1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett? Cate Blanchett
2) Paris or Venice? Paris
3) New York or Los Angeles? New York
4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace? Princess Grace
5) Tokyo or Kyoto? Kyoto
6) Boots or stilettos? Stilletos
7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau? Art Nouveau
8) Jaguar or Astin Martin? Aston Martin
9) Armani or Versace? Armani
10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour? Diana Vreeland
11) Champagne or single malt? Single Malt
12) 1960s or 1980s? 1980s
13) Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds
14) Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell? Naomi Campbell
15) Sean Connery or Daniel Craig? Sean Connery
When your family church is Westminster Abbey, chances are you won’t be allowed to make up your own wedding vows. Your vows will likely come from the Church of England’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Its eloquence is so memorable that its phrases have become part of our language (“to have and to hold from this day forward”), as have phrases from the King James Bible and the works of Shakespeare. All these works were written at a time when eloquence was highly valued, and they were conceived with highly-memorable auditory beauty as a goal.
And although (Sir) Elton John has been invited to the upcoming royal wedding, the music for the ceremony will not be pop songs, but sacred music written for the church over the centuries by some of the greatest composers who ever lived. These include Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Henry Purcell, George Frideric Handel, Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten, and many more.
The extraordinary nature of the building, the language, the music, the boy’s choir, the costumes, and all the rest will combine to proclaim to the world that this is no commonplace occasion, but the addition of someone to the status of royalty.
Americans often take a certain pride in having cast off a system that includes inherited positions of royalty and nobility, yet we also remain fascinated and slightly envious of it. Being “royal” is perhaps the world’s most exclusive group. Unless you are born a member, your only chance of getting in is to marry into it.
A royal wedding needs to be a highly visible, tradition-filled public event because it is a rite that makes the pair not only a couple, but a royal couple. The ceremony establishes a legitimate place for that couple’s children in the lineage of the royal family. The question of lineage is not a division of wealth or child custody that can be sorted out by divorce lawyers or pre-nuptial agreements. When inherited title is involved, you are either born with it or not, and the traditions for determining that are centuries old.
Ideally a royal marriage will prove enduring and loving. But this is not always the case, as Britain’s current royal family has demonstrated. Even the highly troubled and ultimately contentious marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, however, dutifully provided the royal family with two legitimate heirs before a fed-up Queen Elizabeth suggested they negotiate a divorce.
[Photo of Westminster Abbey by Wolfiewolf. Used under the Flickr Creative Commons License.]
The beautiful bride at the window contemplating her new life is a standard trope in wedding gown ads. But this Italian ad includes an element you won't find in its American counterparts, at least not these days.
Needing a new pair of glasses, I drove an hour to visit an eye wear store in Denver. I was told they had 4,000 “products” to choose from, with designs from all over the world. To help me narrow down the possibilities, I was meeting with Paige, the salesperson who had helped me choose my last pair of glasses. While working in a local shop, Paige had put me in a pair of glasses I would never have tried without her help. I knew she had done well because many people, including strangers, had subsequently commented on how much they liked my glasses.
I called a few hours early to let her know I was coming, and when I arrived she said she had been thinking about what eye wear she would like me to try ever since I had called. I sat in a chair while she walked around the store putting glasses on a tray, and she came back with about ten pairs to try. As soon as I tried some she would say “no,” and before long we were down to two choices that she felt looked great. Finding it hard to choose, we called another salesperson over, and that woman voted for the pair that she felt had more “edge.” So the choice became the Danish-designed Orgreen pair shown in the photograph.
I’ve described this satisfying shopping experience to illustrate why we go back repeatedly to work with good salespeople. Sadly, finding a salesperson with a good eye whose opinion you trust can be difficult. So when you locate such a salesperson, they become a valuable asset. In this case, when Paige changed where she worked, I followed her to her new location. Paige has helped several people I know choose their eye wear. Some friends told my wife and me about her, and I send people to her whenever they comment on my glasses or my wife’s.
All too often you find yourself dealing with salespeople who don’t seem to hear what you’re telling them—they seem to ignore or not understand what you’ve said about the look you are hoping to find, the situation you need it for it, and so on. Sometimes they don’t even know the store’s merchandise well enough to help you narrow down your choices, whereas a good salesperson whose opinion you trust can save you a lot of time, and save you grief in other ways.
Last fall my wife was headed to an event in London. After she had the rest of her outfit picked out, she went to a shoe store that had a bewildering array of choices. She knew the look she wanted, so she picked out seven pairs of shoes to try on. With both arms full of samples, she showed a young salesperson her choices. My wife explained that the event would be in a huge exhibition center, and that she might be walking and standing for most of a day. To my wife’s surprise the young woman started taking shoes away from her, explaining that she was taking away any shoes that she felt would be uncomfortable after a few hours. My wife was left with only two choices, one of which was the pair of Dansko Sally suede clogs pictured at right.
