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Thank You In Advance For Not Inviting Me To Your Bridal Shower
Not that I get invited to many weddings, not believing in marriage and all. But, Nancy Rommelmann gets it exactly right in a conversation she has with an editor that she writes up on her blog -- what creeps me out about so many phases of the industry that is being a bride:

I didn’t know anyone but the bride, who was being passed from woman to woman in order to have short, intimate conversations that required much touching of the other's hair. I sat at the glass coffee table and tried to get my bearings. I looked out the window at the ocean. I considered drinking the wine the other women had broken into, but sensed it would make me surly. I stared out the window some more, until the bride took her seat amidst a spread of presents wrapped in paper, each paper announcing its origin in a series of dots or stripes or initials or significant pale blues. There was a lot of flapping and maneuvering as four women were assigned the duties of, respectively, announcing the gifts, handing over the gifts; writing down who gave which gift, and folding the used paper. I felt some low-level static at the nape of my neck. Then the shrieking started, timed with the opening of each gift, gifts that seemed purchased specifically to produce shrieks, a lacy garter, the crotchless panties, a black latex bodysuit of the kind Catwoman might wear, with those great 50s cone-tits, an outfit that seemed to demand some modeling, and so in the barely perceptible dip that preceded the next gift, I said, “Put it on.”

That stopped the shrieking for a moment; in fact all conversation stopped. Then one of the women looked at me as though I might be a rapist, the moment passed, and the women recommenced. I felt as though I were wearing a helmet of static at this point, and took to staring at the glass coffee table, thinking what a good release it would be to jump on it, the reliable satisfaction of feeling it smash beneath my feet. A reverie that must have been pleasant indeed, as when I looked up it was but another gal and me on the sofa, the others having moved back to the canapés and Chardonnay, and the gal looked at me in all her blondness, and said, “Isn’t it just so great to hang out with all women?”

“But it’s only quarter to one,” said my husband, as I used the phone in the kitchen to tell him he needed to come and get me, now.

“The thing I hate about those showers is the whole re-virginization thing,” said the editor. “The bride’s thirty-six; she’s had forty-four lovers over the past twenty years, and we’re all going to shriek at the sight of a dildo?”

We ordered more drinks. “Though of course,” she said, “they never do give a dildo.”

Much more very entertaining Nancy at the link above -- on fish in pants and other idiocy.

And an idea or two of my own about weddings are at this link to my column, With This Ka-ching! I Thee Wed, where a guy asks if it would be okay to ask their wedding guests to chip in for a downpayment on a house. An excerpt:

Is this a celebration of love you’re planning, or Live Aid for the overspent middle class? If it’s the latter, don’t hold back. Make the receiving line double as a giving line by sticking an ATM at the beginning. Let no moment go unmerchandised: “For $80, you’ll get a DVD of our wedding night. For an extra $180, we’ll even throw in the bedroom scenes!” Don’t forget to offer your guests the option of a monthly direct-debit from their bank account, which may usher them up the tiers of giving; turning, say, gold-level friends into platinum ones.

You claim you’re after the American Dream -- the idea that, through hard work and determination, anybody can have a happy, prosperous life. Um, yes, but that’s supposed to be your own hard work and determination, not that of your friends. Some couples do ask their families to chip in for a down payment instead of a big wedding -- but, at what point do your parents get to be done feeding the upstretched palm? Then there’s the tacky new trend of setting up a Web site where wedding invitees can seamlessly pay for the couple’s home, honeymoon, and more. Suddenly, they’re not just your pals, they’re also your PayPals!

There are arguments for registering for gifts: it prevents a couple from ending up with 26 blenders, saves them when others’ bad taste is not exactly their bad taste, and it’s a relief for “friends” who’d scarcely recognize the bride but for the big white dress. But, maybe people who don't know you well enough to gift you without assistance have no business coming to your wedding. And frankly, if a wedding is about the love, not the loot, is it best celebrated with a flock of lead crystal butterflies, or the $14.95 John Gottman book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work? Of course, you two could also do with a few visits to a Certified Financial Planner so “’til death do us part” doesn’t become “’til debt do us part.”

