Tag Archives: wedding

Setting A Tone

When is the last time you saw someone dressed? I mean really dressed? Most people (beyond the set of Downton Abby) don’t dress for dinner these days. Certainly, by the looks of things, no one dresses to go into town either. A hat and pair of seasonally appropriate gloves were once practically a requirement for trolling the department stores. Lunching outside the home involved outfitting oneself with care and precision. But time passes and with it goes formality. Dining outside one’s home is no longer an occasion, dining at home is. Traveling, sightseeing or shopping is done with enough frequency to no longer fuss over appearance. Is there something a wee bit unsettling about sitting in a crush velvet Broadway seat next to someone in flip-flops and a tank top? A tad, but it’s really the close proximity to their big gulp slurpie that rankles the nerves. (Will that infernal plastic straw squeak ever end? Are they really going to play with the ice throughout the entire show? Is that neon infused corn syrup abomination going to land in my lap?)

When others treat an occasion with all the frivolity of hanging out in their own background, it tends to dilute the experience a bit. But you will probably still enjoy the show or even dinner if you keep your eyes straight ahead. But what of an occasion at which one must mingle and therefore move one’s eyes? What if our (and practically every society’s) traditions encourage a certain style of dress? What if it is in fact guests that help make an event an occasion?

At any number of weddings this summer, guests have taken it upon themselves to draw focus from the marrying couple. They will do this by over or underdressing, or by wearing white. These are not guests who have dressed in compliance with invitation instructions (i.e., it’s a white wedding for all! beach attire requested! black tie only!) these are guests who a) are not adept at social cues b) have nothing else to wear or c) the airline lost their luggage. (A word about white: even if the bride is not wearing white, even if there is no bride but instead two grooms, it is not a good idea for guests to wear white. Rational or not, other guests will be focused on the woman in white versus the marrying couple.)

Of course these slip-ups are not just reserved for the start of married life, but apply to the end of life as well. While there really is no one from whom to steal focus at a funeral, it’s best to not wear white (unless your tradition suggests otherwise.) Wearing black is no longer required, but somber tones are best. Any flash (sequins, excessive jewelry, statement shoes) should really be avoided, in other words; tone it down. Like a wedding, all attendees are helping to set the tone. And unless the deceased played in the major leagues that tone should not include baseball caps.

Dressing is the only way we humans have of communicating in a blink of an eye and in a universal language. While there are those of us who may long for more formal everyday attire, in the end it’s simply a matter of taste. But attending a wedding or funeral is not about us; it’s how we support people who are important to us. Showing up to a funeral in a strapless white eyelet mini-dress is the equivalent of screaming; “I’m here!!!!” Whereas a navy knee-length shirtdress whispers to the bereaved; “I’m here.”


Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Style


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Going To The Chapel

It’s wedding season!  If you’re lucky you will have received an invitation by now.  Yes, I said lucky.  How can attending a wedding not be enjoyable?  Even the worst weddings are fun, perhaps not in the moment, but certainly in the tales you’ll tell later.  That wedding that took place outside, with no awning, in the blazing sun, in August?  You know, the one where they served cream of mushroom soup?  It makes for a good story, no?  How about the rural taxidermy spectacular at which you played “count the back tats” with your date?  Good times.  Without them would you have ever truly appreciated the Windows on the World pageantry, or the backyard exchange of vows under a weeping willow?

Weddings are a good time not just because you might get to dance and mingle with people you know or like, but also because they are a peek into people’s character.  An invited peek at that!  Posh, homemade, sentimental, calculated, they are all “beautiful reflections of his/her love’s affection.”  A wedding tells us scads about the couple’s heart’s desires.  It used to be that weddings mostly told us about the desires of the bride’s mother.  But times have changed.  People remarry, marry later, marry within the same gender, marry outside of their faith, and marry with children.  More and more, couples are redefining the steadfast guidelines of weddings.

