Four years ago, in anticipation of what would likely be a number of weddings I would have to attend as I grew older, I purchased a tux. Out of town weddings often make renting less sensible than simply owning formal wear and over the years I've gotten a lot of use out of my Syms shawl-collar tux. My monkey suit is starting to show its age and since I wore it to the biggest day of other people's lives, doesn't it stand to reason that I should get a new tuxedo for the biggest day of mine?
While I haven't made up my mind on what kind of tux to buy, I have been interested in getting a real bow tie for some upcoming weddings. No clip-on business for me, although I hear tying the real thing is as hard for some men as programming a VCR is for my parents.
Amazingly, it's not that easy to find real bow ties anymore, even in shops that specialize in menswear. The Syms in downtown Manhattan was in such disarray that it was hard enough to find the ceiling, much less a tiny bowtie. A trip to Brooks Brothers was fruitless due to some shabby customer service. Despite walking into an empty store recently, it was next to impossible to get anyone to help me. Perhaps the way I was dressed - jeans and a fleece jacket - didn't suggest I was in the market for a bespoke suit, but then again who wears a suit in order to go shopping for one? Even during my recent trip to London, a stroll through Harrod's only yielded combination auto-adjust/tie-it-youself ties. Where can one go to find a real classic?
As is usually the case, my quest for an answer took me to the Internet. Bowties.com is a good place to start, but only to find stores near you that carry the real deal. That seems good enough for now, as I still have some time to figure out exactly what it is I - and my groomsmen - will be wearing.
My surfing took me to a number of sites offering step-by-step guidance on how to tie a bow tie. Perhaps the most clever was Heart & Sew the online presence of a Kennebunk, Maine seamstress. Her directions are posted with the type backwards so that when you print them out you can fold the paper over your shirt pocket and read them in the mirror as you go. There are still some kinks to this - formalwear shirts typically do not have pockets - but is the Nobel committee aware of her method? Brilliant.
Thankfully, L already has her dress. She's wearing her mother's wedding dress which was also worn by her sister.
But if she didn't have a dress, I'd point L to this guy's auction on eBay.
It's worth checking out for the pictures and the hilarious "description" written by a jilted groom. As of this posting, the dress has been bid up to $15,100, which is a good return on a $1,200 investment. (That is, of course, if the winning bidder follows though with payment.)
Thanks to Jordan for pointing this out. Enjoy.
It seems that even metrosexuality has its limits. Case in point: L found out yesterday that she won a free facial for her and a friend after filling out a small form at our dry cleaners. She got a phone call from a Mary Kay representative informing her of the news. Having rarely won more than a free sandwich after buying eight at Subway, L was excited and quickly wondered which of her friends she'd bring along for the facial. Later that night she called out from the kitchen.
"Sweetheart?" she said.
"Yes," I replied.
"Do you want to get the facial?"
I laughed for a second and then called back, "Uh, no thanks."
"Why not?" L asked.
I admit that I could not articulate a good answer, but did I really need to? It's one thing to pamper myself at the clubby John Allan's and buy products with such macho-sounding names as Jack Black or the purposely ambiguous Zirh, but Mary Kay? That's where I draw the line.
Apparently my role in exposing the ridiculousness of some wedding trends is starting to rub off on my family. My mother recently gave me a copy of an ad for Alpha Omega watches she tore from Boston Magazine.
The ad shows a couple embracing, apparently in bed. The man is shirtless and the woman's bra straps peek out from one side of the photo. The photo is a little blurry, perhaps to suggest that we've caught this couple in the throes of passion, but one thing is caught in sharp focus: the fancy watch on the man's left wrist. The ad copy reads, "Her Left Hand. His Left Wrist. The Men's Engagement Watch."
When she handed me the magazine page, my mother noted how ridiculous the whole idea seems. "How can you tell it's an engagement watch?" she asked.
Good question, Mom. It's one thing to promote an engagement watch that women can buy for their husbands-to-be, but why does Alpha Omega also dictate on what wrist it should be worn?
Don't right-handed people, regardless of marital status, wear watches on their left wrists? And what if you normally wear a watch on your right hand and your fiancee buys you an engagement watch? Are you then forced to wear the watch on your left hand until you can switch it out for a wedding ring even though the watch would interfere with writing and other left-handed activities?
The only way I could see a "left hand" watch sending a clear signal of one's engaged status is if it comes with a platinum chain to attach to your fiancee's engagement ring. Or perhaps it does not tell time but in fact only counts down the hours until the wedding day.
"Excuse me, but do you know the time?"
"No, but there are only 2959 hours, 35 minutes until my wedding day and that's on August 29th, so you do the math."
