Coupling: Wedding Belle Blues

No one is expressing the right emotions about my engagement

“So are you going to have, like, a wedding?” a friend said one day. She said the word “wedding” as though it was something extremely distasteful.

I couldn’t fault her for it, or any of the Cynics. It was the way I’d always been myself. I’d seen the statistics about marriage. I’d bitched about people getting boring after they got married. And I’d read Rebecca Mead’s new book, One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding. Well, I mean I’d read about it, enough to know that weddings are very very bad, that they cost almost as much as the average American’s yearly salary and are also somehow exploitative of Chinese peasants.

But I’d also seen Martha Stewart Weddings, and it kind of looked like … fun.

“Yes,” I said.

Maybe I was rebelling against the anti-wedding contingent. But I was starting to find the idea of a wedding more and more appealing. I mean, I didn’t want a giant to-do, like my friend Alyssa was planning in St. Thomas, with garter tosses and flower girls. But a wedding would pretty much be the only party I would have, I figured, where everyone I liked would have to come. Other than I guess my funeral, but I’ll be dead and miss that whole thing.

Things being what they were, I realized I was on my own as far as the wedding planning. And I wasn’t the only one. One day I stumbled across, a website where smart women talk to each other about how getting married doesn’t make you a bridezilla or a bad feminist, trade tips about stationers, and confess to their love of … Martha Stewart Weddings. Under pseudonyms, of course. It’s the Underground Railroad of wedding planning.  

For me, such conversations were restricted to two people: my friend Lauren, who is also engaged but also not a Squealer, and another friend, Chris, who’s Jewish and gay and therefore claims that for him, weddings are, like, a cultural thing. Over cocktails, Lauren and I submitted details for his approval.

“Is it okay to serve just wine and beer at the reception?” I asked.

“Mm-nn, absolutely not,” Chris shook his head. “Everyone would talk about how cheap you were afterward.”

“I’m thinking of doing salt and pepper shakers as favors,” Lauren said.

“Mm-nnn,” Chris said. “Tacky.”

For me, a larger conundrum loomed. “You know, you need to start looking at dresses,” Lauren said to me one day. “You have to order them really far in advance.”

“Oh, I’m not wearing a wedding dress,” I said. “I don’t think?”

“Mmmm-nn,” Chris said. “You have to.”

“If you don’t, in the pictures, you’ll look like everybody else,” Lauren said.

Would I regret it? The problem is that shopping for a wedding dress is something that you do with your sister, if you have one, or your mother, if you can abide her, or your best girlfriends, if they don’t think getting married is totally cheesy.

Well, there was one who didn’t. Up in Boston, Alyssa made an appointment for us at a bridal salon. I was struggling into a puffy cream-colored number when my phone rang.

It was my friend Maria, the blogger. “What are you doing?” she said.

“Looking for a wedding dress,” I said.

“Ugh, already?” she groaned. That was so the wrong reaction.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “The reception in here is bad. Have to call you back.”

“Omigod!” came a cry from outside the dressing room.

I stepped out and saw Alyssa standing in a pile of marshmallow fluff. “Don’t you love it?” she beamed, showing off her dress. “It’s perfect!” she said. As strangers clapped and snapped pictures, I peered in the mirror. The dress I was wearing made me look like a bratwurst wrapped in a doily. We were both on the verge of tears, but for different reasons.