Though my wife loved them, she doubted they would remain comfortable for a full day. The salesperson assured her they would, and thankfully it turned out she was right.
A friend of ours was going to the same event and purchased a pair of shoes without asking about comfort. He decided to test his purchase by spending an hour on his feet in them, after which he pronounced them “posing” shoes, not “wearing” shoes. He had to go shopping again to buy shoes he could wear all day. Finding a salesperson who will tell you when something you are trying on doesn’t work well on you is a good start. Finding one who tells you that something “looks great on you” when it fits terribly is a signal to shop elsewhere. We once had artist residencies at Montalvo in California, with second-story rooms. The villa grounds were often used for elaborate weddings. I got to know the wedding planner, and looking down on one of those wedding ceremonies I commented to her that the strangely layered dress that the mother-of-the-bride was wearing looked as if her slip were showing. The wedding planner’s comment was, “Someone lied to her.”
Ingrid’s recent post on the Barbie with the video camera built into her body is thought provoking. One reason I find the doll’s image disturbing is that many people are already having issues sorting out their increasingly mediated lives. Rather than savoring here-and-now moments, they are often busy photographing or video-taping themselves, or using their smartphones to tell their friends what they are doing. And if they are communicating with their friends about what they are doing, that itself is what they are doing. Noticing this, street-scene photographer Ed Yourdon titled this photo, “We ignore the people who love us, in order to carry on conversations of dubious value.”
I first starting thinking about how connecting with a smartphone can disconnect you from the moment after I witnessed a particularly charming marriage proposal. We were in Santa Fe, dining at a romantic restaurant, when I noticed a young couple a few tables away. Both were dressed up for a date, and I suspected something was up when several of the staff came out to bring her dessert. They were in on the surprise, which was that her dessert came with an engagement ring. The young man dropped to his knee and proposed to her, she accepted, and everyone one around them began to applaud. He had worked hard to create a really lovely moment for her, and it was charming to witness.
I could understand her wanting to take a picture of the presentation and the ring, but I could not understand her spending the rest of their time there sending the image out to her friends and relatives, text messaging them, and calling them. I felt sorry for the young man.
She had abandoned the moment he had worked so hard to create. Surely her excited phoning could have waited long enough to share more of this romantic moment with him, rather than distancing herself in order to announce what had happened to the rest of her world.
I felt sure that the magic of the moment would have lasted longer for him if she had stayed connected to it. His expression changed when he realized that her attention had shifted to her smartphone, and the sense of romance looked lost as she focused on broadcasting the news. I’m not sure if it was disappointment that I saw, or resignation.
As I thought about the Barbie with the video recorder pendant, I imagined a wedding ceremony in which the bride decides she wants to record the experience from her perspective, so she wears a video camera pendant. If so, where would the bride want the groom to look? Should he look into her eyes, which would cause the camera to record his face from a strange angle? Or should he look down into the camera lens resting on her sternum? Which perspective would she prefer to have as a memory? A mental one of him looking deeply into her eyes as he says, “I do,” or a taped one where he plays a role with his gaze directed at her video camera?
[The couple photograph is by Ed Yourdon and the ring photograph by Meemal. Both are used under the Flicker Creative Commons license.]
“The fantasy of the wedding day is that it represents undeniable public and private truth that you have been chosen. For that one day, you are the most valuable creature in the world—a treasure, a princess, a prize. For many women, who have never felt chosen or desirable or precious, this is an unshakable yearning. And I'm afraid many women do choose the wedding over the marriage. It seems a steep price to pay, but it comes from a place of deep, sad longing to be loved and to have it proven that you are of value.”
—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, in a Wall Street Journal interview about her new book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage
[Photo by Flickr user Loelle under Creative Commons license.]
Glamour is hard. Wedding glamour, thanks to all the tension and emotions tied up in the big event, is harder. And the wedding dress often bears the brunt of the responsibility for communicating that glamour – to the bride, at least.
About a year ago, Deep Glamour ran a series called, “Diary of a Groomzilla,” about the trials and tribulations of a DG contributor planning a gay wedding in San Francisco in the weeks just before the election. There were floral arguments and Vera Wang invitation discussions, and dramatic moments involving Safeway wedding balloons – all the little things that are mostly funny in the rearview of wedding planning (it takes a special groom to laugh at them during). There were sartorial issues, too, since Groomzilla’s fiance was “cheap” (Groomzilla’s words, not mine), though he eventually came around, purchasing a really nice suit for the occasion.
