Another war for America

Memorial Day in the USA. More and more grieving people.

Memorial Day in the USA. More and more grieving people.

Are the American people not tired of war? One wonders. And didn’t Obama loudly proclaim, in fact it was one of his winning promises during his first time around election spiels, that he would not have committed America to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Promises.

Yet here he is. Doing the big sales pitch to his government and the American and even the Russian folk hoping to persuade them into meddling in Syria.

There’s no disputing the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Or the effect it is having on the countries surrounding this warlocked state. 2 million refugees and more walking across borders every day. Civilian deaths, gas attacks and the shocking tally goes on.

Having said that. Bringing in a sophisticated strike force into this hot bed of guerrilla warfare is hardly going to work. Think Afghanistan, think Vietnam and the list goes on. Even Zimbabwe managed to outlast a supreme army and to wear them down in the end. Imagine Mugabe as head of that war and you can see how unlikely that seemed.

But besides the problem of trying to wage a war where one side kind of works along some sort of ethical rules if that is at all possible in war and the other side that fights dirty, throwing arms at a humanitarian crisis doesn’t seem to me a solution.

Of course the American arms industry is already gleefully rubbing its hands at the thought of all that spending about to happen. And I would imagine that Obama during the convenient G20 gathering happening right now will extract money from the developed world to pay for his little war mongering (not the first US president to play that card – thinking Desert Storm) so that a bunch of foreign exchange will help with the embattled US debt.

Kind of supplying a mercenary army to the world. In fact one wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the US army could consist predominantly of soldiers (PMCs) supplied by the Blackwaters of this world. Or whatever they are called now.

Besides the unlikelihood of actually winning this war, whatever a win might mean, throwing arms at a humanitarian crisis isn’t really a solution. More arms, more fighting, more civilian deaths.

But the biggest hurdle is really knowing what is going on and who is really behind the strife and how the conflict could be resolved. Nobody really knows who spread the chemical weapons. It does seem likely that a company in the UK supplied it though. Yup. Nasty, nasty developed world.

Whatever the US decides to do, armed intervention is not the right way of doing it. Just alone the fact that the Asians and Russians never mind China don’t want to know is an indication here. Keep out. Let them sort out their own problems. If you want to do something, send more aid to care for refugees. Give them the opportunity to settle in other countries if they wish.

Who is the enemy by the way? The rebels or the government. If the Syrian government is the rebel then isn’t the US aiding the overthrow of a legitimate government. Or at least the world accepted the government as legitimate until not so long ago. A whole new can of worms….

On weddings and wedding gifts

Are you Frankenstein's Bride?

Are you Frankenstein’s Bride?

Recently read this great article on brides and their tantrums. Find it here. Learned a new expression. The CTFD Method of coping with weddings. It stands for Calm the Fuck Down. And the writer gave a bunch of examples that so hit the spot that I laughed out loud.

Writing about weddings and wedding venues now as I am doing for a work project I’ve come across a bunch of hilarious stuff. And the one thought that crosses my mind is that they should have used the CTFD Method.

In particular the one amusing bit that comes up quite regularly is about wedding gifts. And the expectations around those. Although I must admit when I got married too many years ago to remember entirely we also had a few words to say about the three toasters we got. Never mind the cheap cake fork set and as for the oven gloves with strawberries on them. Yip, I remember those. They lasted for ever.

And that was the particularly funny part of the article. The bit where you can’t forget what so-and-so gave you for your wedding. And you remember it until your dying days. Carrying a grudge for years over something totally insignificant. At least I can’t remember who gave us the strawberry gloves. So I can’t carry the grudge anymore. (:

In particular brides tend to be the most vicious when supposedly rich people neglect to hand over some gorgeously expensive gift that they have always wanted. And as for those brides who themselves gave their friend/acquaintance a gift from a store in expensive Fifth Avenue and doesn’t get an equally expensive gift in return, she is an enemy for life.

