The fact that I absolutely love weddings often comes as a surprise to those who know me. This is very likely due to the fact that I have very little interest in wedding planning.
To be blunt, I don’t think most of what usually woman, but increasingly men, occupy themselves with during the planning process really matters. Should you use succulents or flowers for the centerpieces? Should she wear a strapless gown or cap sleeves? Should they walk down the aisle to classical music or classic rock? Should they have a signature cocktail, and if so, what should it be?
Brides and grooms of summer 2014, it’s time to hear the hard truth. Nobody really remembers these things. What they do remember, if all goes well, is the good feeling of watching two people in love declare their commitment to one another in front of family.
Unfortunately, now that weddings have transformed from a party to performance art, brides and grooms are all too often distracted by the line at the photo-booth, the rapidly melting ice sculpture or the fact that the canapés are a little soggy, or whatever other minor detail they have been spent the last year obsessing over. Meanwhile, their guests are just happy to be together, talking, eating, drinking and dancing and really don’t worry about such things – unless of course the clearly preoccupied couple gets in their way. We don’t go to weddings for a great meal or to gawk at the centerpieces, we go to celebrate people we love, and if they don’t look like they are having a good time then it is hard for us guests to have one too.
Oh, so much to react to in this New York Times story about women who spend years planning their weddings before meeting their grooms! First, the mixture of recognition and horror. I’ve always had ideas about the kind of wedding I’d like. Friends’ nuptials as well as ads in magazines have given me examples to react to, so I have a sense of what I find pretty or creative or too tacky for words. But I’m not obsessed with weddings; I just like plans.
I look at houses though I have no desire to own one. I think about baby names though I’m not having a baby anytime soon. I peruse astonishingly cute foster kittens though my current building does not allow pets. For me, this kind of daydreaming has always seemed like a harmless way of solidifying my taste. Now I know that Sphinx cats freak me out, that I strongly dislike ranch houses, and that I would never name my child Chardonnay. And I know, after being a bridesmaid in three weddings, that if I get married I will not have bridesmaids.
Still, I regard pre-booking your wedding entertainment nine years ahead in the same way I view awful traffic accidents in the opposite lane. I would never call up wedding planners when there was no wedding in sight. I would not curate a Pinterest board called “Someday My Prince Will Come,” or register on wedding websites while single, or shop for my own engagement ring. It’s admittedly a fine line, but that is where I draw mine.
When it’s approaching 1:00 a.m. and I’m simultaneously going through OkCupid profiles, receiving texts from someone entered in my phone as “Jason LES?” and wondering at what age I should consider freezing my eggs, I yearn for the days when matchmakers were the norm. My mind drifts back to the Eastern European shtetls. “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” from Fiddler on the Roof, begins to play in my head. Then, before I even get to the verse about being potentially betrothed to a drunken wife-beater, I see Patti Stanger flash across my TV and realize that a modern matchmaker won’t necessarily solve my dating woes.
Unlike the many reality television stars that fill my viewing hours, I have a complex, emotionally-charged love-hate relationship with Stanger, a Jewish New Jersey native who has her own Bravo reality TV show, “Millionaire Matchmaker.” Each episode features millionaires who generally all want the same thing: a hot chick of various hair color and breast size with the IQ of a grapefruit who will mother them and provide round-the-clock sexual favors. My friends and I watch the series not to ogle millionaires, but to see Stanger execute her romantic proscriptions as decisively and meanly as the Soup Nazi doles out cheddar broccoli chowder.
Entertaining as she may be, spend a little time with Ms. Stanger and you’ll realize there are more intelligent reasons to dislike her than there are cocktails thrown in a single season of “Real Housewives.” In one talk-show appearance, Stanger said that single women in New York were too brainy and intimidated men of marriage material; gay men had unmanageable libidos that made them ill fit for monogamy, and Jewish men lie. Most recently, her attempt to explain the Will Arnett-Amy Poehler divorce not only demeaned both parties, but also offended anyone who liked good comedy and/or feminism. Arnett’s primal instincts, Stanger argued, prevented him from accepting his wife’s greater success; moreover, since Poehler had achieved so much professionally, she probably wasn’t paying enough attention to the old hubby, anyways. Stanger’s analysis includes at least a dozen points that are either ludicrous or based in really bad pop science.
I love a good frum wedding. No one knows how to party, in the best possible way, like religious Jews at a wedding. Last Sunday, we went to the wedding of the daughter of a couple to whom we’re related by marriage and with whom we’ve become friends. It was a beautiful affair that took place in an elegant wedding hall in Boro Park.
The bride’s parents are both extremely religious and very worldly. They have earned my admiration for doing incredible chesed, collecting food and clothing from myriad sources and re-distributing it to more than 1,000 poor people each week throughout Brooklyn. There is barely room to walk through their basement because it is packed high with pallets of donated potatoes, sugar, canned goods and other foods. When food does not meet stringent kosher guidelines, for one reason or another, it is given to food pantries that feed non-Jews, mostly through local black churches.
The affair was beautiful. And make no mistake about it, this was a Boro Park wedding. There were streimels galore, and a parade of distinguished, elderly rebbes came by, with entourages of younger followers at their heels. I see a new take on the HBO show “Entourage.” Instead of a young Hollywood star and his cronies hanging out poolside at glamorous hotels and watching tushes, our new show would feature big-time rebbes and their followers hanging out at tisches.