like fish in a barrel

For old times’ sake. Because this is seriously taking me back to the good old days of snark. Back when I was all fresh-faced and sprightly and thought the wedding industry existed solely for the purpose of mocking it.

I’ve been busy going through and tossing out our boxes of papers, samples, and other paraphernalia that had stacked up during ye olde wedding planning days, and at the bottom of one stack I found a magazine called Seasons Brides. It’s this free quarterly publication I’d spotted on the front desk of the Las Vegas Bella Bridesmaid store at which I’d first tried on my wedding dress. I’d snatched it up and taken it home with me because, Lordy, was it ever god-awful. This thing looks like it was laid out in Microsoft Word by someone drunk on wine spritzers and Trajan Pro,1 and it reads like it was hastily written by someone who learned English by studying old copies of Cosmopolitan. In other words, it’s perfect fodder for mocking.

So please enjoy this special excerpt, punctuated with my bracketed commentary:

20 FAIL-SAFE WAYS TO ENSURE
YOUR GROOM’S CLOSE AND PERSONAL

In every relationship, the first priority should be to get close and stay close with your partner. Don’t keep your distance. On the contrary, enter his zone and stay in touch. Communication isn’t always speaking aloud, but speaking with your body. [For instance, farting.] Follow your basic instinct and staying close wouldn’t be as hard as it sounds. [Really? Because you are making it sound like nuclear fission.] Remember always make sure you’re smelling your best and your breath is fresher than a baby’s bottom. [This can be achieved by sucking on baby wipes. Also: WHUT.]

Here are some of many examples to bring out the personal and physical in your groom.2

  • Whisper or blow in his ear.
  • Tease him by brushing your bottom against his body, this can be done at all times of the day or night. [And preferably during family reunions.]
  • Walk around in your undergarments.
  • Give him Eskimo kisses.
  • Glide your fingers through his hair. [Ask him why he’s prematurely balding.]
  • Use everyday items as a playful prop to stimulate his body. [Like steak knives! Or an inkjet printer!] He might in turn use his own prop on you. [I see what you did right there.]
  • Keep smiling until he smiles. [He will eventually become nervous and begin to slowly back away. Be sure to track him closely, or he may escape. Just like the last one did. And you are not going to let that HAPPEN this time, are you. ARE YOU???]
  • Play tag around the house, “the Tarzan and Jane way.” [Permit him to tag you, so that he can club you and drag you by the hair to his cave.]
  • Hold him while watching the sunset together. [When your arms tire, tie him to a chair.]
  • Kiss the back of his neck. [Slowly reach in his back pocket and slip out his wallet.]
  • Give him a massage. [In his pants.]
  • Hold his hand. [In his pants.]
  • Lightly trace “I love you” on his chest. [See if you can feel him trace “prenuptial agreement” on yours!]
  • Take a bath together. Use the sponge to wash his body. [Preheat oven. Lightly season him with salt before placing in the broiler for 8-10 minutes.]
  • Lay on his lap while lounging on the couch.
  • Feed him with your hands. [“Here comes the airplane! The airplane’s coming! Rrrrrreeeeeeeeerrrrrrrr bbbreeeeeoooooooowwwwp BOOP!”]
  • Go skinny dipping together in the ocean. [If you do not live near an ocean, approximate the effect by standing naked in your front yard and holding the garden hose over your head.]
  • Hug him from behind and don’t let go right away. [Or at least until you spot the box of doughnuts sitting on the boardroom table at his office status meeting. Sprinkles! How did they know you love sprinkles!!!]
  • Tickle him with your hair.
  • Play footsies under the dinner table. [Remember, it wouldn’t be as hard as it sounds if you follow your basic instinct.]

_______________________________________________

1 I’m sorry. This is an indulgent design-related joke. Please carry on about your business.

2 Of course, there are myriad other tips out there, too.

flattery gets you everywhere else but here

This one goes out to those two people who voted that they wanted to see only my most unflattering wedding photos. Please accept my apologies for making you wait so long for the horror.

Oh. Did I say horror? I guess that could make sense. Because I am about to open up a bag full of a lot of potentially squicky, uncomfortable stuff. The contents of this bag include several deep-seated insecurities with regard to various body parts, a bunch of truths and lies about cameras, what’s left of your self-confidence, a general sense of mortification, and the struggle to mentally connect the dots between your still image on screen or paper with the live one you see in the mirror every day: Do I really look like that? Is that even the same person?

So I didn’t mean horror, after all. I meant hilarity.

How else can you react to pictures of yourself that aren’t really very good? I suppose you can cry about them, or send them through the paper shredder, or put your wedding dress back on and sit in the middle of the living room floor carefully cutting models out of bridal magazines and pasting them over your own image while alternately guzzling a bottle of raspberry-flavored vodka and cackling maniacally to yourself. Because wedding photos, like everything else wedding-related, seem to carry a special weight. This weight can make it harder to come to grips with bad photos of you taken at your wedding, because their very existence seems to capitalize, boldface, and underline all the fears you had locked away about your looks.

Which happened, of course, the very first time I started clicking through my various wedding pictures. It was so weird to see how simply moving from angle to angle — frame to frame — could induce a fun house effect on my physique. Fifteen pounds were gained, then lost again. Arms transformed from sleek strands of linguini to lumpy sausages. Chins receded and disappeared into necks, only to tentatively protrude again.

I was initially embarrassed, but then a strange thing happened. I started to giggle at my ridiculous-looking self.

We all have our own individual “problem areas,” of course. My most despised ones are my chin and my upper arms. There is just no way around it: my face is rectangular, and kind of masculine. I have a weak chin that’s made even more so by my tendency to clench my teeth together very hard. Add to that the fact that I lost some weight in high school everywhere but my upper arms, and since then no amount of toning exercises can eliminate the flab.  These were the genetics I was dealt. There is no changing them. At some point, I have to be okay with that.

Have to be.

Look, I am not insinuating that in these photos I resemble some kind of wretched, hideous, bloated, snaggle-toothed, cross-eyed, deformed, demonic, and malodorous beast not even a mother could love. I am not suggesting that upon reading this you should rush to the comment form and attempt to convince me that NO, I actually look GREAT, omigod, what ru even talking about ur crazy gorgeous lol.

