Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wedding Planning

There’s this thing out there on the Interwebs, I hear, called Pinterest. I’m not exactly sure what this creature is or why people pin things that aren’t really there, but I admit that I feel a little bit out of the loop about it when I see people pinning about all kinds of things that don’t exist except in the land of Pinterest. I am especially out of the loop on this whole phenomenon wherein women plan their weddings on Pinterest…even if they aren’t, actually, you know…getting married.

How is that possible? Why would you put yourself through that horror if you didn’t have to do it? Is this what women do while their husbands are wasting time on fantasy sports? I don’t know, because I remember how much time I wasted on fantasy football and well, come to think of it, yeah, maybe Pinterest works out well for some.

Now, I know that I am supposed to have dreamed of my wedding since somewhere around kindergarten, but I can honestly say that I never thought about it until about February of 2004 when suddenly, at age 28, I was going to be a major player in a wedding of my own. I had never thought about the dress, or who would be in the wedding party, or where it would be or what we would eat or God help me what colors or flowers would be involved. I HAD given some thought to the WHO, and the IF, and the WHY, but never the WHAT of getting married. I had various thoughts about what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I put much more thought into where I would go to college or why I couldn’t just go to prom with my friends than I did any hypothetical wedding.

It makes a girl feel left out, you know? There’s this whole wedding industry out there, and it has spawned this second virtual wedding industry and the whole thing just creeps me out. So I am going to take back the wedding—for all those people like me, all 15 of them or however many there are.

Eight years ago today, I married Gabe. We did not get married at City Hall and we did not elope. We got married, people, in front of a crowd of 110 with food and music and a minister and everything. One of my oldest friends told me afterwards: “You had the wedding I wish I’d had.”

And I’m going to tell you how we did it. I would “pin” this to some “board,” if, you know, I was different.

Wedding Planning, Katy-Style

Sex Before Marriage:
Yes. Often.

Cohabitation: Live together first. This way, you will not be able to blame your day-to-day annoyance with your husband on the fact that you are married.

Engagement Ring: Tell him what kind of engagement ring you want before you are officially engaged. He was the one who said “yeah, I was thinking we could get married,” before he popped the cohabitation question, so don’t feel bad about this. He is clueless but wants to have the ring before he officially proposes. He knows you hate the diamond industry, so that leaves him with a sum total of zero ideas for what kind of ring to buy. Shop online for this ring, which you decide should be a pearl. You may attempt to shop at jewelry stores, even venturing together into the din of Chicago’s Jeweler’s Row, but then you will be blinded by diamonds. Every pearl ring you see will have huge, honking DIAMONDS attached to it. When you tell a vendor, no, I just want the pearl, she will look at you with fear. So, go to www.ice.com. Instead of ice, search the pearls. Find some rings you like. Print off photos, hiding the price. Know in your heart which ring you want. Show the pictures to a few close friends and ask which one looks most like you. They will both point to the cheapest ring, the $110 number, and it’s the one you had chosen as well. You are entirely unsure what that says about you, but you show it to your boyfriend, who balks at the price and tells you he is willing to spend much more on your goddamn ENGAGEMENT ring. And you say, well, I guess this is the part where you start listening to what I want, not what some other random women supposedly want. And secretly, you know this is one reason he wants to marry you.

Engagement Setting:
This should happen in your bedroom, in the condo you bought by yourself years before he ever came along. This story will live in infamy so be sure that the flannel PJs are the homeliest you own, that your ponytail is messy and you are wearing the “spare” glasses, not the funky ones. Know that when he takes that simple pearl ring out of his pajama pocket and says “I’m sorry for everything, Kate, but I still want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me anyway?” he is hoping for a response beyond “Give me a minute to think about it.” Also know that the original plan, which caused his nerves to blow up, was for him to hide the ring in a sandwich at Hot Doug’s, where the two of you went for lunch that day. So the PLAN was to put your ring in a hot dog, and he just couldn’t handle the pressure. Remember that when you eventually say “yes.”

