Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #13

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: Simple Elegance

Scenario: A young couple is planning a wedding in a few months. It is to be a very nice affair, bringing in more than two-hundred guests from several parts of the country, all expecting a grand occasion. The wedding is to be conducted in the groom’s home town, and the bride’s family are to travel some 1,500 miles for the ceremony and celebration.

The mothers of the groom and bride, respectively, have agreed that the groom’s mother should plan and make the arrangements for both the family wedding breakfast and the larger reception, since she enjoys a reputation for frequent and fine entertainment, but on a smaller scale.

Budget is not an issue, although the couple have requested what they describe as “modest elegance.” The bride said recently, “The wedding is the main event, not the parties.” The groom assured a modest approach with a modest budget for the affair.

Enter the consultant butler, to offer advice and encouragement. At a first meeting, the groom’s mother confided, “I have just finished a big Valentine’s party. The wedding is just a few weeks away. Frankly, I am overwhelmed.  This event must be beautiful and memorable, but, I do not have time to do everything. Help!”

The Standards: The Professional Performance Standards state that “a butler should create…refined, elegant eating experiences…whether a simple tray for one or a dinner for 100….”

The standards also state that “the butler’s responsibilities for…social occasions…demand attention to a…diverse amount of activity and detail…. Checklists offer a[n]…efficient answer to these needs.”

Recommendations: The mother is seeking reassurance (i.e., confidence) that the task is possible, and secondly, ideas to help achieve modest elegance and simplicity.

Elegance is a function of taste and grace under pressure. Good taste usually is learned. The consultant butler may offer ideas when questions of good taste arise.

The right tools can help achieve grace under pressure; detailed checklists can make what seems impossible, relatively easy. Checklists offer a way to plan a complicated process, to declutter unneeded parts and movements, to prepare all the pieces in order, and to avoid forgetting. Checklists simplify everything else. Like an elegant golf swing, these wedding parties can be beautiful, smooth, and easy, with a powerful result—simple elegance.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.