What I am hoping is that you will laugh, too.

Because, damn. Some of them are bad.

And I am also hoping that after laughing you will feel a little bit better, because we all look bad sometimes, don’t we? That doesn’t mean we’re inherently ugly. It means that… oh, who the fuck knows what it means, except that we’re all in this together.

We might as well have some fun, right?

Ah. Oh. This gets things off on the right foot. Excellent job with the mushy, dimply neck. For my next trick, I will grow another chin.

This. This is a face I’d heretofore been unaware of making. But apparently I do make it, and quite frequently, too, judging from the number of times it appears in photos taken during the wedding. Look, I understand that if it’s inherently me, I can’t really knock it, but come on. It’s like I’m grinning, but I’m also grimacing. I am baring my teeth at you: rrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Me bride. Ha ha! BRING BRIDE DRINK! NOW! Ha ha ha! RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Arr.

Uh. Huh. Hmm. Uhhhhhh… duh? Ha ha. Huh. Heh.

“The crowd gasped, but by then it was already too late. The bride had contracted a serious case of Sausage Arm. For a few long, horrible moments, the situation looked grim. Then Aunt Hilda suddenly remembered the jar of sauerkraut in her purse. If there was only a way they could dig up some mustard, well. Then they could turn this travesty into a party.”

Guess what I look like in profile? I look like I have no jawline. Seriously. I look at photos of celebrities, and it seems like the space between their chins and their necks stretches on for miles, providing actual definition to their faces. Sort of like this:

The photoshopped image above will always be what I wish I looked like from the side. But no. No, my destiny will be to fulfill my womanly duties by bearing a bunch of children with weak chins and and slack jowls. They will surely thank me later for the fine genetic pool from whence they sprang.

Oh, but it gets better as the evening progresses.

What fine, unfocused, greasy-faced specimen is this?

Surely one who should open her mouth even further.

Seriously, folks. Back away from these goods. Or you might get hurt.

Ouch.

And now I present to you: the dance of the giant velociraptors.

Won’t you join me? No seriously, join me or die.

Further evidence to support the fact that all of my photographs should be taken from below, and with flash.

Listen, I hope you’ve enjoyed our time together here today. Go forth, all ye engaged, and know that there will be wedding pictures of you that you will never want anyone to ever, ever look at. Unless, of course, you choose to post them on your blog for all the internet to see.

Hooray!

[this post will self-destruct in 5… 4… 3… 2…]

UPDATE: A number of kind souls have so far pointed out that, whatever, I look fine in these pictures. So then I realized: you know all those times you’ve been shown a photograph of yourself, and you say, “EW,” and the other person is like, “HUH?” Yeah. I think that’s what is happening here. Those photographs where we cringe and think we look our worst actually appear to others as … normal. Or something. This is kind of disturbing, because either a) each of us is more awful-looking than we actually think we are, or b) society has left us all terribly, horribly warped. I’ll let you decide which is right (hint: it is B).

But seriously, you guys. I hardly look attractive in these things. I don’t know where you get these insane ideas.

the visual record

Photography is a tricky thing.1

Photography is both art and science. It is record and story. It is truth and fiction.

From the moment we enter the wedding planning world, we start to develop a love-hate relationship with photographs. First, you’re bombarded with brightly saturated, shallow depth-of-field pictures of cute and trendy must-haves. If you’re anything like me, you likely got wide-eyed with the possibilities… and then you got pissed off. This stuff costs how much? Do they think I’m freaking Martha Stewart over here? I don’t have time to make 200 pinwheels by hand! These expectations are ridiculous!

Then, you’re bombarded with photographs of other weddings. At first, they look amazing. Thirty weddings in, you suddenly realize that the joke is on you, because you’ve clearly been looking at different details of the same exact wedding shoot. All the brides and grooms have now blended into one cute, hip, impossibly thin couple with a propensity for adorably mismatched vintage place settings. You gradually realize that the style blogs are full of shit.

Somewhere along the way — probably in self-defense — you begin to scoff at the phrase blog-worthy. Blog-worthy? Whatever. We are real people with real weddings. We come in every size, shape, color, backstory, and age bracket available. We have ugly cries and mountains of stress and poorly-crafted decorations and half-assed centerpieces. Oh, we are worthy in every sense of the word, dammit — we’re just not going to be featured on Style Me Pretty or Snippet & Ink any time soon. As in, like, ever.

So then you switch to only looking at photographs of “real” weddings. Ah, finally, a place to call home. A place where the people look different and the sentiment can’t be faked. But that’s not the best plan, either. Because, oh my god, how do these people still manage to look so amazingly good? They seem so genuine, happy, and emotional. Everyone is so present in their own individual moments. Everything looks like it came together so well, and without a hint of drama. The guests are all smiling and crying. Somehow, all of their outfits are better than the ones you’re considering for your own wedding. All of their details are more poignant than your own. It all looks so effortless. And even while your heartstrings are being tugged, your brain is lamenting the fact that your wedding could never, ever, ever look like this.

Or maybe, after all, it was just me who went through this. The endless cycling between scoff and swoon; covet and resent.

Understandably, I developed a bit of anxiety around wedding photography. Because I understood what it felt like inside the planning of my own wedding, and it did not seem to line up with what I was seeing on my computer screen. I didn’t feel coordinated. I didn’t feel prepared. I didn’t feel pretty. I didn’t even necessarily feel happy — at least at first. From the outset my wedding seemed like a useless pile of last-minutes, halfhearteds, and coulda-shouldas. I was afraid that I shouldn’t expect very much to come from it.2

Then, just a few weeks after the wedding, I saw the first pictures our photographer Christina Richards posted on her blog. And I thought: Oh, my god. My wedding looks blog-worthy.

And I loved it.

And I was confused as hell about this.

It took me a long time to sort through it. Hell, even now, as I write this, I’m not sure I quite understand. I feel like I spent so long alternately railing against the relentless visual imagery and succumbing to it that I almost feel embarrassed that my wedding photographs look so good. Does this make me fake, too? Am I a style blog waiting to happen?

No. Of course not.

Am I suggesting that the only way to make your wedding look really good is to hire a professional photographer?

