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The 30: Hope Springs

Wedded Blitz! Sweating the Details

The weather is warmer and the announcements are getting intense in the ‘New York Times’ ‘Vows’ section

I should have hired a wedding planner. Back when I was young and innocent and newly engaged and still naive about the tyranny of the wedding-industrial complex, I thought figuring everything out myself would save me money and let me plan an event most true to me. Here is where I cue the Arya Stark deranged laughter.

What on earth was I thinking? Everything seemed easy at first — find a venue, find a photographer, find a dress — but I’ve recently entered a new and hellish stage. With everything (mostly) in place, it’s now all about the details, and every day I learn about some new but allegedly vital one that I’ve completely overlooked.

“Are you doing a birdcage or a mailbox?” a friend asked me recently, in the same casual tone of voice one would use to ask someone if they were gonna start with the soup or the salad. I stared at her blankly, not knowing if we were speaking in code. Was this some question about sex? “You know, for the envelopes,” she explained. Again I failed to follow. “THE MONEY,” she finally said, over-enunciating as if I were a foreigner or a child. “People need somewhere to put their checks.” Ah, that’s obviously the first thing that should have come to mind when I heard the words “doing a birdcage,” I guess.

Never did I think that in the course of getting married I’d find myself understanding Donald Rumsfeld, but the whole concept of “unknown unknowns” has became increasingly and distressingly clear.

A few weeks ago I went to a giant “party rental” warehouse at the behest of the caterer to pick out tablecloths and coffee mugs and such. I arrived a confident, decisive, independent woman and walked out a mumbling sack of anxiety and dread and doubt. I nearly came to tears over bread-and-butter plates. My head spun over hemstitch napkins and vintage coffee creamers and the realities of $30 tablecloths times 20 tables. The lady at the place very nearly talked me into spending 100-plus bucks to rent a shabby old sofa — such character, all these wine stains! — for a few hours. None of this would have happened if I’d only hired a wedding planner to do this dirty work.

Or would it? One of the most professionally planned weddings of this year, if not this decade, was the meeting of the minds between Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. And even that went wildly astray, with the New York Post telling sordid tales about golden toilets and celebrity tantrums and spotlights beaming down on bridal starlets’ nether regions. (That’s not to even mention the broken marble busts and Will Smith’s kid.)

If the very people whose livelihood is based around planning and attending parties can’t even get it together enough to prevent Kanye from chainsawing the bar at his own wedding, then what hope is there for anyone else? Guess I might as well resume comparison shopping for a birdhouse.

Four years ago, I wrote about a couple named Kestrin Pantera and Jonathan Grubb, who, in their vows, pledged to “throw radical parties” and “constantly generate a force field of awesome.” This announcement was notable because not only did the groom (a) have another girlfriend at the time whom he (b) named in the column and (c) kinda threw under the bus when he said, of his current amor, that “I’d had good relationships before, but nothing like this” — he also (d) invited her to the wedding, where she told a reporter “I want to be involved in their whatever, forever.” OK!

Anyway, THEY’RE BACK, officiating the wedding of their equally zany pals. Portia Wells and Mark Trammell met at Twitter headquarters, saw a Rufus Wainwright concert and played Putt-Putt on one of their their first few dates, and survived a long-distance relationship, although things did get tough. (She missed his “smiling, hairy face.”) And his proposal story was a doozy:

After dinner, he called Ms. Pantera and Mr. Grubb to pick them up in the R.V., which was already packed with the couple’s friends, all of whom knew what was about to happen. Mr. Trammell had also arranged for them to leave the vehicle at the mention of a secret word: “peacocks.”

On board, the couple and their friends began chatting about their dinner and the restaurant. Mr. Trammell, hands shaking with nerves, blurted, “Peacocks everywhere!”

Please find an occasion to blurt “Peacocks everywhere!” this weekend, in the vein of “Loud noises!”