Announcing Your New Status: Feel free to feel slightly nauseous at the sound of the word “fiancée,” because WOW that word sounds pretentious. Call your mom the next morning to tell her that your boyfriend acted like a jackass all weekend but then he asked you to marry him and the bottom line is you said ok. Eventually tell other people, when you see them, in person. Do not even consider taking a picture of your finger with that pearl ring on it. Facebook doesn’t exist yet and no one has ever “tweeted” at this point, and really, who uses Friendster or MySpace? Anyway, realize that no one on earth will be jealous of or impressed by that pearl ring, and feel free not to care. Remember that diamonds can be created in labs, they can be crafted out of human ash, and the Russians have recently discovered a diamond mine so large it is reported to hold enough gems to supply the human race for the next 3,000 YEARS, rendering all of those wars and blood diamonds pointless and your friends' engagement rings eventually worthless, while yours is still worth…$110, plus inflation.

Picking a Date:
It’s February when you get engaged, so that means you will need to wait until at LEAST March to get married. Spring weather in Chicago is horrible, and everyone gets married in the summer, so you somewhat arbitrarily decide to get married in the fall—specifically, October. You know nothing about weddings so do not realize that October is a popular month to get married. You are just thinking about turning that month into something with a fun anniversary as opposed to what you are used to celebrating. Who knew how much you’d wish for alternate October celebrations in your adult life?

Financing: Look, you are paying for this entire thing yourselves. Your mom and stepdad have offered a little bit of help, but you weren’t expecting that. A few months after you get “engaged,” you realize that you will kill each other if you don’t sell the condo and find a place that belongs to both of you, not just you. So, a few months before your wedding, you bid on a house in a neighborhood that neither of you has ever even visited. You do not put a contingency on the condo, and for one month you own two homes. Recognize that you chose a home to build your marriage in over the day that the whole thing started, so your budget is super tight, and get over it.

Picking a Venue: You aren’t religious, so you don’t even consider looking into churches, except for a few Unitarian ones that have cool architecture. Call some pretty places at park district and other scenic locations and restart your heart after you hear the price for hanging out there for a few hours. Realize that you have some limitations. Your “fiancée” was raised for years by his grandmother, who uses a wheelchair. Therefore, you need a venue that will accommodate her. Also, you hate driving from ceremonies to receptions so you require both to be in the same location. Denounce these places with weird rules like “you have to use this specific music” or “you must use our house caterers” or “you cannot serve red or dark colored drinks” on the principle of refusal to begin your marriage in a fascist state. Throw up your hands and consider a wedding in the backyard of your new house. One day, have lunch with a friend. Begin complaining about venues over falafel. Explain that your parents can’t help; they got married at age 19 in the basement of a Unitarian church and had m&ms and finger sandwiches, and your fiancée has never even met his dad, so you’re kind of on your own. Tell him you hate the idea of giving money to a venue that won’t do anything useful with it. Feel like smacking him when he tells you in an offhand voice that the community development corporation on the west side THAT HE RUNS actually has a chapel, and they do weddings. Lock down that $500 rate for the day.

Buying a Dress: There are so many designer choices, aren’t there? Especially when you shop at Nordstrom Rack. Find a very simple, satin strapless dress that is probably a bridesmaid’s dress, and try it on in a few colors. The ivory one looks like a legit wedding dress, but…you don’t like it. You choose the “mink” color. Who are you kidding? You are going to be 29 years old when you get married and white is just not your color. The mink dress costs $90, a grand $8 less than the dress you bought for your senior prom. It is also literally twelve inches too long, making you wonder what giantess convention was expected at the Rack. Go to a local tailor and tell him you need the dress for a party. Do NOT mention the word “wedding,” and he will tailor it nicely for you for only $20. When the wedding is over, keep the dress in the bag from the dry cleaner/tailor on a hook in your basement. Five years after you get married, not quite five months after your second child is born, dust off the dress and wear it for your anniversary celebration. Be grateful that it fits you at that stage in your life. Be even more grateful that it is several sizes too big for you now.

