We're off to Chicago tomorrow for weekend number one of wedding planning. This will be the first time we're actually sitting down face to face with vendors, asking them questions and sampling their wares. If our appointments are anything like the meeting we had with the registry coordinator at Bloomingdale's, it should be interesting.
By the way, some people seem not to be getting the joke when it comes to the T-Shirts below. I received an angry email from one woman, chastising me for "tagging" women and treating them as "little more than property." Rather than offer an explanation, I emailed the woman back and politely asked her if she wore an engagement ring. I haven't heard back, so I guess she got my point.
To everyone else, thank you for your support, for reading and for your funny comments! I'll report back on Monday.
Many people emailed me directly or commented about my post on the lack of a suitable engagement token for men. With many women wielding light-catching diamond rings to signal that they are engaged, what could men use to show their soon-to-be married status?
Some suggested leveling the playing field by having women buy rings for their grooms. I'm all for equality in the wedding process, but outside of a P. Diddy video I don't know too many guys wearing a lot of bling.
Watches were the most common suggestion, perhaps because they are the only men's luxury item that can approach the cost of women's jewelry. But many men - married and single - already wear watches so I'm not sure if it's a distinct enough signal. A diamond ring says "This woman is engaged." A nice wristwatch says "This guy has a nice wristwatch."
What about a tattoo? A diamond is forever, as the ad goes, but a tattoo is permanent. Our nation's 50% divorce rate and the example set by Billy Bob and Angelina might make some wary of scarring their skin. Black ink isn't a guarantee against cold feet.
My mother suggested a reversible T-shirt that reads "I'm with her" on one side and "taken" on the other. All personal biases aside, I decided the most ridiculous suggestion was really the best. A little humor goes a long way when you're planning a wedding, so in that spirit the shirts you see on this page are available for sale.
While not reversible, they signal your engaged status with bold certainty. You can buy one for the man in your life to show the world he's spoken for. It makes a great Valentine's Day gift for grooms, husbands, partners or serious boyfriends. The women's baby doll version makes a great shower or bachelorette party gift. You could also buy one for your friends who claim to have been abducted by aliens.
Again, here's the link to buy a shirt. All profits from the first day of sales will be given to Lambda Legal to help them bring equal marriage rights to all American citizens. Thanks for your support.
One of the great Catch-22s of our wedding planning is that while we are trying to get in shape for the big day there are also countless food items to be tasted and chosen. Case in point: this weekend we're off to the Milwaukee to make some of the arrangements for the reception, most of which have to do with food.
At nine on Saturday morning we're going to a bakery to sample cakes with such non-descriptive names as Summer Shadows, Oriental Flair, Fleur de Lis, Magical Moment and Dancing Dot. I might suggest to the bakery that they change "Oriental Flair" to "Asian-American Flair" but I'm not sure the politically correct movement has extended to baked goods yet. We get two tastings: one chocolate cake with buttercream frosting and raspberry filling and one marble cake with buttercream frosting and banana cream frosting. It might seem a bit early in the day to be tasting cakes, but I remembered the old Bill Cosby routine about feeding his kids chocolate cake for breakfast ("Milk! Milk is in chocolate cake!") and felt okay.
Then it's on to the second bakery where we have a ten o'clock tasting of four samples: chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting and raspberry filling, genoise cake with chocolate buttercream frosting and custard filling, genoise cake with buttercream frosting and layers of strawberries and vanilla mousse filling, and a marble cake with buttercream frosting and buttercream filling. I'm bringing a bottle of water, a toothbrush and a family-sized container of Tums.
Then we break for lunch.
At three in the afternoon we head over to still another bakery where no choices are offered. The bakery gives us three samples from their standard offerings. Considering how much of a sugar high we'll have by then, it's probably a good thing that someone else will be making the decisions for us.
We'll have just enough time to sleep it off before meeting with the caterer the next day. Look for us at Newark airport later that night. We'll be the couple being rolled off the plane.
Friday night used to be a wedding-free zone, but with a lot of stuff to plan before we leave for the Midwest next week L seemed to have forgotten the rule. I haven't read the Torah in a while, but apparently on the seventh day God planned His wedding.*
We are determined to get the "Save the Date" cards out by mid-February and time is running short. Plan A had been for L to do them herself using Microsoft Publisher, but I was skeptical. Wouldn't a professional designer make the cards look, well, more professional? Earlier this week I emailed a graphic artist but found her services to be so expensive - over four dollars a card - that Plan B was quickly dropped.