Apparently it gets weirder than this. Men get away with it. They don’t bring wedding gifts? No problem. Poor dear probably didn’t know what to get. But the women? No such luck. They should have known better. Taken out a second mortgage on the house to buy a glorious gift. That’s what they should have done.

Regrettably the entire wedding industry is geared towards making a wedding the me-focused, exhibitionistic, overspent event where supposed traditions dictate how the bride and her party should behave and how guests should toe the line. Including expensive gifts.

What it should be is a celebration of an event where you as bride should be thankful that people actually arrive traveling from afar and where what you offer is a gift not based on any gratuitous reciprocal expectations! So apply the CTFD Method whenever you overreach yourself….

Hoping you fail

Diets - designed to fail

Diets – designed to fail


Have you ever considered that there are a bunch of companies and industries where the main focus of their business is on their customers actually failing. That is, they post growth and profits when their customer base doesn’t benefit from their product or service.

Scary thought that.

It had never occurred to me before. But consider the weight loss industry and businesses operating in this field. They benefit if you do not lose weight. Or at least when you put it straight back on again once you have lost it. Because if you don’t succeed you will come back for more diet pills, diet books,  plastic surgery, fad diets, motivational seminars, personal coaches, health gym contracts and the list of businesses feeding off this industry is endless.

They all make money on the fact that you can’t do it on your own. You can’t do exercise, you can’t control your appetite, you can’t get rid of the pounds and so the list goes on.

And they depend very much on this fact that you are dependent.

For instance Weight Watchers sells contracts to it’s members. They throw in a few nutritional well balanced diet books as the membership benefit plus a team leader who runs the weekly meetings and is there to encourage the folk in the group to get rid of the weight. Team leader gets a few Dollars as commission, the area leader gets some Dollars in commission and so it goes up the food chain. Pyramid scheme, almost.

What it does depend on is that people don’t take control over what they put into their mouths or what other pursuits they undertake to keep their bodies balanced and healthy. They depend on failure. They depend on you as the human being to hand over responsibility of your body to somebody else. After all, by joining Weight Watcher (and of course there are a bunch of others too) you are admitting defeat. You can’t do it yourself.

Then there is an entire industry that is supporting this world. Clothes that only look good on skeletal models. An advertising industry that promotes thin is beautiful. Have you ever seen a slightly plumper looking person -in other words normal one – advertising a cellphone, washing powder, sanitary pads, orange juice or motor vehicles to mention a few of the TV ads that are pushed down our throats.

So we buy into thin is beautiful. But to be as thin as the role models in advertising we have to give up food all together. This brings me back to the opening idea. We are going to fail. Because there is no way we can be as thin as the models we see every day on TV, online news portals, in between YouTube videos, in print, on billboards. In fact they are everywhere. Reminding us that only thin is worthy.

So if you want a business idea that will be a success, sell a product or service that depends on somebody to fail. The diet industry has certainly worked this one out. So has the motivational and self-development industry. The health gyms that sell you a one year contract at the beginning of the year knowing full well you won’t last past February know all about it. How do you think they can sell you a life time contract for next to nothing. They are not going to see you your entire life time. And the list goes on.

As a business model, selling failure is for the win.

Weddings, get your marketing message right

Money dance during a wedding. Poland.

Money dance during a wedding. Originated in Poland.

What on earth does marketing have to do with weddings? Anybody following me will know that my current obsession is around weddings. Tons of content being written about it. In fact if you want to read more about it go here  Yorkshire Wedding Venues or Wedding Venues.

So today I was mulling over this topic of why people love their weddings. Weddings have previously been a bit of a waste of money and time quite frankly. For me that is. No disputing that many folk love the occasion and really enjoy the festivities. And so they should. Of course. No question.

Just hasn’t been something that was right for me. And I got to wondering why that could be. And perhaps the one thing that puts me off about this whole thing is the fact that so many bridal couples tend to have a wedding for show rather than for a celebration.

You might wonder if there is a difference. After all, as soon as there are more than two people celebrating, it’s for show surely. One could say this of course. However, for me there is a different yard stick. Several in fact.

