From the monthly archives:

June 2009

Now that I’m done kvetching about the two silly inconveniences of our weekend in St. Louis, I can focus on some of the great things about the wedding, which follow in no particular order

Gotta love a wedding buffet – Maybe you’re a frou-frou, East-coast blueblood who insists on a sit-down, surf-and-turf dinner served by garcons in tuxes. If so, that’s perfectly okay. However, I grew up in the Midwest, and we’re often a bit more informal when it comes to dining at our weddings. So when I discovered that we were eating buffet style and they were serving fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs, garlic mashed potatoes, a wonderful caesar salad, prime rib and a dozen other calorie-laiden foods, I was giddy. I don’t like to wait for my food, plus since I have a farily elevated metabolism (think lab-rat, Energizer-bunny fast) and hence large appetite, I’m usually left wanting when someone else chooses how much is on my plate (Groomasaurus Gal hates when I whine about being hungry after what she thought was a big meal). That said, buffets are totally my style, and this one, although not gourmet-quality, definitely hit the spot. We’re having a buffet at our wedding. Done and done.

The candy bar/buffet is the best wedding innovation since the strap-on bowtie – When all my friends were getting married in their 20s, nobody put out candy for guest to nibble on, let alone tasty high-end stuff that you see at weddings now. When I walked through the door on Friday night, I happened upon a veritable cornocopia of Jelly Bellys, Lindt truffles, Resees PB cups, chocolate-covered creme drops and a dozen or so other sugary delights. Within 15 minutes, me and the rest of the early arrivals were bouncing off the walls in a sugar-induced frenzy, and happy for it. The candy buffet is da bomb.

The wedding photo booth is a surprisingly good idea - If you would have told me this beforehand, I would have snorted and marked you for a hopeless bridezilla who buys any lame-ass idea espoused by Martha Stewart Weddings, The Knot and Brides magazine (don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they have some good ideas, too, but they do go a bit overboard at times). It’s just that the wedding photo booth thing seems to be such a trend/fad that it seems to me to be a silly cliche that would quickly go out of style. Boy was I wrong. As the night went on, not only were couples getting their photos snapped, but entire family units, cousins, neices and nephews, all sorts of relations were piling into the booth, and I watched it shake and shimmy as the people inside laughed and gestured at the camera. In fact, the booth became something of a gathering place, much like the kitchen at a housewarming party. I had more fun there than on the dancefloor (and I love to dance, although I do suffer from white man’s disease on the dancefloor and have been known to bite my lower lip when I’m gettin jiggy). So to any bridezilla who I may have offended, I stand corrected and admit the error of my ways.

Kudos for cutting out some silly traditions – I’ve really never been one for the staged traditions like cutting the cake (and then either politely feeding it to each other or stuffing it down each other’s blowhole), tossing the garter (odd aside: wasn’t Madonna the last person to wear garters in public, circa the Like a Virgin tour) and throwing the bouquet. This bride and groom dispensed with the first two, which I found refreshing. And although they did toss the bouquet, it did serve as a moment of entertainment when that one girl (there’s always one at every wedding) who is a little kooky, a little dramatic, sort of the family black sheep, tends to drink too much too early, been through a couple husbands … yeah, well she positioned herself behind the bride and lunged at the bouquet like the inside linebacker for the Bears and scooped it off the floor before anyone could get near it. Well done, and very entertaining.

Wonderful people – I really like Groomasaurus Gal’s family. They’re loving, friendly, sincere people who make you feel welcome even though I see them once in a blue moon, and even though her aunt, uncle and cousins all were celebrating the wedding of the youngest daughter, they went out of their way to include us and give us their time and attention (which is in short supply at a wedding for the mom and dad of the bride as well as the wedding party). Thank you from the bottom of my heart for inviting us and making us feel welcome.