L worked dillengently after dinner on Friday, entering and re-entering edited text. Formatting. Cutting. Pasting. When it was all done, L printed out a final sample which looked great. She looked at her handiwork and confidently declared, "I'm very proud of me." She paused and then corrected herself. "Us." Another pause. "Mus."
So brilliant in its simplicity, L had just coined the perfect word for moments when one person does all the work but in the true spirit of partnership wants to share the credit. Mus. One variant L also suggested was "mours."
My hat goes off to L for her hard work. Me're doing great.
*Or Her wedding, as L pointed out.
L and I had our first big fight related to the wedding two nights ago. Considering we're about five months into our engagement that's not bad. Things are fine now, although there are still a few ruffled shirt collars that need to be ironed out before I go public with the details. The experience did, however, allow me to come up with the following rule, which I call PlanetGordon's Rule of Inverse Proportions as Related to Weddings and Planning:
The smaller the detail, the larger the potential conflict.
We've had a steady stream of friends and family staying with us in our apartment in Brooklyn since shortly before New Year's. We love them all but are happy that our most recent guest, an old friend of L's who traded sunny days and blue skies in LA for frostbite and icy sidewalks in New York, just left. It's not that we didn't enjoy her visit, it's simply that after a month of people sleeping on our sofabed we're ready to reclaim the apartment for ourselves.
One of the reasons I initially fell in love with L was because we never lacked for topics of discussion. She's a smart woman and we always have interesting conversations. But these days our talks typically turn to our wedding. And there's nothing like having other people around to make you notice how much wedding stuff creeps into your conversations no matter where you are or what you are doing.
We finally saw Lost in Translation on Friday, and in our debriefing following the movie we discussed how interesting it might be to go to Tokyo while on the other side of the world for our potential honeymoon in New Zealand. (an idea itself inspired by multiple viewings of Return of the King) Going out for dessert can include a quick discussion of what flavor wedding cake we want. Even the simple act of opening our mailbox downstairs has changed, as each envelope can be a sample for something we might want to use for our invitations.
Considering she had just ended a long relationship, our guest this weekend was a good sport about the high level of wedding talk and we were sensitive to her circumstances. We're also not really that obnoxious when wedding stuff does come up. But wedding talk is sometimes unavoidable; we are planning an event bigger than anything we've ever planned before in our lives and it involves most of the people we speak to on a regular basis. So thanks to M for putting up with us and playing along this weekend. You're welcome to come stay with us anytime. But we'll understand if you wait until after the you-know-what.
For further proof that the wedding industry views men as complete morons, I present you with this email from your friends at WeddingChannel.com:
What to do and when to do it
Buying the ring she'll love.
Tips on finding the ring of her dreams.
Learn about credit.
(6-12 months ahead)
Discover how to make your credit work for you in the future.
Prepare to pack.
(3-6 months ahead)
Learn about luggage, then find it in our shopping section.
Select your vows.
(0-3 months ahead)
Find the vows that are right for you.
I'm a fairly organized person and typically complete tasks on or before schedule. But do I really need three to six months to pack? More specifically, do I need the better part of a year to psych myself up for packing?
And since when is a basic knowlege of luggage a requirement for even visiting a website? Remember: first you have to learn about luggage and then - and only then - can you visit the online shopping section. Sorry, guys. Don't know the difference between a tote and an overnight bag? WeddingChannel.com doesn't want your kind.
It's so cold here in New York that the thermometer outside my window now gives the temperature in degrees Kelvin. With an arctic chill hanging over the Northeast, L and I booked airplane tickets for travel at the end of this month. And where are we going? Chicago and Milwaukee for round one of our wedding planning. We'll be meeting a caterer, florist, two cake bakers and L will be meeting with a potential hairstylist. Nothing like trotting around the midwest in the dead of winter. But what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. When we come back to New York, it will probably seem like we're in the tropics.
