I mentioned to my father not too long ago about how lucky L and I have been that no one - so far - has had a breakdown or made any unreasonable requests. With all the stories you hear of nightmare brides, picky in-laws and stressed out grooms, I asked my dad why it was that so many otherwise sane people go so crazy when planning a wedding.
My father's simple observation?
"Some people are more concerned with getting married than being married."
It is time for couples to stop being so afraid of asking for cash instead of toasters and bed sheets as presents if that's what they really want. Why? Because the more afraid you are to be honest and straightforward about what you really need, the more companies like Giftsofstock.com will swoop in to make some money off of your insecurities.
I'm not a regular Wall Street Journal reader - what would you expect of someone who attended Al Gore's speech at NYU yesterday? - but when my dad mentioned an article about a company that allows couples to register for stock, I had to pick up a copy. (The WSJ is available online to subscribers only.)
Just like Greenwish.com, which I discussed in an earlier post, Giftsofstock.com seems like an easy way to ask for money, albeit with the variation of having that money go straight into the stock market. Just register, send out an email and - voila! - everyone knows you want investments.
But given today's economy, All-Clad pots might be a more solid investment than stocks. That company that looked so promising when you invested in it shortly after your engagement could be embroiled in a shareholder shakeup and worth about as much as a belly-up dot com's used office furniture by the time the honeymoon is over.
Giftsofstock.com reassures users through a spokesperson that the stocks available through their service are "good, long-term investments - companies we believe will be around in 10 to 15 years." A quick look at their list of companies (Coca Cola, 3M, Microsoft, Xerox and others) confirms that strategy, but I'm still left to wonder: how is this easier than writing a check, handing it to a couple, and having them invest it themselves? (It might seem as if I'm beating a dead horse, but I think it still bears mentioning.)
My dad has an old joke that he says anytime my family goes out for ice cream. Ineveitably, my sister and I will take a taste of whatever flavor he has chosen and his reply, no matter how much we eat, is always the same: "If I had wanted half an ice cream cone, I would have ordered half an ice cream cone."
And sure enough, Giftsofstock.com isn't in the business of giving out free ice cream. According to the WSG, it charges around $20 for purchasing stock in a couple's name. So which would you rather have, $100 in the form of a check or $100 in the form of stock? It seems to me that if your guests want to give you $120, they would give you $120.
With about three months to go, I've started working on the CD mixes we are including as favors at the wedding. I spent a good part of last night flipping through my CDs and searching the iTunes music store to fill the gaps in my collection. One incentive for my taking up this task now is that L and I have a meeting with our bandleader, Stuart Rosenberg, on Friday. I've heard that Stuart is a living encyclopedia of musical knowledge, but I'm still bringing a few songs on CD for him just in case.
One song that I'm really loving these days is It's Only Time by the Magnetic Fields. L heard the song last night for the first time and said the lead singer had a "weird voice" - she is more of a walking pamphlet of musical knowledge - but I'm trying to win her over. It's true that Stephin Merrit, the song's composer, has a voice that might be an acquired taste, but I'm hoping the song will grow on L as it has on me.
As I've mentioned before, I'm carefully vetting each song, making sure that none actually describe a breakup or secretly say "Get a divorce" when played backwards. So far, it seems that "It's Only Time" will make the cut. Not only does it fill my requirement of having wedding-appropriate music on the mix, but it also ensures that the CD won't be a compendium of hyper-produced adult contemporary crap.
"It's Only Time" is slow, has a nice beat and you can dance to it, although most of your relatives will have no clue what the song is or who the hell it's by. But if you have it at your wedding soon you could actually make a claim of some originality among all the Celine, Elton, and Mariah fans out there. You'll easily be the first person to have Merritt's beautiful lyrics interpreted by a wedding singer who, depending on what you've paid for the band, won't have a "weird voice."
Man Sues Strip Club Over $28K Tab. Via MSNBC.com
From the Washington Post. I can't imagine how the bride and groom felt afer their wedding, which they had planned months ago, was bumped out of the Tidewater Inn for a Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson movie. Well, maybe it was cool to see Christopher Walken.