INT. D AND L'S APARTMENT - DAY
L sits on the couch reading the Styles Section of the New York Times. D sits at his desk, doing whatever it is that he spends so much time on on the computer.
L: I'm going to send us in.
L: To the New York Times.
L: Because I want to.
L: I just do.
L: I don't know why. I just do.
L: Because I want to send it in and I want people to see my name in the New York Times.
My cold came on full force yesterday in, of all places, Philadelphia. L and I took the train down there yesterday to catch up with P and S, both of whom L has known since rabbinical school. P will be one of the two rabbis under the chuppah this summer (well, three if you count L) and at least a few more will be invited guests. If anyone is thinking of having a spiritual crisis, the weekend of August 27th in Oconomowoc, WI would be a good weekend to do it.
It's probably unusal for the bride and groom to get marriage counseling from a rabbi who is such a good friend. It's also probably unusual to talk to the rabbi while the groom wolfs down a greasy cheesesteak from Geno's. L and P saved their appetites for vegetarian cheesesteaks - or cheesefakes, as I dubbed them - but I couldn't let a trip to the city of brotherly love pass without stopping at the legendary sandwich joint. Not surprisingly, some of our discussion with Rabbi P centered on keeping kosher.
After lunch, I sniffled my way around South Street, Center City and some of Philly's other sights, slowly getting sicker and sicker. Had we stopped at the art museum to reenact the famous scene from Rocky, I doubt I would have made it up three stairs.
I rarely get sick - maybe one cold a year - so I make up for the infrequency by acting like as big a baby as possible when I do. Rabbi P observed during our meeting yesterday that L and I take good care of each other, and L definitely lived up to her part of our reputation yesterday. She was a real trooper, not complaining once and doing her best to comfort me on the long train ride back last night. Maybe it was the cheesesteak, maybe it was the cold medication, but hit the bed hard last night and didn't wake up until nearly noon today.
In my wrap of my London trip, how could I have forgotten to mention my meeting with the publisher and managing director of Stag & Groom, Chris Hanage? He and I had gotten in touch not long after he left a comment on my past entry about the men's wedding magazine.
I met Chris at his office not far from the Old Street Tube stop and introduced myself to some of the S&G crew. Chris was nice enough to take time from an incredibly busy day - they were about to go to press on issue number two - to take me out for coffee. Starbucks has not stretched its tentacles into the neighborhood yet so Chris and I sat and talked at, of all places, the Manhattan Coffee Company.
In the days prior to my meeting with Chris, I had looked for a copy at a number of newsstands around the city and was unable to find one. Optimistically, I took this as a sign of Stag & Groom's success, but more practically I wondered if newsstands would even carry such a rag. Where does it get shelved? In the bridal section or with the men's lifestyle magazines?
It seems I should have been more optimistic. Stag & Groom has been a runaway hit since the magazine's release in February. Chris was astounded at the press coverage it's received and, with a fresh turnover of new grooms every season, felt confident the magazine could continue to sell copies.
Stag & Groom looks very much like other magazines targeted at men such as Esquire, Men's Health or even Maxim. Yet no scantily clad women or nearly nude celebrities grace its pages. Chris said they worked hard to find the right balance between entertaining men and keeping respect for brides and the wedding ceremony. After reading the copy Chris gave me on the plane, it seems they've succeeded.
No word on whether Stag & Groom will expand across the pond - a new name would have to be worked out for U.S. audiences - but it's not out of the question given the growing influence - not to mention purchasing power - of men in the wedding industry.
I've received a lot of email lately from grooms, some offering compliments, some sharing similar experiences and some asking questions about planning. In the spirit of my gig as an advice columnist I'll answer some of those questions as they come in, in a new feature I'm calling, appropriately, "Dear Groom."
I'll start it off with an easy one.
What happened to your zit?
Ah, yes. The zit. Or "spot," as the British say. It's not suprising that a fellow groom would be concerned about skin problems. On the big day, no one wants to stand in front of relatives they haven't seen since they were a teenager looking like a teenager.
I was recently turned on to a line of men's skin care products called Zirh. L tells me I have a touch of the metrosexual in me - not that there's anything wrong with that - and I'm always game for trying new "product," as the Queer Eye guys might say.
So when I headed to London with a budding blemish, I applied copious amounts of Zirh's Fix, a lotion containing salicylic acid and other ingredients for fighting acne. I wondered what the people next to me on the plane thought as every hour I pulled the small blue and grey tube out of my carry-on bag and rubbed the lotion onto my forehead.
