Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Save the Date": Save your time and read something else

I have attended over 36 weddings, and feel like I am somewhat of a wedding guest expert.  At these weddings, I've been a bridesmaid, a musician, a reader, a greeter, and watched as my husband was a groomsman, an usher, a d.j. or the musician.  I love being a big part of weddings, but being a guest with no responsibilities or financial obligations other than getting there and buying a gift can be pretty great, too.

A few years ago, on our flight to my best friend's destination wedding in Puerto Rico, my husband and I wrote down our memories of each of the weddings we attended either separately or together and gave them a rating.  Just recounting the love and joy as well as some of the wedding mishaps that either we as guests encountered or created lasted longer than when our plane touched down in Puerto Rico, so the entire five days that we were at the beautiful resort and attending wedding festivities, we laid on the sand or by the pool and talked about the favorite parts and our least favorite parts of each wedding.

When I saw Jen Doll's book "Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest" on a recommended reading list for "hot summer reads," I was excited to pick it up and find a kindred spirit who has seen the wedding circuit and had funny insights into the wedding world.

I'm not sure exactly what I expected from this book, but I know that it wasn't what I wanted.  For something that I thought would be a quick, fun read, I slogged through each chapter which contains a narrative about one of the weddings that she attended.  Besides the first wedding chapter about her very first wedding ever attended as a child, she goes on to tell about her drunk hook ups, her friend drama, her designer dresses, her insights into the world of love and marriage and relationships, and her inability  to stay sober at receptions.

I found Doll's narratives shallow and sad.  I didn't find a kindred spirit or many funny moments to chuckle about or to feel connected to as I read.  I mostly rolled my eyes as she got herself into one drunk situation after another - a volatile outburst, picking fights with friends, a temper tantrum as a friend tried to pry her from a dangerous situation at a wedding after party, or passing out and waking up with a horrible hangover.  Each chapter presented another of Doll's failed relationships and it was hard for me to keep all of her boyfriends straight or to understand why any of them stayed with her in the first place.

It's not that I have never had a drunken experience at a wedding, or that I think wedding days need to be perfect.  I have attended every kind of wedding to those with receptions in the basement of firehalls, to those that are in fancy hotels.  I've been to weddings so beautiful and personalized that I cried and others that were so dreadfully boring that I couldn't wait to get to the open bar at the reception only to find that there was no alcohol available for the guests because it was against the religion of the bride's family.

Doll seems to have attended only one kind of wedding which is one that requires a certain kind of dress and heels (that she describes in each chapter with more detail than the wedding itself).  Although Doll admits to having "kind of a drinking problem" the alcohol soaked receptions that end in uncomfortable moments seem to be the constant through her wedding experiences as well.

At the very beginning of the book, Doll makes a few very important insights about weddings.  She says that "while one might assume a wedding is about them - the couple getting married - a wedding is about everyone.  It's a means through which we guests can identify and reidentify our friends, our enemies, our lovers, and those we no longer love.  Through it we see what we want, what we don't want, what we think we want, and sometimes, dangerously, that we have no idea what we want.  Each wedding we attend, in whatever role we uphold, will highlight some aspect of our own lives, reflecting and reframing the way in which we look at ourselves."  That's what I love about weddings.  Each time I go, I am reminded about the beginning of a love story.  I am reminded that I love to dance, and see my friends.  I am reminded about how much fun my family is.  I am astounded by the depths that some people go to in order to make their wedding uniquely theirs to reflect their love, and sometimes I am saddened by how much money gets thrown away on just one day for the sake of show.

In Doll's "Save the Date" she shows a soft side every once in awhile for the couple getting married, but mostly she dips into the darker side of herself.  I love when people are real and divulge their "not so pretty" personality aspects.  Where Doll comes up short for me is that she doesn't seem to be aware of the flaws she repeats over and over again.  Maybe the audience for her book are the other elite New York City socialites who go to big (and small) fancy weddings to get drunk and hook up.  I'm positive I wasn't the right reader since I found so little to enjoy in this book.

The biggest take away for me, is a reminder that I love going to weddings, and I know there will be more coming in my future since my sister in law recently got engaged. It's fun to be a guest and see the beginning of someone else's love story as I reflect on my own.  My husband and I will be celebrating our 15 year anniversary in August, and it has been more than a tumultuous ride, but absolutely worth it.  The wedding is just one day - maybe for the guests just as much as for the bride and groom, but the future for all of them is forever.  My wish for all the weddings you attend in the future - be a good guest and try to leave your cynicism for love and for weddings aside as you watch the bride walk down the aisle.  And maybe just maybe try to be conscious of over drinking as to not make a total fool of yourself.

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