With a second Friday evening devoted to wedding planning, it now seems as if my original rule declaring the end of the week off limits has been totally obliterated.
I met L near her office on Friday after work for the latest wedding-related excursion, this time to SoHo. The mission? Decorations for the rehearsal dinner. Even though it will be a big event, we don't want the rehearsal dinner to be a mini wedding reception. Our goal is to decorate the room inexpensively but with enough detail to give it the feel of a festive barbecue rather than an elegant party.
One of the best places to pick up inexpensive decorations is Pearl River Mart on Broadway in SoHo. From 13 feet of paper garlands for $3.95 to an entire section of Chinese wedding paraphenalia, it's not a bad place to go if you need to liven up a party on the cheap.
At Pearl, we found the appropriately labeled "String of Lights." How's that for product marketing? The generic name reminded me of those depressing sections in grocery stores where they have "chocolate sandwich cookies" instead of Oreos or "sugar-frosted corn cereal" instead of Frosted Flakes. But for at less than $20 for 20 feet of little plastic lanterns, we couldn't resist.
Perhaps one reason the lights were so cheap - and one reason people hire professionals to decorate rooms - was this warning, printed on the bottom of the box:
Handling the electrical components of this product may expose you to metals/chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm.
Right. Remind me to wear a hazmat suit when hanging these things up.
For further proof that the editors of the New York Times' Weddings/Celebrations section do not have people of moderate income levels in mind, I present an article from yesterday's Style Section.
The article identifies a new trend in summer weddings, describing how it is becoming more common for people to have their ceremonies and receptions on weekdays. For the millions of brides and grooms looking to save a buck or two on off-peak function room rentals and catering services, the article promises so much yet delivers so little in the form of practical advice. Rather, it is a snapshot of Manhattan's upper crust; not quite the ladies who lunch, but definitely the ladies who never have to make their own lunch.
To wit, a sampling of quotes from Weekends Aren't For Lovers Among the Chic and the Frugal written by Abby Ellin:
In years past, for example, Saturday was the night for a benefit. By paragraph two the world in which this article exists is carefully laid out. Yes, for those whose life is a daily re-enactment of Sex and the City, Saturday means another society page gala or $500-a-plate benefit. But what about us poor slobs for whom Saturday is the night for pizza and a movie with friends?
I really believe brides should be as considerate as possible. Everybody can come to a weekday wedding. It's a nice sentiment, but strikes me as the Manhattan-centric snobbery that too many people in the rest of the country think is typical of all New Yorkers. Everybody can come? Did this bride have no out-of-town guests? No friends outside of the 212 area code? Seems to me that in the choice between weekend or weekday weddings and how it will affect your guests, it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. Depending on how far people have to travel, someone, somewhere will have to miss work.
Thursdays in the summer are good because people don't work full days on Fridays, so they can take half a day off or not even go into the office if they don't want to. It isn't unheard of for people to be able to get out of work early on Fridays if there's a pressing need, but I wonder about the quoted woman's line of work. She must not know any teachers, nurses, grad students, first year lawyers, medical residents or Starbucks baristas.
In season [brides] leave Thursday for their Hamptons homes, so Thursday night is sort of their Friday night. They know they're going to get cursed by all their friends if they have a weekend wedding because it absolutely interferes with their yacht and country club plans for the weekend. I guess L and I will have to change our yacht and country club plans. We're flying to Chicago for a wedding this weekend.
See if you can get this straight: you are looking at this web page with a picture showing a TV screen showing a picture of this web page. It's like standing in a bathroom with mirrors in front of you and behind you. Your head just goes on forever.
Yes, PlanetGordon.com was one the three picks on WABC TV's "Sree's Top Three" Saturday morning. If you are here as a result of that broadcast, welcome!
At this point in the site's history, I thought it would be a good time to list some of the more helpful or informative posts I've written since the beginning of September in the interest of helping any guys who might be planning a wedding this summer.
