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It’s been a rush of holiday prep around here lately, punctuated by feeding my seasonal addiction to Starbucks’ gingerbread lattes (light whip, no nutmeg – yes, I am that person in line in front of you with a lot written on her red cup, thank you very much, it’s only this time of the year, so back on up off-a me, ah-right?)

Today I dashed off to collect my liquid fix while R. got A. and her stroller into the car to go home.

Me: I got lucky! No wait. This whole herd of teenagers came in just after me.
R: Is that the right word? Herd?
Me: Like a gaggle? “An annoy of teenagers?”
R: Like “a murder of crows.”
Me: Yeah.
R: “A punishment of teenagers.”
Me: Yeah, that’s it.

Hello from us

family_emswedding.jpgIn case we haven’t seen you in a while:)

Suggestion Box: Weddings


We attended two Euro-American weddings this summer, among the several we’ve been to in the last few years, and based on all that experience, there’s one word of advice I’d like to offer prospective brides: elope.

Why? Because it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. And by “an eye” I mean “their temper.”

Someone’s feelings always get hurt at a wedding. Maybe it’s pollen from the flower arrangements or that new shoes smell, but I’ve never been to a wedding where someone wasn’t mad at the bride or the groom or both. I’m not talking about your alcoholic second cousin or Aunt Maude getting apoplectic because you wouldn’t let her bring her Shitzu. I’m talking first degree of separation mad, friendship-ending, see-you-in-therapy mad.

Since, as we know, you can’t please all the people all the time, if you’re hosting an event, you have, as I see it, two options: one, don’t have the event, or two, have it but keep chloroform at the ready.

No – sorry – that’s not right. Option two is to recklessly go ahead with the event while reconciling yourself to the inevitability of causing pain to at least one of your nearest and dearest and almost certainly becoming a cautionary tale for said near/dearest.

Nearly everyone unwittingly chooses option two. For that unfortunate majority, here are a few guidelines to follow.

  1. There are two categories of people at a wedding: the guests and the wedding party. Period. Subdividing will only get you into hot water.

    Everyone knows who your best friend is: she or he is the one standing behind you at the altar. Plenty of other people in the wedding party probably thought they were your best friend. There’s no need to rub it in by calling people names, like “maid of honor” or “bitch on wheels.”

    You’re not doing anyone any favors by creating special compensatory categories for the outliers either, like distinguishing readers from attendants or old/strange friends from current besties by giving the former a tux and some token task (like walking Grandma to her seat or finishing half-drunk beverages) but having him sit with the other guests. You’re courting confusion and bruised egos. They’re in or they’re out.

    If they’re in, they wear the same uniforms, attend the same pre- and post-wedding events and, if you’re lucky, cover your ass with annoying relatives and guests as a gesture of gratitude for your munificence.

    If they’re out, better to brave their wrath before the event. Take your pain up front like a man-bride.

  2. Related: have a big wedding or don’t. Middle-sized weddings will be a fountain of grief as you cull endlessly through your list of friends and family picking a cousin here, a roommate there, negotiating endlessly with your beloved about each one. Decide on a party of thirty or a party of a hundred and thirty and be done with it. Take ’em all or take none of ’em.

    If you opt for thirty, remember that misery loves company: the reject pile is so large that they can commiserate with each other re: your total lack of taste and sensitivity.

    If you try for 60-70, you’re toast. Unless you’re from a small family, a very faraway country or are a hermit, chances are you’ll be alienating partial sets (first cousins, college friends, the guys you used to drink with, etc.) and you’ll be braving the primary wrath of those excluded and the secondary wrath of their included pals.

  3. Beware the second-string invitation.

    We all know you have a seconds list because we do too and please know that I – and everyone else with half a brain – can make a good guess about whether we’re on it or not. We’re not going to discuss it though, right? Don’t be a #$(*#& idiot and ring me up two weeks before the event to see if I want to fill in for a late-cancelling pal because you’re on the hook for an unfilled room at the Ramada. ‘Cause then I really will get mad – not because you didn’t invite me in the first place but because now I think you’re tactless and have confirmation that you think I’m stupid.

    Since we’re discussing summonses, quick note to self: if you’re hosting your dreamy day abroad, invitations should be posted no less than six months ahead of the event. And just to be extra clear: by “six months” I don’t mean “four weeks.”

