Martian seeks insight into American grieving customs - help me plan this life celebration
July 18, 2011 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Could use some suggestions for making sure I have all bases covered for the "celebration of life" thing we're doing for my dad this weekend.

My father died a few months ago as many of you may know. We did a small private graveside ceremony at the time and told people we'd be doing a larger more public celebration of his life later in the year. That is coming up this weekend. My sister and I are planning it and while I think the planning is going fine, I'd love to hear suggestions or things you maybe learned if you've planned one of these or attended one.

The event was sort of our idea because my dad was a bit of a public persona at one time. People seemed to want this to happen, though I could take it or leave it and am now dreading it. We're expecting 50-60 people. It's an afternoon event put on by my me and my sister and my dad's sister with support from our boyfriends. We've got tables and chairs and food and drink and flowers and music and photos planned, a few computers around the place running slideshows. A place for people to record memories if it looks like that would be appreciated. The event will take place at his house and I think people will enjoy poking around there, especially if they haven't been there before. One of his old friends is going to give a bit of a speech and maybe some other people will as well. I don't plan to say anything public except "Thank you for coming." I think the bulk of the guests will be in their 60s and 70s so I'll circulate and try to talk to everyone. There are a lot of people there I'm looking forward to seeing.

I'm doing okay and I'm comfortable with the "Everyone grieves in their own way" maxim, but I am not totally comfortable with other people's emotions and especially the "Your dad was such an awesome guy!" stuff since he was an interesting and charismatic man and sort of a lousy dad, though we were friendly and got along fine. I'm a litle nervous about dealing with unresolved drama from the people in his past (there has been some of that from his ex-wife that has been unpleasant) or just stories that I don't want to hear. I have some polite scripts in my head for dealing with this sort of stuff [and an awesome sister who is terrific at running defense for this sort of thing] but if people have more of them, that might help me.

So, if you've done one of these or attended a good one, what worked? If you have gone to one where things went wrong, what could be done better next time? Thanks very much.
posted by jessamyn to Society & Culture (30 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps rather than simply thanking people for coming, you can graciously state something along the lines that you are grieving your father in your own way, and request that guests please not come up and talk with you about him during the event--though of course they are welcome to talk with you about other subjects. Then if anyone ignores your request, you will be quite within your rights to smile, turn on your heel... and throw them out if they try that shit again.

They're getting the memorial they wanted, and they should be grateful to have it. They have no right to put you in an uncomfortable position on top of that.
posted by Scram at 3:52 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah I should be clear, I don't mind chitchatting with people at all, I just don't want to make a public speech or have anyone give me a hard time about not making a speech. I am the oldest daughter and there may be some people who want that and I'd like to nicely make it clear that it won't be happening. I think I can manage if people tell me inappropriate stories, but it is one of the things that's not making me that stoked about being there. Thanks for the advice though.
posted by jessamyn at 4:01 PM on July 18, 2011

I went through this back in November, at my aunt's memorial. While she and I had a great relationship, the memorial was run by my mother, and this memorial was the one hiatus of our estrangement. I was incredibly tense. Here's what helped me through:

First, if folks were making me uncomfortable but I was more or less okay, I excused myself with the excuse of some sort of busy work. Interrupted them with "yes, it's a very difficult time... Oh excuse me, I need to get more cheese." You could also try distracting them by introducing your interlocutor to folks from other parts of your father's life, so that they can discuss him while you slip away.

If a quick escape wasn't going to do it for me, or if the person talking to me didn't get it, I used "Pardon me, I'm a little overwhelmed... I'm going to go take a moment by myself." They assume that you're overwhelmed with grief, or fond memories, or whatever they want to think... and will let you alone to have some recovery time.

But also, see if you can't get a few more people to speak, or play some music, or read poems, or whatever. This gives people something to focus on, and eliminates a lot of the side conversations that are so rife with awkwardness.