No. Of course not. Meaning isn’t generated via photographs. And if professional photography isn’t your bag, don’t do it. Spend your money on something you care about more.

Here I feel the need to wrap this up with some sort of call to action. A proposal to redefine the meaning of blog-worthy, perhaps. A rallying cry to take back our self-worth from the badlands of other-wedding-envy. But no. What we need is some good old-fashioned sense kicked into us. We need to stop listening to others.3 We need to stop caving in so easily to doubt. We need to stop feeding those voices that say I could never look like that or my wedding could never be that nice / pretty / cool / sincere / relaxed.

Because I saw my wedding from the ugly, messy inside. And what came out of it, both on film and in real life, was still beautiful. No, you can’t see the shitty stuff that went on behind the scenes in my photos. You can’t see all the stress and tears and hard work and late nights. You can only  see the beauty of that day, and the love. And what I said up there, that meaning cannot be generated via photography? I mean that. But what’s also true is that a good photographer can take the best parts of your day and make art out of them.

Go. Please go and look at our wedding photos on Christina’s blog. If you like the photos there, please leave her a kind comment. She sure as hell deserves it.

______________________________________________

1 Okay, this totally goes completely against the tone of this post, but whenever I read over this line I hear it spoken in my head in the same way Rick James said “Cocaine is a hell of a drug” in that one Chappelle Show skit. No? No? Come on.

2 I mean, except the happiness that comes from being married, of course.

3 Easy as pie, non?

wait for it

We’d gone to bed the night before the wedding feeling broken and demoralized, and when I woke up around seven on the day of our wedding I felt… pretty much the same. The morning was wrapped in a thick layer of dismal grey clouds, and so was my mind. The incessant whine of the distant foghorn wasn’t helping my mood any. I got up, showered, and commenced packing all my necessary items in preparation for moving over to the beau’s parents’ rental house, where I’d be getting ready.

There had been no magical overnight transformation into a serene, blissed-out bride, as I’d halfheartedly hoped for. But you know what? Something happened that morning anyway, something I can’t put my finger on. No, that much-sought-after wave of joy never did pass over me, but at a certain point I just gave in to the flow of the day. There was no use worrying or trying to figure anything out anymore. I’d have time to sort out my emotions later. Right now, I was just going to focus on what was in front of me.

I’d set aside the chunk of time between 8:30 and noon to get myself ready, and I am happy to report that for the most part the morning meandered in a leisurely manner. There were doughnuts, bagels, fruit, and yogurt. There were mimosas. Our photographer came over for an hour, during which I quickly changed out of my street clothes for a brief photo session with my dress. My hair was done, but my face was bare and I didn’t bother with the undergarments — still, my aunt cried when she saw me with that dress on. I presented my brigadiers, mom, and (almost) mother-in-law with necklaces, and then it was my mom’s turn to cry. Overall, being forced to sit still and make conversation with my closest people helped distract my brain, which was otherwise singularly focused on reminding me that OMG I AM GETTING MARRIED TODAY AND PEOPLE WILL BE LOOKING AT ME.

It was a pleasant time while it lasted, but noon came around with a vengeance. I had to cut my makeup time short and rush to get dressed so I could make it in time to have lunch at home, where the beau had been getting ready with some of his groomsmen. It was a little surreal walking into a house full of guys with my wedding dress on, flopping down on the couch, and proceeding to check my email. The guys, however, were on their way out, leaving the beau and I alone for the first time with our full wedding regalia on. “Hello,” I said. “Hello,” he replied. We quickly arrived at the conclusion that each of us looked very nice, then stared at each other for a beat. “Here’s your sandwich,” he said, handing me a paper bag with my favorite combo: prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and basil. I ate greedily, standing over the table so nothing landed on my dress, unceremoniously licking honey mustard off my fingers. In between bites we caught each other up on how our mornings had gone.

It was just like normal, but it wasn’t. We were us, but we were different.

You know, so much emphasis is typically placed on moments such as these. Standing as we were inside a life moment that arrives preprogrammed with heavily scripted meaning, it was refreshing to experience it on our own terms. There were no dramatic embraces, no tears, no special sense of this is it, we’ve finally arrived. For some, that won’t feel right. But for us, it was comforting. The beau and I are not especially romantic or sentimental people, so to spend those special few moments together on our wedding day inside our hideously cluttered home, casually stuffing our faces with sandwiches — that was the ultimate unplanned tribute to ourselves.

We couldn’t linger, though, because we had to meet one of our photographers at the courthouse at 1:00 p.m. for some pictures alone. At 2:00 we headed down to the Historical Museum to take the shots with our families. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much in my life, and I don’t mean that in a good way. By the time we finished the posed photos, guests were beginning to arrive. I flitted back and forth between the courtyard and our staging area — a room inside a historic building from which my brigadiers and I would make our entrances — greeting guests and touching up my makeup. Being able to say hello to folks as they came in and invite them to help themselves to a glass of champagne helped take my mind off the fact that the ceremony was quickly approaching — but not nearly for long enough.

At some point my anxiety finally crested so high that I sequestered myself in the staging room to calm down and go over my vows. I leaned against the wall and read them over and over again, trying to burn the words into my brain. I glanced up and locked eyes with my best lady. “Oh my god,” I said. “I’m going to die.”

And I almost hoped I would.

 

taken by my best lady

 

Soon enough, the coordinator poked his head in and said it was almost time to start. And just like that the tremors in my stomach became quakes. My mother tentatively approached the room and stood just outside the door. “It’s okay, you can come in, mom,” I called. “I didn’t want to bother you,” she said, “but I wanted to wish you luck and say I love you.” Her mouth worked as she came in for a hug and I had to blink fast to fight back the tears. I already felt like throwing up — the last thing I wanted to do was start bawling.

Much later, on the phone, my mom told me how scared I had seemed in those final moments before the wedding. “You looked just like a little girl,” she recalled, her voice tender.

The music started. The groomsmen had already filed out, and my brigadiers were now walking out one at a time; tethers slowly being released into the sky.

Now I was alone, and now it was my turn.

I took a deep breath, exhaled, and stepped outside.