Now that it's prime wedding season, we've received a lot of questions over at Ask Gothamist related to marriage, attending ceremonies and buying gifts for brides and grooms.
This one came in recently and it deals with a question I have had many times: how much is one supposed to spend on a wedding present? Let me know if you agree with my response.
According to the handy countdown at WeddingChannel.com, there are only 100 days left until our wedding. I guess that's exciting since people like round numbers: 30th birthdays, 50th anniversaries, 200 episodes, etc.
Speaking of TV, don't forget to tune in to Channel 7, WABC in New York tomorrow morning at 7:45 to catch Sree Sreenivasan's report on the top sites for grooms.
For some people the idea of a slide show conjures up creaky carousels and forced viewings of their neighbors' trip to the Grand Canyon. But for many brides and grooms, a slide show is a chance to showcase a shared family history. With plenty of awkward pictures of first baths, bar mitzvah ceremonies, prom dates and college graduations, they are also good for a laugh.
L and I spoke recently about doing a slide show and, concidentally, an article appeared in today's New York Times with some helpful tips on how to make one on a personal computer.
For the many photos we'll need to scan, the Times recommends this Canon scanner. For less than $100, this will save any bride and groom a lot of money and time when compared to the long lines and high prices of Kinko's. And with a Mac at home, we'll most likely use a combination of iPhoto and Final Cut Express to make our mini movie. Thankfully, L is a Final Cut master.
Now the only trick will be making the film short enough and interesting enough so as to not bore our friends.
Continuing this week's theme of good hints, here's one I picked up from the wedding I attended last month in London:
Instead of seating couples right next to each other, the bride's family arranged it so that couples were separated by one seat. Couples were still at the same table, but everyone was sitting next to someone they didn't know. This forced conversation beyond the typical "where are you from and what do you do" basics and I know that I left the wedding feeling like I had actually gotten to know the people on either side of me.
I know this might not work in every situation; politics often dictate where people sit and this method might make things more complicated if you have a large number of people who don't get along. It probably helped single people at the wedding feel a little less awkward if they were sitting at tables full of couples. It's not something that we'll be likely to do only because our wedding guests will have a full weekend of camp activities during which they can get to know everyone. Heck, by the end of the weekend they might even be sick of other people.
Pity the poor bride and groom who, engaged in May or June of 2003, planned a one year engagement and decided on an outdoor wedding. Cicadas, specifically the Brood X group of the Rip Van Winkle-like insects, are emerging from a 17-year nap this month and might be coming to a wedding ceremony near you.
Trillions of the noisy, sex-starved insects are expected in 14 states: Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Washington, D.C. will also be under siege. Cicadas are harmless - they don't bite - but because of their 1 1/2 inch size and sheer numbers, they can easily find their way into long bridal gowns and trains, floral arrangements, expensive hairdos and sticky wedding cakes.
Cicadas have red eyes and emerge from underground singing a loud song in an effort to find a mate, making them not unlike some couples' actual wedding guests.
Everyone knows how difficult it is to remember names at big events like weddings. In my experience, it's not uncommon to sit down at a table at which I've just gone around and done the requisite introductions only to forget everyone's name before I have a chance to choose my wine.
L's dad suggested that when we make placecards we have them printed with each person's name on the front and back. That way people will be able to read the name of the person sitting across from them. Since it's a tad tacky to have everyone wear "Hello, My Name Is" stickers on their lapels or summer dresses, this is hands down the most brilliant idea I've heard in eight months of wedding planning. And I'm not just saying that because I need to suck up to my future father in-law.
If you live in the New York area and wake up early on weekends, be sure to tune into WABC TV's Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday at 7:45. Sree Sreenivasan, Channel 7's "Tech Guru," is doing a short piece on the top three websites for brides. Grooms are the focus of next week's segment and my sources tell me that PlanetGordon.com is one of the top three. Stay tuned.
Posting will be lighter through the beginning of next week for no good reason other than the fact that I'm super busy. Use this chance to catch up if you're behind or, even better, read how it all began. Remember: if you haven't read it, it's new to you!