Most of all, remember that at a memorial like this, no one expects you to be a particularly great listener or hostess. As the bereaved (regardless of how conflicted your emotions are), there is zero stigma to stepping away, and to taking care of yourself first.
posted by amelioration at 4:01 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ah, if that's the worry, maybe appoint someone to speak for the family, and give closing remarks? That signals an end to the public speech aspect, and it will be too late for anyone to question you after that.
posted by amelioration at 4:03 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Reading your clarification, I don't think you will have anything to worry about. Nobody at a wake/memorial type thing will give you a hard time about not giving a speech - and you probably don't even need to make clear that a speech won't be happening. Just circulate, make sure you make contact with everyone, no matter how brief, and get through the day as best you can. As you circulate, if you're still uneasy about it, maybe make a few oblique references to people, like "oh, thank you for coming - I didn't want to make a big speech but I want you to know I'm glad you're here" or something like that.

Most everyone has lost someone. People know that it's a really hard time for the family, and I don't think anybody goes into a day like you're planning with any pre-set expectations for what it will be like.
posted by pdb at 4:07 PM on July 18, 2011

It sounds like a really thoughtful and well-planned event already. the most recent "celebration of life" thing-y that I went to was made much better by having both indoor and outdoor space available for the guests. I don't know if you'll be expecting any children but it was really nice to give them a place (outdoors) to hang out since usually they don't have much understanding of what's going on and can be annoying to deal with if they're not yours and you'd like to time to reflect more quietly.

The event I attended also included a shaman funeral rite since the deceased had been a practitioner though many of the attendees were not. But it was nice to have some sort of organized ritual as part of the event, even if it wasn't of my own faith. So I don't know if your father had any particular beliefs to draw from but it's something to consider. It gace everyone something to focus on rather than just random milling about.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:08 PM on July 18, 2011

In my experience, nobody expects you to really be functional at these things, so just excusing yourself from a conversation is acceptable - you need a moment, you need a word with cousin Lorraine before she goes, whatever.

No memorial I've attended has had the nearest family speaking - it wouldn't even occur to me question the appropriateness of someone not speaking in public in an emotionally laden context like that.

If you're worried that people will think that you're not engaged, and the chit chat piece is basically okay, would you feel okay being sort of 'chief greeter' for guests? The front-line person who thanks them for coming, points them to the guest book/receptacle for cards/place to put their flowers, and has a few words with them to start? It's an engaged role, but one that lends itself to brief interactions.
posted by EvaDestruction at 4:10 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

My boss held a memorial "open house" for his father and what he did instead of give a speech was write up a little informal obituary about his father - a couple of pages or so in big font about where the man grew up, what times were like when he was young, what friends had said about him - and printed copies of this up and left them in stacks around the house so that people could pick them up and leaf through them and muse about the stories within. It kind of served as his "remarks" and for those who came who knew little about the man, it was a lovely thing to read, and then everyone liked fanning themselves gently in the afternoon heat.
posted by sestaaak at 4:11 PM on July 18, 2011

The good news is that most people will cut a lot of slack for a child of the deceased at one of these things, and they'll cut a lot of slack for hosts, too, so you're well-positioned to politely excuse yourself just about any time, to skip a big speech, and/or to change the topic without people judging whether you're being awkward about it. With both roles, you've got like, a double coating of Teflon. Or two stacks of "Get Out of Conversations Free" cards. Whatever metaphor you like.

I'm a big fan of deflection. Many guests will feel that etiquette practically demands that they pry into how you're grieving, what your most poignant memories are of your dad, what have you. I think if you can quickly reassure them how thoughtful they are and how much their interest/concern/meddling means to you, then you can forcefully shift the conversation back to them: how glad your dad would be that they came, and "remind me, where did you first meet him?" and the like. If that fails, including if someone starts in on inappropriate stories, that's when you remember you have some critical hosting responsibility to attend to, or you see Martha over there and feel terrible that you haven't greeted her yet, or your aunt just signalled that she needs a hand with something, etc..

Hope it goes well, and hope you have something you love planned for yourself once it's over.
posted by mauvest at 4:12 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I will say that at my father's parents' funerals (two separate ones), no one spoke at one, and only one of four children spoke at the other (at this one some grandkids spoke) and no one thought it was in any way weird that the children didn't speak. Other funerals I have been to had pretty similar responses -- children often did not speak, grandchildren occasionally did, more often than children did.

My grandmother, in particular, was an interesting and charismatic woman but a terrible mother (my grandfather was neither interesting nor charismatic, but he was a terrible father), and I think people recognise that more than anyone acknowledges out loud. No one is likely to give you grief about a speech. (Actually, some friends of my grandparents complained to their granddaughter -- a close friend of mine, through sheer coincidence -- that I did not appropriately greet them at my grandfather's (grandmother's?) funeral.)