This being America, not the Sudan, what do most of us reeeally need on top of what we already have? Will your love be meaningless if you express it in a rented one-bedroom apartment while eating on Target-ware instead of Wedgwood? Unless you’re dirt poor, why not tell your guests "love is all we need," and in lieu of gifts, suggest they donate to your favorite charity? Otherwise, maybe a truly meaningful wedding gift would be a letter from each guest, perhaps to bind into a book, with their hopes for your marriage; such as, that it will last longer than the payments they'd be making on that jewel-encrusted breadbox they would’ve ordered you from Tiffany’s.

And here's a bit about the wedding of one of the happiest couples I know:

They borrowed only a house for their wedding -- for a potluck dinner after they got married on the beach, surrounded by 40 of their closest friends. Their un-extravaganza took three weeks of planning and cost several hundred dollars -- if you add the cost of their clothes, several cases of Prosecco they picked up at a wine warehouse, and “a really nice chocolate cake.”

I didn't go to that wedding (since I didn't know them until after they were married), but another guy who knew how to do a wedding right is my very good friend David Wallis, whom I met about 20 years ago at the NYU off-campus housing office. When he and his wife Penny got married, they threw a wedding in the Berkshires at their country house, complete with bales of hay, ribs and corn on the cob under a tent in case it rained, plus a New Orleans jazz band.

wedding%20guest.jpg

a typical guest at their wedding

They got married on their back porch. I cried. And not because I was broke after buying them a wedding gift. For the record, I got them the fantastic Gary Larson boxed, two-volume set, The Complete Far Side 1980-1994, to always keep them laughing.

Posted by aalkon at May 26, 2007 10:18 AM

Comments

Puglets!!! I have one of my own and am watching a friend's pug this weekend, too. Two pugs equals ten times the snorting.

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/dog_breeders_issue_massive_recall

Posted by: Pirate Jo at May 26, 2007 7:55 AM

I saw that yesterday...hilarious.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 26, 2007 8:07 AM

A alightly similar story that should have made the web pages of The Onion, but actually occurred in Japan with a famous actress on a Sheep-Poodle scam:

http://tinyurl.com/yrv3ew

Posted by: Joe at May 26, 2007 8:44 AM

I have to confess that weddings pretty much lost all their charm for me after I stopped drinking. They seem to be more about celebrating insane amounts of free booze than love and romance.

Posted by: Lena at May 26, 2007 9:26 AM

I have a former friend who no longer speaks to me, I think, because I didn't spend what she perceived as "enough" money on her wedding gift. I was struggling to establish myself as a columnist at the time, and I don't spend money I don't have. I guess she expected me to just head off to Tiffany's and put something on a credit card and spend six months paying it off.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 26, 2007 9:45 AM

You want a your-kind-of-wedding story?

My husband and I made a list of errands on a Friday: pay the electric bill, pick up bread, return the movies, pick up a marriage license...

At our last stop, the lady behind the counter asked if we wanted to make an appointment with the JP, we realized we forgot I was leaving in less than a week and we only had thirty days to use the thing, so sure! How's Tuesday?

Then we called up our families and friends and said, "Hey, if you're not doing anything on Tuesday at 1:30, we're getting married, and you can come."

The result was that my parents bought us lasagna at Sam's, my husband's uncle bought us a cake that had a heart in the middle of it, and there was some champagne, too. Afterwards, my husband's cousin took us out for dinner and drinks.

Sometimes, I get overwhelmed by how things "should" be, and I feel a little sad. Then my credit card bills come in the mail, and I realize that this IS how things should be. Plus, it was way fun going back and saying, Um, remember how we were going to get married this summer...um, I already did it. The two other girls who were engaged and who always made me feel like we were part of some stupid club looked completely disdainful, but it's cool, they both have babies now, and I have fun.