  4. Abide by the rules. The rules are either a.) rigid etiquette, so you can look classic and blame someone else for your debatable decisions, or b.) the Golden Rule/Jesus, so you can relax after throwing money at the problem of some guests feeling left out.

    If you’re having a rehearsal dinner, a post-wedding brunch or sitting around on cars drinking forties, consult Miss Manners about who gets invited (only wedding party and parents to corollary events) or bring everyone along for the ride. And make your choice clear in your wedding materials: you don’t want people finding out there’s a brunch the next morning to which they were not invited right before they’re supposed to make a toast.

  5. While we’re on the subject, a word on toasts: funny is a winner unless you’re the father of the bride, in which case weeping is charming.

    If you’re a bridesmaid, crying or telling sentimental stories makes people uncomfortable. Save that for the lovely card you give your buddy before the event. Then she can keep it in her wedding scrapbook and mist up on her on time, and you can prevent a room full of people from finding the remains of their braised artichoke more rewarding than paying attention to you.

    I know that sounds harsh and I’m sure you have lovely, warm feelings about the bride or groom, but remember that a wedding, while also being a meaningful ritual, is entertainment for most of the people there. However special the fairy tale commitment of two people to each other for the rest of their days is, you’re still talking about 130 people in a room for several hours and that spells “entertainment” the same way five hours in the car with a seven year old does. Videos, shiny objects and obvious jokes are all welcome.

    If your nuptials mix nationalities, keep in mind that rambling American toasts make Europeans cringe. The, “I love you man!” / “Isn’t she the best friend ever?” vibe is not a winner in foreign lands (or, I’d argue, anywhere, but that might be just me). Coach your wedding party – and pick a time for toasts – accordingly.

  6. If you’re ever planning on settling a feud, however minor, do it before your big day.

    Seriously: man up. When was the last time anything resolved itself because you avoided looking it in the eye? Inviting a friend on the rocks to your wedding is not, in itself, a correction, a clarification, an apology or anything else. It’s just setting a date for the next time the two of you will be in a room together. What is true for brake pads is true for friendships: regular attention and careful intervention on a quiet Wednesday are preferable to a collision on an already overbooked Saturday afternoon.

    On the other hand, if you’re not planning on repairing things in the near future (or ever), your wedding day will provide the perfect opportunity to drive your point home. Seating plan “errors”, “lost” invitations, and your Uncle Earl’s hearing aid can all support your “effort.”

  7. Finally, a few specifics on seating.

    Don’t seat American crazy people next to tasteful European women. The Americans will leer and drink and the sleek women’s mouths will turn down at the corners ever so slightly as they talk brightly to the person on the other side of them. It’s better to put like with like as you do when creating a children’s table. Mixing and matching personality types is like storing your cashmere in the dishwasher: it seemed like a good idea when you ran out of closet space but it’s not going to end well.

Our wedding will, naturally, be perfect and free from any conflict.

Of course that’s a complete lie but it seems to be the supportive delusion that all brides must maintain in order to stay on this side of sanity while planning a wedding. At least their first one. I hear second weddings are much more relaxed. I’d like to get on that train, but I’d also like to stay married to R after our (first) wedding. I suppose we could get married and divorced at City Hall in the next month or two. Or maybe I’ll just make up a first husband. His name is Dwayne. He works in papaya futures out of his home office in Dubuque. Done.



I am not on top of this wedding planning stuff. At all. Not even a little bit.

At first, we said, “Let’s enjoy being engaged! Let’s not rush things the way other people have done.” It was not procrastination. It was savoring.

We savored. The holidays came. The winter rains fell. We reassessed. Were we savory yet? Would we get married this summer?

I was leaving my job. Too soon for a wedding on foreign soil. No. Not this summer. Too little advance notice for guests, too little planning time for us.

When then?

Next summer. No rush.

(Pause here for hysterical laughter.)

Apparently, there is no time too soon to start planning your wedding, even when it’s 16 months away.

Last weekend, Erica came from Dallas. On a table at IHOP, she spread out tear sheets of flowers and gowns and cakes. All I had to do was point to what I liked, like a cave man at Barneys.

She encouraged me to make a guest list. Just one thing. Just the list. Nothing else on the endless checklist, just the list of nice people. I could stop there and see where that left me.