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This past weekend, Groomasaurus Gal and I attended the wedding of one of her many cousins (large Catholic family) in her hometown east of St. Louis. Before we left I checked the weather on my handy iPhone weather app, and it read 98 degrees for the wedding day. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Midwestern heat, but any high temperature is also accompanied by humidity that can hover around an ungodly 50%. There’s a reason neither she nor I venture back to our childhood stomping grounds (mine were in northwestern Ohio), and that’s because we remember sweating through shirts and soaking in ice baths during the summer months.

And despite the forecast, we decided to attend a Cardinals game on Friday night, where around 45,000 other people also decided it was a fine idea to melt in the early evening steam that was St. Louis. One guy in the upper deck actually passed out due to heat exhaustion and fell to the lower deck; thank goodness he was so limp that he bounced off a few people and was relatively unhurt.

This leads me to my first piece of advice: if at all possible, avoid a wedding where there’s the potential for conditions to become physically uncomfortable/unbearable for your guests. I must admit, the church and reception hall were both air conditioned, but you have to leave those comfy confines sometime, and I think I set a U.S. record in the sweat-through-your-shirt/sprint-to-your-car event. Even drinking sucks when it’s hot, because your misery/dizziness baseline is already high, and drinking escalates it almost exponentially faster.

Okay, so I’ll stop bitching about the weather and move on to my next rant, which was my choice of shoes. Last week I ran across this great pair of very modern Steve Madden dress shoes (the pic here is close to what they look like) for cheap, and I thought they’d be great to wear to the wedding. So I pack them up with all my other clothes in my carry-on, and we’re off. Everything is fine until the wedding day arrives, and as we’re getting dressed I pull on my undershirt and it smells like someone doused it with turpentine. I mean, this thing smelled toxic to the point that I sort of got a bit of a brain rush/headache (as close to huffing as I’ll probably ever get).

My strongly scented Steve Madden shoes

My strongly scented Steve Madden shoes

Then I started sniffing around my suitcase and my dress pants and jacket also smelled like a chemical dump. So I’m thinking, there’s no way any of this stuff got near jet fuel or a gas station. And then I grab my shoes to put them on and WHAM … they smell like an ether mask. Come to find out, the plastic soles smelled like they hadn’t cured properly, or that they had just reached their half-life of biodegrading. Whatever the reason, they really, really smelled, so bad that when I was sitting down during the ceremony I could smell the fumes wafting up from below. I’m sure everyone around me smelled it, too, but it’s the Midwest, so they’re all too polite to say anything, plus they probably figured it was some idiot burning his yard (yeah, some people used to to that in the Midwest) or the wind changed and was blowing the plume that always engulfs the local fertilizer dealer into the church.

And the lesson here? Don’t travel with new clothes that you’ve never “battle-tested” or, if you decide to do this, take a backup just in case. Amazing that I never smelled these shoes before I packed them, but I’m now thinking the rubber soles somehow chemically reacted with the humidity. Yeah, I’m no chemist, but I can’t make sense of it any other way.

More about the acutal wedding tomorrow…

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First thoughts about our ceremony

by Jeff on June 23, 2009

We spent last Sunday really plunging in on our wedding planning, and one of the things on our list was to start thinking about our ceremony and vows. Oddly, this one piece of planning really made it sink home that we’re actually getting married. I guess that makes sense because the ceremony is the core of the wedding, and a wedding ain’t really a wedding without some sort of ceremony (even if it’s in Vegas at 2 a.m. and you’re both slurring the words “I do”).

Groomasaurus Gal came up with the excellent idea of a sand ceremony , which I guess was made popular by The Bachlorette series (which was news to me, as I’ve never watched the show). Regardless, our wedding will be on a beach in Mexico, and it seemed only fitting to include the sand ceremony as a symbol of us joining our lives together. Plus, I like the idea of having a keepsake in the form of a glass of sand (much better than the unity candle thing, IMHO).

The sand ceremony is perfect for a beach wedding.

