What you already knew about other people’s weddings.

“How do you feel at weddings? Because I feel pretty fucking awful at them.”

Oliver was hungover and sitting in a Midwest airport, a few days after his 30-something birthday and the morning after a close friend’s wedding. He continued before I could answer, drawing a comparison to being 30 and single at a friend’s wedding to being 80 at a friend’s funeral. Suddenly you’re aware that you’re the one left behind — the loneliness is palpable.

“I love weddings. And I love flying solo at them,” I chirped in when he done with his melodramatic imagery. But then again, I had accepted the possibility of a life lived sans co-pilot. He was a chronic monogamist, who for as long as we had been friends (now more than a decade) was always pining for a wife.

Our conversation brought up a few memories…

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It’s really easy to be that kid at someone else’s wedding. Really easy.

Memory 1: When my best girl got engaged, I was terrified about how I would feel at her wedding. I expected to feel a mixture of sadness and jealously — both selfish responses to your best friend finding a happily ever after. I was present when she met her now husband, and as we all joke, I get to take some credit for their meeting (it was my idea to go to that bar, after all.) But there’s another way to tell the story: two girls walk into a bar. One walks out with a husband, the other with a hangover. I never think of it this way, but I was afraid that come her wedding day, I would. I was the only unattached bridesmaid, and wasn’t offered a plus-1. Would I feel all alone?

When the day arrived, I was relieved that all I felt was happiness — happy that I was there, happy that I got to be a part of the day, and happy that the friend who was like a sister to me was happy. (If I was starting to feel low, it helped that one of the groomsmen asked if he could take me to dinner one day…even if he was nearly 20 years older than me, and was rocking a soul patch… soul patches are unforgivable facial hair decisions.)

Memory 2: It was the middle of October and I was milling about the first floor of one of Amsterdam’s most luxurious department stores, stocking up on Christmas cards with yuletide greetings written in Dutch (because, of course.) A text message came through — my Ex with a capital E wanted to know what I was doing on Saturday.

Kat: Flying home from Amsterdam.

Ex: What time will you be back?

Kat: Why, what’s up?

Ex: I wanted to know if you were free to be my plus-1 at my sister’s wedding.

Kat: That’s rather short notice! Suddenly feel like you need moral support?

Ex: Don’t need moral support. Just want someone at my side who I would want at my side at these kind of important things…

I didn’t make it back in time to be his plus-1, but if he had asked me sooner, I would have been willing to book an earlier flight. Not because I wanted to fall back into the role of girlfriend, but because I understood.

When you’re single, other people’s weddings trigger complex emotions. We get a front seat in a real-life fairy tale, and that can inspire in us everything from hope to despair, happiness to loneliness. We can revel joyfully in the moment of the party, or wander aimlessly down memory lane, reliving all the relationships that could have made it to the alter. The ones that got away are specters that hang behind centerpieces and under place cards. For some singletons, all they need to weather that whirlwind of feels is a strong drink (or an open bar) and the right song to dance to (all hail the Wedding Singer!) Others meanwhile need a companion. My Ex and Oliver are of the latter. I’m in the group that hands them a drink and makes them join me in the macarena/hokey-pokey/electric slide. At least, that’s where I am for now.

 

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Let’s Not Stand On Ceremony: Becoming Reverend Reck, Part 1

I was in the middle of my attempted return to a nightly yoga practice and (un)comfortably contorted into a parivrtta parsvkonasana (a revolved side angle pose… ) when my cell lit up with a text message fit for the opening lines of a Camus novel:

“Today, our Japanese rabbi died.”

My best friend, a bubbly, intelligent, and kind culturally-Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York City, was getting married to a warm, thoughtful, and humorous Japanese bar owner in exactly one month. And after all the pinterest boards and dessert tastings, this was the last thing she needed.

Shocking, I know, but like unicorns, Japanese rabbis are kind of rare.

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There was a few exchanges — she had a Plan B, everything was going to be fine.

The next morning I got a phone call.

I was the plan B.

When she asked me if I wouldn’t mind the promotion from bridesmaid to stand-in officiant, I flashed through the last seven years…

To the weekend she crashed at my small “efficiency” studio on the upper west side of Manhattan and I suggested we go to this fancy cocktail bar downtown. After comping us a round a drinks, the bartender made us a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage to help us make our way home. That bartender would become her boyfriend…

Flash forward a few years later, she and I were standing in an elevator she was wearing a kimono the bartender’s mother had gifted her. “He’s the one,” she said without reservation. “Women know these things”…

And now I was standing in the bathroom at work, on the phone, being asked to officiate their wedding.

“I really can’t think of a bigger honor than getting to marry you two.”

“Great! I hoped you’d say that! I think it’d be really awesome to get married by officiant in a blue jumpsuit!”

That’s right. I was the bridesmaid who was told “wear whatever you want, as long as it’s blue,” and decided on a cobalt blue jumpsuit. A Reverend in a jumpsuit. I could see the branding opportunities already…

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Up until this point, my day-of wedding responsibilities were fairly simple and superficial:

  1. Make sure the make-up artist doesn’t make the Bride orange
  2. Make sure the Bride’s dress corset is pulled in as tight as it can go — don’t worry if she seems to be suffering from shortness of breath.
  3. Make sure the Bride has a shoehorn so she doesn’t smash the heels of her Jimmy Choos when she’s putting them on under her dress.

I had just picked up a few more responsibilities that were significantly less superficial (Learn Japanese sake-pouring ceremony. Learn how to say “chuppah” in a way that doesn’t sound like a sneeze. Make sure Bride and Groom say “I Do” and sign marriage certificate) but I would handle them, because for her, for them, I had to.  There are only a few times in your life when the people you love really ask you to step up to the plate for them. And when they do, you owe it to them to bring your A-game… to try to hit a home run… and if you don’t, at least you go down swinging.

 

 

 

 

Promises to My Future Fiance

It’s wedding season, and that means my weekly serving of Sunday Styles is healthier that usual. It’s also the year of my first milestone college reunion. This means I’m officially hitting that life phase when it’s not only strangers announcing their marriages in the Sunday Styles, it’s my friends.

As I watch more and more people I know prepare to “take the plunge” and as I plan my dress-rotation for the upcoming onslaught of receptions and nuptial exchanges, I’ve decided I’d better take note and make some lists for when it’s my turn…

Dear Future Fiance,

I will not make you sit through a staged engagement album photo-shoot that makes us look like a straight-from-the-pages-of-a-Brooks-Brothers-catalog-couple named Chip and Muffy.

This will just never be us.

I mean, yes, it would be nice to have some professional, candid photos of us for the requisite “save the date” cards or NYTimes wedding announcements, but none of that jumping in the air, fake laughing at something “cute” the other person said while wearing polo shirts, khakis and pearls stuff.

Let’s keep it real, baby.

I will not post every dress/hairstyle/shoe idea for our wedding on a board on Pintrest.

My Pintrest page is for everything, except my wedding.

I’m kinda obsessed with Pintrest. That recipe for the “skinny” chocolate-chip scones. The Burberry Prorsum dress I dropped 2 paychecks on. My favorite painting in that exhibit I went to last week. Sure — that’s all fair game. But when it comes to weddings, it’s about decisions… and excel spreadsheets or powerpoints are more useful for that. Besides,  if you can’t see my wedding dress until I walk down the aisle, no one can.

I will ask your opinion about the color scheme. And what color tux you should wear. And where we should have the reception… but I’m not asking for your opinion on the flowers.

You’ve never been great at buying me flowers, so let me pick those out for our wedding.

Let’s be honest — whether the centerpieces are cascading roses or submerged orchids probably doesn’t matter all that much to you. I organize events,  so those sorts of details do matter to me — whether it’s a wedding or a gallery opening. But it probably does matter to you where we celebrate with our guests — our friends and our family — and what breed of penguin you look like.

A wedding is about Us, after all, not about a 5-year old girl’s fairytale fantasy.

I won’t partake in the annual “Running of the Brides.”

Even though I’ve been contemplating joining the roller derby, this will not be me when I go wedding dress shopping. I promise.

As endearing as you find my competitive streak and my knack for trash-talking opposing teams, the last thing you want to see me do is shop for my wedding dress roller-derby style.

I won’t give you “that look” when you tell me the “boyz” have booked tickets to Vegas for your bachelor party.

That’s fine. I’ll even pack the suitcase for you. Because, baby, I’ve got plans of my own…

Just don’t come back married to someone else, with a tattoo on your face, or with anything communicable. If you don’t remember what happened, that’s probably for the best… but please check in with our GP before our honeymoon.

With Love,

Kathleen

Insert Groom Here

“Married women don’t get enough credit,” my mother said one afternoon a few weeks back. “Marriage is all about being able to deal with assholes.”

I don’t know what my father had done that day, but clearly, it wasn’t good.

With my great-grandmother's wedding ring in hand, I suddenly felt the weight of the generations.

My mother’s wisdom is always appreciated, but that day’s insight may not have been what I should have heard the night my cousin Julie arrived from Canada with my Great-Grandmother’s wedding ring.

Julie passed the generations-old, Irish-made gold band on to me in an understated ceremony in my kitchen, over a beer. I think the theme from Riverdance was playing from the Bose in the background, then again, my memory could just be over-romanticizing the significance of the scene and the transcendence of my Celtic heritage.

“I don’t doubt you’ll put it to good use,” she said as I slipped the ring out of the silk sack and onto my finger.

Mistake. I was stuck with it as we headed out the door. Cute waiters were no longer fair game – I was, for the night, a taken female.

Starring down at the ring through dinner, watching my finger change colors from peach to blue, I grew strangely sentimental and slightly anxious. Few things have been passed successfully through the generations in my family – a blue vase and a fetish for hats – and to have my great-grandmother’s wedding ring bestowed on me was to have an unexpected amount of pressure on my shoulders.

I guess I was going to have to get married after all.

Another Blue Moon and a bar of soap when I got home made removing the ring somewhat less painful than I had anticipated.

A week later, my friend Julia posted on my Facebook wall: “I had a dream you were engaged!” And then last week a woman stopped me at the cross walk for a chat. She was eager to make a friend and seemed slightly crazed from the hot summer sun. Midway through my story about my hat, she interrupted me: “You’re going to get married. I just know it! You’re going to get married.”

It seems the voices have changed their tune from prescriptions (you need to find a nice rich husband) to premonitions. Luckily, I don’t put much weight in the predictions of raving women on crowded street corners.

Then again, the soothsayer in the crowd advised Julius Caesar to beware the ides of March… and, well, we all know how that turned out.

I don't necessarily put much weight in the perdictions of raving women... but then I remember Julius Caesar

Every William Needs a Kate, So Yes, I’m Waking up at 4AM on Friday to Watch the Royal Wedding

In case you haven't noticed, there's only one story in the news these days -- the British Family's Royal Wedding

In case you haven’t noticed, the presses have all stopped. Rising gas prices, NCAA Title IX infringements, and pending government shut-downs are no longer news. There is but one story to cover in the broad sheets and on the television: the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton.

I can’t say that I’ve been following the pre-wedding press — I’m content to wait till the big day to see the dress. But as a girl who religiously reads the New York Times wedding announcements because she’d rather pass her Sunday morning indulging in happy people than tearing-up over explosions and tsunamis, it’s no surprise I’m somewhat thrilled that a wedding has become the focal point of World News Tonight.

Friday is a workday and the prospect of waking long, long before sunrise to watch the wedding ceremony live on television, when I could easily watch it repeated later, is not at all sensible. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to set my alarm for 4:00AM so I can watch the royal wedding unfold in real time. Why? Because, as my mother pointed out, it’s not every summer a future king gets married. It’s as much a historical event as it is an opulent party. 1 billion apparently tuned in to watch Prince Charles marry Diana. That many people don’t join together to watch something unless they feel there’s something important going on — not even the Olympics, the sporting event meant to unite the world in competition gets that kind of viewership.

Everyone is getting geared up for the Royal Wedding, in whatever way they know how

Weddings never fail to captivate. Between April and July, the air rings with the joy of nuptials. Besides the magazine stands buckling under the weight of 700-page wedding-themed publications (thank you Modern Bride and Martha Stewart Weddings), movie theaters are stocked with films telling terrible tales of bridezillas or “always the bride’s maid” woes.  Every so often, we’re lucky to have a real wedding worth tracking (last year, it was Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky).

And if ever there was a love story worth tracking, it’s the one between the future King of England and his Princess. Every William needs a Catherine, and at 4AM on Friday morning, with my scones, clotted cream, poached egg and breakfast tea, I’ll be rooting for their happily ever after.

No, I’m Not Engaged. It’s Just My Class Ring

My college class ring has gotten me into a fair amount of trouble. It was probably the most expensive pieces of jewelry I had ever bought for myself — I even had to pay for it in installments as if it was a refrigerator. But flat-lining my bank account is not the sort of trouble I mean.

Picking the right style is always a challenge. Old and signet? Modern and bejewled?

I’ll always remember my friend’s brother Tom, Tom’s class ring, and Tom’s first job out of college. When Tom graduated from Cornell, he ordered an old-school signet ring that rivaled an NFL player’s Superbowl “bling.” He wore it everywhere. One day, at the coffee shop, an older gentleman noticed the ring and launched into Cornell talk with Tom. Eventually, the man asked him if he had a job yet.

To cut a long story short,  Tom got a job offer from the man — a job way over his head at a major investment firm way above his aspirations with a salary and sign-on bonus way beyond his wildest dreams — and it was all because of his class ring.

The way I saw it, a good class ring was a great door opener.

A size too big, my feminine and apparently bridal class ring got me into trouble

Torn between something heavy and traditional and something small and modern, I settled on what I felt was an attractive compromise — a feminine piece suitable for day-to-day wear with a white gold band and Columbia’s crown strongly embedded in a blue stone. It was a fantastic conversation starter.

For a while, it was a guy-magnet. From close range, it was clearly a statement of my education, and it seemed to give suitors an excuse to touch my hand, to get a little closer, to cross that threshold. So while the ring wasn’t opening the door to high paying dream jobs, I can’t say I minded the attention it did bring. But there was a problem. A size too big, I could only wear it on the middle finger of my left hand.

It was all fun and games until someone assumed I was married… to my fencing coach.

When I graduated from college, my mother and I were both taking fencing lessons from the same tall, boyish American man who was quickly adopted into the family as a missing son/big brother. That year, my mother was on the Veterans World Championship team and the three of us spent a weekend in Bath, England. Mother was the child I was living vicariously through. I was the sport parent. He was the moral and tactical support.

“It’s so wonderful your husband is your mother’s coach! Is he your coach too?” One of her teammates said as we sipped cocktails at the Assembly Rooms. You could hear the clunk as my jaw hit the floor.

“We’re not married.”

“Sorry, your fiancé.”

“We’re not engaged. We’re not sleeping together. We’re not dating. He’s my mother’s coach. He’s my coach.”

“Oh! Sorry! I saw you two together… I saw the ring…”

“It’s a class ring.”

It’s a flaw of social convention that a white band with a light stone on the left hand implies marriage. It’s a bigger flaw of social convention that when a man and a woman are seen together, having fun with a clearly close connection, the assumption is “couple.”

The ring didn’t go back on my finger for the remainder of the trip. In all likelihood, I won’t be wearing out again until I get it resized… if I get it resized. When it was time for my grad school class ring, small, feminine and bridal just weren’t viable options. I ordered a man’s ring. Bigger, bolder, and shinier, it’s luckily turned out to be the better dude-magnet.

This time, there would be no mistaking it -- this IS a class ring. Luckily, it's still a guy magnet.