If you spend money for show rather than for pleasure then you are showing off. If you are having 20 bridesmaids because your best friend had 10 then you are perhaps showing off. If you want satin as table cloths rather than normal linen you could be showing off. If you build an entire fairyland in a forest in California. You are showing off.

If the purpose of your spending money is to make a statement it’s a show. If the purpose of spending money so that people have a great time and enjoy themselves then you have a celebration. Perhaps the single one thing that explains it is that a show is about you and a celebration is about them. Your guests.

There is nothing wrong with either. However, be honest with yourself and make sure you get it right according to your intentions. It’s similar to marketing isn’t it. Starbucks isn’t really about serving good coffee. If that were all, they would be knocked over by the competition. Starbucks is about social times together. Hence the comfy seats, the wifi, the music and the never get rushed to leave vibe.

McDonalds isn’t about food. It’s all about turnover. Which makes it at the end of the day all about real estate. The best position for maximum exposure to customers. The fact that they sell unhealthy food doesn’t come into it. Really speaking.

The soda industry is selling you a sugar and caffeine rush i.e. addiction. Nothing to do with refreshing drinks for hot summer days. And they ban cigarette smoking…

So get your focus right when planning your wedding. Are you doing a show, or are you celebrating with friends. Once you have that identified in your mind, go out and spend the money. Get it right. If you do it’s a success. If you get your messages confused it’s probably not going to work.

Your friends still won’t have a good time and your show won’t be showy enough. Pick one. It will be the best decision you make. Just like cheap air travel. If they still try and sell you on comfort and luxury travel, they are confused and you will see and feel it straight away and your trip will be lousy. So get the wedding marketing strategy right. You’ll thank me for it….

A society focused on the young populated by the aged

Thanks for the fun image Dorothy, 87 years old.  (AP PHOTO/DALE SPARKS)

Thanks for the fun image Dorothy, 87 years old. (AP PHOTO/DALE SPARKS)

This stat came up in 2008 already. At the time the UK Office for National Statistics revealed that there were more people of pensionable age living in the UK than children under the age of 16. This was five years ago.

Look at our society. What do you see? A celebration of youth. The entertainment industries focus on young topics using young actors and actresses. Older protagonists are only thrown in as a token. The fashion industry uses teenage models to show case it’s fashions for the young. (and thin)

The marketing and advertising industries focus on selling products and services to the youth. In fact even the players within this industry disappear after the age of 35. Unless of course they own the business as is the case with Martin Sorrell who is still around at age 68. But then he owns a big chunk of WPP Group. Not sure where the others disappear to though.

Big brands such as Apple, Nike, Volkswagen, P&G direct their products at the 18 to 35 year old demographic. If they are really daring they might extend that age bracket to 45. Yet the bulk of their customers are older than 45. Your 60 year old is just as readily buying an iPhone as she is getting herself some running shoes from the Nike store or buying a new VW.

Every single person over the age of 60 will buy a cleaning product of some sort. Yet how many ads for cleaning products are directed at the ‘grey’ market? Perhaps a Gran appears in an ad but only to ‘advise’ daughter on what to buy. Never the shopper herself. Perfume? Sure Julia Roberts advertises one at the age of 45. But she has been digitally enhanced in such a way that she appears 30.

And did anybody notice that Glastonbury’s main stage in 2013 was packed out and they had to extend the area when the Rolling Stones did their gig this year. Guess what their average age is. And what does that say about the ages of Glastonbury goers?

I did an interesting exercise a day ago. I googled for weddings for young people and had 70 million results. I googled weddings for older people and my results were 6 million. So nobody is getting married over the age of 50? Certainly nobody is writing about it.

As the stores shut down all along the High Streets of the UK one thing retailers might want to consider is opening stores for older people. Comfortable sized aisles, seating areas to rest on and great displays, labels with bigger font sizes and products of all things ‘old’. Whether more comfortable clothing, health and wellness products, mobility aids or easier to cook and consume foods it’s what older consumers might be interested in. Add on excellent delivery services and you could be onto a winner.