The sand ceremony is perfect for a beach wedding, although these colors are so 1984. - Photo courtesy of AustinWeddingNews.com

As for the rest of the ceremony, it would be great if everything was written specifically for the occasion – readings, vows, officiant’s homily. Our officiant will be my mom, who is a retired ordained clergy in the United Church of Christ, so I’m sure she can help us out. I’d really like to ask a couple of our friends to write something for our service that they can then read. One of my friends asked me to do this a while back for their wedding, and I feel the poem I wrote for that occasion is still one of the best things I’ve written in a decade.

Anyway, there will be more to come…

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… instead of the father giving the bride away, it would be our favorite pro athlete or musician (which we would later regret after we found out they tried to play tonsil hockey with our bride in the church foyer).

… the bride and groom’s mode of transportation would be a Ferrarri, which means we would actually be late to the ceremony because you can’t outrun a two-way radio.

… the reception meal would consist of steak, Budweiser and Twinkies.

… the lovely “Here Comes the Bride” music would be replaced by something like Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” or another completely inappropriate song.

… the ceremony would take place in a barn, because we’d forget to book the church.

… the ring bearer would be our dog, Drillbit, who halfway down the aisle/barn floor would mistake the mother-of-the-bride’s hat for a woodland creature and lose the rings as he lunged for her head.

… our self-inscribed vows would be peppered with modifiers like “awesome,” “stoked,” and “killer.”

… the apparel of choice would be a denim version of dress casual.

… the invitations would be illegible missives scrawled on our “From the Desk of…” notepaper.

… every part of the service would conclude with high-fives among bridesmaids and groomsmen.

… the reception would last 24 hours, after which we would need to be removed by ambulance.

… the wedding colors would be surprisingly similar to those of our college alma mater.

… we’d recruit our best guy friends to help out, who would offer fabulous (i.e., ridiculous and self-serving) ideas like pot brownies instead of cake, see-through bridesmaid dresses and holding the reception on a floating casino.

… no women would attend, because they never liked going to our alcohol-soaked, wiener-fest frat parties in college in the first place, and the only difference between this and those sad galas is that now we’re older, heavier and have less hair. Not exactly an improvement.

Hopefully we wouldn’t be this bad, but you never know what happens when you put a bunch of guys together to plan something. You may get something with the spectacle and energy of the Olympic opening ceremonies. Or it may have all the spontaneity and drama of an office birthday party.

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Groomasaurs Gal and I were again watching garbage TV on a Friday night. This is beginning to become an ugly trend, but like any addiction, it’s very hard to break. Also like any other addiction, it has its deleterious side effects, in this case loss of sleep, reduced attention span and a propensity to scream at inanimate objects (i.e., a rigid TV screen) that coincides with a false belief that you can change events that happened 1,000 miles away about 3 months ago.

This time, we were mainlining Say Yes to the Dress and another show about people who run a wedding chapel in Vegas. The latter was actually a good show, mostly because of one couple who appeared on the episode. They were a military couple who have been dating for a few years but are stationed on different bases and got married so the military would station them in the same place. But although this was much more than a wedding of convenience, the two of them had not planned a thing and showed up to the chapel wanting to get married the next day in full wedding dress (white gown and tux). You could tell how much these two people adored each other, and the fact that their wedding was spur-of-the-minute didn’t take away from how much they obviously loved each other.

I’m going to stop here so this doesn’t turn to mush and I lose my Manly Dude Club Card, but I was struck by how the spontaneous nature of their wedding actually made it so much more refreshing and poignant than weddings that have been planned to death. It’ almost like there’s so much emphasis on hammering out all the details and locking things in that once you’re finished, it runs like a military maneuver and not a romantic occasion.

I was thinking that there’s got to be a happy medium, where you have your ducks lined up in a row but you leave some room for people to freely express themselves. If you’re really adventurous, you could have a half-hour open mike during the reception where people can come up and tell fun, G-rated stories about the two of you. Or you could tell unrehearsed stories about each other. Or you could each plan something for each other that happens sometime during the day that would be a surprise to the other person (anyone who saw the musicians appear in the wedding scene in “Love Actually” knows exactly what I’m talking about). Just something to add an element of good surprise (god knows enough glitches happen during a wedding) to your wedding day.