I followed the instructions. I made the list. It took forever. I can’t remember what’s next. Apparently, all cars do not start when you roll them downhill.

Today, Sarah brought me a stack of books on bouquets and etiquette and, like gauzy heroin, Vera Wang on Weddings, replete with brides in heavy gowns in smudgy photos. Brides who are models. Gowns that cost more than a car.

It’s like a very genial, very gradual intervention.

I’m assuming another friend will show up soon to tell me what to do next.

Wedding Bands


I have a weakness for jewelry with print on it. It’s my version of tattooing. Depending on the day, you might have to read for a bit when we run into each other. Jeanine Payer. Serge Thoraval. Eva Attling.

Naturally, I’d like our wedding bands to be a little off the beaten path. I saw these rings with EKG tracks etched into them a while ago. Fantastic idea (albeit maybe expensive). Yesterday, a friend sent on these, which I like even better: rings with your beloved’s fingerprint etched into the surface.

What do we think? Worth the cost even if it’s just us who knows?


chanel_show.jpgI haven’t had any space in my head recently to think about getting married. (This is a shame and yet another reason to resign: if something lovely like being engaged can’t find a place to live in my head while the job is in there, well, that says something about the job, doesn’t it?)

The one thing we have decided (mostly) is that we won’t get married this year since we don’t think we’ll be able to get a destination wedding sorted out by the summer. Just so we – you and I – understand each other, we’re not doing a destination wedding because we’re super chic and really into weddings and must have our wedding on a foreign slope somewhere or we’ll just die. We’re planning on planes because

  1. R is Swiss, so most of his family is several thousand miles away on another continent.
  2. I will not be getting married in California. Period. (If you want to know why, you should take me out for an evening of heavy drinking sometime when you don’t feel like talking. I’ll start with how stupid it is that people who live in cities think they should have garages.)
  3. Getting married in New York is unbelievably expensive, even with connections, and I will want to retire someday, so that’s out.

So Europe it is. (I know it’s shady math to say that ruling out CA and NY leaves only western Europe on the table, but I am not taking on planning a wedding someplace where a.) I don’t speak the language, and b.) I’ve never been, so pull yourself together and get on board.)

For the first time in a couple of months, I’ve found myself slightly aware and excited about wedding options. Admittedly, some of them are out of reach – like these white paper decorations from the Chanel runway show – but I have to start somewhere, yeah?

I haven’t sorted it out yet, but I’ll be looking for input via polls and surveys here on the site. It seems everyone has something to say about what works and what doesn’t, and I’d rather hear it all now rather than find it out for myself! Until I get that whole thing set up, feel free to leave comments about your own wedding or ones you’ve attended (good or bad).


Now that we’re engaged, I’m up against the title thing again. (See original problem here.) I never did fully sort out how to refer to R when we were, uh…is it ‘dating’ if you’ve been living together for five years? I did an extended trial run of “El Señor”, mostly while ordering at Starbucks, but R vetoed that as weird. Now that we’re engaged, that whole exercise, all that effort, is out the window.

Now it’s “fiancé”. But, of course, that’s not working for me either. It’s too…frilly. Fiancés are guys who belong to country clubs and think they’re hilarious rebels when they wear Tretorns with their seersucker suits. “Fiancé” is just too… Hell, I don’t know: it’s just not me. I’m from New England, for God’s sake.

So I’ve settled on “fancy” as my ironic compromise. R is my fancy. Which is true, really. I like it and I can live with it until the wedding. I have no problem with “husband”, for the record, so we should have smooth sailing from there on out. I might change my mind though when I get there. I’ll keep you posted.

News Bulletin

So what’s been going on? What’s with the chaos?

All right, I give (under your imaginary pressure and questioning): we’re engaged!

While we were in Belgium in November, R asked me to marry him. I didn’t mean to tip you off with the, “We’re engaged,” comment, but I said, “Yes.” Well, what I actually said was, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” which R tells me was not reassuring.

It was in an ivy garden at night behind the Church of Our Lady in Bruges and really could hardly have been more lovely and romantic. We’re very excited and, no, we haven’t made any wedding plans yet.

Those photos of me running are not me running away (as some have suggested). I was just taking a quick lap to let off some steam. They shouldn’t leave convenient paths lying around if they don’t mean for you to use them.