Monday, February 25, 2008

The Wedding Of The Decade (Part Three)

There are vast differences between the way a man's mind works and the way a woman's mind works. Generally speaking, men do one thing at a time. They concentrate on the task at hand to the exclusion of whatever else is happening. Women, on the other hand, tend to multi-task.

Guys, this is why when you are making love to your wife and you want to forestall the end a bit, it helps to do something distracting like calculating batting averages. On the other hand, it's why your wife can honestly say that, yes, it was good for her, too, but while she was moaning, she made out the grocery list in her head, noticed a spot on the ceiling that needed painting, and oh, by the way, you have to remember to pay the gas bill by Friday or the heat will be shut off.

This is why - being a guy - I had no idea that there was so much crap that had to be done before a wedding. I figured you told people about the wedding, they came, and the wedding happened. MY (future) WIFE - being not a guy - knew better. We were not unlike that scene in The Odd Couple when Oscar comes home late from work and Felix stands accusingly before him with a dry overcooked roast. Oscar says, "Well, just put some gravy on it" and Felix says, "Put some gravy on it? Where in the hell am I going to get gravy?" and Oscar says, "I thought it just comes when you make the meat."

The thing of it is, I'm such of a guy's guy I'll probably still forget half the stuff that needed to be done, even in the retelling. As the details were piled on while it was actually happening, I was completely flabbergasted.

Invitations had to be made and sent, flowers had to be ordered and placed, a hall had to be rented, the church had to be reserved, food had to be taken care of, the music, the priest, reply cards, blood tests, licenses, place cards, video, programs, photographs, a cake, transportation, rings, best man, maid of honor, ushers, bridesmaids, shoes, dresses, a tux, hair, readings, seating, vows, travel plans for the honeymoon, hotel reservations, vacation time from work, decorations for the hall, the rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner, at least fourteen other things I've blessedly forgotten and, God Almighty, none of it comes when you make the meat.

Was it too late to live in sin? How bad could Hell be? I'll be set on fire and poked with a pitchfork for all eternity? Lemme think about it.


The one thing that made all of this bearable was the fact that we were both over thirty.

No, I'm not saying that age had given us some sort of insight allowing us the ability to stand back and be free from stress. What age had done was grant us some freedom from conformity. Since we were both over thirty, we would do everything in exactly the way we wanted it done. It was our wedding and nobody else's.

While younger couples sometimes follow the tradition of having the bride's family pay for much of what happens - and concomitantly have to make concessions to those footing the bill - we were old enough to forego that nonsense. We both worked, so we'd pay for it ourselves. And since we would be paying for it completely on our own, we could include anything we damn well pleased and leave out anything we damn well pleased, too.

Now, we weren't (and aren't) rich. We weren't (aren't) even in the same area code as rich. We were (are) in the same hemisphere as three-paychecks-removed-from-debtors-prison-and-maybe-by-the-time-
we're-seventy-dog-food-won't-look-too-unpalatable. As a result, we also decided that there was a lot of stuff we could do ourselves, as opposed to paying to have it done for us.


First off, being not so rich made us sensitive to the fact that many of our friends were in a similar situation. So, the first thing we decided was to not saddle them with extra expenses. Therefore, we did not make the bridesmaids or maid of honor buy dresses that they would never in a million years wear again, nor did we have ushers or my best man rent (or buy) tuxes. These people could dress in whatever way they wanted. We trusted that they would dress nicely. And they did.


We hand-made the invitations, the reply cards, the programs and the place cards, 150 or so of each. You must understand that this was without the aid of any sort of computer or computer program. It was the dark ages - 1991 and 1992. When I say hand-made, I literally mean hand-made. The most sophisticated tools we had at our disposal were a typewriter and a copier. Here's one of our invitations:

And the inside.
I had barely begun my career in voice-overs and commercial production, so I was working a full-time job as a security guard. I painstakingly did the calligraphy myself during the midnight-to-8 shift. I had never done calligraphy before, but I figured I could fake it well enough to be serviceable. I did it with a felt-tip marker, not a calligraphy pen.

Once I felt I had a good sample (which was about 80 sheets of paper into the effort, what with getting it centered correctly onto a sheet that would then be folded down into a four-sided invitation) I handed it over to MY (future) WIFE for her to do the artwork. Thankfully, she got it right on the first attempt, otherwise I probably would have had to use another 80 sheets to re-do it. Then, I inserted that sheet into a typewriter and prayed to God that I could correctly line up what I needed to type. If not, back to the beginning.

Only after all of this did we feed that one precious sheet into a copier to make the 150 or so copies we needed. We then hand-colored the leaves on every copy - no color copier available to make that an unnecessary task. Finally, we made the heart. You'll see that it is made up of two thumbprints - one from each of us. We had to ink up our thumbs and make every heart from scratch, so each invitation was unique.

Similar work went into the reply cards, place cards and programs.


I recorded onto four one-hour cassette tapes all of the music to be played at the reception. I did this piece by piece, transferring the music from vinyl records to the cassette tapes. No digital downloads. No CDs. All vinyl and all one song at a time and if I got the sound of the needle being lifted or a skip or any other glitch, rewind the cassette to the exact point I had previously started at and begin again.