Buying Rings:
Take a trek back to the dreaded Jeweler’s Row. Search for rings that have both white and yellow gold. Know that you can’t afford platinum, especially since you don’t believe it is any better. Eventually find a ring that appeals to you; it has white gold inlaid in yellow, making it impossible to re-size. Recognize it as fate that the two rings that they have are your sizes (well, the man’s ring is a little big—thank God for freakishly-large knuckles). Tell the seller what you would like to have engraved on the rings. When she looks as if she is about to call security, agree to talk to her teenage daughter, who tells her mother (you assume, since they are speaking Mandarin) to just do what the crazy white people say and if they want “to Blathe” engraved on their rings, so be it. Never take your ring off, except when you are pregnant, and marvel at how pristine it still is.

Buying a Suit: Oh wait, it’s supposed to be a tux? Oops. Buy a suit for your soon to be husband, without him there to try it on, and be proud of yourself when it fits so nicely. For the record, that was a damn good sale! Then pick out a tie that is on clearance because of a spot on the underside, which will never be seen by anyone. Know the second you see it that it happens to be the exact same strange color as your dress. Continue to be proud when he wears that suit to almost every wedding, funeral, and job interview on the calendar for the next eight years.

Bachelorette Party: Don’t have one. Be glad that you have only attended a couple of these, and one of them involved getting deep dish pizza and going to see an improv show. Do not feel prudish in admitting that seeing naked dudes gyrating just strikes you as embarrassing. You have seen enough of that from the dudes you WANTED to see. And hell if you’re wearing a penis hat or writing with a penis pen. That is not the purpose of a penis.

Bridal Shower: Assume that you will not have one of these either. You have no wedding party, after all, so who would plan it? You will be genuinely surprised when you learn that your husband got in cahoots with his aunt and one of his close female friends to plan a shower for you. You will be even more touched to learn that everyone got you the same gift: a small donation towards a gift card to Sears so you could pick out a set of patio furniture for your new house. Think of this when you sit on the glorious front porch, comfortable on those chairs that are now 8 years old, eating meals with the family that was but a glimmer in your eye back then, and be grateful for those who know you so well as to know what gift you would treasure.

Registry: Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT register anywhere. Tell people not to buy you anything, because you are too old for that and you have a lot of crap and you don’t want people to spend money on you. Panic, but just a little, when you notice that people are arriving with gifts ANYWAY. Be glad that one of the guys working at the CDC (which put your money back into the development of arts and other programs in the low-income, African-American neighborhood) suggested putting up a gift table.

Picking Flowers:
There are supposed to be flowers? Why? It’s OCTOBER. Put your mom in charge of this. She buys mums at a nursery and wraps fall-colored tissue paper around the pots. She arranges them on the tables, and tells people to take them home afterwards. Do not give a thought to the bouquet. When fiancee’s gram offers to buy a corsage, politely refuse since even though the dress is cheaper this isn’t the PROM. Realize the day before the wedding that there is no bouquet. Offhandedly tell your mother this. End up with no less than three bouquets bought by various parties at the last minute.

Choosing an Officiant: This is not a church wedding, so this is quite difficult. It is unnerving trying to figure out how to go about choosing a judge. You don’t know anyone with those $5 certificates allowing them to marry people. OK, actually you do, but that just seems wack. Somehow, find a Unitarian minister, a woman who lives in your neighborhood. She charges you a few hundred dollars total, and gives you a few thousand dollars worth of service. She meets with each of you a few times to do counseling sessions, and meets with you together a few times as well. She checks in on you periodically. She comes to your aid many times, seems to genuinely like both of you, and does an absolutely amazing job writing your ceremony. You remain friends with her for a few years.

Winnowing the Guest List: Invite a few of your ex-boyfriends. Only one of them will come, but, let’s face it, he was the only other one who really mattered. Do not invite other people you probably should have invited due to the tight budget, feel guilty, and realize they don’t hold it against you.