What helped our family was, the night before the funeral, having a "memory of X" night where we told rather inappropriate stories about how our family member was an asshole.
posted by jeather at 4:13 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

If people want to tell you stories, and you are, for whatever reason, unable to hear them, gently suggest that you would love it if the storyteller would write down his or her memory of your dad, so you can savor it and think about it later (whether this is true or not, it gets you out of awkward conversation and gives the other person a gracious out and a possibility for action). Good luck.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:14 PM on July 18, 2011

In my experience, the biggest difference between ceremonies like this one and actual funerals is that in your case, all of your guests have had some time since his passing to process through their initial emotions and reactions upon hearing the news. This bodes well for you, in terms of not having to deal with too much emotion or (hopefully) inappropriate behavior from people. I would guess that most of the older folks are looking forward to telling you their best (and hopefully appropriate) stories about him, without you being under much pressure to do more than smile and say, "Yes, he had lots of great qualities. I'm so glad that you shared that warm memory with me. Excuse me, I'm just going to go rearrange those flowers over there."

One thing you might do to pre-empt any requests for you to speak would be to print up a short 'program' of sorts, one that you could either distribute to people when they arrive or just leave lying around (or put up on the computer screens, interspersed with the photos). In addition to letting people know what the plan is (especially for older folks who may not always hear so well - relying on 'word of mouth' in those cases can be dicey) it also might kind of close off the possibility of you being asked to speak at length. On the program you can also include some variation of "Thank you very much for coming/ something I remember about my Dad/ signed, Jessamyn." That way you aren't pressured to come up with more than a few lines, you get to write it ahead of time, and your guests can feel like they 'heard' something from his family members without soliciting you in person.

I hope it all goes well - good luck.
posted by amy lecteur at 4:15 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

The great thing about institutional services/memorials is that they have a program= fixed end-time. The great thing about home services/memorials is that they're more personal. But you really, really need a clear end-time and public signal for it.

A friend's mother committed suicide. It shocked everybody in her family and circle of friends and acquaintances. We had services at a crematorium and then close friends and family back to her house. It was unstructured, and naturally everybody there needed to connect and basically deal with the death. It was good. But because it was unstructured, we didn't have a set end-time, and no signal.

So we had folks hanging around for hours after we began to subtly indicate it was time to go. They didn't take the hints, because they were so "close" they were sure it didn't apply to them. We didn't have the energy to force the issue. I finally started offering to drive people to their hotels, and mentioning how wrecked the family was feeling and they they needed to be alone, and no thanks, we don't need any help clearing up and no, there isn't any room for anyone to crash and thank you so much for coming. It worked.

The only other thing that was annoying was that a former friend of hers took this opportunity to move in on my friend and try and re-bond or whatever. She began to be a bit pushy and grabby, and public with displays of affection and statements about how close they were. So I distracted, and redirected, and introduced other folks, and grabbed hands affectionately and whatever. It worked.

So, agree on an end-time and a public signal for it (the speech by the old friend?) and someone close but not related to run interference and shut shit down.
posted by likeso at 4:16 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it's actually pretty unusual for family to speak at memorial services so I'd be really surprised if anybody was surprised or chose to challenge you for not doing it.

As for people trying to talk about you about things you don't want to talk about, you get to stop them and say, "I'm sorry, I just can't talk about that today. If you'll excuse me." and go somewhere else. As said above, nobody really expects you to be functional for this.

As for drama-mongers, tell them to hang on just a moment while you get the designated person to come speak to them. Feel free to treat them as if it's the caterer stopping you in the middle of the event to ask about getting paid.

Anything you don't want to deal with, just become busy and excuse yourself. Leave entirely or go hide and deal with administrative details if you can't take it anymore.

Good luck. I'd be grinding my teeth down to nubs if I had to do this.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:17 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

From Ms. Vegetable:

We recently had one of these for a very close friend and coworker.

Something that helped a LOT was having somebody in "charge" - so like the chief greeter, person to point out whoever is important, person to direct people to the bathroom, person to run through ceremony/plans/whatever.