As the readership of this site has expanded a number of people and companies have contacted me looking to promote goods and services that they feel would be of interest to men about to tie the knot. It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that strip clubs, excuse me, gentlemen's clubs are among those looking to promote themselves on a site for grooms. Not too long ago I received an email from Jennifer, the marketing director of the Penthouse Executive Club asking if I might somehow be able to plug the club.
Around the same time, I received the following email from Jeremy S., a groom from Indianapolis:
Hey Groom! My buddies are coming to NYC for my friend's bachelor party but none of us have been before. Do you know of good places for a bunch of guys to go to like strip clubs?
I stared at my computer screen, looking at the two emails. One from an enterprising marketing director inviting me and my friends to a night at the club, and the other from a curious young man seeking my advice on a traditional pastime of grooms and their best friends. It was...the Perfect Storm! So, in service to my readers, I had no choice but to take Jennifer up on her offer.
My friends and I - a group of men and women - went on a weeknight to Manhattan's far west side which, according to yesterday's article in the New York Times is quickly becoming the strip club capital of the city. (Due to the understandable appearance of impropriety, L opted out of attending.)
Jennifer greeted us and took us on quick tour of the facilities: two giant bars with flat-panel TVs, an upstairs VIP lounge and a variety of rooms typically reserved for bachelor parties and other big-spending patrons. There's even a fancy steak house, Robert's, headed by Chef Adam Perry Lang, owner of the yummy Daisy May's BBQ and formerly of Le Cirque. Yes, bachelors, you can get a strip with your strip steak. Our tour, much to the disappointment of one of my friends, did not include any backstage areas.
We settled into a group of chairs to the left of the club's stage and had our first round of drinks comped by the generous Jennifer. Interestingly, the first thing I noticed after we sat down was not the dozens of naked women walking around, but the fact that I could actually hear my friends and hold conversations with them as we sipped our drinks. Because the club is trying to facilitate as much interaction as possible between the dancers and patrons - the end result being more twenties exchanged for lapdances - the volume level is kept at a comfortable level. Too many bars in New York turn their speakers all the way up to eleven, making it nearly impossible to hear one's companions and sending most customers home with tinnitus. Isn't it odd that in a city with so many bars and restaurants in which people gather, strip clubs and Starbucks are the only places one can go for good conversation? (And at the rate both are taking over Manhattan, a strip club with a Starbucks inside can't be too far off.)
I was expecting more mirrors and shiny poles, but the club had the feel of a comfortable downtown bar and not some pre-Giuliani Times Square dive joint. As Jennifer had told me ahead of time, the club was definitely upscale. (I've noticed that adjective is rarely used for anything other than gentlemen's clubs, casinos and other businesses that cater to an adult clientele. Have you ever heard the word "upscale" used to descibe a supermarket or pizza parlor?)
And what about the clientele? Well, it was certainly diverse, with some people wearing Brooks Brother's suits and others wearing Armani.
Many drinks followed the first free round and one friend (let's just call him Scott, for that is is name) had passed out as our evening wound to a close. At least he did it in a cushy velvet chair. A good time had by all, we tipped our waitress generously, escorted our friend to the door and bid the club adieu. A friendly doorman wished us a goodnight.
So Jennifer, thanks for the VIP treatment and consider your club plugged. Jeremy, while I can't vouch for all the other clubs in the city - I don't know how I would feel about being the go-to guy for strip clubs in New York - you and your buddies will definitely be comfortable should you make the trek to the corner of West 45th Street and 11th (!) Avenue.
One of the things L and I put on our to do list during our most recent "production meeting" was the task of writing the wedding programs. Most couples have little booklets that are handed to guests as they enter ceremony. Some are merely a Playbill-like listing of the wedding's cast of characters with brief bios of the best man, sister of the bride and other participants. In a Jewish wedding (and I'm sure it's similar in other weddings in which there are a variety of religious and cultural traditions) many of these programs provide a play-by-play of the ceremony, explaining, for example, the significance of a chuppah or why the bride and groom circle each other before the ceremony begins.