Finding a Band: In a world wherein you are about to marry a professional IT guy who specializes in Macs, the band choice is easy: iPod. It’s really fun putting that playlist together, especially all the wildly inappropriate songs that you include--the soulful songs about infidelity, that song that you just love that happened to be your special song with your long-term ex who will be at the wedding…the whole thing is awesome, and you still listen to that mix on road trips.

Recruiting a Wedding Party (and hiring a photographer and a DJ): Choose not to have one because you don’t like picking amongst friends. Realize that this is a problem when you have no one to hold the bouquet for you during the ceremony. Enlist your brother’s girlfriend by positioning her in the front row and doing a sly hand-off before taking the stage. Ask your brother to write and read a poem; find out later that he will be forced to be master of ceremonies for the whole thing. Enlist your fiancee’s childhood friend, who provided him a place to live for at least a year in high school, to do another reading. Ask two of your girlfriends to take pictures, and ask another of your fiancee’s friends to hit the button on the iPod at the right moments.

Planning the Ceremony Details: Get married at noon. It’s cheaper. Also, recognize that weddings are intended for traditional families and neither of you has one. Ask your mom if she would like to walk you down the aisle and listen to her ask “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?” Tell fiancée that you will just have to walk by yourself. Listen to him tell you that he will be bawling too hard watching you walk by yourself because you are so beautiful and yadda yadda. Decide to walk together. Try to ascertain how to know when to begin walking; minister suggests that she bang a gong, which seems about right. Walk arm in arm down the aisle to the orchestral version of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme song, which ends at precisely the 45 second mark when you have reached the stage. Choose a few poems for the readings by various obscure authors. Take some of the typical vows, some atypical ones, and write the rest yourselves. Marvel in how moved everyone is at the ceremony, how everyone—including you—cried when your brother read his poem, and how many people told you they wished they had used the following Katy-authored vow in their own nuptials: “I promise to try to make your life easier, not harder.”

Planning the Reception Details:
Again with the traditional families. Forgo all the mother-son etc. dances. Do not allow speeches, even from your new husband. Make sure there are lots of children present to take the spotlight off of you. Dance your first dance as a married couple to Johnny Cash’s “Will you Lay with Me in a Field of Stone,” and laugh when the friend hits the wrong button and the Beastie Boys come on momentarily instead.

Choosing a Caterer: Let a friend who got married six months earlier do the work for you. She wasn’t a big wedding person either, and she liked the caterer she used. So go with this Swedish deli on the north side, which gives you a great buffet style lunch and allows you to bring your own paper plates and plastic utensils. Smile when people, including a professional chef who attended, tell you how tasty the food is, “unlike most wedding food.” Enjoy the leftovers for days.

Buying a Cake:
Remember that using the word “wedding” calls for a 3,000% markup. Enlist a bakery on the south side that makes great cakes. Tell them to write congratulations on a sheet cake. Your mom handles most of these details, including the one where they balk the day of the wedding because they are afraid to deliver to the neighborhood where you’re getting married. Begin to panic, but only slightly, until your mother calmly goes into the next room with her phone, saying she will “take care of it.” Continue to wonder what she said to those crackers to this day. Enjoy the leftovers, including the frozen pieces you save for the next year, but never use that bakery again.

Stocking the Bar:
Accept that this chapel does not allow hard liquor, thankfully, since you are paying for everything yourselves. Go to Binny’s and buy a bunch of cases of red wine and beer. Buy champagne. Get a bunch of 2 liters of pop. Realize that people don’t drink a lot in the early afternoon, except for your husband’s friends who are still there when you are changed out of your wedding dress and killer shoes and you are standing there impatiently wondering WTF until your husband makes a line of beer bottles out the door so those dudes FINALLY leave.

Extras: Ah, the crucial details…the favors, invitations etc. Go to one of those invitation places online and order the simplest one. For favors, think about all the different things you have received at weddings over the years and know that nothing will top the ceramic dolphin, because nothing says I swear to love you forever like ceramic dolphins. Instead, go straight to one of your Li-Young Lee poetry books and find that one about eating peaches. Buy some pretty fall-themed stationery at Target and print that poem on it. On the bottom, include this: “Thank you for sharing in the joy of our marriage celebration. Katy and Gabe, October 16, 2004.” Roll up the paper and tie an orange ribbon around it. Use your home printer to make 110 copies, one for each guest, including the kids. Smile when people tell you that yours is one of the only wedding favors they have ever kept.

