This May, I had the fortune (or misfortune, haha) to attend two of my cousins weddings. Now for those of you who don’t know, South Asian weddings are several days long of various ceremonies and family dinner parties and such. So all in all, I was booked for 8 full evenings! But while there I noticed that there were great examples of leadership, both in terms of what some people did and what they could have done.
Leadership to me is not always about the big things like “I planned a rally to raise $10,000 for Africa”. That is awesome if you can do it, but leadership is also about the small things. So at the weddings I observed, I practiced, and I appreciated a variety of examples.
Wedding Leadership 101
1) Help the moms, kids, and older folks get their meals first. You can wait.
It was odd to see all these men pushing through the buffet line to get at the food first. I saw one kid with his mom telling her what he wanted and she was trying to manage 2 plates, her kids, and these pushy folks. Relax people, the food will still be there and they’ll even refresh it.
2) Make sure the kids are okay, safe and know where their parents are, even if they aren’t yours
There are hundreds of people and tons of kids around playing. Everytime I lost track of Nyal, I would search for him and ask my niece Syrah and my nephew Asif (they are 16 year old twins) if they had seen him. To my delight they immediately dropped what they were doing with their friends and helped me look for him. Throughout the evening they would even check in with me to let me know he was okay and was with them.
3) If you can take the time to get a card and write a cheque, you can take the time to write a nice note
Nowadays most wedding invites audaciously say “No Boxed Gifts”, but that is a topic for another discussion. So you get a card, write a cheque and maybe say something brief in the card like “Congrats!” or “All the best” or maybe even 1-2 sentences. From my own wedding, I can honestly only remember three things. Those who gave us way too much money, those who got unique (good or bad) gifts, and most importantly those who said really compelling things in the card. Take the time to reflect on the history of your friendship or what the couple means to you. These words are forever etched in writing and bring positive sense of connection everytime they are opened.
4) Those awkward looking people at that table could really enjoy someone to talk to.
We were at a table with someone we didn’t know. They seemed to not know anyone. I could have just focused on my kids, but I brought them into the conversation and next thing you know they were engaging my kids and talking about their own older kids. Anytime during a wedding you can scan around and see people sitting patiently but awkwardly. Help them out and start a conversation, find out how they are connected to the wedding. Your actions will help them feel more connected. I saw a group of non-south asians sitting together who were lost because they had no idea what was going on up onstage during a cultural ceremonial game. So I went over and helped them out.
5) If you see anyone waiting to talk to you or take a picture with you, please honour their waiting
Leadership also applies to the guests of honour, whether you are bride, groom, best man, or parent, etc. Too often guests spend very little time with or have access to the wedding couple. They sit way back at table #47 with people they don’t know, and all they want is a picture with you. Please give them that courtesy and take the time to talk with them and acknowledge their presence.
6) You have every right to be the belle of the ball, so long as you don’t ignore the needs of your guests
Bridezillas aside, at your wedding people want to feel connected so try and find ways to do help them. This can come through the ceremony, photos, dancing, visiting tables, receiving lines, speeches or just taking the time to have a conversation with every guest that attends. Even creative methods of having games or memorable events can help. Guests don’t get much, but we should try to accomodate their needs and expectations a little bit.
Leadership is about the small things. It’s about making connections. It’s about investing in the moment, the people, and relationship. So make the most of it whether you are getting married, helping with the events, or just going as a guest.