This is how most of our wedding-related meetings went:
"Are you going to want to serve beef or salmon?" the Catering Guy would ask, looking directly at Jenny.
"Hmmm," Jenny would answer. "I was thinking salmon. What do you think, Andy?"
Then Catering Guy would jump in. "If he knows what's good for him, he'll say salmon!" the guy would say, still looking at Jenny, and then turning to me and winking conspiratorially, as though we shared some secret only men could understand.
"I think salmon sounds good," I'd say.
"SEE?" he'd say, looking at Jenny again. "He's learning already."
That's not word-for-word, but it's damn close. Debra, you're absolutely right about the assumptions that the wedding industry--and even the wedding-guide industry--makes about who is doing the planning and making the decisions. Jenny and I did just about everything together, and if I were to take a guess, I'd break it down to 60 percent her, 40 percent me. But we both cared equally, and that is not something these books really take into account. The Best of Martha Stewart tome is plainly written for (rich) women, and you're right when you say that men don't even factor into her equation. Even when she writes about male formalwear, I got the feeling that she's writing for women, who are then supposed to tell their nameless future husbands/louts what, according to Martha, is appropriate to wear on the wedding day. But I found myself equally--if not more--annoyed by The Knot books, whose cloying, chatty attempts to include "guys" in the picture fell wide of the mark. The Knot Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World is full of the same sort of tired assumptions--only tarted up here with lots of gooey buzzwords and "modern" wedding lingo, like "Have Realistic Relationship Expectations"--that I encountered in our forays into the Wedding-Industrial Complex. Not to sound like some men's-rights wacko, but how many times do I have to read about us guys needing our nights of "beer and bonding" (see "Back to the Future" chapter on how to make your marriage last forever), or about how "When you change from a bar-hopping, all-night-partying, stud muffin into a happily married guy, it's a loss of lifestyle--and possibly bar companion--for your friends." Thanks for that. Bar-hopping? OK, maybe my first two years of college. All-night-partying? I've never, ever been a late-night guy. Stud-muffin? I know I'm not being overly self-critical or falsely modest here when I say, "In my dreams."
Now I'm going to say a couple of nice things about the Martha Stewart book. (Note: I would say the book by Martha Stewart, but I can't for the life of me tell who is supposed to have written the damn thing. For all I can tell, the author is "We at Martha Stewart Living," so I will hereafter refer to the writer as We.) This book, or I should say some of the photos in this book, have the potential to be useful. I think. I mean, if you're looking for some inspiration on flower arrangements or bouquets or cakes or lighting or table settings, there is helpful material here, a wealth of options and styles, some you'd even call beautiful. Most of what is pictured, of course, is probably exorbitantly priced and hard to come by, but if you use We's suggestions merely as a guide, I could see extracting a few good ideas from here. The section on flowers, for instance, is elegantly photographed and laid out, and I can imagine going to the florist we'd picked for our wedding, pointing to the table centerpiece on Page 115, and saying, "I want something like this." Or the cakes. My God, some of those cakes are works of art, and most of them look a hell of a lot better than the Junior's Cheesecake from Flatbush Avenue that Jenny and I had at our wedding. The trick, I discovered, is not to read the text. Treat it like National Geographic. The text is absurd and makes certain presumptions about our lives that we're probably better off not pondering.
Now that I've gone out of my way to be nice, I'd like to single out a couple of my favorite moments from the Martha book. Did you see the section when We is writing about how there is no single right way to get married, and to support that claim, We cites the wedding of Martha's good friend in San Francisco whose maid of honor was her Jack Russell terrier? Adorable, I'm sure, and so darn unconventional. Or how about when We describes birdseed as "the avian-friendly" alternative to rice? Is that the same as bird-friendly?
Also, I can't let another day go by without talking about The Knot's "The Big Night: Let the Games Begin" section devoted to S-E-X (as the author puts it) on your wedding night? Check out the short section titled "Been There, Done That," and linger over this morsel: "Use your big night to review some of the highlights--sort of a greatest hits compilation of your wildest moments. Props are essential here. For example, let's say one of your best memories is doing it under the Eiffel Tower. Pack some croissants and French wine and relive the experience." I'm exhausted just thinking about it. After a wedding? Imagine putting that one on your wedding day to-do list: get hair and makeup done, call the officiant, get dressed, round up bridesmaids, stop by the bakery to pick up croissants and a wheel of brie ..." As I was saying yesterday, there's just way too much information in this book. It could be 200 pages shorter and still have more than you'd ever need or want. We're talking here about a book that has a sidebar on how to write a toast, for chrissakes, complete with Mad-Libs style paragraphs you can rip off whole hog. "I still remember the day [Insert Groom's Name Here] and I first met ..." If you need help planning sex on your wedding night or writing a toast for your best friend in the world, you're probably not going to read this book, anyway. More likely, you're going to have it read to you.
Finally, a good and trusted friend of mine who is getting hitched this fall recently told me about a book that has been immensely helpful to her in cutting through the b.s. and saving some money along the way. It's called Bridal Bargains, and it's by Denise Fields. I only flipped through it quickly, as I couldn't afford to be distracted from the onslaught of wedding materials at hand, but she swears by it. Just thought I'd pass that along.
I guess the question I have for you, Debra, is did you even use books when planning your wedding? Do you think you could have planned it without any of this stuff? I do. Now I'm off to pound a 12-pack, bond with my buds, and watch the Yankee game.