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  You & A Guest

June 17, 1999

You &...
Dan Zevin

author of
The Nearly-Wed Handbook:
How to Survive
the Happiest Day of Your Life

(not to mention the sidesplitting
Entry-Level Life)

In The Nearly-Wed Handbook, Zevin imparts his wisdom via fictional case study Nearly-weds "Stan" and "Peg" (who are "in no way based upon me, Dan, or my lovely nonfictional bride, Meg"). When they start planning, Dan and Meg, I mean Stan and Peg, find themselves frustrated with wedding guidebooks, "most of which were very pink and apparently penned sometime before the women's suffrage movement." One day, in the midst of an argument over "the incendiary issue of linen patterns," it hits them: "Getting married is entirely different from getting weddinged."

Getting married? Getting weddinged? Getting sick of being asked when you're getting married? Here's what you asked Dan.

Seascape asks:

My fiance's mother, "Mavis," wants in on the planning stages of the wedding, and I can't deal. I mean, my own mother is enough of a nightmare, what with her "theme" ideas and all. Do I have to include Mavis, future-mother-in-law-of-bride?

Considering that she's mommy to the future husband-of-the-bride, including her is going to make your life a lot easier--now AND in those blissfully wedded years to come. Why? Because rule #1 about Mothers-in-law is that they are also Mothers, which is to say that they do not forget anything, at any time, ever--ESPECIALLY instances in which they've gotten the brush-off from the likes of you. Shut her out and she'll haunt you for the rest of your life with passive- (or not so passive, if she happens to be my mother) aggressive zingers such as, "Oh no, YOU make the Thanksgiving turkey this year--I KNOW how much you need to be in control of everything." Worse, she'll never say anything at all. She'll just brood silently over the time her boy's ungrateful wench of a wife banished her from the joys of wedding planning.

Here's the solution: give her a little job and make it sound hugely important. "Mavis," you should say in urgent tones, "I am entrusting you with the hugely important task of selecting the brand of rice that shall be thrown at us after the reception. Do you think you're woman enough for the job?" Then just sit back and smile politely every time she checks in with a grain-by-grain progress report. Be nice. After all, if it wasn't for Mavis, you'd have no one to marry.

Andrea asks:

Were you able to relax and enjoy your wedding or did you find it too stressful?

I'm not sure relax is the proper word, but after that third (okay fourth. Okay, fourteenth) glass of champagne, it certainly was easier to "enjoy" myself. I'm kidding of course. Sort of. But, really, once the ceremony was over, the pressure was off. Until we had to do the receiving line. After that we could relax. Until it was time for the toasts. Then we were able to chill. Until the first dance.

Okay, so maybe there's never a good time to wind down. But that's why you should try not to get so wound up in the first place. On the morning of your Happiest Day, you and your fiance must exchange what I like to call The Zevin Pre-Vow: "From this moment forward, I promise to let whatever happens, happen." Face it, you've stressed out enough throughout that protracted nervous breakdown known as wedding planning. When the big day arrives, make a conscious decision to let go of it. And if you can't, make a conscious decision to have another glass of champagne.

NelsonNY asks:

Could you resolve the age-old debate of whether or not to include a reply card with the wedding invitation?

Wait, first I'm working on the one about the existence of God. OK! All through! Onto reply cards: Should you include one? Yeah. How else will people reply? The writing of a "note" has, of course, gone the way of the quill pen. So. By phone? Scary Uncle Benny will keep yapping away for hours. By email? This is your wedding, not a chat room. Include an RSVP card with the date you'd like it returned, and a S.A.S.E. (I love saying that, "sassy") so Benny et al don't have to spring for postage.

But remember: your closest friends rarely RSVP. Some don't RSVP because they assume you know they're coming. Some don't RSVP because they assume you know they're coming, and they're afraid to tell you they're not. Some don't RSVP because they don't know what RSVP stands for. Neither do I, actually, but it sure as hell beats a conversation with Benny.

BadMojo asks:

My future mother-in-law maintains that there must be a menu for the reception that will please everyone and that I'm just not working hard enough to find it. Is this true? If so, WHAT IS IT??!?!?!?

She is annoying, but she's got a point--just like all mothers. You do want to serve foodstuffs that will be at least remotely appetizing to most of your guests (especially since such foodstuffs can run upwards of 50 bucks a plate), but that doesn't mean you have to "cater" to the dietary needs of each and every individual, whether kosher, macrobiotic, microbiotic, or antibiotic.

What we did was divide the guests into two camps: vegetarian, non-vegetarian. We served some sort of shmancy pasta with upscale mushrooms to camp one; and we served prime rib to camp two. We did not offer chicken to either camp. Let me elaborate.

In the civilian world, chicken is perhaps the only food everyone can agree upon. Some of us enjoy a tasty, delicious chicken dish almost every day. Yes, we all love the chicken. In the rarified world of wedding cuisine, however, we learn that Mr. Chicken is to be treated as a second-class citizen. Prima donna caterers make you feel that chicken is cheap, and wrong. That is why, by the end of our menu planning, my wife and I were convinced of the following: "If we serve chicken, we will bring immeasurable shame upon ourselves and our families."

The sick part is that it was probably true.

Everglade asks:

What was you favorite wedding gift? What was the wackiest one?

Favorite: a gift certificate for a weekend at the inn where we got married, which we used on our first anniversary (and they said it wouldn't last...)

Wackiest: Weird, brown and aquamarine, oval-shaped clay bowl with rooster motif. No, wait. It was the wicker and wood, inner-outer chafing dish with mixing bowl. Sorry, all the bowls have merged into one in my mind. It is truly astounding how many bowls we received when we got married. There were salad bowls and casserole bowls; gold-gilded bisque bowls and hand-painted fruit-ripening bowls; deep bowls, shallow bowls, bowls to hold other bowls; and horrible, herniating crystal bowls that served no purpose whatsoever except to say to the world: "WE are married."

We received so many bowls that we actually had to buy a special wrought-iron bowl rack to hold them all. But to afford the rack, we had to return most of the bowls. Then we had a bowl rack with no bowls in it.

The lesson: you know that reply card we decided you'll send in question #3? Beneath RSVP, scrawl in PNB--Please, No Bowls.

For more insight from Dan Zevin,
check out the Nearly-wed website.

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