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Sandy Malone Headshot

My 'Reality' Check

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For the second time in my life, I've joined the dark side. The first time was when I left legit journalism at a major newspaper to do public relations. This time, I've made a reality television show about my wedding planning company. After years of cheap shots and snarking at everybody in reality TV on my blog, I've personally jumped the fence and put it all out there on national television for the rest of the world to judge me the way I've been judging the Housewives for the past few years. Wedding Island airs on TLC on Wednesday, July 17th at 10 p.m. and karma is gonna get me.

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Nothing about my life here on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, is normal, and no wedding is ever without its own challenges and nightmares. But somehow we always pull it off and create unbelievable destination weddings for our brides and grooms. The craziness that happens in an average week when you're trying to plan a wedding on an island seven miles off the coast of another island, where everything has to take two boats or two planes to get here, and where my staff speaks two different languages (and that doesn't mean we're all bilingual, FYI), is the kind of stuff that needs to be seen to be believed. And that's how we got a TV show.

The entire filming experience was surreal, even though it was just the making of a documentary about our lives and business. Cameras with me from the moment I left the house til I finally crashed late at night was a totally wild experience. One thing I can tell you with complete certainty is that nothing anybody tells you can prepare you for actually filming a reality show.

Putting your makeup on in under five minutes is easy when you're by yourself, but try getting your lipstick perfect with a camera 18 inches from your face. And forget bad hair days, nobody has good hair all day long (especially with Caribbean humidity) and it's extra special when you finally get a chance to look in the mirror and see that you look like a dog that's been hanging its head out the car window. And of course, nobody told me that I looked hideous because it's "reality" and that would be cheating. So. Not. Fair. Snooki and JWoww (besides being 20 years younger than me and much prettier) always had plenty of time to do their hair and makeup before going out to party and get wasted. On bad days, I don't even get a shower between setup and the wedding. I am destined to look less than fabulous despite my desperate speedy attempts to the contrary.

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So how and why did Wedding Island come to be a television show about weddings in Vieques? After years of listening to my husband and I tell ridiculous stories about Wiccan weddings, animals at ceremonies, and unbelievably ridiculous last-minute client requests (elephant rides on the beach???), a friend in the television business decided it was time to share the insanity with the rest of America.

Just so you know, there's no handbook to read when you jump into this game. For real, I needed one. But it doesn't exist (note to self, if I survive this, consider writing a "Dummies" book for future "reality talent"). I'm an anal-retentive control freak (aka good wedding planner) and I can't stand not knowing what's going to happen. The two weeks between when they "greenlighted" the show and when the cameras began rolling was probably the longest of my life. It wasn't even two whole weeks, if you start the clock when the tech crew arrived. I don't know if every show ramps up so fast, but for us, there wasn't even time to shop. Remember, we live seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico, on a tiny island with a population of less than 10,000. Everything you need to buy in life is either an airplane or boat ride away -- and a shopping excursion to the big island takes all day. So let me tell you about reality... what you're going to see on Wedding Island is the way we all really look and act. Nobody planned wardrobe for us. Nobody helped with hair and makeup. I didn't even get new shoes!

It's not like I know any reality stars to call for friendly advice -- I don't. Sure, the producers will teach you some basic TV things once you get started -- like don't walk so fast so the cameras can get ahead of you -- but figuring out that I needed two complete sets of hair/makeup accoutrements was something I had to learn the hard way. While making a reality show doesn't change the way you work and live your life, everything that you do takes a little bit longer.

I once read an interview with Kim Kardashian where she said it really irritated her when people asked what she did for a living as if she does nothing. Her response was something like "I have a perfume line, I own businesses with my sisters, and I've got a reality show that's been on the air longer than the Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy combined -- are they kidding?" At the time, the quote made laugh in agreement. But now I truly get it. My husband Bill slept for an entire week when the cameras left Vieques Island.

Don't misunderstand - I'm not complaining. I signed up to do this, and I'm excited about it. So is Bill, although he's refusing to believe it's really happening until he sees it on TV himself. But knowing that in a few weeks, TLC will show all of America how messy our house gets in the middle of a busy wedding week is pretty scary. Nevermind the fact that everybody is going to see the inside of our wedding business -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- and all of that is unscripted as well. The things that go wrong on an average day on Vieques Island couldn't be made up if I tried -- it's truly a place where the truth is stranger than fiction.

Those of you who have read my blogs know that I have a tendency to be critical of the antics on reality TV shows. Especially the ones that feature a truly hideous or bizarre wedding planner or horrible brides. It's not that I'm being judgmental (much), I just have firm opinions. I still haven't figured out Pandora's hideous pink feathered wedding invites at more than $100 a pop - but that's me (Overdoing It at Your Wedding). I've simply shared my observations and advice, based on experience, about these people who willingly put themselves out there for critique. Frankly, I've appreciated the blog material. But now it's gonna bite me in the ass on Wedding Island on TLC.

In a little more than a month, everyone in the world is going to see exactly what goes on behind the magic curtains to make weddings happen on this crazy tiny island, and part of that is watching us make mistakes. Oh dang, Karma is a bitch. I just hope the rumors are true and Karma is, in fact, Puerto Rican.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy