If you’ve ever been engaged, I’m pretty sure you’ve also had people give you advice, whether you want it or not. At first, I was glad to hear it. Then, as I heard more and more of it, I became annoyed. Now, though, I like to hear it, because I think I understand why people give it. It’s not because people are busy-bodies who want to stick their noses in your business, as I thought during the Annoyance Phase. No. It’s because people are wonderful, caring creatures who hate to see others suffer. They are passing on advice because they want to save you. It is an act of pure altruism, an acknowledgment of the suffering of man and the desire to help you avoid that suffering. It is one’s Buddha nature coming out and flowering in the most beautiful way.
Or it’s some kind of penance for past sins. I’m not sure yet.
Either way, I’ve come to appreciate it, especially when it’s prefaced with the magic question, “May I give you some unsolicited advice?”(2) People acknowledge that you’ve been barraged by advice from all corners of the world, and they may be telling you something you already know. They know what it’s like down in the trenches, when you’re up to your armpits in catering menus and DJ playlists. They know you’d like the option of telling them to get stuffed, because they didn’t have that option and really, really would’ve liked it for themselves.
Some of it has been practical (“Don’t do a superhero themed wedding”) and some esoteric (“Don’t argue about the color of the ink on the invites. Trust me on this”), but above all, there’s been one theme: just relax, and don’t let it get personal and ugly. This is the person with whom you’re going to spend the rest of your life, and you really, really want to get off on the right foot. Starting your marriage with an ugly row about whether the bunting should be Navajo White or Eggshell White just isn’t a good idea.
The best advice has been How To Cut Costs. We know there are some costs one can’t avoid (marriage license, venue fees, food) and plenty that one can (personalized programs made of acid-free paper with soy based ink that are hand-pulped, hand-made and hand-drawn by an obscure order of Benedictine Monks in the Black Forest, catering by the cast of Iron Chef, pony rides for the wedding party). You can ask friends to take a jillion pictures, you can ask friends to help with the flowers, you can do whatever the hell you want, Sparky. Hell, I’m crazy enough to want to make the cake myself, which sounds like a good idea right now but will probably backfire on us in a few months when I bake Trial Cake Number Five and offer everyone a slice and no one will want to see another goddamned piece of wedding cake until hell freezes over. And even then, if there’s cake, Satan’s going to have a violent anti-cake riot on his hands.
I think the trick is to remember that, no matter what anyone says about the importance of the day, that it’s the most memorable day of your lives and you want to make it extra-super-memorable, that it’s your most precious memory: dude, when you get down to it, a wedding is just a big party. And the point of a party is for everyone to come together and have a good time. You do not need all the extra crap that the Wedding Industry(3) says you do. I’ve thrown quite a few parties in my time, while they haven’t been on the scale of Roman Bacchanalia, they’ve been pretty damn swinging. All you need is good food, good people, and good bass. I don’t see the front page of Modern Bride talking about “Bass and Booty: How to Set Up Your Woofer for Maximum Gettin’ Down.” If they run an article like that, I might toss ’em a buck or two. Until then, I’m not about to start paying attention.
But the advice of people who have been there is all kinds of good. I’d rather hear about what went right and what didn’t from someone who’s gone and planned a shindig like this. I’d rather put those ideas down in The Notebook, that holder of ideas and lists and schedules and plans that we carry with us at all times, like the way the President has someone nearby with the nuclear codes handcuffed to his wrist. The Notebook will save us in the end, because we’ll have learned from our friends’ pitfalls and triumphs. I learn stuff all the time, like the idea of having a dessert buffet rather than a big cake, or the fact that it’s always a good idea to put down good stoneware plates on your gift registry. This is all stuff I never would’ve thought of, and it will all come in handy.
People understand this. People want to help people. That’s why they give advice. Though I still think the superhero wedding is totally doable.
(1) After reading Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72,” I have been filled with the need to abuse footnotes and asides.
(2) When I was younger, I thought that use of the word “may” was stuffy and uptight. Now I know that’s it’s not only a marvelous word, but the cornerstone of civilization. “May” is a powerful interface between two parties. If someone asks me “may I do X?” and I say yes, both of us are happy: the person gets what he wants, and I’ve granted him the power to do so. If I say no, then I maintain my power, and the person has to figure out another solution. If that person decides to ignore my answer and do the thing anyway, then he’s a rude bastard and it all collapses. “May” allows us to go about our business without getting our heads kicked in, as long as both parties agree to the terms. And it really is that much nicer to ask for permission, especially when someone says yes. Try it: “May I buy you a beer and some fish tacos?” “May I escort you to the ball?” “May I take you home to do the humpty-hump ’til the break of dawn?” Just nicer.
(3) Does anyone else hear the words “Wedding Industry” and think of a factory with belching smokestacks that’s playing the factory music from Looney Tunes and cranking out brides and grooms? Is it just me? If there is anyone whose unsolicited advice is suspect, it’s that of the Wedding Industry. They may say they have your best interests at heart, but let’s be real: they want your blood, as much as they can squeeze out of you. Well, I got news for you pal: if you want our blood, you’re gonna have to fight us for it. And I’m pretty sure my bride-to-be will kick your ass, which is one of the many reasons why I asked her to marry me.