An enormous thank-you, as always, to Friend of Grantland Alex Morrison for putting together the Society Scorecard, a visual manifestation of our wedding rankings as decreed by our highly scientific bylaws. (I’m still wondering why my semi-colleague Nate Silver hasn’t given me a call; I totally could have moonlighted as the Burrito Girl to boot!!)

Over the years, there have been numerous tweaks I’ve wanted to make to the Matrimonial Moneyball rubric — for example, it totally omits Bethesda, and it also doesn’t award points for the use of “vineyard” in an announcement — and one is that hyphenated last names should earn a point. But our winning couple, Allegra Asplundh-Smith and Evan McGarvey, didn’t even need the help on their way to a 34-point first-place finish for the month of May.

Asplundh-Smith and McGarvey were remarkably well-rounded, scoring points in seven out of eight NUPTIALS categories, with the only oh-fer coming in Tropes (which is the least desirable bucket anyway). The first paragraph alone includes the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach AND “a great-aunt of the bride and a minister of the Swedenborgian Church of North America,” and it only gets better from there. The bride is a Yalie, a former member of the Peace Corps, and is the scion of “a vegetation management” empire in the greater Philly region. The groom is a test-prep tutor and a Harvard grad — among other things. OTHER THINGS SUCH AS: “He is the co-author of ‘2pac vs. Biggie: An Illustrated History of Rap’s Greatest Battle.’All reviews are five stars!!!! Instant winners.

The runner-up duo also got married in Palm Beach, and have many a promising pedigree — “the couple met at Georgetown, from which they graduated magna cum laude,” after all. But while I can certainly appreciate the son of a Honda dealer in Sea Girt — my dearly departed Great Aunt Dixie lived in that glorious Jersey Shore town, and I have many a fond memory of shivering in her outdoor shower, trying to excise pounds of sand from the crotch of my bathing suit — it’s not something that will get you enough points to put you over the hump for first place. Still, being a bride with parents employed by dueling wealth management offices in the Greenwich of Florida gets you pretty damn close.

Want to really supplement that bridal diet? Might I suggest a regimen of the Mayor Bill de Blasio workout, as painstakingly detailed by the New York Times? It includes a sentence describing the position of his “rump” and has a killer accompanying illustrated slideshow. It also has an all-time great comment section that brings together every NYC archetype there is. As one commenter put it:

24 comments and we’ve already got the teacher’s union, Asphalt Green garbage trucks, Central Park horses, the usual partisan cheap shots including a shot at Obama and at least one required “god help us!”

I feel encouraged that no one has checked in with “this reminds me of 1938 Germany.” But there’s still time.

Why am I prattling on about de Blasio? Glad you asked! It’s because when Clara Bingham and Joseph Gregory Finnerty III got hitched, “Mayor Bill de Blasio officiated.” (The couple went to one of his fundraisers on their second date.) Pretty cool, right? Ah, but this is the New York Times wedding section, which means that in the very same month we also learned of a couple whose officiant was “Sandra Day O’Connor, the retired United States Supreme Court justice, for whom the bride was a clerk.” I was hoping all this politico-celebrity involvement meant that somewhere, a couple was wed by the likes of Dick Cheney, but I’ve yet to come across that nugget. Maybe The Wall Street Journal needs to start covering weddings.

Here are some other choice bits from the wedding circuit in April:

• What is it with the cold-water fetishes these people have? The Greatest Vows Column the World Has Ever Known likened jumping into the “frigid sea” in Maine to jumping into a relationship. “I was really asking if he jumped into things,” the bride said back then. “It’s about bravery for me.” In April, meanwhile, we get this:

When Ms. Alvarez visited the Squires family’s lake home north of Syracuse in September 2010, she passed an unwritten family test when she didn’t hesitate to jump into chilly Millsite Lake. “When Fia dove into the water, we all looked at each other and said, ‘Yep,'” said Adam’s brother Matt, who works with his father, Gary Squires, at Manning Squires Hennig, a construction management company in Rochester. “If you can’t hack it with the family at the lake, you’re done.”