The product info claims that it is less drying that similar products, but my being on an airplane didn't give me much of a chance to test that claim. I fought off dehydration by downing the biggest bottle of water I could find at an airport store and then asking the flight attendants for refills during the flight. They obliged, but the gentleman sitting next to me was not so happy with the many times I had to climb over him to go to the bathroom.
In addition to becoming a human a sponge, I also used another Zirh product, Protect, which countered the drying affect of the air on the plane. So maybe it was the water, maybe it was the lotion, or maybe it was a combination of both, but by the time my flight landed at Heathrow, I sailed through customs zit-free.
For as much as I used during the flight, I still have a bit of Fix left. Since it worked better than anything I've seen since I was in junior high school, I will save it for the inevitable stress zit that will accompany my nervousness the week of the wedding.
I went to London and all I got was a lousy cold.
Somewhere over Iceland on my way back last night, I started to get a sore throat, runny nose and headache. Sleeping less than ten hours in three days will do that to a guy.
I shared a room with my parents which was a good idea in terms of saving money, but not in terms of getting rest. My father claims that he does not snore and, if we were only counting waking hours I would agree with him. I'm a light sleeper to begin with so I can't blame someone else's snoring for keeping me up. But even my earplugs, strong enough to block out the sound of a screeching subway, were no match for the nightime sounds of my dad. Still, I was excited to be in London and wouldn't let a little thing like exhaustion prevent me from making the most of my weekend there.
Our first two days were spent as real tourists and the beautiful weather allowed us to see most of the major sights: Buckingham Palace, the changing of the guard, St. James Park, Hyde Park, the British Museum, Harrods, the Tate Modern and Starbucks. Yes, that's right, Starbucks. Even this New Yorker couldn't believe how many locations the coffee giant had throughout London. As if the streets in the city aren't confusing enough, now even all the storefronts have the same green and white logo.
But what about the wedding? It was an exquisite affair, held in the historic St. Bride's church. The site (although not necessarily the actual building) has seen every major event in London's history, including the great plague and the 1666 Great Fire. The church was bombed in 1940 by the Luftwaffe and later rededicated by Queen Elizabeth after an extensive renovation. There's nothing even comparable that I can imagine in America, although when I was a kid I thought it was cool when my temple put up a basketball hoop in the parking lot.
After the service, guests were driven in double-decker buses to The Banqueting House, a building perhaps as historic as any in London. We ate and drank under ceilings painted by Rubens in a room that was, until the reign of James II, part of the main residence of the monarchy. It was not without a hint of irony that we danced to American pop songs only a few steps away from where Charles I was beheaded.
I was finally able to sleep on Sunday night when, after one hour of trying to sleep through the snoring, I tore the comforter off the bed, grabbed two pillows and made a nest for myself between the toilet and sink in the bathroom. There's nothing like the cool, hard feel of marble floors and the steady drip of a shower nozzle to lull you right to sleep. Except for the three times I was woken up and kicked out of the bathroom when my mom needed to use the loo, I slept quite comfortably.
But I'm back now, happy to see L and wishing she could have been there with me to experience the city. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to sleep until Thursday.
The rain has finally stopped here in New York and the sun is poking through the clouds. It looks like spring is finally coming to stay which means only one thing: wedding season is also here. L and I have received invitations to no less than five weddings for this spring and summer with more probably on the way.
I'm kicking off wedding season in style, with a trip to the UK this weekend. A family friend is tying the knot on Saturday, so I'm leaving a still-damp New York City for a notoriously dreary London. Amazingly, however, the weather could be nicer in London this weekend than it has been here. (Unfortunately, L is staying behind due to some work commitments.)
On another note, I returned home this morning from some last minute errands, caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and noticed a zit coming on strong in the middle of my forehead. Uh-oh. Using some sort of acne-related Saffir-Simpson scale, I'd say it's currently a category one, meaning there's still a chance it will go away before I touch down at Heathrow. Then again, it could grow to what I call third eye size, meaning it will be tough to hide behind a lock of hair. The better to see London with, I guess.
I'll be back on Tuesday with a full report. While I'm gone, feel free to browse the archives to catch up on everything do date. I know there are some new readers out there. Welcome!
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Citizens of Reno:
On behalf of me, please accept my sincere regret that any of you misunderstood my recent joke in which your fair city was used as a punchline. I meant not to defame "The Biggest Little City in the World." Instead, I sought to illustrate L's frustration with my newfound obsession with Las Vegas, card games and gambling in general. I have read the angry emails and apologize for any confusion. I'm sure Reno is a fun and exciting place and would gladly accept any free plane tickets or complimentary hotel accommodations sent to my home.