Would love your feedback on this…

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Body waxing was not made for men

by Jeff on June 16, 2009

The business across the hallway from my office is a waxing and skin care salon. In previous office spaces, I’ve been located next to accounting firms, software developers, architects and a bicycle shop. Although the guys in the bike shop were a kick, the waxing salon is hands down the best neighbor we’ve ever had, and for two main reasons. First, the owners are a husband/wife team who are two of the most genuine people on the planet, and we’ve had great conversations with them. Second, their clientele is primarily college students and young female professionals, and I’ve joked with Groomasaurus Gal that the reason my business partner and I have a hard time finishing projects is because of all the very attractive distractions walking through the door across the hallway. I know this makes me sound like a complete letch, and it’s not like I have a periscope poking above my cube to get a better view (although now that I think about it, this isn’t such a bad idea), but put any warm-blooded straight guy in my office and see if they can keep from looking up from their spreadsheet every once in a while. I may be engaged, but I’m not dead.

So I was talking with the husband co-owner a few weeks ago and he was telling me that they’re working 7 days a week right now to keep up with wedding season. I guess I never realized that this is something that brides and their bridesmaids do before the big day – stop by for a casual wax – and often en masse, although I can see the logic behind it. Sort of like a day at the spa but with more tears and shrieks (although I have yet to hear any yelling coming from their office).

Then I thought about if guys would ever do such a thing, and the picture in my head made me laugh out loud. Not in a million years, never, nihil, nada, no way jose. First of all, guys couldn’t handle the pain. Women are naturally programmed to withstand dramatically more pain than we are (Exhibit A: Childbirth). I remember Bill Cosby once saying that if you’re a guy and you want to feel the pain of childbirth, just take your lower lip and wrap it around your head. The planet would be empty if it we were the ones carrying babies, because none of us could handle the pain. Same situation for waxing. I’d rather look like Cornelius from Planet of the Apes and endure uncomfortable stares at the pool than have to endure a waxing session. Heck, I tear up when I pluck a stray whisker from my face; I’d probably pass out if someone ripped a whole strip of them off.

And this brings me to the second reason a group of groomsmen wouldn’t be caught dead in a waxing salon. It’s because, well, we really don’t want anyone removing things from our guy parts. When I do see the occasional guy across the hallway, sitting there calmly waiting for his appointment, I wince just at the thought that he might be getting his business waxed. And I don’t care how cute the waxing technician is, because once I feel that searing pain of the first rip, I’ll be squealing in the same octave that a choirboy sings. I saw The 40 Year Old Virgin, and although it’s certainly not billed as an educational movie, I learned volumes from that waxing scene.

Thankfully I’m not that hirsute, so I’ll never have to face a waxing strip voluntarily. But after thinking about the discomfort of waxing, I am humbled and a bit in awe at the lengths you women go to make yourselves look fantastic. Thank god you are okay with us guys being hairy beasts, cause for most of us you couldn’t tempt us into a waxing salon with a case of beer, tickets to the Super Bowl and the promise of nookie for a month (well, okay, that might work).

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We’re a busy culture, always working, always building, always growing, always thinking, always moving. All this activity means that, on occasion, certain things don’t get done because other things get in the way. In fact, sometimes it seems we have so much going on that life becomes a series of tangents in which we start down hundreds of paths but don’t ever arrive at a destination.

This perfectly encapsulates my last few weeks. Lots of projects, many deadlines, not much to show for it. The thing that always frustrates me about these patches of craziness is that the entire time I’m scrambling, I am thinking about all the important things these seeming trivialities are keeping me from. For instance, I really enjoy writing this blog, but I haven’t been able to devote much time to it lately. Ditto for planning our wedding … I had scheduled some time to work on our guest lists and invitations the last few weekends, but somehow the minutiae of life has kept me from getting to them.

