The Book Club

Too Much Information

Dear Debra,

We did not hire a wedding coordinator. I’d seen them in action before and they scared me, the way they ordered people around like camp counselors, clipboard in hand, turning the whole night into exactly what we did not want our wedding to become: a highly-choreographed event. We wanted our wedding to be a memorable party, with our closest friends and relatives. We wanted it to feel relaxed and to have the opportunity to talk to people and to hang out. It was a sunny, crisp autumn day, so we walked–all 140 of us–from the Unitarian Church where we were married to the reception site five blocks away. I doubt a wedding coordinator would stand for something like that. My feeling on coordinators is, unless you work 100 hours a week or have absolutely no interest in tending to the details of your own wedding, do it yourself.

Let’s say you plan every facet of your wedding, though, and use The Knot’s Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World along the way. As soon as the words “I do” have passed your lips, throw the book away. Do not subject yourself to the “Back to the Future” chapter devoted to post-wedding life. Or, maybe keep it around for when you’re depressed and in need of a good laugh. I really can’t believe that this stuff is meant to be serious. I apologize if it seems like I’m hammering on the “ecologically sensitive” portion of the population, but I found one item in the “Two Becoming One” (isn’t that the title of a Mariah Carey song?) section on learning to incorporate your in-laws into your own happy family particularly amusing. “Celebrate your new, improved status by creating your own unique family traditions,” the guide suggests. “Host an annual Earth Day brunch for your extended family, where you serve tasty organic dishes and gather donations to an environmental charity.” Here’s a follow-up experiment: Start the tradition this year, and see how many people come back for your Second Annual (Checks Made Payable to Save the Whales) Brunch.

Another of my favorite head-scratchers is the sidebar on “The Big Elopement Night,” a list of seven possible activities for post-elopement entertainment. Among the recommendations: “Tell all of your friends that you’re leaving town and hole yourself up in your apartment for the week. Unplug the phone and don’t check your email.” Do this and then see which one of you makes it out of the apartment alive. Why don’t they just include sections on “How To Get Excited for Your Wedding Day,” and “How To Shed a Tear at the Altar if You Don’t Think You’re Going To Cry Naturally”? How much help do people really think we need?

All this is to say that if you’ve ever been to a wedding, if you have the slightest inkling of what you want your wedding to look and feel like, and if you have even a thimbleful of common sense, you probably don’t need a step-by-step-by-step-by-step book like this. It’s unwieldy. It’s distracting. And, unless you’re canvassing for “fun” shower themes like “High School Sleepover: Girls only, boys are icky!” you can get by with much, much less. The Knot’s Wedding Planner, for instance, should suffice. Debra, although you and Scott never used one of those planner-type books, it sounds like we approached the whole wedding thing about the same way: Get an idea of when you need to get the big things–booking the reception and ceremony sites, bands, flowers, and invites–done, and then figure out how you can do them the way you want, what you need to do to make them your own. It’s not that hard. Take readings at your ceremony, for example. You could, of course, consult The Knot’s Complete Guide’s list of “Where To Find Great Readings,” but why? Pick something personal, something you’ve always liked. And if you’ve never read anything you like, don’t have a reading. Jenny and I chose an obscure Wallace Stevens poem for the main reading in our ceremony. We’d always loved it, and figured our wedding was as good a place as any to hear it read aloud to us in front of our closest friends.

Regrets, I have a few. For one, I wish Jenny and I had given a toast at the reception, to thank everyone for coming, and to tell them how much it meant to have them there. We had meant to do it, but somehow it never happened, and that was a mistake. After toasts are made in your honor, stand up and thank people for the kind words and for coming to celebrate with you. Two, I wish I had written some things down in a journal immediately after the wedding, so the night wouldn’t feel quite so far away when I think about it now. And three, I wish we’d selected a photographer that had not charged us so much goddamn money. Shop around, and find out exactly how much those albums are going to cost you when all is said and done. We got killed on the album.

It sounds obvious, but someone told me before I got married that her one regret was that she hadn’t taken a moment during her wedding to look around and appreciate what she and her new husband had created. To watch everyone having fun, talking and laughing, gorging on shrimp, snapping pictures, swilling beers, telling you what a great time they’re having (even if they aren’t), and raising a glass to our health and happiness. So I did, more than once. It turned out to be the best piece of wedding advice I ever got, and I didn’t read it in a book. (Yes, even better than this nugget of wisdom I mined from the pages of The Knot’s Complete Guide: “Never underestimate the power of cuddling.”) So soak it up. Appreciate it. You’ll have those memories for the rest of your life.

Hey Debra, how the hell did we end up so warm and fuzzy?