L was surprised and excited that I volunteered for this job, as she is a rabbi and I am decidedly secular, with atheistic tendencies. But I figured it was a good task for me. First of all, L has been doing a lot lately, from dealing with how to print place cards to picking up the slack on the thank-you notes, so I figured I owed her. Secondly, since so many of our friends are not Jewish, I figured having a program written by a layperson might be a great way for them to learn about the ceremony.
So now I have some homework to do. L, being the good rabbi she is, gave me a copy of The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant. Not unlike my college experience, I must admit that I've so far slacked in cracking the book (tip for L: threaten me with a pop quiz and I'll be more likely to read the thing) but I'll get to it soon.
L has said that the book is an indispensable tool for Jewish couples to help them understand the wedding ceremony. However, I think I've found something that might be even more indispensable: programs from the past weddings of our Jewish friends from which I might liberally borrow. Okay, I know it's the wedding day equivalent of purchasing a term paper online or stealing the test from the professor's office, so maybe it's not the best idea, especially since the people who wrote those programs will be among the guests at our wedding.
As a writer who is protective of his own work, I am joking about stealing someone else's. But the joke is really on me as once I've finished writing the programs guess who'll have to make the trip to the copy shop to get them printed? Now I know why L was so excited that I volunteered.
Love is in the air, even on CBS.
From CNN: 'Survivor' wins $1 million and a ring.
Even though it had previously been declared a wedding-free zone, L and I sat down on Friday night for what we called a "production meeting." With L on the laptop, we went over our master list of what needs to get done, who needs to do it, and by when it needs to be finished. We knocked one big thing off this weekend, approving a final design for the invitations and letting the designer know how many (250!) we need printed.
We have almost all of the big things done, the remaining 111 days until the wedding will find us dealing with a lot of little details: what's going in the gift bags, who's showing up when, making sure my great aunt can be shuttled around camp in a golf cart, figuring out who is decorating the room for the rehearsal dinner, making programs for the ceremony, etc.
Our meeting was followed by a screening of Kill Bill, Vol. 1 in which Uma Thurman's character, known only as "The Bride," is nearly killed on her wedding day after her entire wedding party, including her groom, is murdered by a mysterious band of black-clad assassins.
The Bride keeps her own list, except instead of tasks such as ordering gift bags or meeting with a florist, she lists only the names of people she must kill. Our movie selection was coincidental - it was simply next in our Netflix queue - but with L sitting next to me tapping away at her laptop and making her own list, I felt safe knowing how organized she'd be should eyepatch-wearing assassins skilled in karate decide to come to Wisconsin. Yet another reason to love her. Thanks, sweetheart!
Today's question over at Ask Gothamist, while not applying to me and L, is wedding related. After learning that the bride has been cheating on the groom, how can a bridesmaid bow out of participating in the wedding?
Hope you enjoy it. More later.
New York City shut down last night, bridges and tunnels were closed, garbage went uncollected, streets went uncleaned and citywide Starbucks were temporarily shuttered as citizens of Gotham joined their global comrades in obervance of the finale of Friends.
Like 947 billion other Americans, L and I watched the finale last night with our own group of friends. I was never a huge fan of the show - Seinfeld was more my style - but I remember those many Thursdays in college when my four housemates ate dinner in front of the TV so as not to miss the latest hijinks of the impossibly good looking friends and their impossibly thick hair. Now that L and I signed up for DVR service through our cable company, the idea of stopping one's life for a TV show seems downright quaint.
One problem I've had with the show recently is that marriage, rather than softening the shrill and controlling Monica, only neutered the already-insecure Chandler. What, other than convenience, drove Monica and Chandler together? Who would want to marry either of these people?
Marriage, too, was not seen as compatible with city life on the show. Interestingly enough, an apartment that many New Yorkers scoffed at as unrealistically large for two roommates suddenly became too small for parents and the one infant. No matter how large their apartment, Monica and Chandler ran to the suburbs, leaving their friends to mourn their loss over lattes at the corner coffee lounge. You're married now, the show's New York seemed to tell Monica and Chandler, we don't want you here anymore.