Rather than pretending that nobody gets older and hiding the aged in old age villages waiting to die, let’s change the way we view society. Old is not redundant. Old could mean another twenty years of active life. Why pretend it’s not happening. Embrace it and enjoy it. And marketers, start making money off those oldies. They got some!

As an aside: interested in reading about weddings in general visit Yorkshire Wedding Venues or Wedding Venues.


Surprising divorce and marriage statistics for Baby Boomers

Celeb baby boomers Prince Charles and Camilla spot on on trend

Celeb baby boomers Prince Charles and Camilla spot on and on trend. Image credit. BBC

Many years ago my then mother-in-law spoke at their 35 year wedding anniversary. It was surprising that she wanted to speak being from a generation where the women were seen, mostly in the kitchen, and not heard. But then she was never a standard housewife working well past her retirement age.

She said, and I could see it was immensely heart felt, ‘we have had our ups and downs’. And I could hear and see from her expression that it was more the downs that she was referring to. And it has made me reflect many a time since then whether she would have divorced my father-in-law if she had been able to.

It’s therefore not a bit surprising to see that the, known as grey, divorce rate is going up. And even less surprising that it’s the women who are throwing in the towel. Kids out of the house, husband now home due to retirement, and the women have had enough.

Possibly one of the reasons is that men generally tend not to change their life long habit of sitting at home, reading the paper and watching sport. The wife who traded housework for the salary check and in many cases did the housework and earned money, is not having any more of it.

It probably works along the same principle as that experienced by divorce lawyers who have a busy time with new briefs after the main holiday season. In many cases the couples reconcile once everybody is back at work and the routine has been reestablished. I know this from first hand experience, having worked in a lawyer’s office for close on 18 years of my working life.

What may be adding to this trend is that women are earning good salaries and are able to afford to live on their own. Whatever the reasons, it’s happening. Over 25% of divorces are initiated by wives whereas only 14% by the husband. Not even spending decades together is a safeguard against the split. Al Gore and his wife recently divorced, both in their early 60s and after 40 years of marriage.

Of course being in ones 60s is not the end of the line. In fact, probably one further reason for the increase in the grey divorce rate which has doubled in the past decade is that people can look forward to many years of active life. Retirement is no longer the end of the road but in fact the start of up to 20 years of a healthy and interesting life.

Which brings me to the next surprising point. And that is that baby boomers are also quite happy to remarry.  Over three quarters of divorced and widowed baby boomers will marry again according to available statistic from the US Census Bureau.

Has the wedding industry even considered this market segment. Probably not. As with most marketing strategies it’s the youth market that is the target. Yet, baby boomers have more money than the 25 year old recent college graduate struggling to pay off loans. Why is the wedding industry not focused on selling to the older generation? White ribboned Zimmer walkers anybody?

Interested in reading about weddings in general visit Yorkshire Wedding Venues or Wedding Venues.

When will weddings adapt to our changing society?

Richard Rawstorn (2R) with Richard Andrew (R) from Christchurch and Jess Ives (2L) with Rachel Briscoe (L) from the Bay of Islands celebrate being married during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Monday, August 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say "I do" on Monday when New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country and only the 14th in the world to legalise gay marriage.   The move has sparked a raft of competitions to set wedding firsts, but unease amongst the religious community AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE

Richard Rawstorn (2R) with Richard Andrew (R) from Christchurch and Jess Ives (2L) with Rachel Briscoe (L) from the Bay of Islands celebrate being married during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Monday, August 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say “I do” on Monday when New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country and only the 14th in the world to legalise gay marriage.
The move has sparked a raft of competitions to set wedding firsts, but unease amongst the religious community


Spending some time in the weddings scene has been quite interesting. In fact, it seems likely that I will be hanging around for a while. In particular traditions and their consequences on the festivities are fascinating to watch.