*****

I imagine you can fill in the details from here. There was a ceremony, there were cocktails, there was dinner and dancing, and then later, an afterparty at a bar. A wedding script not unlike so many thousands of weddings that have come before.

And just like all the weddings that have come before, there were plenty of things that went wrong that day, of course, and plenty of disappointments. But this being my 200th post on this blog, it seems fitting that right now I should only focus on what went right. And so I present to you, in no particular order, a list of some of my favorite memories — with photo accompaniment! — from the wedding day and beyond.

  • Standing around in a circle with the wedding party right after the ceremony, slugging cherry bourbon from a flask.
  • Reading the Facebook comments and updates from our friends the day after, in which they talked about what an amazing wedding weekend they’d had.
  • Our dear friend Fabio’s über-dramatic reading of the Magnetic Fields’ “Love is Like a Bottle of Gin” during the ceremony.

  • Hearing my great aunt and uncle, whom I barely know, tell me during the reception that hey, times have changed and it’s okay if I don’t take my new husband’s last name.
  • All the times one of our friends said: “That was the best wedding I’ve ever been to.”
  • The groomsmen admitting that they almost lost it and started crying during the ceremony.
  • Spotting our caterer standing in his yard drinking wine straight from the bottle at 1:30 a.m. during our walk back home from the bar.
  • Hugging and talking to friends and family during the cocktail hour — and asking the coordinator to extend it because we were just having too good of a time for it to end.

  • Running up a row of tables high-fiving our guests during our grand entrance to Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”
  • Coming up to the champagne table before the ceremony and having one of the catering staff ask me: “So, which one is the bride?”
  • Fabio getting temporarily left behind by his ride the morning after the wedding, because he was too distracted by talking to my parents.
  • How the fog rolled in during our first dance, then proceeded to roll right back out again for the rest of the night.

  • Looking down during the ceremony and noticing for the first time that our officiant wasn’t wearing any shoes.
  • The absolutely amazing butternut squash ravioli we had at dinner — and the raving compliments we received about it afterwards.
  • Sitting at the head table during dinner and looking around at our guests chatting and laughing, our wedding party next to us, the color of the flowers in the sun — just taking pictures and soaking it all in.

  • The beau’s brother pulling me aside during the cocktail hour and telling me how amazingly personal and meaningful our ceremony had been.
  • Ugly-dancing like a spastic fool during “The Humpty Dance.”
  • All the toasts and cheers. Of course.

  • The praise we got for our signature drink — the Ginger Rogers — for which the beau had infused the liquor himself.
  • Hearing from all the people who were touched by the ring-warming during the ceremony.
  • Seeing how many people enthusiastically donned the props we put out for our guestbook photos.

  • Watching two families come together on Thursday afternoon before the wedding when my parents, the beau’s parents and brother, and the beau and I hung out for the first time on our front porch, having drinks and gluing dessert plates.
  • Getting out of the shower the morning after the wedding to find the living room crammed with dozens of pals who’d dropped in on their way out of town to give us hugs and wish us well.
  • Inadvertently making the guests crack up during the ceremony.

  • Catching my uncle stuffing his suit pockets with cookies from our dessert buffet.
  • Packing for the honeymoon on Sunday afternoon.
  • How our DJ actually played all 18 minutes of the epic punk NOFX song “The Decline” towards the end of the night — and how our friends stood in a circle in the dance floor for those entire 18 minutes, shouting every word of the lyrics in unison.

And that? That, my friends, is good enough.

________________________________________________________

All photos in this post, except for the first one, taken by Aaron Rosenblatt.

 

Aaron and my one of my best ladies.

 

good bad ugly

The last few months before the wedding were about treading water. What needs to be done right now? Okay, we’ll focus on that.

The week before the wedding took this approach and amplified it to 150 decibels. The beau and I were runaway trains hurtling off the trestle, hanging suspended inside the deep blue sky for one long moment before plummeting down to the rock. You know, if you’re into using divergent metaphors at will like that. But that’s kind of what it felt like for me: free fall. A very loud, disconcerting free fall.

I’m going to tell you all about my free fall. And, you know, I’m not particularly well-known for my brevity, but this is a long one even by my standards. Which is to say: you may not be ready for an essay of this proportion.

Or? Maybe you are.

*****

The real descent into insanity began when our parents and one of my brigadiers arrived on Thursday before the wedding. At the time I likened it to the sensation of walking out of a darkened movie theater into the blinding light of day. I mean, I’d known all along our family and friends were coming, but I thought that was all happening at some later, unspecified date. Why were they here now? Huh? Did wedding planning really destroy so many of my IQ points that I was suddenly unable to grasp the basic concept of cause and effect?

I’d just begun coming to terms with the fact that our guests were actually on their way when the real world kicked in the door on Friday morning. Whether I was ready or not, the wedding was practically here, and I couldn’t just stand around sorting out my emotions. It was go time.

We kicked off our last day of singlehood with an early-morning trip to the farmer’s market to pick up the flowers, and then we headed to a park. The beau had packed a battery-powered MP3 player, and the plan was to finally practice our first dance — we hadn’t yet, because there was no room in the house. We found an empty tennis court in one corner of the park and commenced stumbling around awkwardly. It wasn’t as peaceful as it sounds — we often found ourselves fighting off the urge to throttle each other — but in retrospect I’m glad we had that time. Outside of the occasional intrusion by gawking blue-haired old ladies walking their poodles, that was the only quiet time we had to ourselves that day. Then, my dad interrupted our reverie with a phone call and oh shit, it was already 9:45? Holy crap, we had to move.

By the time I got out of the shower, some of our friends had shown up at our house. Then more, and then more. There were people in the kitchen making guacamole. There were people on our porch arranging flowers in vases. Don’t get me wrong: I loved that our friends came over, largely unasked, to hang out and pitch in. But I also felt torn between all my different impulses to be a hostess, a friend, and a bride. I wanted to get people drinks and food, I wanted to sit down and catch up, I wanted to take care of all the looming tasks we still had yet to do. Moreover, I was starting to feel a low-grade anxiety about my appearance, which I hadn’t yet had an opportunity to care for. After some hemming and hawing, I decided to tag along with one of my brigadiers to an appointment she had at a nail salon so that I could get a manicure and a pedicure.

