mawidge... is what bwings us together...
if you're gonna tie the knot, you'd better know more than loop, swoop, and pull
by adam kraemer
It's inevitable: The minute you hit 25, everyone you ever knew gets engaged. I can't explain it. Well, I can, but that's not what this column is about. I went to three weddings last year (ask me about the lesbians) and four weddings this year (ask me about last year’s lesbians), and I’ve heard stories from many more, and I’d like to share what I’ve gleaned from these experiences.
You might think that, compared to actually finding someone with whom you want to spend the rest of your life, planning and executing a successful wedding would be easy. Well, you'd be right. But it's not that easy - better than you might fear but worse than you might hope. However, if you listen to me (because you should, that's why. Stop asking yourself these rhetorical questions), I have a few pointers that I've picked up over the years that might make your wedding a success, for both you and your guests. After all, you likely won't remember a minute of it, but if it didn't go well, they'll be talking about it forever.
1) Make sure all of the people you've hired coordinate their efforts.
I can't stress this enough. The band should never be calling everyone up for the "We Are Family/Celebration/Let's Get It On" Medley while your $46-per-plate salad course is just sitting at empty tables, uneaten. If nothing else, it's a waste of a fork and $3 worth of lettuce.
Or even worse, I was at a wedding not too long ago where the servers were, apparently, under strict orders not to serve food to an empty spot at a table. I know a bunch of people who almost didn't get salad, dessert, or coffee because they were either dancing, congratulating the couple, or in the restroom getting high. I don't blame the servers, though; those cake-Nazis were just following orders. I blame the caterer who made the stupid rule in the first place and the bandleader who said, "Hey, the fruit plate is coming out. Now would be the perfect time for 'The Twist'!" I could have sworn I heard the lyrics "ignore your sorbet" somewhere in there.
Which brings me to a little codicil my friend Justin suggested I add: Try to make sure the people you hire for your wedding like one another. You figure in any given town, there's a limited number of florists, wedding bands, photographers, etc. These people probably see each other at least once a month, and if they don't like each other, things can get tense, both in the planning and in the execution. Imagine an acrimonious caterer and florist trying to set a table with a huge centerpiece and all the extraneous silverware and glassware that goes along with a large reception. Not unlike the Israelis and Palestinians fighting over East Jerusalem, but with a bit more animosity.
2) Make your guests happy.
I know it's "your day" and all, but basically, you're going to be spending all your time either dancing, kissing on command, or walking from table to table making sure that all sixteen million of your closest friends and relatives get a photo op. What’s happening elsewhere: All your married friends are comparing everything to their weddings; your eight single guy friends are trying to figure out if any of the bridesmaids are depressed and desperate enough to entertain the thought of relinquishing all self-respect and heading to a spare hotel room; and your eight single female friends are wondering what the bride sees in a guy whose best friends are the eight dorks sitting across the table from them. (By the way, if all your friends are married or engaged except for one, invite him or her with a date. Otherwise that's just cruel.)
But basically you want to do everything you can to make sure that when everyone says, "I had a great time, really," they actually mean it. This means having enough food. It means making sure the band (or DJ) plays a mix of things that everyone will like. (Note: Everyone's tired of "The Girl From Ipanema." Everyone.) It means making all of your friends and relatives feel like you really are happy they're there, even though the last time you saw Aunt Ida 15 years ago, she told you that she never approved of your father marrying your mother, that whore.
In addition, try to let the Rabbi, Priest, Minister, Judge, or Elvis know that you'd like a fairly fast-paced, relatively brief ceremony. Keep in mind your guests probably haven't eaten for a while. This might sound selfish, but when it comes right down to it, you probably want to eat as much as anyone else does. This means a nice, short sermon about how perfect you and your betrothed are for each other, not a treatise on the history of marriage and how it has shaped society since the dawn of man. Oh, and make sure whomever's officiating knows how to pronounce everyone's name. It's tough to feel the sincerity in "I have known these two for a long time and I think that Tom and Carolyn - oh, sorry, Caroline - are the most perfect couple I've ever married."
