Would you miss welcoming a brother or sister’s new baby? Would you miss your niece or nephew’s graduation? There are certain events in your family’s life that you simply wouldn’t miss regardless of deadlines, meetings, or conferences. A wedding definitely falls on that list. Would you miss a family member’s wedding – absolutely not.
When Nadia, the Director of Office Management in our NYC office, approached me to tell me she was engaged, I was ecstatic for her. I look at her as much more than a coworker, but a close friend. She is one of the sweetest and most caring people I know; if anyone deserves to be happy it is definitely Nadia. One time, when I was having the worst day, I came back to my desk after a tough meeting, and found my favorite jamba juice blend sitting there- from Nadia, of course. She is always looking out for everyone. So, when Nadia invited me to her wedding two weeks later, I was surprised – not that I was invited, but by how quickly it had happened. She informed me that her and her fiancé wanted to do something small, most of their family and friends are still in Romania. She said they would be getting married at City Hall that Thursday morning, and she’d love it if I could attend. Without a second thought, I gave her a hug and accepted the invitation.
That evening, before leaving the office I asked my boss, our CEO Charlie Kim, if I could take off Thursday morning to attend Nadia’s wedding. His first reaction was, Nadia’s getting married? Second reaction, we all have to go! And so the plan was conceived - we are going to shut down the whole NYC office on Thursday morning to surprise Nadia at City Hall and then go out to lunch to celebrate. My concern that Nadia actually wanted a quiet wedding was quickly diminished when she divulged the next day that she wished more people could attend from the office, but she felt guilty inviting them and taking them away from work.
As I scrambled with a small team to pull off this not so small feat (spreading the word without Nadia finding out, finding a restaurant taking reservations for a group this size one day before the event, figuring out logistics etc), I started questioning it in my head – WHY? Why would we do this? From a business standpoint, it just doesn’t make sense. Since no answer dawned on me, I brushed the idea off and continue to plot and plan.
The big day came and the whole NYC office was standing outside City Hall looking their most dapper (engineers in slacks and a button down – almost unheard of!) and I found myself texting Nadia: “So excited, where are you? Rebecca and I are here and can’t wait to see you!!!” The jitters of pulling off a seemingly impossible event started to arrive just as we were herding people into the building; Nadia was five minutes out. Everyone was there, reservations at a dive (but delicious) dim sum restaurant were secured and we were only slightly behind schedule!
As Nadia stepped out of the car in her wedding dress, the impact of pulling off this surprise event fully dawned on me. The fact that I was able to play a part in making this day even more special for her was so profound my mindset completely shifted. Suddenly it wasn’t about me pulling off the impossible; it was about making this one of the most special days of Nadia’s life.
After taking a few pictures outside, it was time to head in. Fortunately, City Hall is laid out to be conducive to surprising your coworker on her wedding day. When you first enter the building you have to go through a security checkpoint, you then turn a corner and enter a large room – leaving a big space on the right of the entrance for about 75 people to hide, jump out and surprise you. As Nadia turned the corner and the whole office yelled surprise, I knew why, I knew why we did this. Was it a sacrifice from a business perspective? Absolutely. It was a HUGE sacrifice to shut down our headquarters for half of the day, but it was worth it. The sacrifice was small compared to how much it meant to Nadia on her special day – it changed one of the biggest days of her life, it changed her life. Of course Charlie, always one step ahead, knew this much sooner than I did. Which is why he immediately knew we had to attend. I guess on some level I knew too, which is why I accepted the original invitation without a second thought, because would you miss a family member’s wedding? Absolutely not.