My husband and I walked in on a wedding.
We wanted a drink and some downtime, but instead we got flower girls, sequins, stares—and a polite request to leave.
It was a reminder that the obvious place for important messaging isn’t always the best place—and a lesson on how easy it is to miss the signs.
Here’s how it played out.
We were in the mountains visiting family.
We got caught outside in freezing rain.
The kids wanted showers and pajamas.
My husband and I wanted a drink and a firepit.
The kids stayed with the family and my husband and I took off to a local cidery.
The cidery’s taproom and restaurant sit atop a hill with a view. Even on the rainiest days and at night, Beauty surrounds the place.
It was late and dark, and tunnel vision led us up the long ramp from the parking lot. This isn’t just a small ramp. It is a hike in itself, going up in one direction, and then turning and going up in another direction.
Once we summited the ramp, my husband swung open the front door and walked in first.
I saw my husband turn the corner.
Then I saw a woman with a full-length, sequin and lace, red gown, leaning over a small table and signing something.
First thought: That looks like my black dress.
Second thought: Why’s she wearing that here?
I turned the corner.
I saw two little girls and a woman bending over the girls. The little girls had white dresses, white socks, white shoes, and flowers in their hair.
I stopped walking.
The bar was to my left, a dividing wall was in front of me, and to the right I could see a bit of the overflow that wasn’t hidden behind the wall—rows of filled chairs and tuxedos.
Light bulb moment. This is a wedding.
My husband is a fast walker. Long stride. He light bulbed at the same time I did, just in a different location.
He said something to the bartenders. One rushed from around the bar and told us it was a private ceremony.
Que a quick exit.
All the way down the ramp, we talked about how we got in there.
Why wasn’t there a sign?
And then we got to the bottom—and saw the sign.
It was one of those A-frame, sidewalk chalkboard signs that are planted outside restaurants and stores during the Spring and Summer, with sales and specials written in different colored chalk.
We walked right by it.
I can’t say that we ignored the messaging because we assumed it was the usual fare.
We didn’t even see the sign. Neither of us remembered it even being there, yet . . . There it was, in a prominent location, with information about the private event.
So why didn’t we see it?
We were too focused on being cold, on summiting the ramp, on getting a seat with a view. We were thinking about everything we thought was ahead of us, and missed what was in front of us.
My first reaction was to blame the cidery for not making its messaging easier to see. Why put an important message on a sign that’s usually used for everything but closing messages? And, if the sign was going to be used, why not do it in bright red, with the word CLOSED in big bold letters with arrows pointing to it—and why not shine a spotlight on it, so the black chalkboard didn’t blend into the night. That would have gotten my attention.
But . . . It’s wasn’t the cidery’s fault that our porch lights were on, but neither my husband nor I were at home.
All we had to do was pay attention. It was right in front of us.
Still got me thinking, though.
I’ve deleted so many e-mails just because they looked like spam, only to find out later that they were something I wanted.
Years ago, the PR department I worked for sent most of its releases via fax blasts. Yes. Fax blasts were a thing. Big headlines at the top, followed by spaced out text, to grab the attention of the recipients. In hindsight, we were spamming fax machines across the country, hoping that the desired person would read the things. They were pretty bad. I sent hundreds and can’t remember but a few bites in return. Then emails came along, then email blasts, and the same thing happened again.
The messaging looks like spam—void of the personal.
So, if it is coming to me, I delete it, and if I’m sending it to someone else, they’re likely to delete it.
I don’t want to slow down and pay attention to their messaging, and they’re just as busy, and don’t want to slow down and pay attention to mine.
Back to the sign and the cidery.
The cidery did its job and I was rushed. What would have helped us both?
One word—CLOSED—and two signs.
The first signs get missed all the time, especially if they’re filled with text.
All that was needed was the word CLOSED, in big bold letters, or something like this:
Nothing else should have been on the board. No frilly designs. Nothing. Period.
Then for those that missed the first sign, another sign would sit at the front doors.
That’s the same thing that works in outreach. Send out a pitch with simple messaging, and then follow-up because recipients miss first messages all the time. It could be your design or it could be their state of mind, so you have to assume the first time wasn’t a go (unless you hear from them).
State and then repeat the message with clarity, and then even the most rushed couples will clue in.