This is when I fell into a wormhole. That’s the only plausible theory that can account for the fact that somewhere around here time went missing. All I remember is sitting in a vibrating chair, gazing up at a closed-captioned show on Animal Planet while some dude wearing a mask rubbed my feet, and all of a sudden it was two hours later and I was rushing back home with my brand-new manicure already scuffed. There was only half an hour left until the rehearsal and the house was absolute chaos. Some friends had left, and new ones had shown up. We’d run out of flowers and one of the groomsmen had run to Trader Joe’s and pick up some more. Other pals were in the living room folding dessert label cards and putting signs into frames. Holy crap. Holy crap.

In the midst of my breathless dash, I spotted my paycheck from work lying on the table and immediately shrieked, snatched it up, and held it over my head as I made a spontaneous celebratory parade around the living room. Finally! This was the check I’d been waiting for all week! This was the check that was going to help pay off our vendors, and pay for our honeymoon! I ripped it open (as gingerly as possible, given the state of my fingernails) and the grin on my face immediately disappeared. This check was for $320. I’d been expecting $2,000.

I burst into tears.

I double-checked the invoice I’d submitted and, yeah. It was totally my fault. In my wedding-induced brain haze I’d accidentally submitted an invoice for a freelancing gig to my full-time gig. Of course they only cut me a check for $320. I only billed them $320. Of course.

So then I had to explain why I was crying to a houseful of people. This included a groomsman’s new girlfriend, whom I’d never before met, and who was probably thinking I was absolutely batshit insane, just like all the wedding advertisements had warned. A friend handed me a vodka drink, which I downed quickly. It was now five minutes until the rehearsal. Everyone was leaving. I didn’t know what to do. There was nothing to do. My company couldn’t cut me a check on a Friday afternoon and deliver it to me by Sunday. We’d have to figure something out later. For now, I just had to move on.

The rehearsal whipped by like a fevered dream. All I remember was one of the groomsmen semi-arguing with our coordinator about how the entrance should go, and the coordinator and DJ ever-so-subtly sniping at each other during the practice — they had recently broken up with each other and it clearly hadn’t been amiable. I silently cringed upon hearing our entrance songs — songs the beau and I had previously chosen and listened to in private — played aloud in front of a small crowd of people. We stayed afterwards to go through a ceremony reading with our officiant, then rushed back home to pick up the rest of the items for the welcome BBQ. The house was empty save for the aforementioned groomsman’s new girlfriend, who was sitting on our couch reading a book. We’d had no idea she’d even been stuck there alone, and I was appropriately mortified. But she’d finished up the rest of the flowers and packed them in boxes while we were gone. By herself. Just hanging out. She’d known us for all of an afternoon, and had happily finished off our flower arrangements for us.

And this is how it came to be that I didn’t arrange one single vase of flowers. Not one. The kindness of our friends (and one then-stranger) had made it happen. Now that, folks, is wedding magic. I was grateful, but I barely had time to marvel at the beauty of this gesture. We were already late for the goddamned BBQ. Just before we got into the car, I caught sight of the beau’s shellshocked face. I put my hands on his shoulders. “We’re almost there,” I said. “Everything is mostly done. We can finally just chill and hang out with everybody.”

Um. No.

There was already a crowd of people standing around when we arrived at our picnic site beside the ocean. The beau and I rushed around unloading items and setting up, but we could only do so much without the charcoal and alcohol, which some friends had promised to bring with them. Food and drink are the great people uniters, and their absence was keenly felt. I kept getting pulled aside and introduced to new folks from the beau’s side of family, or reunited with people I hadn’t seen in a very long time. I tried to smile as big as I possibly could, and make the least awkward conversation possible, but the whole time my eyes were darting around the picnic area. The booze still wasn’t there? Nobody was mingling? My grandpa was off by himself? Oh, god. Oh, god. Where were the guys? We needed to start the grill. We needed to put out the appetizers. Oh, shit.

Finally, our friends arrived with the goods. The party slowly started to creak to life, just as the fog abruptly rolled in and settled its damp chill over us. Okay, I can deal with this, I thought. It would have been nice for our out-of-town guests to have a classic sunset view of the mountains and the ocean, but the weather cannot be controlled. But then the sangria ran out within the first half hour. And our two backup bottles of wine were drunk in an instant. And the keg was already running low, and we hadn’t even eaten yet. Did I need to send someone out to for more? Who was even sober enough? Hey, the guacamole was already gone, too! Was I unintentionally ignoring anyone? Oh god, my great aunt and uncle had come all the way from Michigan and I’d barely spoken to them yet. And, wait — was it already getting dark? Shit. We didn’t have any candles or lanterns. How was anyone going to see to eat? People were standing with their arms clamped to their sides, freezing. And where were the desserts? How was anybody going to know there were desserts? Oh god. Oh, god. The BBQ was turning into an utter disaster.

And then, for the second time that day, I burst into tears. Only this time I couldn’t stop. I stumbled over to the fence at the top of the bluff and laced my fingers through the chain link mesh. I stared out into the oppressive wall of fog and then down at the black sea crashing over the rocks, and I sobbed. I just fucking sobbed. There was no helping it. The beau soon wandered over from his station at the grill to see about me, and I told him to go away. I didn’t want any of this. Everything was wrong and I was helpless to fix it, but more than that, I was angry at myself for not just enjoying it. This wasn’t supposed to be happening like this. I wasn’t supposed to be feeling like this, but I couldn’t stop.

Later, two of my brigadiers sat next to me on a picnic bench, silently comforting me. My mom brushed my hair back from my face and deflected her sisters away from me — “She needs a moment right now.” At some point, my dad asked me to go on a little walk with him. “Look at that,” he said, gesturing back to the party. “Everyone is having a really great time. You wouldn’t believe what people were saying to me all night — you two are really well-loved. You are just surrounded by love.” There was a note of wonder and pride in his voice, but when I looked out at the shapes of my family and friends moving around in the darkness, all I could see were my own failures. I stood there snuffling for a few moments, worrying tiny holes in the damp, crumpled paper towel I’d been using as a tissue. “Okay,” I said.

Okay.