Meanwhile, the entire time I was putting off my wedding planning, this little evil voice in the back of my head kept saying, “You need to get on this stuff. If you don’t get these things planned, you won’t have the wedding you and your fiancee want. You’ll run out of time, people won’t come because you informed them too late and it will all turn to shit.” (Yes, my little voice does swear at me; it is evil, you know.) Then the guilt sets in, and before you know it I’m in the midst of a big shame fest.

So now that I have some space to breathe, I wonder why we put such pressure on ourselves to take on so many tasks and put such pressure on ourselves to make everything perfect. Maybe life would be better if some things were less than perfect. Maybe our wedding would be a better experience if we didn’t kill ourselves beforehand to make it perfect and instead let some things slide and relaxed and enjoyed the journey leading up to it. I’m not saying put it all off until you’re forced to elope in Vegas (which is sounding better by the day), but maybe the invites don’t have to be perfect, the flowers don’t have to be so elaborate, the favors can be skipped, the vows can be written like a last-minute term paper when the pressure brings out nuggets of clarity and insights. Just the thought of this takes the pressure off … I think I’ll try this relaxed approach for a while and maybe find some peace in the planning process.

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Pre-wedding living in sin now the norm

by Jeff on June 8, 2009

I was just reading the results of The Knot’s annual wedding survey , and besides the average wedding costing a shade over $29K (that seems pretty high … it must be all those $2M weddings on TLC’s Wedded to Perfection skewing it high), I learned that 71% of the couples polled lived together before getting married.

Yes, that’s not a typo … 71%. Wow, I can’t imagine that number was higher than 2% for my parents’ generation, which shows how much things have changed since then. Our generation is also getting married later in life, with the average age of women getting married at 25.6 and met at 27.7.

What does this all mean? I have no clue, other than I can now tell my mom that I’m normal for having lived with my girlfriend/fiancee (albeit 6 years) before we got married (although mom is now completely used to it and probably doesn’t care a lick). So much for being a rebel…

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Your wedding: destination or party?

by Jeff on June 5, 2009

As a guy blogging about planning a wedding, I’m a bit like white tiger in the wild – a genetic anomaly, a freak of nature, a very rare and peculiar animal. With all the billions of dollars devoted to marketing to brides-to-be, all the column-inches and pixels devoted to informing women about wedding ideas and tips, it’s not oversimplifying things to say that women are the gender that gets marketed to the most as well as worked up the most about weddings.

I can’t speak for Gen Y or the Millenials, but for Gen X women and the generations that came before, weddings and marriage were topics and ideas planted in young girls’ heads from early on (see Exhibits 1 and 2, Cinderella and Wedding Day Barbie). It’s a topic that us guys are certainly aware of when we’re kids and teens, but until we get to marrying age and actually find someone who will even consider spending their lives with us (which for those of us who don’t look like Brad Pitt is fairly difficult), we honestly have a tougher time relating to it than you women do.

Which brings me to my point. I think because of all the buildup women go through from girlhood to womanhood, all the dreaming and planning, their wedding day becomes a destination. It’s the one perfect day in their lives in which they play the starring role. It’s this mystical, magical event that they’ve dreamed about for years. It’s the culmination of months and months of planning and preparation. It’s the single, ultimate expression of their relationship and the passion and friendship that anchors it. Which is all pretty cool thing.

However, for us guys, we haven’t really given our wedding day nearly as much thought other than what our dreamgirl will look on our wedding night (insert X-rated fantasy here). I’m selling us a bit short here, but I’m just saying that we’re just not as … obsessed isn’t the right word … neither is fixated … let’s say as detailed about our thoughts concerning our wedding day as you are. While you think of your wedding as a destination, we think of it more as a party. Not a drunken bacchanal where people are wearing togas and getting sloppy drunk (although I imagine a few weddings over the years have achieved such lows), but more of a celebration, a time to be enjoyed with family and friends and ultimately an opportunity to share with the people close to us the unbelievable feeling we have about this great woman standing next to us.