Now if you'll excuse me, I want to get back to reading my new book.
For more on Reno, click here.
L came home after work and made this declaration:
"I know that this is going to make me sound like a jerk, but I really think there are some people in the world who are not as smart as I am. And when I say 'some people' I mean the people who work in copy shops and when I say 'not as smart' I mean they're dumb. They feel no ownership for their place of work and could care less that the people coming in might actually have things they need to do."
L was frustrated after going to a Manhattan copy store to see if they could print white ink on a colored background for the reception place cards. Apparently, a disinterested store employee dismissed the idea completely, arguing that it was as impossible as inventing a perpetual motion machine.
L looked around the store and noticed things hanging everywhere that had white ink on a dark background. Apparently the store could do it, but this employee just didn't care to do it.
Considering my previous experience trying to get our thank you notes made, I'm beginning to wonder if anyone has ever had a pleasant experience at a copy shop. Certainly the tenth circle of Hell is a Kinko's.
In my spare time, I'm writing for Gothamist, a cool site chronicling all things New York. Specifically, I'm one of their advice columnists, although I'm not quite comfortable with L calling me Ann Landers. Yet.
Enjoy the site.
While L and I have made no secret of our desire to buy an apartment in the coming year and our plan to save money to finance that desire, we have not made any out-and-out requests for cash in lieu of physical gifts. We are first and foremost happy that people are coming to celebrate our wedding. We're also not about to snub our noses at shiny new All-Clad pots, and I don't think there's anything on our registries for which we don't have a legitimate need. L is a little tired of sleeping on the pillows I've had since college and I agree that it would be nice to get new ones.
Most people understand how important money can be to a couple just starting out but also feel slightly uneasy being on either end of a cash exchange. Short of living in a Martin Scorsese movie, is there ever an appropriate way to ask for cash?
Wondering how other couples have dealt with this conundrum, I turned, naturally, to the Internet. My search lead me to Greenwish.com, which bills itself as "the new wave in online gift registries." There, couples can set up accounts so that friends and relatives can give money securely online.
According to the website, Greenwish.com was conceived by a couple in the midst of planning their wedding. While registering for housewares, they realized that people often have greater needs than just glassware and bedsheets. With no acceptable way to ask for cash, they decided to create Greenwish.com, a online gift registry that would allow engaged couples and other people in their financial infancy to start off on the right foot.
So let me get this straight. They didn't feel comfortable asking people for cash, but they did feel comfortable asking people to visit a website for the sole purpose of giving cash? Me confused.
In exchange for this "quick and easy" service, Greenwish.com charges gift givers a transaction fee ranging from $5 for gifts up to $100 and 4% for gifts over $500. Somehow I fail to understand how paying $24 to give someone $600 is any easier than writing a check, stuffing it in a Hallmark card and handing it to the recipient.
Many people have turned to sites such as Honeyluna.com and TheBigDay.com, which allow couples to register for pieces of their honeymoon. Well-wishers can send the couple off to Tahiti by paying for dinners, resort activities, airfare and hotel accommodations. I see no problem with something like this, although I do imagine that it creates a thank you note writing challenge, given the typical model for expressing gratitude on paper:
"Dear Aunt Martha and Uncle Maurice, thank you for the generous gift of one night's stay at the beach resort. We will certainly think of you when as we consummate our marriage on the room's comfortable bed."
I made a big mistake last week.
Needing a quick trim before going to Chicago for Passover and without enough time to head back to John Allan's for the full service treatment from Kaci, I went back to Astor Place Hairstylists.
The cut wasn't bad, but John Allan's has spoiled me for life. I sat in the chair in the Astor Place basement and noticed all the dust and hair covering every surface in the cavernous room. My hair was wetted down using a spray bottle that probably hadn't been cleaned since the Reagan administration. John Allan's, amazingly enough for a place that's in the business of cutting hair, has barely a strand on the floor. My haircut was okay, but I missed the shoeshine and complimentary beverage at the uptown joint.
Kaci, if you're reading, will you ever forgive me? It was just a one time thing and it wasn't even that good. I promise, it meant nothing!
There was no wake up call courtesy of L's niece this morning and I was finally able to sleep past 7 A.M. Our weekend at L's parents' marked the first time I had ever watched The Wizard of Oz at six o'clock in the morning, but when a three-and-a-half year old runs into your room and asks if you'll watch "Dorothy" with her, it's difficult to say no and roll over to go back to bed. Sleep finally came last night in my own bed and was, in fact, so satisfying that I should have titled this post "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn."