Were it not for the fact that all the women there were engaged to be married, the Great Bridal Expo, held on Tuesday night at the Marriot Marquis Hotel, would have been a fantastic place for a guy to meet chicks. In a gathering unparalleled in the wedding world, women from all over the Tri-State area descended upon Times Square to see the latest in wedding wares and services. I was there, however, in the name of science. Because of this website, some things cross my radar screen that I wouldn't have noticed otherwise. When I heard about the GBE, I asked myself a question. Could a guy, unaccompanied by his fiancée - L was busy at a meeting - survive a bridal convention?
I was relieved when I walked through the revolving doors of the Marquis shortly before five thirty. I was out of the cold, but unaware of the mob scene I was about to enter. At the top of four flights of escalators, I was confronted with a line that probably rivaled the 1955 opening of Disneyland. Instead of a sign telling people how tall they had to be to ride the Great Bridal Expo, posters comforted those intimidated by the line's length that it would move quickly once the doors at its end were open. But the doors were open and still the line crept at a snail's pace.
I was not surprised to find few men waiting. The GBE's organizers apparently weren't either as only women were instructed by staffers to fill out survey sheets and raffle tickets. Are men's opinions not interesting and aren't we worthy of an all expense-paid trip to the Caribbean? What men were there were holding jackets and bags for their fiancées in preparation for the inevitable swag haul waiting inside.
As I rounded one length of the enclosed corral, a woman handed me a pack of Ferrero Rocher chocolates. And it was a good thing, too. If the wait had been any longer they would have had to hand out glucose injections.
A woman who held two rolls of stickers asked each person who rounded the next bend "Bride or groom?" As I have never been mistaken for a woman, her question left me perplexed about her thought process. "Um, I'm not sure if this guy is a bride or a groom so I'll just play it safe and ask him." Since there was the slight - okay, atomically miniscule - chance that I was just some random guy who enjoys checking out bridal conventions even though he's not engaged, It seems the better question would have been, "Are you a groom?" But with hundreds of people in line and a long night ahead of her, this woman reduced her question to two choices: bride or groom?
"Groom" I said decisively and received a sticker with that read "VIG." Very Important Groom. Women were given VIB stickers. With the exception of the occasional mom, sister or friend, virtually everyone in line was a bride or a groom, so the stickers seemed a little unnecessary, like having every student in pre-school wear a T-shirt that says "Kid" to make them more easy to identify as, in fact, children.
But if there was ever a place where one's status as a bride- or groom-to-be was viewed as a commodity, it was at the GBE. When I related this experience later to my friend Mike, a web designer and all around tech guy, he told me that it's a common philosophy in User Interface Development that when everything on a web page is rendered in bold type, nothing stands out. And there we were. A lobby full of bold type.
But up ahead a few people were whisked to the front of the line by GBE staffers. Who were these people? Didn't they see my sticker? I was a Very Important Groom! Were these people VVIB or EVIGs (Extra Very Important Grooms)? I consoled myself with the explanation that, like people at the airport who have only five minutes to get to their gate and are sent to the front of the check-in counter, perhaps their weddings were scheduled for this weekend and they hadn't yet booked a band.
Twenty-five minutes after getting in line, I made it to the ticket table. "One please," I said to a heavily eye-shadowed young woman and gave her a ten dollar bill. She eyed me suspiciously as if the very idea of a guy coming alone was entirely alien to her. She handed me my change - one dollar - and motioned to the doors across from her table. "Enter right over there," she said.
The set-up inside probably belied the true size of the function room, and the elaborately decorated booths and low ceilings gave me an instant sense of claustrophobia, as if being crammed into tightly woven TensaBarriers hadn't already made me a tad unnerved.
A barrage of giveaways began immediately with magazine representatives handing out copies as fast as they could. Samples of chocolate truffle cake were passed from one area. Everywhere you turned people were giving things away. Keychains. Bookmarks. Water bottles. Coupons. Brochures. Videos. No trinket was considered too inconsequential to be left behind by the throngs of brides who assembled at each booth. If I had a pile of old mismatched socks I wanted to unload, all I would have needed was a banner that said "Free" and a table at the Great Bridal Expo.