It does NOT have to be you. But it makes it much easier for guests.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:18 PM on July 18, 2011

A few more thoughts (still from Ms. Vegetable):
- You could probably hire somebody to be your "friend" to be in charge (perhaps from a funeral home?)
- Put tissues everywhere
- Have a hiding spot - either hanging out with the kids there, or a room in the house labeled "private", or something like that, and rotate with your sister and your dad's sister
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:37 PM on July 18, 2011

I just don't want to make a public speech or have anyone give me a hard time about not making a speech.

If anyone asks or otherwise brings it up, you can say "Oh, we had the family service a few months ago." Helps make the point that there's a time and a place, and this ain't it.
posted by KathrynT at 5:13 PM on July 18, 2011

I went through something similar a couple of years ago. My dad died and he was sort of a local public figure/celebrity in our small town.

We had a local printing company make bookmark sized keepsakes with his picture and some of his favorite quotes (one or two of them were well known sayings and one was something he came up with to describe the joy he found in life as a result of his struggle with cancer). We hole punched the top of each and tied small bits of ribbon. It made a nice keepsake and his friends and acquaintances enjoyed having something to take away from the "celebration" of his life.

Nobody expected any speeches from myself or my siblings. And even if they had, we're just not that type of family so they would have been disappointed.

I, personally, have trouble with people's desire to hug at events like these. I'm not a hugger and in grief I'm highly resistant to anyone invading my personal space. I let my friends and family know this and for the most part they kept a somewhat protective circle around me so that strangers couldn't get too close. I also hid in a side room that we'd closed off for that purpose when it felt like too much.

Good Luck getting through it. It sucks but it'll be over at the end of the day and you'll not have to do it again, hopefully.
posted by dchrssyr at 5:27 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think you, your sister, or your Dad's sister will be pressured to speak. It sounds like many of the people who will be there are accustomed to being leaders, and will be comfortable speaking, and are likely to feel that they have something to say. You can, as you greet people, use the power of suggestion "Do you have a favorite story about Dad?" "Thanks for being here.... Yeah, I'm not feeling comfortable speaking, but you never know." "Yeah, he was a complicated person." allows for the possibility of stories that tell more about him than his best side. And people want to remember the best in a person, or at least not the worst, and that's probably not such a bad thing. Those stories they tell aren't the whole person, and we all know that.

We had a memorial service for my brother not long ago. A few people said beforehand that they wanted to speak, and did. They told stories that were loving, affectionate and kind, but they also teased him about certain traits that made everyone laugh affectionately and knowingly. No one said anything unkind, but his best friend talked briefly about some dark nights of the soul. I was glad he did, as my brother's depression was painful and recurring and having it recognized was a recognition of who he was. Once people started to share, lots of people got up to speak, so there was no painful or awkward silence. A moderator of some sort is wise. We had a rabbi who acted as more of a moderator than religious officiant, having met my brother only a few weeks before when he performed his wedding. He introduced the planned speakers, and was good at recognizing who wanted to speak.

So, your father was a big man, in a metaphorical sense, and I think people will talk about that, and I think things are likely to go well, and that the event will be a gift. The BFs will have your backs. People will be at their kindest, and will be especially cognizant of the family members' feelings. If you need anybody else there to be part of your human (metaphoric or otherwise) shield, the briefest word will bring me and plenty of others there, and I don't say that lightly, but I think it will really be okay.
posted by theora55 at 5:36 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

I just don't want to make a public speech or have anyone give me a hard time about not making a speech.

If it helps at all, I can't see this happening (of course, I'm saying that without knowing the people who will attend). Events like this always seem to me to follow von Moltke's maxim that "no plan survives contact with the enemy". You plan out the first 15 minutes and then people begin to mingle & drink and things follow their natural course. I suffered through something similar at age 8 when the entire city of Newport wandered through my grandfather's house for his wake and then much the same a couple of years ago when their children came to honor my mom. You kind of smile and mumble pleasantries; no one expects anything of you and we wound up so busy making sure everyone else had enough to eat, etc that we never had time to think, much less grieve.

Less serious: you should be able to get away with saying anything you feel like. Please don't take advantage of that, but keep it in your back pocket in case of emergency. It's two years later and I'm still using the same lame joke on people who say, "I'm so sorry about your mother", "Oh, so you did it, huh?"
posted by yerfatma at 6:25 PM on July 18, 2011

Would you be comfortable introducing your dad's friend with the following, "Thank you all for coming. As I'm sure you all understand, I have many strong emotions surrounding my dad's passing/the emotions of dad's passing are still fresh. I'm so glad that my dad's good friend NAME has agreed to share some memories of dad with all of us. NAME?"

All of that is true (or at least that is what I understand from your question, I'm sorry if I am misinterpreting it), but you are staying truthful to the reality of your relationship with your dad and not saying that you are grieving in a way that you are not. People who know you will probably understand what you mean, while people who aren't as close to you will assume that you have sort of delegated the speech in appropriate elder-daughter fashion.

Also, at various wakes I have been to, there is an hour or so of mingling/visiting, then a bit of more organized prayer/public memories/public memorials (ie, someone sings a song or reads a poem), then things are over. If you are worried about people overstaying their welcome, it might be helpful to organize the afternoon in that way, so that everyone has a cue that things have finished.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:21 PM on July 18, 2011

Last year I went through similar with my father's death, including peripheral and not so peripheral potential for drama. Without me planning it, a friend, one with no relationship to my dad and little to most folks at the event (and who is also a bit extroverted), took it upon herself to watch me and my interactions like a hawk. Just when I was feeling uncomfortable, she would appear, all polite and cheerful with some excuse to immediately take me away. It was unexpected, and I hadn't hung out with her regularly for years, but it was the most deeply meaningful and generous thing anyone did for me in the whole complicated and upsetting mess of my father's death. Third-party guardianship saved me that day.
posted by rumposinc at 7:55 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

My dad died in February and we had a public celebration extremely similar to what you have described. I was a bit apprehensive in ways that sound similar to your worries. YMMV but for me the whole thing came off very well and it turns out I had no reason to be so apprehensive.

What worked for us was a bit of spatial planning (different areas that encouraged people to mingle) as well as managing expectations ahead of time (which it seems like you're on top of). Having lively (but appropriate) music playing sets the tone that no-one should be expecting a speech.

The end result wasn't something I'd call "fun" exactly, but the event served its purpose and (here comes that word) even provided a bit of closure.
posted by jeremias at 8:05 PM on July 18, 2011

You mention a place for people to record memories - do you mean video recording, like a web cam, or on paper, or ?? I think this is a great idea, and suggest you have several options for people to record their memories.

For example, you could get a few beautiful notebooks or some nice stationery pads, and put them out in various places where folks can have a seat and maybe write a paragraph or two. Put a couple of baskets around to collect them. It might head off anyone trying to corner you with stories you're not particularly thrilled to hear. You could then have a friend or more neutral party review them later, and only pass on the nice ones to you and your family.

If possible, can you get word out for attendees to bring an extra copy of any pictures they might have of your dad? Or leave out slips of paper (or put it in the program, if you're having one) that have an email address on them where folks could send pictures. At my dad's funeral, an old friend of his from childhood showed up with this amazing album of pictures from their younger days, and I would have loved to get copies of them for myself. (Didn't think to ask at the time.)

Speaking of pictures, are you allowing or encouraging pictures at this event? If this would be awkward for you, you might want to get the word out to a few key people who can discourage it.

Good luck. You'll get through this!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:30 PM on July 18, 2011

rumposinc: "Last year I went through similar with my father's death, including peripheral and not so peripheral potential for drama. Without me planning it, a friend, one with no relationship to my dad and little to most folks at the event (and who is also a bit extroverted), took it upon herself to watch me and my interactions like a hawk. Just when I was feeling uncomfortable, she would appear, all polite and cheerful with some excuse to immediately take me away. "

I just served a similar role for a friend who lost her father unexpectedly. She had become overwhelmed planning the memorial/celebration of life, so I volunteered to work with the caterer, florist, etc, for those details. Then at the celebration, I kept an eye on her, made sure she had a cold drink, tissue, whatever - and, if someone was monopolizing her, or it was clear she wanted to get away, I'd go over and pry her out of the conversation with some made up nonsense about the food or something. I'd also make sure she and her mother got to sit for a bit. If there's someone you trust to help you in this capacity, and who knows you well enough to know your signals, do ask them. Someone you can flash a high sign to, who isn't occupied with anything else. If necessary, you and your sister could help each other like this, but if you both need to be rescued at the same time, it could get sticky.

I'll be thinking of you this weekend.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:45 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

During a funeral in my family, the only folks who were emotionally able to speak at the memorial were one daughter-in-law and her mother.
It was such a gift to us to be relieved of the duty of public speaking.
The non-family mourners didn't notice this as anything strange.

During the event, I think others have it right in that you can be alert to "rescue" each other from various sticky or overwhelming situations. I remember in high school and college there were a few funerals--- one of the few things we could do for each other at that age was to take our friend for an aimless car ride. Any excuse was fine-- to get more food, drinks, ice, or no excuse at all. Just an hour or two away from everything and everybody.

Or maybe there is a place [or someone's home] to gather at afterwards. Those of you in the inner circle of things might feel a little better blowing off some steam after the event itself.
posted by calgirl at 8:58 PM on July 18, 2011

This is not a technique to use in a specific situation but a suggestion/hope for your overall vibe: let everyone take care of themselves. They're all adults and there are plenty of other people there for them to talk to and interact with - just give what you can. Focus on yourself, what you need, and keeping yourself centered and you'll be okay.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:39 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

For my dads service, we served all of his favorite foods. It was a nice way to tribute his likes, made for good conversation and was different from any other service I had ever attended. 100 mini McDonalds milk shakes, beer from Panama, empanadas and lamb kebobs.....I have done food for a few friends funerals since my dads and I really try to make the food about the person being remembered.

Also, a service I recently attended had trays of photos in them, not just in frames, it made for an easy and fun sort through while looking at the photos. Not as stuffy as framed pics all over the place.

No worries about not making a speech, it sounds like your event will be a relaxed and (as much as it can be) comfortable event. Just say thank you when folks say things about your dad, they do not expect anything more from you than being present. When you need a break take your boyfriend to another room, breathe and hug, then head out again to the guests, repeat as often as you need it.
posted by jennstra at 10:16 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

Make copies of the photos you want to display and get the originals and other special keepsakes out of the house.

When my great-aunt died we had a small memorial at her apartment. Someone made off with her childhood passport picture (she was born in Brooklyn, but she and her parents went back to the Ukraine where my great-grandfather's family had wealth until WWI and the Russian revolution) which was in a small silver frame on an end table.

This was the one thing of hers I wanted, because it looked quite a bit like me ( it is reproduced in her memoir).
posted by brujita at 10:54 PM on July 18, 2011

Thanks so much for everyone's advice. The thing was yesterday and it went really well, better than I think I could have expected. Everyone here gave me good advice and the things that were particularly useful

- eating a lot of my dad's favorite foods [people could make jokes or tell stories about the chicken wings and tuna sandwiches which were sort of a sore spot for us in that "Dad, you really need to eat dinner" way and turned into a positive "aww remember dad?" thing]
- having a room full of photos with a lot of chairs so people could sit and reflect
- having a print out with directions to dad's burial site, contact information for my sister and me and a few photos and a big "thanks for coming" statement
- guest book that people could sign
- small pre-arranged gathering partway through where people who could speak would speak [with a few people lined up] a few words of thanks from the family and opportunity for other people to speak [a few people did] and then a wrapping up where people who wanted to hang afterwards could spend more time and people who wanted to pop in and pay respects could motor out
- I literally used the line "I need to go check on the thing" and excused myself a few times but by and large people took care of themselves, were mostly totally appropriate [one weird story which was more of a "your dad was a ladykiller" sort of thing that anything worse] and took some time off to go check email in an empty room a few times.
- We had a slideshow of my dad's flickr photos which played on the big TV which people seemed to enjoy. Decided to not do music stuff.
- I gave a lot of people little jobs to do and this seemed to work well ["could yo put these flowers in these vases?" "hey how about taking this pile of trash to the dumpster" "Would you mind telling people we'll be getting started in a few minutes?"] and I think people liked having something to do to be a part of it

Basically my sister and I got to do the thing more or less the way we wanted to [with a lot of planning but not a lot of angst over it] and I think everyone thought it went well. As I said to my boyfriend [a prince, that man] "When the worst problem you're having is too much leftover food, that's a sign that things went okay" Thanks again to everyone.
posted by jessamyn at 7:17 AM on July 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

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