I had to plan each side so that it would be as close to thirty minutes as possible. I juggled my song lists for timing while keeping in mind the least jarring transitions. I did all of this on a commercial stereo set-up - no cross-fading, no ramping up the records to speed, no input volume meters to reference, nothing. After each song was recorded, I had to rewind to where it began in order to make sure that the volume levels matched and that I had the song beginning immediately after the preceding song and had not cut off anything.

One other thing: The recording cassette deck had a broken door. I had to physically hold it shut during the entire process. This means that during any time I was recording a song, playing back a song, rewinding, or whatever involved any movement of the tape, I had to keep my finger firmly pressed against the door of the deck. The recording process took some ten hours total. My finger was sore for two days afterwards.

I hauled my entire system (including my big-ass-for-those-days 75-watts-a-side speakers) to the hall, in my car, and set it up myself on the morning of the wedding. In addition, once the reception began I had to remember the playlist so that I could be ready to change the cassettes the seven times they would need to be changed.


MY (future) WIFE contracted the musicians for the wedding itself. They were all from the church group she had been a part of - and in which she had met my mother, by the way. The lone exception was my best man and former band mate, Sean Flaherty, who played on one song at my behest. We picked out all of the religious music to be played at the ceremony. In addition, I wrote a song on which Sean would play lead guitar.

When I say, "I wrote", I mean I literally wrote out the song for the musicians; actual sheet music, which was something I had never done before. I had previously played in groups that used nothing but "head arrangements", i.e., arrangements worked out in rehearsals and never existing on paper, but only in the musician's heads. I can read music myself, but only laboriously. Thus, the writing process was very slow.

The wedding musicians, who could sight-read, were unfailingly kind to me when working in rehearsal with my sometimes slightly off-time scratchings and they took my verbal corrections patiently. The only part not written out was Sean's solo following the third verse, but I coached him on the basic form I wanted him to follow - some octave-fingering a la Wes Montgomery - and let him take it from there.

No "Here Comes The Bride", either. We would both march down the aisle together as equal partners. This wasn't some extension of a tribal rite where I'd trade three goats for my woman, so MY (future) WIFE was not "given away" by anyone, nor did I pay attention to any of that silly shit about not seeing the bride before the wedding. I'd already seen every inch of her (and liked what I saw, too.)

We would both wear our nicest clothes, but not a tuxedo or a gown. We wanted the emphasis on the religious aspects of the ceremony, not the trappings. There would be a tuxedo and gown, but... well, you'll see later.


We planned out - and either bought, borrowed, made, or otherwise finagled - all of the decorations ourselves.

We had decided to use a different theme for every guest table at the reception. There was one overall theme - what we loved about Boston. However, each table would represent one place or thing in Boston that we particularly liked. For instance, there would be a Fenway Park table; a Museum of Fine Arts table; a Boston Public Library table; etc., and each table would have it's own distinctive decorations, place cards, centerpieces and whatnot.

In order to do this as inexpensively as possible, we sent letters to every organization representing these places or institutions, explaining what we were up to and asking them to mail us back whatever they were willing to give us as being representative of them. Most were marvelously receptive of the idea and responded with all sorts of interesting little bits of booty.

We'd await the mail each day with some excitement, wondering what it would bring. The Boston Celtics, for instance, sent us schedules and magnets. From the Museum of Fine Arts we received postcards of artwork and other doo-dads. We took these items, added them to what we had around the house already, and planned out each table as its own distinctive work of art.

I'll show you more later, when we get to the reception, but let me give you an idea of what our tables looked like. As a matter of fact, see if you can guess which table this is:

Yes, that'’s right. The HEAD Table.


MY (future) WIFE pored through catalogs of party favors and ordered lots of fun things to have at each table - little spinning toy tops; streamers; those things you blow into and a piece of fabric unwinds and makes a noise, like you see in pictures of New Years Eve (what are those things called?); confetti; candies.

Most of these items came from a marvelous company called Oriental Trading. We highly recommend them.


Of course, on top of these somewhat insane Herculean solo efforts, we also made all of the arrangements with the caterer, contracted the hall, worked with the church to stake out a time that wouldn't interfere with their regular Saturday masses, did the mailings and worked on seating arrangements, rented or bought all of our new clothing, made arrangements with the florist, booked a room for our rehearsal dinner, asked certain friends and family members to be part of the wedding party and do readings and such, and all of the other mundane pre-nuptial tasks.

We made a gigantic list of everything that we needed to accomplish and, as each thing was taken care of, we checked it off. Then we added two more things that we had forgotten about.

Here is what we looked like two days before the wedding:


Finally, came the morning of the wedding.

Well, finally for us, that is. Finally for you will be the next installment. See you then. Have some fun - dress up. If you have a bridesmaid's dress that you bought for someone else's wedding and you've despaired ever since that you spent so much money on it and never found a place to wear it again, feel free to throw it on.

(Go To The Actual Wedding!)

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