Does a father need to walk a 45-year-old daughter down the aisle to “give her away?”  What if there is no daughter?  What if she’s been given away before?  What if she has two daddies?  Or more.  Does a bride need to cover her face with a veil?  Is a veil even relevant?  Luckily, before we needed to reexamine the tastefulness of throwing rice (symbolizing fertility) to couples in their sixties, the avian lovers made us find something else to throw.  Tossing your wedding remains (i.e., garters, bouquets) to your less fortunate friends is (mercifully) rare these days.  We can assume this is the case because a) no one can remember what a sad little piece of lace wrapped elastic is doing on a woman’s leg and/or b) lining up single friends to receive your cast-offs is not nice.  (Wouldn’t it be much more in the spirit of love and community, to have both partners invite all their exes and hope for love connections amongst the guests?)

Weddings are archaic and traditions are always slow to change.  There was a brief mini-bubble in the late 1960s/early 1970s when younger people married on mountaintops with an officiant sporting some beads and a ponytail.  But by the mid-1970s the Tricia Nixon wedding was back in style.  The shift in wedding style we are seeing today seems far more lasting.  By virtue of who is marrying, weddings are becoming more personal in design.  There will always be couples that prefer to follow a playbook (cue Wagner, Corinthians reading, candle lighting, receiving line, and we’re out.)  We will give these couples the benefit of the doubt and not suggest they haven’t thought a whit about their wedding, marriage or each other, we will instead call them traditionalists.  But they now seem to be in the minority.  Older couples (in this context “older” means 30+) have hopefully formed many friendships and important relationships throughout their lives.  Their wedding might reflect those in some way.  When different faiths and backgrounds merge, the results can be a beautiful integration of customs.

No one is forced to editorialize wedding traditions more than a couple of the same gender.  Who walks down the aisle?  Who sits where?  Who dances with whom?  The beauty of this process is that it often results in a “why in the world would we do THAT?” conversation.  A conversation that every couple should be having about every assumption at every juncture.  This all bodes quite well for the future.  More thoughtfulness is always a good thing.  Going through life attuned and conscious has a wonderful effect on the world.

As I sip my champagne, careful not to spill on my silk, I will toast to this ritual that by its definition is steeped in hope.  I will feel grateful for the opportunity to learn more about what makes the couple happy and how they feel about each other.  And I will dance, if not to actual music, than in my mind.  I will celebrate presence, consciousness, and of course, love.


Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Marriage/Wedding


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I Spy

I fancy myself somewhat of a student of human nature, with a major in motivation.  I’m fascinated by what compels people to behave in certain ways.  I find myself devising plausible scenarios when people behave in an unorthodox fashion.  That older woman biting my head off when I tried to be of assistance?  Well, in my little fiction, she has just been informed by her ungrateful children that they are moving her into a nursing facility.  She knows she can take care of herself and doesn’t want anyone suggesting otherwise.  See?  Isn’t that more palatable than “people are just nuts?”  Of course some people are just that.  Nuts.  I don’t spend my days making up little stories about the man on my corner peeing into the telephone kiosk (it’s not just Superman that mourns the end of the booth, ya know.)  I accept that there are those around us that live in an alternate reality.  But most don’t.  Most of us are socialized people living mostly well adjusted lives.

Like the good student I am, I conduct research (a.k.a. eavesdrop) and devour data to develop and support my theories.  It’s not all drudgery however.  For example, the wedding announcements can be fun and educational.  These pages are to me, what petri dishes filled with rapidly multiplying cells are to a biology student.  Where to begin?!  A cursory glance (which may be dictated by a pressing Sunday morning schedule or hangover) of just the photos is a good start.  About 40% of the photos don’t warrant a second glance.  But the rest are a veritable National Enquirer of intrigue.  My personal favorites are when the two can’t even stand to be near each other for the photo.  Their heads actually crane towards escape.  But fun as photo analysis is, and trust me it is, it’s for amateurs.  The real meat and potatoes is in the narrative, that is where the cavalcade of clues convene.  Thankfully, there are a fair amount of lovely stories that foretell great promise.  I do enjoy trying to discern the family’s take on the nuptials.  On average I surmise that every month, two of these families are sitting shiva.  But far more often, after reading about the families and the intended, it’s seems the marriage was always an inevitable.  The neurosurgeon/lawyer’s medical ethics professor daughter marrying the medical school dean/foundation director’s Doctors Without Borders son?  Yep.  There is even a seasonal predictability; those in their 20s-30s marrying in summer, more mature couples in fall and winter.  The only real surprises are when the announcement mentions the couple courting while married to other people (wince.)