Paradoxically, people on the show who had great difficulty becoming pregnant had a greater responsibility to act like adults than people who had children without abandon - Ross, Rachel and Phoebe alone are responsible for bringing five children into the world, yet with the exception of a few sweeps shows and season finales, parenthood was not a focus of their plotlines. Not that I'm going all Republican or anything, but it's still a conflicting message: irresponsible young urbanites can have their cake and eat it, too, but lawfully-married thirty-somethings have to have it delivered to Westchester.
Some of our friends have joked with us that marriage will change us. I have no doubt that it will. But will we flee to the suburbs? Will single New Yorkers see our wedding bands and ostracize us like fifteenth-century lepers? Stay tuned for the next season.
Some of you may have noticed that PlanetGordon.com has been receiving a few "spamments," which, for the uninitiated, are oddly phrased comments left on blogs. Posting simple quotes like "nice site" to entire paragraphs from books on existential philosophy, spammers try to disguise themselves as regular people all in an effort to get innocent blog lurkers to click on links within their comments.
Spamments are a common problem in the blogosphere and one that I am attempting to remedy, first by manually deleting the ads as they are posted and second by installing MT-Blacklist, which blocks anyone from posting messages containing words on an updated list of no-nos.
Along with the comments about adult web sites and Nigerian bank loan scams, a number of the spamments have been for generic Viagra, pills that enlarge a certain organ and various non-FDA-approved medications related to, um, you know, down there. Note to spammers: I'm getting married so that isn't so much of a concern anymore.
Perhaps the most puzzling solicitation I've received so far is from a company asking if I'd like to add personal ads to my website as a service to my readers. Personals? On a wedding-themed blog? Why, that would be as tacky as selling a thong with the word "taken" printed across the front. I don't know everyone who reads my site, but most of the regular readers seem to be engaged or recently married so I have one piece of advice for these marketers: know thine audience and stop wasting my time.
My mother has been on a roll recently, if being on a role involves sending two things she's seen in magazines or newspapers that she thinks are relevant to this website. The latest is a short article on women who don't wait until they are engaged to plan their weddings. In one case, a woman profiled in the article has been planning her wedding ever since she saw The Wedding Planner even though she doesn't have a boyfriend. I guess I have something in common with her because I've been planning to become a Jedi ever since I saw Star Wars.
The article goes on to quote other women who, while not completely against letting their fiancÚs in on the planning, certainly don't expect them to take an equal role. One woman even goes so far as to say that she'd be worried if she met a man who planned as much as some women did. Not that I fantasized about my wedding before I got engaged, but now that I am, I am certainly happy to step up to the plate and help where I can. After a slew of press on the trend of groom involvement, could willing-and-able grooms now be facing a backlash? Stay tuned. I'm sure my mom will send more newspaper clippings soon.
How is it possible that in one weekend L and I saw less of each other than our parents did?
While I was on a day-long bike ride and L prepared for a two-day conference in Providence, my parents picked L's parents up at Boston's Logan airport. In town for a wedding, L's parents got in touch with mine and the four decided to spend the afternoon together, enjoying some time at the marina where my dad keeps his sailboat. Lunch and ice cream were involved, as was a stroll around the marina. If I didn't know that the day involved four married people all over the age of fifty, it would sound remarkably like a date to me.
Some people have emailed me hoping I could give some advice on how to deal with controlling parents or what to say to a mom who nitpicks every detail of the planning. If I had a frame of reference, it might make for some helpful advice and more entertaining posts. Thankfully, L's parents and mine have been a pleasure to deal with, incredibly generous at every step of the way. In fact, the only thing I'm ever nagged about is posting to this website. But that's a minor thing in the grand scale of what could go wrong. I've pulled off quite a feat, in my opinion, managing to not offend an immediate relatative in the eight months I've been doing this. Don't worry, though. There are still 117 days left until the wedding, as WeddingChannel.com reminds me.