I think that’s why lots of brides have a post-wedding hangover. Not the alcohol-induced type, although that may also apply here, but rather a feeling like “Wow, it’s over. That’s a little sad.” Whereas, for us, once the wedding is over, we’re more like “Wow, it’s over. Now I don’t have to spend my Saturdays helping choose flower arrangements and we can get back to our great life together.” I hope this doesn’t sound cold, because it’s not supposed to. I just think if we understand what a wedding day means to each of us, then it’s easier to plan it and easier to understand when one of us just doesn’t want to look at another invitation paper sample. Okay???

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Wedded to Distraction on Fridays

by Jeff on June 2, 2009

Wife-husband wedding planners on Wedded to Perfection (her horns are missing in this shot) - Picture courtesy of TLC Web site

Wife-husband wedding planners on Wedded to Perfection (her whip is missing in this shot) - Picture courtesy of TLC Web site

Back when I was in my 20s, I remember if I spent a Friday night at home I felt like I was missing out on some gem of an experience, like a DJ ripping it or a party full of amazingly erudite conversation or a lounge with a comfy vibe and high-octane drinks. Fast forward 20 years and now on Friday night I’m holding court with Groomasaurus Gal (GG) in my TV room watching crappy TV. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Of course we could be using our time much more productively, reading Proust, learning a new language, even planning our wedding. But by Friday night I’m so tired of thinking that I just want brain candy and a stiff drink (a good anejo tequila like Maestro or Cielo fits the bill here). So lately we’ve been flipping to shows like The Fashion Show (Kelly Rowland needs to stop trying to be an ice-queen like Heidi Klum and warm up a bit, IMHO), The Food Network’s Chopped and TLC’s What Not To Wear. I especially like the latter, as GG and I equally like bashing the difficult guests (for god’s sake, you’ve just been given $5K to spend on clothes … stop bitching) and rooting for those with self-esteem issues. I understand the idea of the show is to tutor those with little to no taste in clothing, but I’ve always said about music that even people with bad taste deserve to listen to something (sorry if I offend anyone, but I usually say this after overhearing Dave Matthews or Blues Traveler). Some people just aren’t into stylish clothes, so why make them feel as if they’re doing something wrong by wearing their tie-dyed halter tops. I guess I’m oddly conflicted about this.

Anyway, to make a long story even longer, after an episode of What Not To Wear this last Friday we decided to watch Wedded to Perfection, which follows a wife-husband (listed in order of dominance) wedding-planning team based in NYC. They plan all these events for all the bluebloods and monied of Manhattan, and although I know some people spend a bundle on weddings, I was a bit shocked that their clients’ weddings start at $200K and go up in the millions. I thought our destination wedding costs were a little steep, but these people party like the pharaohs.

The show would be a good one to watch for brides who want to get ideas about place settings and floral arrangements and funky touches like an underlit escort card table (okay, I’m an idiot, but I didn’t even know what an escort card was before the show). But the real reason to watch the show is to get a glimpse at the dynamic of the wife-and-husband team. She’s a Type-AAAAAAA New Yorker who is on her game, obviously knowledegable and talented, and alpha-dog bossy. I’ve had demanding bosses for whom I would walk through fire because they were also supportive and true mentors, and I’ve had demanding bosses who leave a room and everyone wants to throw rocks at the back of their head. I’m not saying she would necessairly fall into the latter category, but she really got under my skin.

Thank goodness for her husband, who seems to be a sincerely nice guy and a good fence-mender. GG and I both agreed that if it weren’t for him, they’d have to rehire new staff quite often. So, all said, you should check out the show for the ideas and the catty interplay between the wife and you, the viewer. Enjoy…

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