This past Sunday I read with enjoyment of the couple planning to marry at the Four Seasons.  The gentlemen had been together ten years!  Somehow, I gleaned from that they had been waiting for New York to legalize their nuptials.  In my little (sorely misguided) mind, I had assumed that a restaurant wedding would be a sedate family affair to celebrate a well established relationship and their new marital journey.  Wrong.  I mean “sleeping through the final exam” wrong.  Showing up to the wrong class all semester, wrong.  The sedate wedding?  For 650?  With music by Aretha Franklin?  Did I miss something?  Should the biographies including a degree from the French Culinary Institute and some philanthropic work clued me in?  In my defense, nothing about the serving on the board of the Highline or Wildlife Conservation Society, screamed Page 6 to me.  I am left to conclude one of two things.  1) For some people a six figure wedding (including the cost of the publicist) IS a sedate and solemn affair OR 2) the wedding announcements are not a good primary data source.  I am not willing to consider the possibility that it’s time I changed majors.  It’s simply not an option.  The study of human behavior is how I navigate the world.  It is how I find my way and protect myself.  I’ve no doubt that for the next few days I will be stumbling about my world in a mild stupor.  In my fragile state, I will try to remember to steer clear of the phone kiosk.

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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Marriage/Wedding


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I Wanna Be A Republican?

With all due respect to The Kinsey Sicks, who, if you don’t know, is a fantabulous dragapella group who perform their own, often politically scathing songs and recorded I Wanna Be A Republican…..

Not in a gajillion years did I consider that  this thought would ever cross my mind.  But friends and strangers I have just laid eyes upon Jenna Bush’s wedding photos and I felt the veil of confusion lift and the sorrow and heartache ebb.  Yes, brothers and sisters, there exists a tasteful bride and she was/is the heir apparent to the Republican throne.  I know nothing of this woman except that, bless her heart, she’s made the most of her looks.   But I implore you to cast your eyes upon the bride and deny the existence of a fashion higher power.  He/She has been known to take on the mortal form of Oscar de la Renta at times.  But it is more than the dress that is neither a get-up suitable for a party at the Hefner mansion or for a stroll down a modern day red carpet.  Yes the dress is beautiful and tasteful and flattering and sophisticated and festive and brilliant.  But yeah as I cast my eyes upon her it is more.  On this fair spawn of conservative royalty there is nary a dangling plastic earring, a spray tan or updo.  There are some flowers tucked into her hair (no doubt by a team of no less than six hair stylists) and an almost scrubbed glow to her face.  There is no (g-d help me) “bling” on her whatsoever.  She is lovely and a beacon of hope in a world gone mad with bridal vulgarity.

So I  conclude, and don’t think it doesn’t pain me to say it, perhaps conservatives are not the devil.

Now I ask you to consider the following:
How or why is it that during a time when more and more of our country embraces conservative positions, more and more people seem to be embracing what can only be called liberal mannerisms.  The ideas are conservative but the dress and promiscuity are anything but.  What is the law of physics that is being employed?

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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Marriage/Wedding


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Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace

Blame it on the stratospheric rise of the wedding industry, the etiquette business not keeping pace with technology or the parent as friend trend; whatever the cause there seems to be a need for modern day nuptial communication guidance.