Most of the swag was junk and the coupons were more or less worthless. If a company is selling you a wedding cake for one thousand dollars, it doesn't suddenly become a great deal if they throw in a free groom's cake. There were a few raffles and contests, but most involved filling out surveys and providing more information than even John Aschcroft could find out about me. I filled out one and sure enough received six emails in my inbox this morning with offers for everything from a white dove-release at the end of our ceremony to "innovative" silk and plastic flower designs for the reception.
The room was full of brides, but it was also full of salespeople as I was quickly reminded. Although I use this website to dispel certain stereotypes about grooms, I resorted to an old one to get out of a conversation with a close-talking saleswoman who wanted to know everything about my registry. "Well, the registry really isn't up to me," I said to her. "You know how it is." She left me to talk to a woman who had a serious question about anondized aluminum.
As time wore on the room continued to get crowded. It was impossible not to bump into someone, especially when everyone was carrying at least two bags of goodies. Note to thieves: head to the largest assembly of engaged women you can find. Distract them with gift bags and free pieces of cake and you can make off with their wallets.
I'm not sure if I surveyed the entire room but I counted only three booths staffed exclusively by men. One was for a tuxedo rental company, Men's Wearhouse, whose employees modeled some of the tuxedos they offer. But wearing a tux when no one else around you is formally dressed doesn't make you look good, especially when you are passing out free bags. It makes you look like a butler.
Another booth was Surviving-A-Wedding.com (website up next month). From afar I thought this could be interesting but on closer inspection was disappointed to learn that this was just a dance studio. If you think of your wedding as something to survive, then you need more than dance lessons. They gave out the only thing I took home, a "Things To Do" magnetic notepad. L and I, after all, have a lot To Do.
One more booth was tucked at the end of an aisle further away from the main entrance. It may have been staffed by men, but what they were offering wasn't for men. One of the men, with his shirt off and abs more sculpted than an action-figure's, handed out flyers for a male strip revue. Another man at the booth was dressed all in white. I didn't stay long enough to see if he was supposed to be a naval officer or a doctor.
I was getting tired and so were some of the people around me. Polite exchanges after bumping into someone were slowly turning into minor threats. Hearing "I'm sorry" as a simple statement of fact is a lot less menacing than when someone throws it at you as a question. "I'm sorry? You bumped into me?"
The other men were tired, too, shuffling around like zombies. The bags were getting heavier and their backs were getting sore, especially when so many were used as a hard surface on which to fill out contest entries.
It was almost time for the fashion show, but I didn't need to see models sashaying down the runway in gowns and tuxes. I overheard one man say to a woman, "I'm not interested in the fashion show." She responded "But it will be fun." Perhaps the scientific question isn't whether a man can survive a bridal convention by himself but whether or not he can survive it with his fiancée?
I left the GBE's main room and headed for the down escalator. Hundreds of people still waited to get in, and more men accompanied their brides. It was almost seven o'clock and more people were probably done with work.
I took my bag and, seeing nothing worth taking home to L, left it by a garbage can near the escalator on my way out of the hotel.
After being in such a confined space I had almost forgotten how cold it was outside. But it was refreshing to be hit by that blast of cold air and I walked down Broadway, marvelling at the neon-lit space above me. Only a roomful of agitated brides could make Times Square seem like a peaceful oasis.
I was barely one block away when I was handed one last card by a distributor, an older woman who was bundled tightly against the cold with an orange vest that read "Legz Diamond." I didn't read the card until later, when I slipped it out of my pocket. At least they were offering free admission.
I've assembled a great team of groomsmen, made mostly of old college friends. My sister will be standing on my side with the honorary title of "Best Sister" (relax, I only have one sibling) and I will also be joined by L's brother-in-law. With such a diverse group, the matter of finding appropriate gifts will be a challenge.
After a little bit of searching, here's one thing I definitely won't be buying:
I saw this for sale on Ebay and what entertained me the most was not the picture, but rather the description of the hat:
Just the thing to walk down the aisle in if you're not the other hat kind of guy!
What kind of "Other Hat Kind of Guys" are there? Top hat guys? Do grooms even wear top hats anymore? So what kind of hat is this person talking about? Berets? Trucker hats? Apparently in this seller's world going hatless to your wedding is not an option.
I can only imagine wearing this down the aisle in front of L's entire family. Nothing tells your future in-laws you're the perfect guy like a tux hat!