Traditionally a wedding was celebrated in one’s parish church so that the entire community could celebrate with you. And after that there was a reception or receiving line where folk visited you at the bride’s parent’s home where generally receptions were held so that you could be officially introduced as Mrs and Mr.

From there you and the wedding party took the walk across town or next door to your new home and you got carried over the threshold. After all you were now the property of the man…. In Asia this walk is still made accompanied by family and friends as well as all sorts of luck bringing people and lucky charms. Asia never misses an opportunity to ask for help from the luck bringing gods.

Of course these traditions depended on you actually attending a church regularly, growing up in the same city/town, keeping the same friends as you went to the city’s colleges, finding employment in the self same area and living at home until you got married.

How many people do you know who have done this?

As you can see there are some major problems in this scenario already. Now add another more recent development. The changing law, in force in 14 countries already, is allowing same sex marriages, One can see that there are some interesting confusions on the horizon.

Yet when it comes to marriage, traditions are still being adhered to in many cases. Brides are still wearing white gowns even if they are marrying another bride. Ministers are still performing marriages even if they have never met the couple. Receptions are still held with traditional cake cutting and first dance ceremonies.

And are you still being carried across the threshold even if you have been living in the same home, together, for a few years already?

Of course traditions can lag behind society and the way our life styles have and still are changing. It is rare that modern couples go through the full life path together. In fact the proliferation of online dating sites and meet up mobile phone apps are an indication that everything is changing even how we meet each other.

It will certainly be interesting to see how our wedding ceremonies adapt to the changing landscape. In particular in the gay and lesbian community one would expect some changes soon. Although of course two brides with pretty dresses are still pretty as per the image above! Still the concept of bridesmaids and groomsmen could be on the out or develop into a new format.

Interest in reading about weddings in general visit Yorkshire Wedding Venues or Wedding Venues.

On Weddings and Wedding Venues

Newspaper reader.

Newspaper reader.

Wedding times are here
I’ve been writing a lot of articles and doing a fair amount of research on weddings, wedding venues and the like. It’s been part of a project we are running at the moment at Yeah Can and at the same time younger daughter is tying the knot. So some personal interest in the topic.

And sometimes you can come across an idea that is really different. Not different in a kitsch sort of way, but just cleverly different.

The Favour
The folk marrying in the US talk about favours. Something to hand out for people to remember the occasion by. In the olden days, that is when I got married, we handed out a slice of the wedding cake. Pre-packaged in clear paper. In fact we tended to not actually have too much real cake in the wedding cake. Just sufficient to be able to cut into it and for all the old aunties to have a piece. British you know. Those were the days of fruit cake.

The Americans smear the cake all over each other. Well, ok not everybody of course. But some do. And mostly the cake gets consumed. So a new idea had to be found for favours. Of course there are many, but this particular idea appealed to my old fashioned ideas.

Vintage Maidenhead Newspaper

Vintage Maidenhead Newspaper

A newspaper as a wedding favour
What a great idea. A newspaper, printed on newsprint paper, with articles by family, friends and the bridal couple. Pics of the engagement, recipes, advice by maiden aunts (do they still exist?) and so much fun stuff.

And with the cost of printing coming down, especially for short runs, cost is most definitely not even a major consideration anymore.

Some possible topics
A front page feature article on the bridal couple of course. What about the proposal story? There’s bound to be some history there. Letters to the editors by anybody really who wants to.

How we met is a great topic. People love to hear how couples meet. Profiles on the bridal party including the best man, maid of honour and anybody else who wants to appear in print. A review of the honeymoon destination. The words to the favourite song. Even pics of the stag and hen parties could be useful. Baby pictures of the couple. A pic of the house they grew up in.

Photo memories with fun captions. Print the whole paper in sepia and you have yourself a wonderfully whimsical and vintage wedding newspaper. And as newspapers do their disappearing trick this is not a bad time to have a nostalgic moment for a bygone era.