Posted by: Brenda at May 26, 2007 9:45 AM

The thing about pugs is, they think they're all graceful and athletic, but actually they're clumsy as shit. (Brothers! They're my favorite dog!) Somebody said that one problem with the breed is that they have lots of respiratory problems, which seems to indicate that the work of breeding isn't done.

This post isn't about dogs, it's about brides, right? It's weird to think of Rommelmann at a party like that, partly because it's Rommelmann who seems to hang out with sensible types, and partly because they were in their thirties. For most women, 30 is a serious-assed birthday, where they realize that all the Disney fantasies about the world no longer apply. (The corresponding birthday for males is 17, when they figure out that it's never going to get any better, but sadly are too young to surrender their stupidest fantasies.)

Amy's advice is spotless. But here's a thought: The American Dream is achieved not just through "hard work and determination," it's also about connectedness. This is not a cynical complaint that 'In America, it's all about who you know, Man.' Having friendships and productive associations with people you can trust is a big part of what makes lives go well.

So if there were trend for us to set aside the clock radios, dildos and George Foreman grills as wedding presents and invest in each other's mortgages, it might reduce the amount of divorce. It's one thing if a friend chooses to marry a sullen bimbo and all it costs you is a toaster oven, and a few nights of weepy phone calls at the divorce next summer. It'd be another thing if you really had a piece of the action in their lives: You'd work a lot harder to be sure that he or she was marrying well.

I actually think it's a mistake that things don't work this way, and it seems to have gone wrong through historical happenstance... Kind of like employer-provided health care.

Posted by: Crid at May 26, 2007 10:03 AM

Also, someone appears to be offering that pug a beer.

Everybody have a good Memorial Day!

Posted by: Crid at May 26, 2007 10:09 AM

Actually, I believe you're right!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 26, 2007 10:14 AM

Right on target, Crid.

Posted by: Joe at May 26, 2007 10:45 AM

Speaking of connectedness, per Bella DePaulo's book, Singled Out, it turns out single people are often much more "connected" than married people...they build networks of friends and have "community" in their lives, while married people often recede into a twosome, unbreachable except for interactions with blood relatives.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 26, 2007 10:54 AM

Nancy is brilliant, in every way...

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at May 26, 2007 2:29 PM

Big weddings, complete with the horror show that is the bridal shower above, have always seemed more like a logistical nightmare than a good time to me. Then expecting guests to finance your honeymoon/house/retirement? Please.

My husband proposed on a Saturday night, Sunday morning we went and bought rings, in the afternoon we rounded up four close friends and drove to Vegas - a short four hour drive. I have a card at the Rio, and when they heard why I was there, they gave my husband and I a gorgeous suite (for free!) for two nights, and our friends a regular suite.

The next day we got the license, bought wedding clothes, contacted the half dozen of our friends who live in Vegas. We got married that night, then took all our guests to dinner at Outback.

48 hours and about $700 (rings not included) from proposal to wedding night. I highly recommend the experience.

Posted by: Kimberly at May 26, 2007 4:58 PM

Because I'm in a mischievous mood, consider this something along the lines of A Defense of Big Weddings (As Long As They Don't Bring Crushing Debt).

See, the thing is, I'm from the South, and in the South (at least my neck of the woods), weddings are meant to be FUN. This idea that weddings are supposed to be deadly dull and highly formal is a Yankee thing. I never went to a sit-down dinner-style wedding reception until I was almost old enough to drink (and boy, did I need to). The weddings I went to as a young 'un had food stations, random tables scattered here and there, and nonstop dancing (and drinking). Essentially, they were parties that just happened to be preceded by a religious ceremony and that involved multiple cakes (ignore "Steel Magnolias" - groom's cakes are typically chocolate and deeee-licious) and a woman in a sparkly white dress wandering around with a wine glass in one hand and a bouquet in the other. At events such as that, size is a blessing, not a curse, because it gives you more potentially cool people to meet. The kids/no kids thing doesn't matter as much, because it's hard to hear anyone screaming at a decorously raucous party. Toasts, if they are given, tend to happen at the rehearsal dinner.