When you were little and your mom made cupcakes for you to bring in to class on your birthday, you might have complained about giving one to the kid nobody likes. But you were five, it was kindergarten, and the ingredients to make the cupcakes didn't cost more than five or six bucks. And expenses aside, didn't your mom tell you to be kind and give one to everyone in the class no matter what?
But with the ingredients that go in to planning a wedding costing a lot more than four sticks of butter, sugar and rainbow sprinkles, kindness becomes less of a factor. L feels - and I agree - that her parents shouldn't have to pay for people we're not that close with or people with whom we're not likely to stay close after the wedding. But I also have a more self-depricating take on the matter. I don't want anyone who isn't that close with me feeling obligated to come or even feel awkward when they tell me they can't. When you're not really close with someone, receiving a wedding invitation in the mail is about as exciting a prospect as opening your mailbox and finding a jury duty summons. Whether it's a wedding or your civic duty, you'll probably have to miss work, hang around with people you don't know, and eat a meal not to your liking. At least with jury duty, if you serve once you won't get called for another jury for the following two years.
L and I have been going through our own bit of Voir Dire right now, making our final invite list. We've been collecting addresses, emailing people to find out where they've moved and entering them in my handy Excel spreadsheet. In doing this I've realized that one of the disadvantages of communicating via email and cell phone - not to mention living in a city where it is often more convenient to meet at a local bar or coffee shop than in someone's tiny apartment - is that I no longer know exactly where some of my friends live. Area code 347? Where the hell is that?
Each couple involved in the planning - me and L, her parents, my parents - has been allotted a number of people to invite. We didn't necessarily want a huge wedding, but things have started to work out that way. Between the six of us the guest list now tops two hundred people. We've looked at our part again and again and asked ourselves if there is a way to trim it down. Nope. We're just that popular.
People who marry in their early twenties probablly have it easier. Couples that young generally have fewer friends who are married or in long-term relationships and therefore don't get to bring the person who seems to get invited to every wedding, "And Guest." (Mr. Guest probably is sick of buying the same toaster over and over again) Six or seven years ago L and I might have had no more than thirty or 40 people to invite. But now that many of our friends are either married or in long-term serious relationships, our part of the list is up to over eighty people. We're grateful for so many good friends, but overwhelmed by how quickly the list expanded to its present size.
We worked on the save the date card late this afternoon. And by that I mean we went to The Lemon, a restaurant on Park Avenue South for a few drinks, a snack and $21 worth of pictures in one of the only instant photo booths we know of in the city. At the risk of ruining the effect for those actually receiving a card from us I won't go into further detail. (Those of you in the thick of wedding planning or who have ever designed your own cards before might know what I'm talking about)
All I'll say is that every element of wedding planning should feature a gin and tonic, a vodka tonic and a chicken and avocado wrap with a side of fries.
For a list of places where you can have your photo taken in an old-fashioned photo booth, try this site: The Photo Booth List.
Speaking of rings, there has been a lot of publicity recently about "right-hand rings." It seems single women these days aren't waiting for men to come into their lives with an engagement ring and have taken to buying special diamond rings to wear on their right hands.
Treating yourself to something special is a great idea, but what makes a ring a "right-hand ring"? Marketers would have single women believe there are special designs, jewel arrangements and engravings that give these rings special significance. Baloney. Isn't any ring a "right-hand ring" once you put it on your right hand? Can't a bracelet become and anklet when worn on the ankle? (Then again, putting my pants on my head doesn't necessarily make them a hat, as L and the local police keep reminding me.)
Some women are now convincing themselves they need a right-hand ring when with a little creativity and less money they could buy just about any type of ring and - follow me closely here - put them on their right hands.
Ladies, you are being manipulated. I know what you might be thinking: "But so are the women who pine for "left-hand" engagement rings and the men who spend months of their salary to buy them." I would agree with you and I've made it clear on this site that I think the wedding industry preys on the fears of engaged couples in general and women specifically. But you are being manipulated nonetheless.
A recent New York Times article explains that the jump in "right-hand ring" sales is all part of a marketing ploy concocted by the diamond industry to respond to a dip in diamond sales overall. Noticing a lucrative market - the growing class of successful and financially stable single women - companies like DeBeers saw their customers like Harold Hill saw the citizens of River City, Iowa. They even came up with an empowering ad campaign:
Here's a question: what happens if you wear a right hand ring on your left hand? Do the ring boxes come with instructions on the back? "Warning! For Use With Right Hands Only!"