3) No matter how much of a shoestring budget you're on, if you’re going to do something, do it right.
I know this sounds cliché, but it's important for the same reason as point 2. My brother recently went to a wedding where the wedding party arrived in their tuxedoes and dresses only to be informed that they had to help set up the tables and roll out the paper tablecloths, the only utensil provided to eat the 10-hour-heatlamp chicken was a plastic fork, and the groom was marrying his ex-wife’s daughter.
Actually that last point had nothing to do with what I’m saying, but it is a fact and I think we can all agree it needed to be included.
Anyway, I don't suggest you break the bank, of course, but, for example, if your cocktail hour buffet includes meat and cheese squares, make sure there are also toothpicks available. If the meal includes some sort of dead animal, splurge and include plastic knives. If you really have to have the wedding party set up the reception, make sure to warn them in advance so they can at least arrive in shorts and t-shirts, like the rest of your guests.
Basically, in my mind, wedding etiquette requires that your wedding should be as nice an occasion as you can possibly make it. My dad suggested also trying to avoid fake ice sculpture bowls of swans with chopped liver in their backs. I concur.
For those who do have the money to spend, here’s a few suggestions of things I’ve seen and really liked:
a) A vodka bar during the cocktail hour (they're very "in" these days)
b) Open bar, throughout the reception
c) Fresh chicken or steak, fish, and a vegetarian option
d) A small glass of champagne for the toast
e) More food than anyone could possibly want, especially multiple buffets during the cocktail hour (this seems to be more of a Jewish thing; not sure why)
f) Disposable cameras at every table for the guests to take pictures of each other because the wedding photographer is usually too busy being intrusive to actually take the time to care about what they’re shooting.
Of course this is just a short guideline, but I hope you get the picture. I'd also argue that you need pigs in blankets, but that's just me. I love those things.
4. Before the best man makes his toast, make sure he knows the bride's name.
And if the Maid of Honor is going to give a speech that's 50% in a foreign language, provide a translator at each table.
Sorry, Greg. And Angela, uh, Andrea.
5. I firmly believe it is admissible for the bride or groom to stop the ceremony in the middle and ask the parent with the noisy child to please step outside until it's over.
I have yet to see it done, but how cool would that be?
Yeah, yeah, I understand it's kind of a breach of etiquette, but so is remaining at the wedding if you're constantly shushing your child. Think of it this way: Which would you rather have on the videotape of the service - your cousin Mary trying to stop her son Mark from crying ("Use your inside voice, honey"), or you, kicking some holy matrimonial ass? Trust me, no one would fault you, and it would make one heck of a story for the grandkids.
Anyway, that's all I've got so far. I'm sure the older I get, the more of my friends will leave me behind, and I'll be able to come up with a whole slew of new rules. And if you think it’s unusual getting wedding advice from someone who’s about as close to getting married as he is to getting pregnant, trust me – I have a keen eye and I’m kind of a judgmental S.O.B., so I speak with authority. Tell me I’m wrong; I dare you.
A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
9.10.01 @ 8:38a
I'll have to put that on my list for the next one: "kicking some holy matrimonial ass."
And I'm sorry. I like "The Girl From Ipanema." Can't explain it. I just do.
9.10.01 @ 10:04a
Well, you must not be everyone, then.
9.10.01 @ 10:10a
Actually, the weird thing is that I don't think I'd ever heard that song at a wedding before this year, but it seems to be making a comeback. I even heard it twice at one reception.
9.10.01 @ 10:35a
codicil ... very nice
9.10.01 @ 11:04a
Thanks. I was fairly sure I used it correctly.
lee anne ramsey
9.10.01 @ 12:40p
Just got back from another east coast wedding - and let me add one to your list: if you are going to have an east coast wedding reception outside near a marshy area, there should be more than one can of bug spray for 260 people. I'm unable to type more, because I have to itch.
9.10.01 @ 3:45p
Here's my suggestion: Keep the wedding (mostly) traditional. I never understood people who radically departed from a traditional ceremony. The point of a wedding IS tradition. So if you're going to get married while skydiving, you've lost so much of the tradition, you might as well not even have a ceremony.
9.10.01 @ 5:55p
Well, there's tradition and then there's tradition. I mean, personally I would (and will, someday, God and one or two other parties willing) have bridesmaids, but a friend of mine is serving as maid/man of honor for a woman he knows. She doesn't want a maid of honor, she wants him. If an adjustment of the "standard" approach better reflects your personality, why not try it?
Within reason, naturally. Because, as Adam points out, it's your day, but it's not just yours. It's hardly fair to make the wedding party skydive along with you if they're afraid of heights.
I'm not optimistic enough to have an outdoor reception. I'm too good at imagining disaster.
9.10.01 @ 7:37p
I served as a best man once. Had to do the speech, ring and everything. It was cool. Very small, j.o.t.p. kinda thing, but still cool.
I dunno. I think the wedding is a personal decision between two people and hopefully those who attend will expect it to reflect the people marrying rather than have stereotypical wedding expectations. I'm going to a friend's son's wedding in two weeks, highlights of which include a pre-wedding bowling party, open-mic reception and post-wedding bride's side vs. groom's side softball game. From what I understand, anyone who knows the bride and groom would *never* expect "traditional." Sounds like fun to me!
It's like a funeral. If those who come to my funeral expect massive flowers, a rumbling pipe organ, an open casket and all that hoopla, they are sadly mistaken. There will be an urn and assorted pics of our life together. Next, go plant a tree somewhere for me, say a few words and be done with it
9.10.01 @ 7:46p
I guess it comes down to whether or not you view the wedding ceremony as a religious event or not. Religion is all based in doing things a certain way. Tradition. And if you veer too far from that, I think the ceremony itself loses its meaning.
Pre and post-ceremony, I'm all for bowling and softball. That's the kind of stuff that makes a wedding fun.
9.10.01 @ 7:57p
So people who are too poor to afford a wedding and go to a justice or don't belong to a church so they get married on the seashore aren't *really* serious when speaking their vows?
Nope. I disagree with the religion + tradition = wedding meaning thing. If the words are said with absolute conviction and reverance to union, that's all that matters. Pomp and circumstance does not a marriage make.
It goes back to what two people believe is right for them. Only then will the wedding have true meaning.
9.10.01 @ 8:13p
I'm not saying you have to do it in a church. I'm not saying you have to have a priest or spend a lot of money. All I'm saying is, if you're going to get married for religious reasons, then do it in a way that is consistent with religious tradition. Otherwise you lose the religious aspect that you're supposedly upholding.
If you're getting married for any reason other than a religious one, well then great, do whatever makes you happy.
Doing that doesn't make it any less of a marriage. But without the pomp and circumstance it does make it less of a religious ceremony - which to a lot of people, is the purpose of the marriage ceremony in the first place.
9.10.01 @ 8:28p
Everyone likes different degrees of pomp. And pomp in and of itself isn't the point. But there are certain things a wedding ceremony should have if, as Matt says, it's being regarded as a religious ceremony. Most weddings I've been to recently, it's about 45 minutes of religious ceremony, which includes prayers and vows and pomp as appropriate. Everything else pre- and post-ceremony is up for grabs -- a soccer game, a Red Sox game, numerous open houses and happy hours and other get-togethers -- because the point is sharing the experience with the friends and family who've come to participate.
You can have it both ways. Bungee jump at the reception if you want, but not while you're making a lifetime commitment with legal, religious, and moral weight.
lee anne ramsey
9.10.01 @ 9:18p
Ooo. You know what I hate? I hate it when you are invited to the reception but NOT the wedding. Or the wedding and NOT the reception. I mean, I know lots of people who purposely "miss" the wedding itself, but I think it's rude to say that some people are "lesser guests" who are not invited to both parts of the celebration. It's both or nothin, I think.
9.10.01 @ 10:23p
I can see where there is, by appearance, a big difference between the pomp and circumstance of a religious wedding ceremony and a spiritual but perhaps more unconventional joining of two people.