Somehow, while I was floundering inside the dismal recesses of my mind, the picnic site got cleaned up. Two lanterns magically appeared — I learned much, much later that a friend had run back to her house to get them — and everyone lent a hand. Our families headed to their hotels, our friends headed to the bar, and the beau and I headed home. It was already 8:30, and now, we could finally rest.

Well… yeah, not so much. We had to unload the car with the BBQ stuff so that we could load our wedding supplies inside of it to take to the venue the next morning. All of the platters, bowls, and serving utensils from the BBQ had to be washed, which really did my manicure in. We had to organize and label all of our boxes of stuff so that the coordinator knew what was what. There was also the matter of cleaning up the front porch, which was absolutely littered with flower stems, clippings, and tools. Oh, and I still had to box and wrap the gifts for my brigadiers, my mom, and the beau’s mom.

We didn’t go to bed until 1:00am.

And that was how our wedding day began: the beau passed out on the couch, and me bent over some wrapping paper on the floor, cursing my aching back. We were stressed, confused, and absolutely spent.

*****

I said it before, up there somewhere: I hadn’t wanted it to happen like that. I’d wanted it to be more meaningful and significant. Somehow there was this idea in my mind that in those final days, I’d have a specific feeling. A special feeling. Not zen, of course, and not perfection — I’d already come to grips that those two things were well beyond reach. I’d imagined, though, that I’d feel some sense of closure. Something that said to me — aha! — so this is what it feels like to be getting married.

That feeling wasn’t in my cards. The most disconcerting thing about that last day was the sense that I was trying to grasp at sand even as it slipped through my fingers. Despite being emotionally ready for months, and despite all the reflection I had done prior to the wedding, when time began counting right down to zero hour I wasn’t prepared for anything. I wanted it all to stop; I needed to regroup. I just wanted to sit down and think.

Of course, that didn’t happen.

And I won’t lie: I felt like I kinda got robbed on that.

For a long time, I believed it was totally unfair. But I’d planned! I’d thought all the right thoughts! I’d focused on the upcoming marriage, and not the pretty frippery of the event! I knew things would go sideways, and I knew I would feel stressed. But maybe deep down, I’d still hoped for better. Maybe I thought that if I recited over and over that my wedding would be messy, imperfect, and zenless, I’d somehow be granted immunity to the badness and ugliness. I’d rise completely above them, so to speak.

So yeah: the badness and ugliness completely knocked me on my ass.

But. Five weeks later, I’ve finally given myself permission to have had this experience. You know what? That day sucked, but it is mine to own. And besides. If you look hard enough at the cracks, you can see the beauty that had sprouted in there.

And I promise: by the time the wedding was over, that beauty had grown sky-high.

happy

I was supposed to be working on the catalog. I was supposed to be writing thank-you cards. I was supposed to be doing things that are important.

But today was our monthiversary. And tonight there was a thunderstorm, which is a highly unusual meteorological event in California. We opened a bottle of champagne that our friend Dewey gave us during our rehearsal BBQ, and we opened all the doors and windows and listened to the neighborhood collectively holler each time the lightning tore across the sky.*

And after the power came back on, I made this:**

And I think that’s enough for one night.

_______________________________________________

* Being a transplant from everywhere, I find this behavior amusing. But I’ll also tell you I was the first one outside, shouting in sheer delight along with the rest of the natives. Thunderstorms here are particularly electrifying. Har! Har! Cough.

** This being a toast from one of the beau’s groomsmen. He was my beau’s first dorm roommate in college. Talk about fate, eh? All photos by my awesome friend Aaron Rosenblatt.

hello world

Okay, trust me guys, I have been writing, but lately my main writing technique has consisted of staring at the computer screen for ten minutes debating whether “inconsolable” or “distraught” is just the right word to use in a given sentence, then clicking over to Twitter. Also, my bosses were like, hey, go ahead and lay out the product catalog, but OH YEAH YOU HAVE ONE WEEK TO GET THE FINAL FILES TO THE PRINTER AND THAT DOESN’T COUNT REVIEWS AND PROOFREADING. So, that’s been awesome.

That didn’t stop me from attending yet another wedding here in town yesterday. And let me tell you, the amazingly glorious weather last weekend? That was not the case this weekend. At all. I am talking chilly drizzle, all day long. I am also talking the entire wedding was outside. If that was my wedding, I would have been freaking out. But my bride friend wasn’t phased in the least. And you know what? Us guests weren’t, either. We sat there toasting, eating, and laughing; slowly getting damper. And nobody cared. I think that’s key, somehow. I think that’s something to keep in mind: that when you think the bottom is falling out from under your wedding, when your worst nightmares of cold November rain* (or in this case, October) are actually coming true, all is not lost. Guests are surprisingly resilient creatures. Whatever the circumstances people will still, at bottom, just be happy to be there.

So that was nice. But let me tell you, I get tiny little pangs of wistfulness now when I go to weddings. It’s not that I want to go back through that experience again. It’s that we had that one day, you know? And we won’t have it again. But it’s okay. I can revisit those memories in my head at any time of day. Kind of like Wedding On Demand. Or something.

Anyway, I’m going to go back to trying to finish my other posts. Oh, I mean work on the product catalog. That one. In the meantime, I want to leave you with a hilarious Chicago-area Craigslist ad seeking a wedding band that I found via Gin and Tacos. It was apparently yanked down shortly after being posted, which is unfortunate because this is just too good not to spread around. As a bonus, it also serves as a smug reminder of how our weddings are so much more awesome than the weddings of other schmucks. Right?

Terrible band needed for sham of a wedding. 11/6. No pay (any takers?)

As the musician in our family, my Shylock of a half-brother and his parsimonious fiance have passed off to me the job of finding a band for their wedding. I love the kid, but his unique brand of expectant coercion and astonishingly consistent lack of judgment have left me with no recourse but to literally give him what he wants, a band that can “tear up Skynyrd, and won’t cost nothin'”. Since they think music is spontaneously generated via voodoo magic by assemblies of self-promoting philanthropists, I am now on a quest to find the best working band in Chicago interested in “doing it for the exposure”.

If you are a serious musician that values your craft and earns a living from performance, you’re probably thinking “Fuck you. Do you ask your accountant to do your taxes for the exposure?”. You are not who I am looking for. Thanks for looking.