I am not an etiquette expert.  I have produced and managed copious events, attended over 30 weddings and have been touched, tickled and traumatized by nuptial communications over the years.  There are many people touting newfangled etiquette advice.  Yes, dear reader, I have witnessed advice that gift registry information should be front and center at all times.  (Think: “letter to Santa”)

Weddings are a rite of passage fraught with meaning and sentimentality  Wedding planning usually emphasizes the party aspect of the wedding.  Yet, the most overlooked and defining aspect to wedding planning is communication.   Technology has turned us all into photographers and web designers, but technology is only a means to the end.  Even those intentionally eschewing technology and are only communicating through handcrafted invitations are well served to raise their marketing consciousness.

The number one rule to keep in mind is that an invitation is not a contract.  Gifts are lovely but are never a quid pro quo for being invited.  Inviting anyone to anything defines you as a host or hostess and you must behave as one.


Let’s start at the very beginning, that’s a very good place to start.

Engagement Parties are not mandatory.  Their primary purpose is to introduce the two families of the intendeds to each other.  Gifts are a welcome addition but by no means necessary.   There should be no registry at this point.  Gifts should never be opened at the party itself.  An engagement party is not a child’s birthday party or a shower.

Speaking of showers….

No mention of gifts, gift registries, or web sites have any business being included with an invitation.  When invited guests R.S.V.P. they can ask their host about gifts.  Besides being gracious, this tactic will raise your R.S.V.P. rates!

The Wedding

The number one guiding factor of invitations is that they alert the guest as to the tenor of the event.  An engraved, raise lettered invitation on heavy stock paper in neutral colors screams “formal.”  A “cute” construction paper invitation in “cool” colors communicates “come as you are.”

The invitation package should include all relevant information for the guests.  Simply putting the web site address on the invitation is lazy and a cheap ploy to link people to your gift wish list.

If you are having multiple events (i.e., rehearsal dinner, brunch, etc.) include very specific relevant information in the wedding invitation.

Communications during any and all wedding centric events is crucial as well.  Remember that the most fundamental premise is to be a good host or hostess.  Your job is to ensure that your guests feel welcomed and are comfortable.  Part of how you address this is by communicating your intentions.  Some wedding couples choose to create a program to describe the relationships of the people included in the wedding party, or to describe religious rituals that will be part of the ceremony.  Other couples have the officiant describe to the guests what rituals will be performed.  Unless yours is a wedding in a very closed community, do not assume that your guests are familiar with your practices and consider by what means you’d like to communicate.
Keep in mind that what is not said is as important as what is said.  I have been to weddings at which the officiant used the blessed occasion to spout anti-homosexual rhetoric.  Twice.  And no one stopped him or corrected him.  I have been to a wedding at which the priest and the rabbi went into fierce oratory competition during the ceremony, going so far as to grab the microphone from each other.  Very holy.
No you can not control everyone’s behavior, but you can convey your intentions and vision to those who will be involved, prior to the event.  This is true with religious or civil officiants, caterers, bakers, etc.  There are those (cough: me) who gave a list to the band leader of verboten songs (i.e., chicken dance, electric slide, and yes, the horah.)  If you are adult enough to get married you are adult enough to ask for what you want.  Politely.
There is no question that receiving lines are awkward for everyone involved.  The wedding couple does need to address each and every one of their guests however.  This must be done as a couple, doing so individually does nothing to convince the guest that you two are destined for couple greatness!  Simply put, your job is to thank your guest for coming.  You needn’t do so with a cheap assembly line gift, simply a sincere in stereo thank you is sufficient.

Post Nuptials

Oh, if only it went with out saying that a prompt, personal, handwritten thank you note was in order.  Never is anything electronic acceptable.  Well, maybe if it’s a flat screen television.  If I hauled myself to your event, or sent a gift, you can lift a pen and a stamp.  Personal counts.  This is where actually speaking to all of your guests comes in handy.  “Thank you so much for coming to our wedding.  It was so lovely to see you and I was so happy that husband/wife had the pleasure of meeting you.  I can’t thank you enough for being part of what was such an important day for us.”  or a version that also thanks for a gift, or a version that only thanks for a gift.

A note on visual communication

Photos of yourself no doubt make you happy.  They are not a form of communication and should be used ever so sparingly (like your monogram.)  Narcissism is a slippery slope.

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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Marriage/Wedding


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