Changing Your Name: No. Just no.

Planning a Honeymoon:
Stay at a bed and breakfast somewhat near the wedding venue the night before, because the Dan Ryan is under construction and lord knows how long it would take you to get there or if you would be late for your own ceremony. See that as part of the vacation, though you refuse to have sex with your fiancée the night before on some kind of absurd principle that overlooks the countless times you had had sex with him before, but no matter. Following the wedding, drive home, in your regular car. Spend your wedding night opening the gifts you didn’t expect and marveling at the fact that people gave you money and realizing that this house was now your house as a married couple. Answer the phone when your best friend from childhood calls. Talk for a bit. Eat some leftover cake for dinner; after all, you were home by 6 pm and you’re hungry again. Have sex as a married couple and realize how it is exactly the same and be comforted by that. A few days later, get in the car and drive to Wisconsin, stopping at random places on the way to Door County, including a tiny inn on a dairy farm in a town called Norman.

What to Do When Things Go Wrong: Accept it. So, your brother lives in Hungary at the time, and he has a completely absurd issue with his flight, which is extremely turbulent. His luggage, and that of his girlfriend, does not arrive. Luckily, he had an old suit left at your mom’s place, and you lend something to his girlfriend, who is much smaller than you but looks fabulous in it anyway. He is your brother and he is a teacher, so accept that he will take it upon himself to tell people where to go for the reception and other small details. It’s lucky that his plane landed, because someone had to tell everyone about the massive car accident that took place in the parking lot during the reception. “If you have a car of X Model, X Make, color silver with a license plate of X, please see me.” And then your boss, one of your old coworkers, and your best friend from growing up could find out the extent to which their cars were totaled by some drunken teenager driving in the lot. All the while, you will acknowledge that it is October, so while it is often beautiful that time of year, today it is 38 degrees and raining and you look freezing in all of the photos you took outside. This is why you did NOT plan an outdoor wedding after all.

Notice the fear in your new husband’s voice when he asks you what you thought of the whole day. Listen to him tell you that he just wants you to be happy. Crane your neck to the side with some difficulty, because all of the gifts and leftover food and cases of wine are balanced on your heads inside the subcompact car that he is, indeed, driving himself, sober as he is. Think back to yesterday, when he had to tell you that the day before your wedding, your car had been broken into in front of the house you’d only lived in for a month. The video camera was stolen, but the box of disposable cameras was still there, and those yielded the best photos of the night anyway. Remember that you spent your last day as a single woman at the car-window repair place. Ponder for a moment how you will answer his question. And then, tell him, “Well, you know…(PAUSE)

It was perfect.”


  1. You're not kidding about the Facebook thing... do you post a comment here or there? I choose both. Anyway, I remember hanging out with your mom at the reception, and I said something along the lines of, "Well, I don't really know Gabe all that well; but I know Katy and she will settle for no one other than exactly whom she wants. So he must be one hell of a guy." After really getting to know him through these crazy, crazy years... I stand by my initial assumption.

  2. Aah, Friendster, good times. Seriously, you did it up right that day.

  3. Happy Anniversary. Most people don't realize that you can tell an awful lot about a couple by the kids they have - how they behave, react and respond to those they know - and those they barely know. Your two are GREAT kids - they could only have gotten to be who and as they are through the nurturing of parents who love them - and each other.

    I admire you and Gabe. You make a great couple - truly a synergy between you that makes your "couple" greater than its constituent parts.

    Now - unless I've missed something along the way, here, I STILL don't understand "how to O and get your brother's girlfriend to look at your penis." For one thing, I think it's a pretty good guess that you don't HAVE one.

    1. You know, Lou, that only 15 other people know what you're talking about...but now when that dude gets back onto Google to search, he'll know he has an audience! I hope he finds what he's looking for...