I mean, that’s pretty good life advice, all things considered.

A Yale girl and a Harvard boy first “met as 2-year-olds at Temple Isaiah Preschool in Palm Springs, and remained classmates through kindergarten.” This is like a really elitist version of “Don’t Stop Believin’.” (The announcement includes a shout-out to a swing set, by the way.)

• Match.com needs to hire this guy in some capacity right away.

• Of course the son of a rocket scientist works for Google.

• The couple that brews together … says their “I do’s” together?

This should honestly be on the opening pages of the Oberlin prospective students brochure:

He went to Oberlin to study theater. His friends remember him as a kind of enigma, with an Afro and Birkenstocks, directing “Waiting for Godot” and waxing philosophical about Stanislavsky.

“He had this hippie vibe, but then he’d open his mouth and he was this smack-talking, quintessential Jersey wise guy,” said his friend Ben Rosen. “Then in theater class, he’d become this seething intellectual.”

(He certainly found his match; the bride bragged that “I’ve seen people dressed as chickens, covered in baby oil, dancing to the latest pop song.”)

• Props to the Harvard grad whose chosen profession involves horseshoe management, and I mean that sincerely.

• I respect and fear the concept of the “World Adult Kickball Association.” The Yelp reviews for the outpost in Los Angeles are priceless, by the way. The best three comments, in no particular order:

• “The weird dude energy is at an excruciating high.”
• “What we found instead is a system built entirely around greed and profit at the expense of its customers.”
• “While one of our girls (whose 2 year old son was in the stands) was up to kick, people from the Orange team were calling her a “f**king slut.”

In other words, sounds like an adult rec sports league.

• If the idea of two doctors (one of them a former Fulbright scholar) getting married at the Memorial Church of Harvard makes you feel bad about your life, you probably shouldn’t click on the accompanying video: It turns out the groom is also, no big deal, an expert pianist who managed to get the entire Harvard Pops orchestra to help him propose.

• A couple gets back together after more than four decades apart.

• I wish I had older siblings for a lot of reasons, but the main one is that I want my future husband to refer to me as a “knucklehead little sister” in the New York Times.

• It had been a while since there was an announcement in which one partner called the other a jerk (a term of endearment worth one NUPTIALS point), but of course it finally came from a pair who met while trying out for their college mock trial team. I really hope the line “Our mock trial coach frowned upon team members dating each other” somehow made its way into their argumentative vows.

This screams “veiled advertorial” — oh god, no pun intended — for Lindsay Landman the wedding planner, no?

• The sign of a good WASP wedding is that the Episcopal priest has the best name of anyone. Sorry, Victoria Vance Corder and Anthony Charles Langelier — you’ve been upstaged by a man of the cloth, the Rev. James Phelan Biedenharn III.

As someone who works from home and is generally starved for human interaction, I know all too well the strange attachments one can make with his or her postman or local FedEx delivery guy. (I had a good 10-minute conversation with one of mine the other day in which we made fun of the Kate Gosselin–style haircut worn by the local real estate agent who is trying to ruin our neighborhood. It felt great.)

So I loved this video about Margie Ashley and Susan Levin, who met after a fire burned down Levin’s house and art studio, destroying her life’s work and causing her to have to go online to buy “everything from spoons to a couch.”

The person delivering all those orders? Why, Ms. Ashley, of course. On her short breaks she would chat with Ms. Levin “about the things they had in common, like Buddhism,” and eventually one surprised the other with Indigo Girls tickets, which is how you know it’s serious.

According to the New York Times, Levin’s mother had always worried about her daughter’s solitary profession and needled her by asking what she planned to do — marry the UPS guy? “I married the FedEx girl” instead, said Levin. Well played. 

Filed Under: Wedded Blitz, Weddings, New York Times

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Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes

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