Confessions of a Wedding Waitress
Think the bride has it bad? It’s nothing compared to the suffering endured by the wait staff on The Big Day
I spent a little more than two years of my post-adolescence slaving away in a place that makes dreams come true—that is, the dreams of everyone except the people who work there.
Along a busy road in a small town on the exclusive North Shore lies a catering hall that hosts dozens of weddings a year. There are countless others like it on Long Island. Mine was no different than any of them, really, except it was the one in which I worked, the one in which I became more intimate with the weddings of Long Island than I ever would have imagined or wanted.
It all started with Hooters.
I was finishing my first year at Hofstra and I was broke. One afternoon on my way home from school, I passed a bustling Hooters, and a light bulb went off.
Except it wasn’t. My mother had concerns, and she expressed them to me, informing me she would be less than thrilled to see her 18-year-old daughter in orange hot pants, hula-hooping on the side of Hempstead Turnpike as middle-aged men honked their horns and realized their sudden craving for hot wings.
So I gave up on that prospect and instead decided to please my mom by taking a serving job at a catering hall. Instead of the dark confines of Hooters, I found myself sweating in the hot July sun, serving heavy trays of chilled champagne and gazpacho shooters. And instead of neon hot pants, I found myself in a polyester tuxedo.
Oh, that tuxedo.
I had seen them before at various weddings and Bar Mitzvahs I had attended in the past—the stiff bow ties, the awkward-fitting jackets with missing buttons. I never thought that would be me. But there I was, at Men’s Warehouse, asking the tailor to cut a man’s tuxedo in half and stitch it back together so it could fit my 5-foot-3-inch frame. I never understood the logic behind tuxedos as uniforms, the idea that putting a teenage girl in men’s formal wear somehow translated into elegance. It was (and remains) beyond me. (As it happens, I still have the tuxedo. It sits in my basement as a relic of my past, as proof that my time there really happened. Also, if I ever decide to be James Bond for Halloween, I’m all set.)
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the first party I worked, the first time I broke out that tux and wore it as a professional. It wasn’t a wedding—it was just a small dinner, approximately 75 people. And it went off without a hitch. “Not so bad,” I thought to myself. “I can definitely handle this.”
My manager asked me what I thought of my new gig.
“That was easy,” I told him, as I gave myself an imaginary pat on the back.
He smiled at me. “Don’t get used to it,” he said as he walked away.
I can’t say he didn’t warn me.
The following weekend, as I worked my first wedding, I came to understand what I had gotten myself into: five managers shouting at bored, indifferent waiters in futile attempts to drown out the blaring DJ; a mess of hungry guests who looked like they would fight to the death for the first morsel of food thrown at them; and the obnoxious herds of men (and some women) who went wild on the open bar.
While I was coming to grips with the scenes unfolding before me, a guest at the wedding, a man, asked one of my coworkers—whom I did not yet know but who would eventually become one of my very good friends—for my phone number. I know now this sort of thing happens all the time, and it is never less than awkward.
“Uh, this guy wants your number,” my coworker told me.
I politely declined and ignored that table for the rest of the night.
I wish I could say the come-ons stopped there, but that would be lying. I recall one particularly horrifying incident when a man older than my grandfather grabbed my arm and politely asked if I had any Polish in me. Slightly confused, I answered, no, I did not have any Polish in me.
“Do you want some in you?” he asked, winking at me.
At least at Hooters I would have gotten better tips.
The only thing worse than the old men were the wedding singers, who you’d think would understand that (A) just because you are a singer does not make you inherently attractive to members of the opposite sex, and (B) being a wedding singer might actually make you slightly less attractive to members of the opposite sex.
But I guess they just can’t help themselves when they see a girl in a polyester tux.