L has three more days in Chicago, with a full schedule keeping her busy until she comes home Sunday. She's going to a number of dress fittings, some for her and one for a friend who is getting married in May. L is attending a shower for that same friend on Saturday, so she'll be very busy.
Since she's running around having her dress taken in or let out or chopped in half or who knows what - I'm not allowed to see it - I have only one task and it's a biggie. It may very well be the biggest step of our relationship, one that could change our lives for a significant period of time. I've done a lot of research on the phone and online, talking to professionals and friends in similar situations and soliciting advice from just about anyone who will offer.
That's right. We're looking into signing up for one of those "family plan" cell phone contracts. We're each currently paying $50 a month for a giant dead zone in our living room and tons of dropped calls. The plans I've found would save us a total of $40 a month, but there's no word on whether families less of a wait time when calling customer service. It will be the first bill with both our names on it and is the first step on our way to the eventual combination of our finances.
Most plans I've found offer free in-network calling and since most of our calls are to each other, we'll rarely go over our monthly minutes. L has a habit of calling me when she gets off the subway to announce her imminent arrival at home - we live four blocks from the F - and those calls add up.
Still, something about a family cell phone plan makes me uneasy. My current plan is month-to-month, but for our new service we'd have to sign a two-year agreement. I just don't know if I'm ready for that kind of comittment.
Most couples we know got a dog before they decided to have a baby. But our landlord does not allow pets so our new cell phones will have to be our first step on the road to couplehood. Besides, cell phones are a lot easier to clean up after than puppies.
But don't worry, Moms. Should our family eventually start to expand we can always add additional lines for only $9.99 each. How 21st century would that be? The digital ding of mini cell phones heralding the pitter patter of little feet.
It's been a busy weekend and even yesterday and today have felt like one long Saturday. Sleeping on a pull-out couch at the in-law will do that to you. We're still in Chicago for one more night of Passover. My parents flew in on Saturday and on Sunday we treated them to a tour of the wedding venue at camp. I was surprised to learn that my father, a man who has travelled the world on business had never been to Wisconsin. My mother, who also had never been to America's Dairyland, loved the flat topography.
My parents were thrilled to see camp as it gave them a better picture of where and when everything will happen this summer. L's dad treated everyone to frozen custard at Kopp's, rounding out a true midwest experience for my folks.
My father and I talked about we talked about wedding showers - L is staying through the weekend for a friend's party on Saturday - and what they would be called if such a thing as a men's-only version existed. We didn't exactly come up with anything, but agreed that "shower" is definitely not the right word to use for a group of men who get together to celebrate. The only place men shower together is in prison, so perhaps that's not the best image to associate with marriage.
L and I flew to Chicago on Friday, losing an hour due to the time difference travelling east to west. Saturday night saw the end of daylight savings and all the clocks in L's parents' home were turned ahead one hour, making me and L feel like we were back on schedule to east coast time. So the question we were both wondering is this: when we fly back to New York this week, do we lose an hour of wedding planning?
While boarding the plane, L and I talked about how many trips we've been making back and forth to Chicago and Milwaukee recently and how nice it would be to go away together on vacation for a change.
"We should definitely go on vacation," said L.
"I know what you mean," I said. "I could really go for another trip to Las Vegas" L was not thrilled with this response, as she thinks I've become a tad obsessed since my return from my bachelor party. Going with good friends and winning enough money to pay for part of your trip will do that to a guy.
"Ugh," she let out. "Enough with Las Vegas already. Can we not go to Las Vegas?"
"Okay," I said and then paused. "How about Reno?"
What do you do when you aren't sure whether or not you sent someone a thank-you note?
While I was gone in Las Vegas, L finished all of the thank-you notes that were to go out to people who attended the showers in Chicago last month. One note, owed to a couple that shipped a present to us because they were unable to attend the festivities, may have slipped through the cracks. Despite my best efforts to track each gift and thank you note, we just aren't sure about this one.
I think the solution is simple. I told L that we - and by we, I of course mean she - should call this couple and flat-out ask if they have received a thank you note. If they did, then they'll get the added bonus of a phone call from us. Who wouldn't want that? If they didn't get a note, then they'll get a phone call and the promise of a thank-you note to be sent immediately. No harm, no foul.
Having a website read by many of the people coming to our wedding, however, lead me to believe there is a less personal way to fix future MIA thank you notes. (Warning: this method was not approved by L.)
ATTENTION ALL FRIENDS AND FAMILY: IF YOU HAVE NOT RECEIVED A THANK YOU NOTE FOR A GIFT YOU GENEROUSLY SENT US, PLEASE CONTACT US IMMEDIATELY. THANK YOU.