Original image

11 Secrets of Wedding Planners

Original image

You already know that they're in charge of pulling the behind-the-scenes strings on the big day, but we asked a collection of real wedding planners to anonymously share what they wish brides and grooms knew about their job. 

1. It’s not a party for the planner. 

Sure, you may be dancing the night away and enjoying the full bar, but planners are on the clock. “While we think it’s very sweet that you invite vendors to sit at a table during the reception to eat like the rest of your guests, we really want to go in that side room or closet and scarf down our food in peace—and let our hair down and discuss the crazy aunt at your reception,” says one planner. Not that they need to retreat to a private room to discuss the couple’s crazy families: “We wear ear buds and talk about the drunk or inappropriate guests at your wedding to each other.” 

2. They know all of the couple’s secrets ... 

“We know when the bride is newly pregnant on her wedding day and no one knows yet,” says one wedding planner. “We are in charge of getting her ‘drinks’ all night. Nothing like a ‘cranberry vodka’ that’s really cranberry soda water.” 

3. ... and probably some of yours. 

Chances are, if you’re in the wedding party, they know a thing or two about you, too. “We also know what groomsmen the bride has hooked up with,” the same planner says.  

4. Don’t mention Pinterest! 

There’s no bigger red flag for a wedding planner than hearing that a bride has been planning her own wedding on Pinterest for the last five years. “While brides think it is a great idea to do it yourself and use family and friends for vendors, most planners actually charge an additional fee to the bride who uses a non-professional vendor or plans to make all of her own floral arrangements or invites,” says a wedding planner, who points out that all these DIY elements turn into a babysitting job for the planner. “We call it a PITA fee—or a ‘pain in the ass’ fee.” 

5. Wrangling bridesmaids is a big part of the gig. 

The first issue with bridesmaids can be identifying the one that might cause a problem. “We can spot a jealous bridesmaid from a mile away,” says one wedding planner. Another planner notes that lining up an intoxicated bridal party to be announced at the reception is arguably one of the most tedious parts of the day. “Where in the world do those bridesmaids go?” she asks. 

6. It’s worth finding a pro.

“'I planned my cousin’s wedding so yes, I’m now a wedding planner',” one wedding planner says, mocking what she calls “a wedding planner’s favorite line.” Another planner points out that planning one of the weddings she puts on is typically a full year’s worth of work—“hundreds of hours, thousands of emails, and at least 30 in-person meetings. Not to mention at least 12 hours on the day of the wedding.” And while the initial fee may seem hefty, once the time is put in, it’s not necessarily a high-paying job: “When you add up how many hours it takes to properly plan a full service wedding, we make less than $5 an hour.” 

7. They dread the divas—and we don’t mean brides.

From guests with difficult last-minute requests (“Could we have a car seat for an infant for the bus ride from the ceremony to the reception?”) to grooms' mothers who insist on being the center of attention, wedding planners are constantly dealing with demands from everyone but the bride. The worst offenders? Bands. “We are literally giddy when you a hire a DJ,” says one wedding planner. Band members’ moodiness can get in the way of making the day about the happy couple.           

8. They’re part-time planner, part-time therapist. 

“Ninety percent of our job is therapy, 10 percent is actually planning,” says one planner, who recalls an 11 p.m. cold feet phone call, the night before the wedding, on which the bride was crying and questioning her decision to marry.

And that’s just dealing with the bride—there are also family members and friends who inevitably become upset at some point in the process, and it often falls to the wedding planner to act as counselor. “Wedding planners are also apparently trained in family mediation, couples therapy, family counseling, and anger management … who knew?” jokes one planner. 

9. There’s a lot of bustle- and sparkler-related stress. 

You could probably guess that wedding planners are nervous about overly-involved mothers of the bride or an outdoor wedding when rain is predicted. But they’ve got a few secret fears as well. “It’s impossible to know how to bustle every dress,” says one planner. “So while I may come across as confident in the bustle, that is always a moment of inner panic. There are always a ton of people in the room during it too—watching me!” Another planner mentions how much she and other planners stress over the popular sparkler fireworks exit. “It is unsafe to give 150 drunk guests fire sticks,” she points out.

10. Dodging dodgy groomsmen can be one of the planner’s biggest challenges.

Blame it on the romance in the air—or the open bar: Groomsmen love to hit on wedding planners. “They say it’s something about the clipboard,” says one wedding planner. “They’ll actually ask me to dance, have a drink, or even go back to their hotel room with them.” Planners are used to this unwanted attention and consider deflecting these attempts at charming advances just another part of the job.

11. They don’t want to haggle. 

While being a wedding planner sounds like the chance to eat cake, drink champagne, and call it work, most of the job is actually spent behind a desk. “The main part of our job is office work, unbeknownst to most of society. It’s not just food tastings and socializing,” says one planner. Another notes that brides will often ask for a discount because “they think that it’s ‘just for fun.’” And she points out that most, if not all, planners have non-negotiable pricing.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]