If however, you and your unemployable band of pothead hobbyists are enticed by the prospect of a free open bar stocked with the finest of suburban banquet hall well-liquor and an opportunity to run a train on the most whorish collection of self-entitled bridesmaids this side of a Sex In The City marathon, please contact me. There’s probably dinner in it for you too, if the starched vagina of a “wedding planner” (bride’s bff) can get her 3rd rung caterer to leave a few sandwiches in a storage closet for you at some point in the evening.

What I need from the band:

I don’t care if you are an original Icelandic thrash-raga act featuring steam calliope and backwards Armageddon poetry, but I need you to be able to train wreck your way through a few requests.

Don’t Stop Believing. You provide the high notes, we’ll provide the smell of wine and cheap perfume.

Free Bird. Go nuts with the solo. Really. If this evening was a never-ending cascade of sonic punishment hailing down on Tom at blaringly inconsiderate volumes, it would only serve as apropos karmic revenge for the afternoons I’ve spent listening to Jillian chatter about OHMYGODIDON’TCAREWHAT.

Macarena/Electric Slide/Chicken Dance. It doesn’t matter which one you play, but there has never been a classy party where one these songs has made an appearance. This will not be a classy party.

Do Not Play:

Jessie’s Girl. I used to play weddings, and if I have to hear this song one more time, I’m going to fucking cut someone.

They said they don’t have any preference’s for attire, so I’ll take that to mean you’re ok in a threadbare Megadeth shirt and black jeans.

I will provide the PA (the band and sound system are my wedding present to them).

This is not a joke. Please shoot me an email if this sounds like something you might be interested in.

 

_________________________________________________

* To be sung in your best Axl Rose shriek.

three weeks later: regrets, i’ve had a few

Our friends from the Bay Area are getting married here in Santa Barbara today. This will be our first wedding as a married couple. And let me tell you, what a blessed relief it is to a attend a wedding as a guest. You mean all I have to worry about is what I’m going to wear and what drink I’m having next? Sold.

And yet. I am jealous. Insanely, insanely jealous. And regretful of some of the choices we made for our own wedding.

Let me explain.

Our friends came down this past Tuesday, and have essentially spent the last few days with each other, friends, and family. Their Facebook status updates have essentially been along the lines of where they are going and what they are eating next. Tuesday night they had sushi and wine. Wednesday they walked around downtown with a giant entourage of family members. On Thursday they rented out a boat for a sunset cruise with drinks and appetizers. Last night was the rehearsal dinner and subsequent celebrations.

Okay. So the beau and I didn’t have a budget to rent a boat and ply our peeps with champagne and foie gras.* But you know what? I don’t even envy what they’re doing so much as how they’re doing it. Beau and I essentially spent the last several days before our wedding running around like headless chickens. There was no time for hanging out with our friends and family. There was no time to relax. There was no time for anything. We just spun continually off our axes, chasing one task after another. This is really what kills me, in the end. That we didn’t slow down. That we couldn’t slow down. I wasn’t wasting time on senseless crafts, either. It was just all this Stuff We Had To Do.

I know, I know. I understand that from my outsider’s perspective, I can’t really know what’s going on with them. I cannot see any behind-the-scenes drama or stress. But I can’t shake this feeling of regret for some of the things we did. It kind of hit me unexpectedly. You’re not supposed to regret things about your own wedding, right? But I have. And I sincerely doubt I’m the first.

OH, and their wedding this weekend is perfect. PERFECT. Warm, sunny, clear, no fog. NO FOG. ARRRRGH.

Sigh.

________________________________________________________

* YES, really.

look, i have collected some words and will now present them to you in a semi-organized fashion

First of all, PHOTOGRAPHY UPDATE: I clicked the link.

I did it. I looked at the first batch of my wedding photos.

Fifteen times in a row.

I did it for you guys. And the money and fame. Wait, that’s not right. I did it for you guys. And to finally sate my raging curiosity.

We are still eagerly anticipating the photos from our other photographer, so I think I’ll just wait until I have all of them to figure out which ones are going up here. Or perhaps I will just grow impatient and post some of the ones I already have. Gist of this story: I shall make it up as I go!

And hey, by the way, thanks for taking the poll in the last post. Over 60 people voted, which is, like, way more people than I actually even thought were on the interwebs.* A whopping 72% of you — which, according to my careful calculations, comprises roughly one third of the total poll-takers — want to see all of the pictures, oh my god, like right now. Two of you only care to see me at my ugliest, and one of you apparently wants only pictures of my shoes. Surprisingly, absolutely no one expressed interest in acquiring animated GIFs of Anthony Michael Hall, which is totally the response I would have selected if I’d actually taken the poll. Most of the rest of you replied along the lines of “post whatever you’re comfortable with,” a sensible answer I chose not to include in the poll options because I was Trying To Be Funny. One notable response featured some good advice about posting only the photos that make me “flutter,” another managed to lovingly address me as “beeotch” (thank you!), one endeavored to inform me that I am hot (beau, I’m looking at you), and yet another simply replied, “Your Mom.”

I am truly touched. So touched, in fact, that I want to include a poll in every post, just so I can see what you come up with next. But lo, such a gimmick would soon grow old. And I just had to restrain myself right there from making a poll about whether or not you like polls. So yes! Hurrying on! Photos and stuff, I will show them to you in some future post!

Meanwhile, there’s so much I want to tell you about getting married, you guys. For example, it turns out that when you get married people give you gifts. I was just as shocked to learn this as you are, but not as shocked as I was the first time I sent someone else a wedding gift and received a thank you card for it well before the actual wedding had even transpired. Seriously. Has this ever happened to you? It never had to me until just this year, and then all of a sudden, BAM. Advance thank you cards have arrived in the mail for every single wedding we’ve attended thus far. Do I smell a fresh new trend, or am I just really late to the party?

