that no one comes to hear the band unless you're invited to the wedding," sniffs Rafanelli, who says he can spot crashers because of their dress and their attitude: ''They seem a little lost." He will engage them in conversation, determine they are imposters, and ask them nicely to leave. (Rule No. 84: ''Stay clear of the wedding planner.")
Holly Safford, owner of The Catered Affair, a Hingham-based catering company, recalls a recent wedding crashed by two young women. ''It was at an historic site that the bride and her family had rented for the occasion," Safford says. ''The women came to the cocktail stations, helped themselves to the food, and then had the audacity to sit down at one of the guest tables for dinner. They plunked themselves down, and it was clear they were there for the night." (Rule No. 64: ''Always save room for cake.")
The wedding party did not recognize the women, who were dressed in ''skin tight little tops and short, short skirts." Finally someone approached and asked if they could help. The women were honest: They were there to hear the music; the band had invited them. ''They were ushered out immediately. They looked puzzled and seemed surprised that they were ejected," says Safford. (Rule No. 24: ''If you get outed, leave calmly. Do not run.")
How best to approach crashers and get rid of them? No one wants a scene at a joyful occasion. Consider the case of the Cape Cod crashers. The recent lavish wedding was held under an elaborate tent on the oceanfront yard of the bride's family. During the party, two young men strolled up from the beach, wearing sports jackets over golf shirts. ''They had flip-flops on and their khakis were rolled up as if they had been wading in the water," recalls Safford. ''They thought they were going to blend in. They availed themselves of the raw bar and the open bar." (Rule No. 86: ''Shoes say a lot about the man.")
The father of the bride spotted them. ''Gentlemen, you wouldn't crash my daughter's wedding, would you?" he asked oh-so-politely. (Rule No. 76: ''Keep interactions with the parents of the bride to a minimum.") He let them finish their beer and bid them farewell.
At the Four Seasons Hotel, catering manager Philip Deschamps has seen many crashers. At one recent wedding, a drunk woman wearing jeans and a T-shirt wandered in. ''She was just looking for a nice air-conditioned space," says Deschamps, who called security. ''People see a fun party and an open bar. It happens more often than I wish it did."
Perhaps the mother of all wedding planners is Yolanda Cellucci, who has been in the business for 35 years, with an upscale bridal emporium in Waltham. Cellucci has her own version of the duo in ''Wedding Crashers." A widow and her adult daughter used to come in to her store periodically looking for cocktail dresses. ''Every Sunday they would get all dressed up and go to a wedding, usually at the Copley Plaza," says Cellucci. Finally she commented on the large size of their family and friends.
''Oh, they're strangers," the women told her. Every Sunday, they would show up at a hotel and slide into the ballroom. When the maitre d' asked them their names so he could seat them, they'd say, ''Oh, we forgot to send in our RSVP cards." (Rule No. 88: ''You're from out of town. Always.") Sometimes, says Cellucci, brides will come back to show her their wedding pictures and puzzle over the strangers in them.
Cellucci observed one couple at a hotel wedding reception she attended who were passionate dancers, doing the tango or other exotic steps to every song. (Rule No. 60: ''No chicken dancing. No exceptions.") ''You couldn't keep your eyes off them," Cellucci says. Finally she complimented them on their moves and asked if they were friends of the bride or the groom. Neither, they replied; they just heard the music and loved to dance.
''I wasn't going to squeal on them," she says. ''They kept the party going."