Also, at least until recently, people don't spend hundreds of dollars on wedding gifts in the South. Now, that having been said, multiple showers/parties are not uncommon...but typically that's when your mother's friends all want to show their friendship. So, you have one shower, then another party with both genders (gasp!), a rehearsal dinner (barbecue's good for that one) and *perhaps* an engagement party. It is worth noting that my mother, who places china and crystal with ease and can tell from the number on the back of a spoon whether it's silver or pewter, had never heard of the idea of bringing presents to an engagement party until I called to ask her the protocol on that.

Of course, it's possible that I was just lucky in regards to my parents' friends and my family. And I think the issue with a lot of weddings is that they become the Bride and Groom's Day rather than a fun event for the attendees. But I do think the sit-down dinner model is just a fatal one for most weddings, because that's a structure for a banquet, not a party, and most people prefer parties. You can have a party with 4 people, or 40, or 400, but the event should flow, much like a New Orleans jazz line. I know I just said that you should ignore "Steel Magnolias," but it actually does a very good job of depicting a big Southern wedding that's a celebration with a token amount of ceremony rather than a ceremony with a token amount of celebration. You can throw a big wedding that people will like, but your FIRST priority should be the same as it would be for ANY good party - what will make my guests happy? Hint: Forbidding dancing until midnight ain't it. If it's your dream in life to have a big wedding, fine - just view it as an opportunity to throw the party you've always dreamed of throwing, inviting all the people you've ever wanted to invite to a party, with the caveat that your co-host had better be the love of your life who will still need you and feed you when you're 64. And yes, stick to a budget that will keep you from going into multi-year debt. You wouldn't go into multi-year debt for a spectacular party (okay, you shouldn't, anyway), and weddings are no exception.

Posted by: marion at May 26, 2007 11:00 PM

Marion- That comment's enough to make someone wish they'd been to more weddings. But the the more prevalent patterns nowadays is that the bride thinks of this as her special day where everything's going to be just perfect. This starts with putting her dearest friends in unflattering clothes, and goes downhill from there... Hospitable party-throwing is not what she has in mind.

Do they let southern girls into Harvard? Who knew?

Posted by: Crid at May 27, 2007 8:43 AM

I get more letters about formerly reasonable women (and men, sometimes) buying into the perfect wedding -- and going psycho over which invitation design to pick out, for example. If you're going to celebrate your love, perhaps you shouldn't do it upon getting married but upon seeing that your love doesn't degenerate into hate and divorce after three years (not that I have a problem with relationships that break up -- unless you leave kids suffering in your wake).

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 27, 2007 8:54 AM

> married people often recede into a twosome, unbreachable except for interactions with blood relatives.


Well, I have no psych qualifications, but, confident in my Ph.D. in commonsense, Univ. Life, I can say this is a feature of having kids, not of marriage. You have kids -- sooner or later they acquire partners, spouses, kids of their own.... The sub-group of people you need to pay attention to labelled "family" is constantly expanding, while the "acquaintances" sub-group stays the same and the "intimate friends" group suffers attrition from deaths, career moves, and fallings-out. In a childless marriage there's no earthly reason to retreat into a cocoon. On the contrary, marrieds need close friends to commiserate with.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at May 27, 2007 12:11 PM

I had an outdoor barbque for my wedding. The invitaions said "please bring your kids, your sneakers and shorts, and a towel". We had the whole thing at Three Saints Park, which we rented for the afternoon, a catered picnic, the band I used to sing with played (no charge, it was my present from them), and we all had a real good time! Which was what I wanted. The girls in the wedding party all bought their dresses off the rack at Filene's, same fabric/pattern, different lengths, we went together to get them, and out for drinks afterwards, the only thing I insisted on was flowers in their hair, which I paid for. It was fun, it was casual, and that's what I wanted it to be about. It cost less than 3 grand, for a wonderful afternoon. Too bad the marriage didn't work out. But's o.k., I got 2 beautiful daughters out of it! :)

Posted by: Flynne at May 28, 2007 8:44 AM

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