When I got that first early thank you, I had to back up off of it and set my cup down. I’d always envisioned opening gifts after the wedding, and here these other folks were turning that concept on its head. After the first few boxes from our registry** arrived, there commenced a few days of hand-wringing and brow-furrowing as I worried with the beau over whether or not it would be rude to for us to save them until we got back from honeymoon instead of ripping them open immediately and sending back a prompt thank you. We eventually decided no, we were just going to wait, trends and etiquette and general mobility around our living quarters be damned. And so those boxes kept coming, and we kept stacking them up along the walls and running into them with our shins. Ow! No matter, for I was bound and determined to have something to look forward to after the wedding, dammit.***

Getting gifts for your wedding is icing on cake. It’s a consolation prize — well hey, we just spent a year fighting over paper products and crying ourselves to sleep at night, but look, baby, a rice cooker! I couldn’t see the fun in prematurely spoiling that gleeful reward. It would be like opening gifts before your birthday! Except they are gifts you already picked out, so it’s not like there’s any element of real surprise involved. Still, you can never really know for certain what the contents are. Like that one box your mom’s friend constructed out of two glue gun boxes taped together and then wrapped in a brown paper bag? What the hell did she put inside that thing, anyway?

So last Saturday night we poured ourselves some drinks and finally sat down to find out. And you know, I never felt like I could talk about wedding gifts without coming off like a covetous, foot-stomping asshole with dollar signs for eyeballs, but I’m about to put on my asshole hat**** and do just that. A few points to remember about wedding gifts:

  • Some guests will not give you gifts.
  • This fact will cause you to experience a low-simmering mix of bewilderment, insult, and doubt.
  • At least it did for me, anyway.

As we opened our gifts, the beau tracked them on our guest list so that we would know whom to thank for what. But as he marked the last gift down, he couldn’t help but notice all the, uh, gaps. “A lot of people didn’t get us anything,” he murmured quietly. “That’s okay!” I chirped. “Who really cares? That’s not what we got married for, anyway.” And I truly, wholeheartedly believe this statement. I do.

But then after a minute or two of silence, I had to ask: “Who?” And as the beau rattled off the list of names, I felt myself sink into a little funk. Check this: four out of the beau’s five groomsmen didn’t give us anything. Okay, granted, two of them tried to get us things that fell through (concert tickets, for example). But still. Some of the people closest to him didn’t deign to get him anything? What the hell?

I am reluctant to admit I had these feelings, because their very existence makes me feel like the epitome of MonsterBride IIV: Now That I Have Your Soul, Please Proceed To Give Me All Your Money.***** Yet even though I tried to squelch them, they continued to well up in me unbidden: Who goes to a wedding and doesn’t send a gift? We gave them gifts for their wedding. How freaking RUDE is that? Do they think that our parents paid for the whole damn thing, as if that would even make it okay? Did they just forget? Do they just not care? Do they secretly hate us? I can’t believe we gave them all that booze when they secretly hate us!

And then the real zinger of doubt: Oh my god, what if they sent a gift but it got lost or stolen and now they’re going to think we’re rude for not sending a thank you card?! I don’t want them to think I’m impolite and unappreciative of their thoughtful gesture!! And I can’t bring it up to them, because then I’ll look like I’m fishing around for presents!! Cue frantic hand-flapping, waves of anxiety. This etiquette thing? It kills me sometimes.

But you know what? It’s fine. A day or two after those feelings came, they ebbed away. I just don’t have it in me to resent people – people I genuinely like – for not playing along with traditional wedding rules. I don’t really want or need any more stuff, anyway, and as I already mentioned, that’s not what our marriage was ever about. So there. Take that, petty and ignoble emotions. You can just go stick a fork in your eye, because I’m done with you.

Overall, we were incredibly, ridiculously blessed on our wedding day, in both material and spiritual terms. “Overflowing with love”****** would be a fairly accurate description, and in my book, that’s way better than the dutch oven left unpurchased on our registry could ever be. So that’s the moral I’m going to end this story on: our friends gifted us with love and support, which is all we ever needed in the first place.

And now, before you go hurl in a Dixie cup from all the saccharine cuteness, I want to leave you with a fascinating bit of history. My mother, in a hyperactive fit of “let’s document everything for posterity,” typed up the old handwritten list of gifts she and my father received for their wedding and emailed this list to me. The perspective between then and now is fascinating, at least to me. True, they were wed in a heavily Polish part of rural Michigan, where the tradition was to give cash for the wedding (hence the wee smattering of gifts on the list), so their experience is not necessarily reflective of overall trends in the 1970s. Still, I’m amazed to see how grand of a gesture it was to give $30 for a wedding 31 years ago.

Makes me feel pretty damn lucky, that.

__________________________________________________

* I thought there were only seven people on the interwebs, one of them being a snarling, ironic-mustachioed hipster whose vast music library is comprised only of Bands No One Has Never Heard; one of them being a seething, mouth-frothing, patriotism-swilling Tea Partier; one of them being a Bob Marley-blaring, 420-loving, godless liberal socialist communist hippie; one of them possessing an impressive collection of tinfoil hats; and three of them being tweens lacking basic reading comprehension skills who are on a dogged quest to bring about the utter destruction of the English language (“OMG woah Thatsso stooped R U th Dummest person ever hehe LOL :P”).

** Registry sidebar: we made a Wishpot registry for our honeymoon, and an Amazon.com registry for our housewares. I wished we had used Traveler’s Joy for the honeymoon registry instead – when you go to make a payment, Wishpot just dumps you into PayPal’s website, which feels sort of sketchy and tacky – but the Amazon universal registry ended up working out perfectly. About 95% of what we wanted was actually being sold through Amazon, which meant our guests got free shipping. Not that that actually mattered in the end – the vast majority of our guests actually ended up buying off the honeymoon registry, which was admirably anti-traditional of them. There you go, kids! That’s the way to strike a blow against the Wedding Industrial Complex! Or something!

*** Let me just say that I was VERY EXTREMELY GOOD about not looking at our registry to see what had been purchased, so by the time we got around to opening them, it was like opening boxes of stuff you’d packed away years and years ago: “Oh, yeah! That! I love that! Yay!”

**** I’m not at all certain what this is, but I’m willing to wager it involves the likeness of Glenn Beck.

***** Personally, I much prefer Monsterbride XI, feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard: You Know My Name, Now Gimme My Money.

****** Oh, and terror. I was fairly overflowing with terror, at least in the hours before the ceremony.