Make extra copies
Hand out your newspaper at the tables for people to read and use as ice breakers. And have plenty left over for folk to take home with them. It will be a talking point that’s for sure. Never to forget some copies to be preserved for the kids and grandkids. By then newspapers will definitely be considered vintage.

Ever wondered how wedding receptions started?

Vietnamese wedding receptions is all about the food.

Vietnamese wedding receptions are all about the food.

It all hinges around the word reception
It originated with the concept of receiving society. That meant you and your other significant half were obliged to receive your guests or the society you lived in on the day of your wedding. Introducing Mr and Mrs so to speak. Of course it also means Mr and Mr and Mrs and Mrs nowadays.

The receiving line
The wedding reception would involve the receiving line. That is everybody queues up to be received by the new couple. In the olden days that involved a person, the lowest one in the pecking order, would introduce the folk as they arrived at the front of the line. If he didn’t know the person then they would have to introduce themselves. Needless to say it would have been unlikely for a woman to have this job.

The introducer so to speak would then introduce the person to the next in line and then to the new couple. On the whole, traditionally, the party paying for the event would be in the receiving party. In the olden days this would have been the bride’s parents or guardian. Nowadays of course couples very often pay for their own wedding and would not necessarily have their parents in the receiving party.

It is also possible to have both sets of parents in the receiving party. Nowadays there is no longer a hard and fast rule. Mostly because people have no idea why this tradition continues. As with many traditions they have been passed on to the next generation without a major explanation going along for the ride.

The grand entrance
In some parts of the United States. mostly on the West Coast, the bridal party makes a grand entrance while everybody is already seated. A Master of Ceremony or DJ would have the task of announcing the new Mr and Mrs to the waiting party.

Receptions in different cultures
In Asian countries the reception might be dictated by different traditions. The Indian custom will often involve several receptions even before the couple is married. These are reserved for family and the main reception for the general public.

In Vietnam for instance most of the actual traditions are performed amongst immediate family. Work colleagues, not so close friends and general members of the public are only invited to a public reception which tends to be a very strange mix of Western traditions including the bride wearing a white dress, champagne glass towers with dry ice effects and the exchanging of rings on a stage.

One common theme
Amongst all of the traditions and cultures there is one common theme and that is the sharing of food. Whether this is in the form of cakes and a glass of champagne or a full sit down meal, the food and drink sharing is a well entrenched tradition.

In the developing world the feast part tends to be open to many visitors often making the numbers an unknown. In the developed world guest numbers are curtailed mostly. It’s just too expensive to invite the entire village. Except of course in the Meditaeranean Spain for instance where one never knows how many extra aunties and third degree cousins might pitch up.

For more stuff on wedding venues check out my new project at wedding venues in Yorkshire, UK.

Spain is the most accepting Society Towards Gay People

Acceptance of Gay Rights, worldwide

Acceptance of Gay Rights, worldwide

Every now and then I find something that is surprising. And this surely is one of those items. A predominantly catholic country ends up being the most accepting towards homosexuals. Wow.

How does that work? A church that is totally against gay people, against gay marriage and calls it some nasty names rules the roost in Spain. There are more public holidays celebrating saints than perhaps even in Latin America. Although probably not. But a close second I would imagine.

Holy Easter Week procession in Almunecar, Spain

Holy Easter Week procession in Almunecar, Spain

There’s always some Virgin, or Saint, or JC himself  being carried around on heaving shoulders, paddled along the coastline or prayed to in church. Here in Spain that is. Yet one of the strongest doctrines of the very same church is totally ignored.

Of course I am totally for it. I walked in gay pride parades while still in Durban and that is early 1990s. And am totally for gay marriages and whatever makes people happy.

Still it is hugely interesting, to me anyway, that here in Spain there could be such a conflict in what the society does and what their church dictates.  And that surely should give us hope that religious people all across the world, whether Jews, Muslims, Protestants or whatever can take out of their religion that works for them and ignore those rules and regulations that make absolutely no sense in our modern society.