Wedding guides

Wedding guides

New books dissected over email.
May 8 2000 1:25 PM

Wedding guides

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Dear Andy,

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I look at the pile of books we're going to be talking about, and I have the same response I had a year ago when I got engaged (April 17, 1999 to be exact): abject horror leavened with excruciating ennui. Flushed with excitement after the great event, I'd made a beeline for the bookstore and bought a pile of (very expensive) bride-y girl mags. I piled them next to my favorite reading armchair fully expecting that I'd be leafing through them with religious fervor night and day, determined to design the perfect wedding. Every woman's fantasy, right? Wrong.

In the end, the only service those overstuffed bride magazines provided was as a handy margarita-and-nachos platform. I could only leaf through them gingerly, eyes averted, feet itching to run in any direction, as long as it was away from the awful things. This, I find, has not changed. Even though I dress like a tart, own enough accessories to operate a street stall in New York City, and am pretty high-maintenance (I have my own key to Elizabeth Arden's Red Door Salon), I simply do not have the girly gene that allows me to care whether the tea towels match the curtains (neither of which I own) or to give a red-hot damn about wedding minutiae. Place cards indeed! It was enough for me that I look good. In fact, the crappier my surroundings, the better I look, no? All I wanted was a smashing dress and to look devastating in the photos. So lacking am I in the Martha Stewart department that when one of my sisters heard of my engagement, she quipped, "What will you wear? Cutoffs?" That's unfair and she's a jealous heifer. I'm a clotheshorse and usually overdressed for the slacker-journalist crowd here in Washington, D.C., the land of anal-retentive hall monitors with stratospheric SATs but little ability to color-coordinate. It's just that I care nothing for protocol and foo-foo ritual. Thank God I married a control-freak visual artist kind of a guy (i.e., a Manhattan import who is neither a lawyer nor a journalist) who took over all the details. I chose my dress, my flowers. He did everything else. So, ladies, that's my first piece of advice: Marry my husband. He'll take care of everything.

So clear was that man of mine on what he wanted, he frightened all our vendors. He scared me a little, too. It was then that I learned the magic words that will keep us together through the rough times ahead: OK, sweetie. I'm sure you're right.

Two hyper-organized overachievers, we really used guides only for the extra touches. For instance, the Knot's many, many resources were great for just reading about other people's weddings, which I found fascinating. It's amazing how stupidly some people get married, like they didn't care at all what I'd think. Some of it was weird-good though: One couple got married near her grandparents' graves to celebrate their having raised her and their own very cool 50-year marriage. Spooky, huh? There was lots of non-weird good stuff. We got some great ideas (mostly general ambience kinda stuff) from that. For instance, you know that "bang on a glass and make the couple kiss all night" thing? I hate that. I've seen that ritual get really sadistic as your loved ones get ever drunker on your dime. At the Knot's site, we read of a couple who filled balloons with stuff, like: Tell the room the goofiest thing you ever did for love, recite a poem, tell a story about the bride or groom. We did that. To make us kiss, they had to pop a balloon and follow whatever directions were there. That was major fun! (Best was watching all my post-feminist, Alan Alda, new millennium p-whipped guy friends whisper-ask their wives if they could pretty please tell some story.) It made for a much less sterile reception (one of my few requirements) and a lot of audience participation. Both Scott and I wanted our friends and families actually involved in our day. It also made for damned little kissing on our part. I had expensive lipstick on, you know, and a second-skin dress with no pockets for carrying touch-up supplies.

The thing that always gets me about weddings--that these guides tend to reinforce, for all their talk of individuality--is how traditional everyone gets, especially women. Chicks with pierced erogenous zones are all of a sudden blathering on about registering here, there, and everywhere or how the groom's mother was so gauche as to think she could offer an opinion on the arrangements before St. Crispen's Day or whatever. We wanted a wedding that was like us, not like those cardboard, gooey people in $5,000 dresses in those horrible ads. Many's the time I sat at a wedding trying not to snicker as my hardiest-partying friends (the kind that kept clean panties and a toothbrush in their purse at all times, " 'cause you never know where you might wake up") simpered down the aisle in a Priscilla Presley virgin queen ice-cream-castles-in-the-air dress with a layer of crinolines two feet thick. Where do chicks keep those things in a West Village apartment afterward? One of the first questions the guy who runs the D.C. Arts Club (where we got married on Oct. 23, 1999) asked me was how wide my gown was. That would determine which door I had to come through.

No worries, I told him. It's skintight, honey. Skintight.

Now tell me about your wedding.

Debra

leftyesspacer/Slate247/000508_BC-wedding.jpghttp://img.slate.com/mediafalseThe Knot's Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World, The Knot's Ultimate Wedding Planner, The Best of Martha Stewart Weddings, and The Bridesmaid's Survival Guide20111

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This week, a discussion of the new spring crop of wedding guides, including The Knot's Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World (click here to buy it), The Knot's Ultimate Wedding Planner (click here to buy it), The Best of Martha Stewart Weddings (click here to buy it), and The Bridesmaid's Survival Guide (click here to buy it). Andrew Ward is the articles editor of Esquire. Debra Dickerson is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation; her memoir, An American Story, will be published in September.