The Groomzilla was just lucky he didn’t have to convince his fiance to embark on a search for the “perfect wedding dress.” The mythical garment that combines sweetness and glamour and just the right amount of sexy (“church sexy,” if you will) – and takes off three inches around the waist without constricting breathing.
That’s the Western ideal, anyway. Every culture has developed traditions around wedding attire to help visually convey the solemnity and specialness of the event, and the social status of the bride and her family. In the West, the white wedding dress that most brides choose today was made popular by Queen Victoria in 1840.
The wedding dress is indelibly ingrained in my mind as a symbol of love, commitment, tradition, and coming-of-age ritual. When I see a bride – even on TV – I find myself sighing and getting a little teary-eyed. It’s Pavlovian.
But underneath all that lace and crinoline and symbolism, there’s some very hearty construction. Creating a wedding dress isn’t much less complicated than designing and building an actual building. From the outside, it’s the looks that count, but on the interior, the construction better be good enough to hold it together.
This past weekend, my brother got married. Standing in the church just following the ceremony, I got a major case of the post-wedding giggles, and it was all thanks to the wedding dress. There I was, bridesmaid dress on, bouquet in hand, standing in front of the altar holding the bride’s dress straight up in the air while the maid of honor and another bridesmaid figured out how to bustle the big, gorgeous thing. Underneath the dress, there was a collection of color-coded strings that, when tied together, pulled the train up underneath.
At that moment, all I could think about was hot-wiring a car. That’s what we were doing – making the dress work on the fly, by putting like colors together. It wasn't easy. But after a few minutes – a few dramatic, tense minutes – the bustle came together and my new sister-in-law was able to walk down the steps without worrying (so much) about tripping over her dress.
Talk about symbolism. Not tripping on a wedding day, in a wedding dress, thanks to its complicated, but hidden, construction, is a great metaphor for glamorous living itself. Nobody – not even Coco herself – wakes up glamorous every day. But sometimes, thanks to careful design (of a dress, a car, a building) – and a willingness to squabble with Safeway balloon-section employees just before the ceremony – the glamour ends up looking effortless.
[London Wedding Dress, circa 1870, by Flickr user the wee pixie, used under the Creative Commons license.]
Virginia’s article about the economic reasons why plus sizes are becoming harder to find in stores reminded me of a conversation I had just overheard about buying shoes. There was to be a wedding, and one of the bridesmaids wore size 10½ shoes. Every time the bridesmaids found a shoe that they all liked, it would be unavailable in size 10½. So they were starting to check out shoes at Zappos, with finding shoes available in 10½ as their first concern.
I have seen numerous bridesmaids’ dresses which were not particularly flattering, and I used to wonder if this was a conspiracy to make the bride look more beautiful. But now I suspect that it’s not easy to choose a dress style that will look flattering on a large variety of bodies.
I attended one wedding that illustrates this issue well, and I learned from talking with the dressmaker some of the problems that she can face. In that case the material chosen for the bridesmaid’s dresses was a boldly flowered print, and the finished dresses looked cute on the bridesmaids who were size 6, 8, and 10. But two of the bridesmaids were significantly larger: one had a bust line of 45 inches, and the other had a bust line of 52 inches (with a larger waist). The dressmaker actually had to have more cloth shipped in from out of town in order to have enough for their dresses, and the flowered print was definitely unflattering to the larger young women.
I realize that bridal dresses are usually intended to be a one-use outfit. But what about the bridesmaids? Do bridesmaids ever get to wear dresses that they find themselves using again for other occasions?
[Photo by Bradley P. Johnson and used under the Flickr Creative Commons license.]
Groomzilla is married! (Cue choir of angels. Cut to techno re-mix of choir of angels, with disco diva belting out “Vote No on 8! Vote No on 8! Get married on the dance floor!” over and over again atop a pulsing bassline.)
A Southern drama queen loves nothing more than a great horror story. My poetic muse secretly hoped that the florist would deliver a hideous vase of twigs and tinsel, the caterer would show up with a toaster oven and a crate of Hot Pockets, and the bartender would only think to pour Boone’s Farm in strawberry and raspberry flavors. But alas, each of these fine professionals did an exemplary job of meeting my every crazy whim and instruction and producing a perfect event memorable for all the right reasons. In short, the wedding was a complete and (in my biased opinion) flawless success.
Well, perhaps not entirely flawless…
The night before, we decided that we needed to tie balloons on the front gate to help guests locate the house. Thinking that a simple, tasteful balloon could be procured at the Castro Safeway of Armistead Maupin fame, my friend C and I drove over to peruse the selection. What followed was a short tragédie bourgeoise:
Groomzilla (in huffy, exhausted, imperious tone): “I need a wedding balloon.” (Subtext: “I don’t have time to deal with you right now. Read my mind! I am important! I have 50 people coming over tomorrow to judge me!”)
Store employee (in inexplicable Bronx accent): “OK, like, we have this balloon here.” (Subtext: “I can’t wait until I graduate so I don’t have to deal with one more queen with an attitude. Get your own damn balloon! I should have never moved out of the deli counter.”)
Groomzilla (annoyed): “That’s ugly. This is a gay wedding.” (Subtext: “Look at my ridiculous-but-chic oversized Burberry sunglasses! Do I look like I want a balloon in the shape of a bell? I bet Beyonce didn’t have to shop somewhere that sold Elmo birthday cakes when she got married.”)
Store employee: “In that case, you will be wantin’ this balloon. It’s all classy and sh*t.” (Subtext: “This ain’t Neiman Marcus, queen. It’s Safeway. It’s a balloon. I make $5 an hour – do I look like your wedding planner? You don’t know me!”)
Here is a photo of the Safeway Classy Gay Wedding Balloon. Order now while supplies last.
The following morning—the dawn of the big day—I suffered a panic attack after my husband’s inexplicable and controversial decision to alter the sleeves on his suit with an old Ramada Inn sewing kit that he whipped out of his briefcase while I was in the shower. I strenuously objected to the thought of performing home alteration a few hours before the wedding, and—as any groomzilla would—engaged in a rational, calm dialogue with my husband as he began threading the needle:
Groomzilla: “This is not #$&%* Project Runway, Jerrell! We do not have time for your #$&%* this morning! Put on the suit! PUT ON THE SUIT!”
Groomzilla: “#$&%*!! #$&%*!!!”
He began the alteration. I went looking for Xanax and champagne.
And thank God for modern pharmaceuticals, as a few hours later they kept me from murdering the drunken wedding guest who propositioned my father-in-law, brother-in-law (in front of his wife), Lesbian Bridezilla’s wife (in front of LB), and my officiant's boyfriend, all before accosting my co-worker to inform her that she needed an "emergency rhinoplasty" and walking up to my Chinese-American friend (whom she has never met) and speaking to her in Mandarin. The impetus for homicide, however, would not be any one of these social faux pas, but the inexcusable choice to wear a low-cut red-and-blue silk floor-length halter dress with a gigantic floral print when the dress code was “sophisticated Autumnal cocktail chic”! Did she not receive the Fall 2008 Pantone color wheel that I sent out to guests four days before the wedding to ensure no errant subplots in my color story?
These ancedotes aside, the wedding was a huge success. But what about the event a week later in Half Moon Bay, where Lesbian Bridezilla and Dr. Z tied the knot in an opulent high-end wedding at the Ritz Carlton? Could a wedding that included custom-made yamulkes, an amazing lightscape, hors d’oeuvres served on silver playyers, and a dinner puncuated by a phalanx of waiters marching in unison through the dining room with hand-carved, LED-lit ice scultptures containing a custom-made sorbet possibly have any flaws?
At my dinner table, a wedding guest decided to remove his shirt to show everyone his tattoo…of a poodle mounting a wolf. Apparently the poodle was supposed to be a sheep, and the entire tattoo was a nod to the gentleman’s bipolar disorder.
I took comfort that even in a big-budget wedding run with military precision by the unflappable LB, no amount of “zilla” can keep chaos at bay. At my dinner table, a wedding guest decided to remove his shirt to show everyone his tattoo…of a poodle mounting a wolf. Apparently the poodle was supposed to be a sheep, and the entire tattoo was a nod to the gentleman’s bipolar disorder. Another guest wore a festive holiday tie….with a polo shirt. Add one epic mother-in-law meltdown involving a shoe being thrown and a veiled threat to suffocate grandma, and you had true perfection.
After the wedding, LB and I bonded over the stress of planning our weddings and the relief at their being complete. But what now? Today Californians head to the polls to decide if my marriage is valid.
Regardless of the outcome - and know that I have every prayer candle lit on my Vera Wang shrine - I know that every tearful vow, every joyous toast, and every precious moment of the wedding I obsessed over is as valid as that of any heterosexual married couple.
If anyone says otherwise, I'll just send Lesbian Bridezilla over to their house to sort things out.
As his many fans have no doubt realized, Groomzilla has been detained and could not make this week's post. He will, however, be back soon with wedding news. In lieu of a post, here are a couple of snaps from the big day.
Groomzilla (left) and happy hubby. LB in action (below).