But I still do not see where a less religious ceremony could be perceived as a less spiritual and less moral union of two people. Who can honestly judge that, just because someone sky dives *during* the ceremony, the two people are not spiritual? Perhaps, in their belief, marrying in the sky as close to God they could get.
9.10.01 @ 10:31p
BTW, I had a "traditional" church wedding. Just in case you were wondering.
But *I* wanted to elope and was overruled.. :) To a seashore. At sunset. With just us, a minister, two friends as witnesses and a biiiig party afterward with the rest of our friends and family featuring boat drinks, fresh shrimp, papaya and loose Jamician waiters(esses) for our single pals. It would have been different, but still would have mattered to me as much as the more "traditional" method.
Probably more so, since I would have gotten my way. :)
9.10.01 @ 11:18p
Tracey, if you ever renew your vows, and decide on loose Jamacian waitresses this time around, I would be honored to attend.
9.11.01 @ 4:44p
Wouldn't a small wedding on a beach be unfair to all of the friends and family who would, ostensibly, want to have seen you get married?
9.11.01 @ 5:26p
Adam - naahhh. Trust me, they would have been happy to be beachside in whatever mode. We'd have played a video of the ceremony at the party. :)
Matt - If there is indeed an occasion with loose Jamacians, I'll make sure you're invited.
9.13.01 @ 12:28a
My point wasn't, by the way, that your wedding has to be traditional. Just that whatever you do, make sure it's done right. If you have a traditional ceremony and reception, make sure it goes smoothly and everyone has a good time. If you do it on surfboards, don't wipe out. That's all I'm saying.
9.13.01 @ 9:39a
Awwwwwww, you're such a mushpuppy.
9.14.01 @ 1:12a
Actually, "mushpuppy" is my middle name. (My parents are strange people.)
lee anne ramsey
9.14.01 @ 12:13p
I love that adam thinks the wedding couple can control whether or not the wedding goes smoothly and whether or not people have a good time. No one goes into any wedding or party for that matter and says "hm. Let's make sure people don't have a good time." The very nice couple whose wedding reception was "attack of the killer mosquitos" surely didn't think "ahh. screw em. they'll remember us while they're itching." They just had other details on their minds.
I love swapping wierd wedding stories, but with a few exceptions, rarely do I blame the couple. Raise my eyebrows, yes (like when the 15 minute service included saying the Our Father but no one stood up), but certainly it was made up for by the teary-eye inducing couple's first dance to a poignant song.
lee anne ramsey
9.14.01 @ 12:14p
Boy, am I sure that last sentence was NOT grammatically correct.
9.14.01 @ 12:26p
It's very difficult to figure out how to make a compound noun out of the words "teary eye inducing."
You're right, Lee Anne, no one goes into a wedding or other major social occasion thinking they'd like everyone there to be unhappy. But I guess there are guaranteed ways to make people unhappy, like plastic utensils at a formal dinner.
The thing I've had most disagreements about with friends? The idea of inviting people without dates. I went to two weddings this summer where I was invited without a date. And that was no problem. Because if you have a finite guest list, you have to choose: do you want two people you like, or one you like and one you don't know? I say invite people without dates. They'd rather come alone than not come at all.
9.14.01 @ 1:09p
I'm sorta torn on the invite with a date vs. not. I agree, as the wedding couple you'd rather invite two people you know. But I was recently invited to a wedding sans date where I didn't know anyone else but the groom. And that kinda sucks. Because of that, I didn't go. If they had let me bring a date, at least I would have had someone else to feel like an outsider with.
9.20.01 @ 10:02a
I'd just like to point out that, according to Adam's rules, my wedding was perfect. The open bar factor is key, we had an open bar throughout the reception, at the hotel through the night, and the next day at our house. But we're party people. In a related note, I was drunk 5 days before the wedding, sobered somewhat for the ceremony, then continued to remain drunk for the 2 week honeymoon. Again, party people.
9.20.01 @ 10:02a
BTW, we had a very subtly implied "no babies" policy for the ceremony. It worked like a charm and no one complained.
9.24.01 @ 2:33p
Okay, I apparently forgot to mention the "If you invite Joe, make sure you have an extra bottle of whatever he wants just for him" rule.