But I digress. If you want to go out and buy a present for yourself, fine. Everyone does that once in a while. And if you want that present to be an expensive diamond ring, why not? No one needs a man to own a diamond. But don't buy into the hype. Remember: a kid with a sign that says "gourmet lemon-enhanced sweetened beverages" is still selling lemonade. He just might be able to charge a little more than ten cents a cup.
When L and I were dating we used to joke about her "dropping the boyfriend bomb" with the precision of a Tomahawk missile in the caves of Tora Bora. If she was at a party and found herself being hit on a guy, she'd artfully work the fact that she was in a relationship into the conversation: "Oh, that's very interesting! My boyfriend and I were talking about the same thing last night."
Dropping the B-Bomb (or G-Bomb, depending on your gender or orientation) is a good strategy for diffusing potentially awkward situations. It's certainly more humble than directly stating "I'm seeing someone," and potentially less embarassing in cases where you misread someone's intentions.
Let's say someone compliments you by noting "That's a nice sweater" and you're not sure if it's an honest-to-goodness compliment or an ice breaker with ulterior motives. Which of these responses works best?
A. "Thanks. I'm dating someone."
B. "Thanks. My boyfriend bought it for me."
Pencils down? Good. If you chose B, you are an artful bomb dropper and should feel no qualms about adding it to your arsenal. As L is far more attractive than I am handsome, she had to deploy many such bombs. My cache was hardly used and is currently free for inspection by the United Nations.
But now that we are engaged, L has the ultimate WMD: the ring. With a flick of the wrist or a quick run of her fingers through her hair, L can send a message stronger than the Bat Signal: "Move along, single guys. There's nothing to see here."
But what do engaged men have? What does it say about the institution of marriage that we still "tag" women with a physical object to show that they are engaged?
I was in a store recently when a clerk, a young woman in her twenties, forgot to hand me my purchase after ringing it up and was about to walk away from the register. "Excuse me," I said politely, "Could I have the thing I just paid for?" She laughed and said, "For a cute and funny guy like you? I guess so. Here you go." Depending on the light and one's eyeglasses prescription, I can be mildly attractive, but I left feeling bad for this woman. I believe we only have a certain amount of hit-on effort in our bodies and she had wasted some of that effort on me. It wasn't that I would ever be tempted to cheat, it's simply that I wanted to provide some sort of public service.
I told L about this when I got home and we laughed trying to think of ways to balance the scales a little bit. Could men be given a temporary tattoo, set to wash off depending on the length of the engagement? Nah, too messy and it carries bad WWII associations. How about a special colored shirt? Nope, too prison-like. How about a hat? Wouldn't work. People are suspcious of guys who wear hats all the time. What are they trying to hide? (Ron Howard, we all know you are bald)
We didn't settle on anything and have had fun coming up with other suggestions. Any thoughts?
With the exception of Vermont, Hawaii and, coming soon, Massachusetts, homosexuals in loving and committed relationships don't have a legal right to get married. But if you're a marginally-talented, navel-baring pop chanteuse, you can tie the knot at a Las Vegas wedding chapel at 5:30 in the morning and move to have the whole thing annulled later that day.
Britney Spears rang in 2004 doing her part to preserve the sanctity of marriage, saying "I do" to a childhood friend who she's, like, really close with. The bride wore torn jeans and a baseball cap - hopefully not one of those horrible Von Dutch trucker hats - and was escorted down the aisle by her limo driver.
The wedding was not announced in the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times.
In the four months since our engagement, L has assembled a collection of wedding magazines which now occupies a significant portion of real estate on the floor of our living room. I've written before about how ridiculous most of these magazines seem to guys. Well, one arrived in the mail recently to confirm that opinion. In over 250 pages, only two are devoted to grooms. And the subject is tuxes, natch.
Here's a copy of the magazine as it arrived at our apartment:
The magazine is about as thick as the coffee table on which it rests (and weighs only a little less).
Here are the two pages devoted to grooms, stacked neatly together:
This is hardly enough paper for making an origami swan.
Now, here is the same magazine with the pages devoted to grooms torn out: